What The Festival Makes You Go…WTF?!
…IN THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE.
Two of OTB’s staff were lucky enough to attend What The Festival out in Dufur, Oregon a few weeks ago and the weekend absolutely exceeded our expectations. Aftermovies portrayed epic pool parties alongside lazer-filled production and dreamy, forest campgrounds that had kept the festival on our bucket list for some time now. After scrapping more ravey festivals like EDC and The Gorge’s Paradiso, Wes and I packed our bags and headed out for a weekend of groovin’. Check out our thoughts!
W: When making the choice to go to What The Festival it was really all about the experience and not about the lineup. There are more and more festivals to attend every year and I’ve came to realize that the best times I have are more related to the venue, people around you, and enjoying yourself much more than a lineup. There is going to be good/new/fresh music regardless of where you go, you just have to go out and find it.
One of the most notable things about this festival for me was that even though it sold out, there were still no more than 5-6,000 people. This made for easy in and out access, you had as much room to dance as you wanted, and it was very intimate. It’s cool for a festival to stay true to its colors and not just be out for money.
D: I mean, the lineup was dope, but like Wes, that was just an afterthought for me. I’m a firm believer that if the vibe of a festival isn’t good, it can really affect the time you have there. After having some not-so-great experiences at Paradiso in previous years (waiting in the hot sun for two hours to get into the festival, feeling a little out of place for being older), I was ready to take on a new experience this June.
What The Festival takes good vibes to another level. Almost everyone I encountered was super cool (especially the staff and volunteers, they were amazing) and I loved the ability to come and go as I pleased. Being able to take a nap in my tent in the forest on the middle of a hot day between sets was an absolute godsend. The timing was also great (the pool party stage went from around noon to 6p, and the other stages started around 3p, some going on until the wee hours of the morning).
W: The ranch is really spot on with a blend of the forest, farmland, and is a short distance from the highway. Being able to camp in the woods and out of the sun was a major selling point for me, especially over going to Paradiso at The Gorge the weekend after and melting in the sun with your car. You can actually sleep in because your tent stays cool at night and the sun doesn’t creep through the trees until late in the morning. You get free reign at where you set up camp, how much space you take up, and you can even hang a hammock!
At night sometimes this makes it a little hard to find camp, so next year I will be bringing unique lighting of some sort to hang. No matter where you are staying it is a short walk into the show, which is nice because you can go in and out as much as you please. Being able to go back to camp and eat a meal/change clothes is something that I look forward to at a festival these days. The walk from camp to the festival grounds was slightly brutal due to inches of dirt/dust that is makes up the parking lot, however a few of the burners I talked to said it was a good rookie training ground for the desert. If there was one thing I would say the campgrounds are lacking it is number of porta-potties and lighting near them.
D: Wes basically encompassed all of my thoughts here. I thought walk-in camping would be a bitch having to drag all of your stuff, but there were carts available for rent after you parked and there were people everywhere asking if you needed a hand. Having a bloody mary in hand chillin’ in a hammock when I woke up (around 11!!) was awesome. I was a little worried about not being able to lock valuables in my car with car camping, but you’re not really encountering a lot of people looking for trouble at WTF.
My only qualm with the campgrounds would be the renegade sound. I know festivals are going to be parties (and lots of them, especially at the campgrounds too) but we did encounter a few people at 5am who decided screaming into a megaphone was a good idea. After kindly requesting that this stopped though, it did, so I appreciate people respecting their campmates!
As a Burner, yeahhhh, it was dirty. But not dusty like the playa, just…dirt. The dust was crazy when the cars were coming in, and our car had a super thick layer of dusty dirt on it when we left. Staff did a great job at trying to keep the dust kicking up to a minimum, with bark on the main walkways and water trucks 2x a day spraying the roadways. I would also second the request for more bathrooms in the camping area though. The majority of WTFers left to go into the festival for the evening around the same time, so after pregaming with a few beers, everyone had to hit the john.
W: The actual grounds of the festival have a little something for everyone. One stage with a pool, two in the field, one on a grassy slope that leads to the forest, and one deep in the woods. As far as the Main/Effin Stages go I feel they could make the sound quality better by changing the direction of the stages slightly At Slow Magic’s set specifically it was hard to hear only his music even from the front. I’m sure many peoples’ favorite stage would be the pool, but I was all about the late night trips into the woods. The Dragon stage consisted of a massive chinese carved wooden dragon with two places for DJ’s to play from. One set up at eye level on stage and one up in the tree line in a hut. This stage was in the middle of the art installations and had fog rolling through at all hours of the night.
D: There was a lot of soundbleed between the Main and Effin stages, so much so that at times you felt like you were listening to two songs at once. Other than that, all of the stages were amazing. Like many others, the pool stage really was my favorite. I’m a firm believer in a good darty (day party) and each day at the Splash Pool Stage was nothing less than incredible, debaucherous, and downright WEIRD at times. The Dragon Stage got deep and dark into the early hours of the morning, and was a favorite for afterhours sets.
Since I wasn’t car camping this year, I decided to bring some breakfast and then just buy lunch and dinner in the festival grounds. The food (although a little pricy, like most festival prices) was incredible. I had some amazing handmade dumpings, (SO MANY) gyros, chicken fried rice, and a glorious smoothie bowl that I will never, ever forget. There were also a lot of great filling vegetarian options (the tofu coconut curry was epic) which I’m sure many of the festival’s attendees appreciated.
