Join Me on Route 66 at Backwoods Music Festival
Labor Day weekend was a busy weekend for electronic music. The 3 day weekend hosted a number of festivals including Electric Zoo, Bumbershoot, Nocturnal Wonderland, Sun City Music Festival and Backwoods Music Festival. I had the opportunity to attend Backwoods Music Festival situated in Tatanka Ranch in Stroud/Agra Oklahoma. Headlined by Porter Robinson, Odesza, Infected Mushroom and Keller Williams, this was my first camping experience and it will definitely not be the last.
Traveling down historic route 66 through one street towns and open farm fields, a feeling of excitement started rushing through my veins. I don’t know if it was the perfect weather or the festival vibes, but I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. As the road turned from paved to dirt and gravel, I could feel it, we were in the Backwoods. Gone were the worries of the day job, the laundry loads waiting at home and everything else; it was just me and the music. My friend and I turned into the growing line of cars outside the front gates as my heart raced for what was to come.
3 days, 6 stages, music from noon to 3 am ranging from headlining electronic artists Porter Robinson and Odesza to down home jam bands Meridian Lights and CBDB, the music took everyone on the Backwoods journey which no one will soon forget.
Friday started off big with heavy dubstep acts Wick-It The Instigator and Dirtyphonics at the Elevate stage sponsored by The Untz. The indoor stage packed to the brim with attendees made the only indoor venue hotter than outside. The music was heavy, loud and overwhelming and a great opener for what was to come. Keller Williams, Com Truise closed out the medieval Motherland stage with thousands of fans cheering away. People stumbled back to their camp drained from the first day, ready to gear up for day 2.
The sun and heat rose on the second day, ready to scorch all attendees who didn’t stay hydrated or bring their sunscreen. Topping out around 100 degrees, shade was a commodity and I wish I would have brought a canopy tent. Saturday’s stages were probably the hardest to choose from as countless good acts were scattered across the festival grounds. Lettuce on the mainstage, Filibusta at Elevate, Solstis at The Meadow filled the early evening as Break Science and Infected Mushroom closed out the mainstage, Doctor P closed Elevate, Morgan Ganem (Dr. Plasticine,) Solidisco and Xilent ended The Meadow while Tyrannosaurus Chicken closed out the Globe Theater. I was lucky enough to have an interview with Morgan Ganem earlier in the day and was treated to a huge set by the Sand Springs native while Filibusta dropped a Pretty Lights-esque glitch-hop set filled with live instruments (he played the keytar) and plenty of bass. Infected Mushroom brought their live Animatronica set to Backwoods playing live instruments shocking everyone with brilliant lasers.
Stay tuned for interviews from both Morgan Ganem and Filibusta coming shortly.
As the crowd cruised their way back to the campgrounds by the festi-cabs, the excitement of Sunday kept the camps stirring and attendees on cloud nine as the sun rose over Tatanka Ranch. The heat returned but couldn’t stop the growing energy around camp and festival stages. Groups of attendees were putting on festival attire, others were picking out their best clothes, while some were chugging away at water and beer preparing for the nights festivities. The pond was filled with swimmers cooling off as the day sets slowly grew in energy. The Kumbaya stage hosted Brooklyn group Meridian Lights which brought indie-rock to an amazing level. Fractal Sky kept the groove going on the mainstage while Liquid Stranger brought the Elevate stage to the ground. 10:30 rolled around and the beginning of the end started with none other than Porter Robinson.
Porter brought with him his live Worlds set wowing the crowd with “Flicker,” “Sea of Voices,” and “Divinity” while his wildly popular remix of “The Thrill” grabbed the hearts, minds and souls of the entire festival exploding expectations like the fireworks in the air. The hour long set felt like 15 minutes as the crowd chanted “One More Song” hoping to get an encore. While no encore from Porter came, the crowd was greeted by none other than the Odesza duo performing the best chill trap around. Harrison and Clayton had Backwoods wrapped around the beat of their drums for their entire set, which I won’t soon forget.
The Floozies had the honor of closing out Backwoods on the mainstage while Andy Frasco closed out the Globe Theater in style. At 3, the music stopped and the fans cheered for the amazing weekend that had occurred.
Backwoods has successfully put Oklahoma on the map for camping festivals. Forget Wakarusa, Dancefestopia and Euphoria, Backwoods is here. Ok don’t forget about those festivals, but definitely put Backwoods on your bucket list. I left Monday morning physically drained, sunburned and tired… and yet revitalized, emotionally charged and ready to conquer the world. This will be a weekend I will look back on for ages to come.
Things to Change for Next Year
Not one festival goes off without a hitch and Backwoods was no exception. While the festival tried their hardest to provide free water to the attendees, they needed more locations to get it. The festival consistently ran dry by mid day leaving the attendees scrambling for cash to purchase water from the closest bar. This was a small issue when compared to security. Security was hit or miss with guests getting patted down and backpacks searched about half the time. It started from the first day as one car would be searched by moving stuff around while the next would have their entire car emptied and bags unzipped and checked.
Sadly, there was 1 death at the festival that has sparked a homicide investigation after security handcuffed him for “erratic behavior” and stopped breathing while in handcuffs in the ambulance. While a toxicology report will probably state the attendee was under the influence, security seemed to be worried more about arresting the man rather than providing attendee medical care. Not only were attendees subject to the erratic behavior of security but the artists as well. Austin based duo FYER (Skrillex’s brother is a member) withdrew from the event after security reportedly assaulted members of their crew resulting in their tour manager being hospitalized after being cut with a knife.
While both incidents are terrible to hear, the organizers of Backwoods have been quick with a response as they have since fired the security group along with apologizing on Facebook to the fans. Check out the apology below:
Things Backwoods Got Right
Let’s turn away from the bad and focus on the good. The biggest praise of the event were the stages. Everyone was buzzing about all the stages, most notably DiskoPortal. 6 pillars surrounded a spinning globe which all spit fire at the right moments. Both the Motherland and The Meadow stages had equal praise from those I spoke with. The Motherland built like a medieval castle included an “All-Seeing Eye” situated above keeping watch while the Meadow was built in between two trees with a room in each tree. Multiple artists and fans agreed that The Meadow was the coolest stage and clearly the owners thought so too as the Meadow will become a permanent stage on the property.
If fans loved the stages, loved the venue and loved the lineup, I would say the event was a success. Countless Facebook and Twitter posts of love have flooded the Backwoods pages and continue to get posted every day. They are already planning Backwoods 2016 and if I was you, I’d be circling Labor Day weekend and making Backwoods a priority. Check out Backwoods website for more info and keep your eyes peeled for a recap video coming out soon.
I could go on and on about the many things Backwoods did right but as they say pictures are worth a 1,000 words, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking. Follow Backwoods on Facebook and Twitter and comment below on your experience if you were there. I hope to see more of you there next year!
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