Nearly 45,000 expected to descend on ramped-up Electric Forest fest

Crowds gather at the 2018 Electric Forest festival in Rothbury, about two hours south of Traverse City. This year's festival takes place June 27-30 with electronic music, jams and hippie vibe.

ROTHBURY — Arguably Michigan’s biggest — and most internationally renowned — camping-based music festival returns to Rothbury next weekend with a hefty lineup of electronic music and jam-band stars, plus a fair number of funk and soul acts.

About 45,000 attendees are expected to attend the ninth annual Electric Forest festival taking place June 27-30 at the sprawling Double JJ Resort about two hours south of Traverse City and an hour northwest of Grand Rapids.

Nominated a couple of years ago as “Festival of the Year” by the Electronic Music Awards and named one of the world’s Top 10 music festivals by the London-based, Electric Forest has cultivated an incredibly devoted fan base for its unique and colorful art installations, sustainability/recycling programs and overall vibe.

It’s an atmosphere that resonates with a Woodstock-like hippie milieu and an anything-goes-when-it-comes-to-fashion approach that’s embraced by merry festival-goers, many of whom return to “Forest” year after year.

“It’s a family unlike any other,” sajd Electric Forest devotee Lori Metzler of Muskegon.

It’s also an immersive event spawning “very unique and amazing experiences,” according to fellow festival-goer and DJ Justin Wolbrink of Rockford.

After being staged over two weekends in 2017 and 2018, Electric Forest returns to a one-weekend affair for 2019.

That just means this year’s festival has packed its daily lineup of performances on seven stages with impressive electronic music stars such as Odesza, Kygo, Bassnectar and Zeds Dead, along with hosting jam-band String Cheese Incident and well-known names in other genres, including Lettuce, Twiddle and T-Pain.

To help navigate the mammoth affair, here are some tips and must-see attractions for 2019:

• Get your bearings and be prepared to rack up steps on your Fitbit. Electric Forest is a sprawling festival covering a lot of territory. After hiking to the entrance from the main campground, visitors will have their bags checked (no outside food or beverages other than water allowed) and their wristbands logged electronically. Upon entering, festival-goers will find the EDM-oriented Tripolee Stage on the right, then — in order — Ranch Arena, Sherwood Forest (featuring The Observatory and other smaller stages), Sherwood Court, Jubilee and The Hangar/Carousel Club. For newbies, scouring a festival map ahead of time is strongly encouraged.

• Because it can get hot and dusty, drink plenty of water, wear sunscreen, bring sunglasses, hat and bandana, and take it easy on alcohol consumption. There are beer and food vendors at the venue, but prices are relatively high. Bring cash or an ATM card; Electric Forest recommends having $50 per day on hand.

• Electric Forest has a long list of prohibited items — from lasers to skateboards to American Indian headdresses. Check its website for the full list. Note: There are lockers at the venue area (near Ranch Arena) where you can store your backpack and other items. It’s also possible to reserve a locker ahead of time via the Electric Forest website.

• Keep your phone charged and bring along a charging cord. Download the Electric Forest app on your phone ahead of time so you can check the schedule and receive alerts and updates while on festival grounds.

• Sherwood Forest is a spectacle to behold. Make sure you experience the unique art installations and groovy lighting at different times of the day. With several intimate stages and a silent disco scattered through the woods, Sherwood Forest transforms from pleasant, wooded splendor in daylight to a psychedelic, mysterious marvel at night. And there are hammocks scattered throughout to help you rest up between shows.