W: Everyone I ran into at WTF was friendly, helpful, happy, and enjoying their time. Not once did I get a bad vibe over the whole weekend which really helps drive your mood in a positive direction. It was incredibly refreshing being at a show and not seeing a SINGLE PERSON that was too fucked up or couldn’t handle themselves.
My friends and I got the OMG package which was the most reasonably priced VIP upgrades I’ve seen. For just over $100 you got access to a lounge, a bag of ice, hookah passes, shower passes, drink tickets, and early entry. This package was well worth it for the drink tickets and lounge alone. With that being said, allowing GA ticket holders to come into the VIP lounge to get drinks kind of takes away from the ‘VIP’ part of it for me. This was not an issue except for the end of night three when the line to get a drink was through the gates! (I would also like to throw in a special shout out to our favorite bartender that could be Chet Faker’s twin.)
Last but not DEFINITELY not least, the art. The illuminated forest was absolutely amazing and I would like to thank all of the artists who put in their time and efforts to help make this what it is. From traditional paintings, to color changing tables, and virtual sandboxes there were so many things I wouldn’t have thought of in 100 lifetimes. I’d also like to extend a special thanks to Jennifer Espenscheid for handing out some tiles of her art to us at the end of the festival, that was really special.
D: I didn’t end up upgrading to VIP, but I definitely enjoyed those showers. They are seriously a godsend and worth the $8 if you’re starting to cringe at the amount of grime that’s built up on your hair between the questionable water at the Splash Pool and the dust. As a GA attendee, I loved that we were able to head into the bars still, but I totally understand that it may have taken away from the VIP experience. I’m curious to know if they just decided to open it up this year due to lack of upgrades.
The forest full of art was breathtaking! We spent a good 2 hours in there one night just walking around and viewing the art, and playing with the interactive displays. My favorite part about Burning Man is walking (or biking) around and seeing all of the art displays. I think that’s something that really turns a music festival into a full experience.
Unfortunately, the one thing I am kicking myself with is not going to more classes. I just wish the classes weren’t at the same time as some of my favorite artists over at the pool! However, my friends did go to a morning yoga class on Saturday (which I, admittedly was a bit too hungover to attend) and they said it was super weird. So, they left and went over in the grass by one of the stages to start their own “class” and low and behold, people walking by with yoga mats came over and joined them until their group had about tripled in size! That’s definitely a testament to the good people and vibes you’ll find here.
W: I’ll start off by saying Odesza was AMAZING as always. I have seen them four times this year and they just keep getting better. They have worked a few new tracks into their set over the past six months and the track they end with is to die for (which I still believe is an ID).
With that being said, the pre-party set that Minnesota threw down blew my mind. I was expecting some older dubstep which I still have a soft spot for, but he played all sorts of bass music and even worked a techno song in. This was the most entertaining performance I watched and it was a great way to start off the weekend.
On Saturday night, Rob Garza destroyed the Dragon Stage. He had the best song selection out of any set I heard over the weekend keeping up with the likes of Carl Cox for me, yeah I said it. He has a very unique tech house sound with middle eastern influences and I didn’t know a single song he played (outside of Okay by Shiba San). This is one of the main things I look for these days when you have so much mainstream music being played over and over again.
On Sunday night The Librarian played a very intriguing live show. I can’t say it was my favorite set musically but it was very visually appealing. The production value was the highest quality I heard at What The Festival.
Honorable mention goes to a set/laser show in the campground. After the festival was technically over there was a renegade of sorts in the RV lot. The lasers at this camp were the nicest I have ever seen outside of a show projected along the tree line at sunrise. The planning behind it was impressive and the song selection at the camp was also on point. If anyone knows who threw this please send them my way as I would love to chat with them!
D: We hit some nasty traffic on the way down Friday so I missed a lot of artists I was hoping to catch like Wave Racer and Snakehips (boo), but the night music was awesome. Trappy isn’t really my vibe, but I definitely got down to some Keys N Krates and GRiZ as always killed with the sax game.
Saturday was an epic party at the pool and seriously everyone who played from like, 1-6pm absolutely killed it. Lane 8 cooled things down at 6pm and got us all grooving and feeling some type of way, heading back to camp with smiles on our faces to prepare for the night ahead. Highlights for the evening? Definitely Machinedrum live and TOKiMONSTA. TOKiMONSTA though…she is seriously one bad bitch on the decks and I LOOOVE her music. Vibes continued on late with Rob Garza providing some dirty, dirty techno over at the Dragon Stage.
Sunday? Thomas Jack’s pool party. Between Jack, Anna Lunoe and Justin Jay, I honestly don’t know who I liked the best because they were so equally awesome. It’s important to also not overlook Burner favorite Pumpkin, who got the crowd hyped up and groovy before Thomas Jack’s party. I’m a sucker for techno and 4/4, so Justin Martin and Eats Everything were definitely my highlights for the evening.
Are we going to be back to WTF? Hell yeah, you bet we are. There’s something special about a festival that encompasses so much more than music, and provides a tribe feel to the entire group. Whether it was howling in the campground when the sun went down, sharing your floatie with a stranger at the pool or just sending a smile someone’s way, What The Festival radiates good vibes, and we can’t wait to enjoy them again next year.
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