What do you get when you grab a bunch of EDM, throw in some hard bass, and sprinkle a dash of Portlandia somewhere in Oregon? Pretty much a few thousand wild souls in a dark forest with barely any lights to guide their dancing pilgrimage except for the biggest disco ball in the Northwest United States… aka “What The Festival” in Dufur, Oregon.
This year’s “What The Festival” brought out more dreadlocked gyrators and bandana-clad hippie machines than Electric Daisy Carnival or Lightning In A Bottle combined. The three-day event boasted an eclectic smattering of Trap, Dubstep and DrumN’Bass amidst the backdrop of the panoramic beauty of Central Oregon. Less like a music festival and more like a wild forest rave, the atmosphere was more chaotic than other mainstream electronic festivals but allowed for a more unique, area-specific experience. The festivities took place at Wolf Run Ranch, a change of venue from the festival’s first year in 2012. The overwhelmingly vast (yet vacant) forest held two main night stages, The WTF Stage and the Effin Stage. ->
Friday night at the WTF Stage: A-Trak and Flosstradamus headlined. DJ Cat NYC was in the house and had this to say about the shows:
“Floss killed it and everyone was feeling them! On the flip-side, A-Trak must have thought he was in Vegas because nothing about his show was in tune with the WTFest vibe. The annoying and continuous ‘FOOLS GOLD’ screaming from the speakers didn’t help much either. Also I’m sad to see that out of all the females performing, most of them were on stage that night throwing tee shirts out to the crowd. I would have loved to see someone like Von Kiss www.VonKiss.com behind the decks. WTF!?”
During the day the crowd splished and splashed at the Pool Stage to DJs like Octaban, bumping trap and bass at an oversized kiddie pool fueled with toplessness and men in neon thongs. Interesting and nonconventional activities like rock n’ roll yoga and breakdancing were also offered if you weren’t into men in pink speedos at 2 p.m. on a Saturday. Variety is key.
Late night performances were reserved for the LOL Stage and Opulent Temple which was located just a bit off the map from the main stage madness.
The festival’s most original entity was the art walk. Ravers followed a pathway of mystical dreams and whimsical fantasies full of abstract art from artists such as Matthew Mooney’s trance-like projections, “Mr. Toad’s Gypsy Wagon” by Manuel Carreras and Ildiko Cziglenyi, and a miso soup teahouse courtesy of Zilla Sake House with sound by DJ Sesqui. This secluded area off the beaten path proved to be where the most interesting stories were exchanged and created.
In its first year, What The Festival boasted 56 acts including Beats Antique and Ghostland Observatory. For their encore, the festival kept their stride with a strong 2013 lineup, including Gramatik, A-Trak and Panty Raid, with a total of 70 acts. Rumors flew amongst the yellow jackets and billows of smoke that the festival’s proprietors had purchased Wolf Run Ranch to continue hosting the affair, which seems to only be growing in size and popularity.
All said, there was something elusive, something strangely seductive about the authentic mix of locals, imported talent, and epic scenery that combined to leave the visitors more than satisfied. Aside from the poor campsite with threatening branches and stones protruding from the ground, the boredom of a vacant field surrounding the Pool Stage during the day, and a mediocre marketplace, the nightlife was when the disco ball truly glimmered and the fifteen-hour drive from LA was made worthwhile.