What The Festival is more than just a run of the mill music festival. What the organizers have done in their short 4 year run on Wolf Run Ranch, located 90 miles east of Portland, Oregon, is something truly special. Everything from the stage design (the Groove Qube though!) to the walk through the Illuminated Forest is impeccably crafted. They have created an environment that is nothing short of incredible. This past weekend, we were lucky enough to be able to attend this once in a lifetime experience. This is how our What The Festival 2016 went.

After our short 5 hour road trip from Seattle, we were greeted at the gate by some of the most friendly security I have ever encountered at a festival. They informed us that What The Festival is a “Leave No Trace” event, meaning that everything you bring, you take with you. Glass bottles aren’t allowed, and they provide you with trash bags throughout your weekend in order to keep the forest just as clean as it was when you arrived. Upon getting through security on Thursday, it was time to nail down a campsite. We were fortunate enough to dodge the weather in order to plant our tents and set up camp (Camp Jeffrey for life) in a fairly shaded area of the forest right outside the grounds. You could feel the excitement building in the air as more and more of our friends and neighbors started arriving to set up next to us.

Thursday was Early Entry, and with that comes a limited stage openings and the entire grounds prepared for the madness of the upcoming weekend. Buku headlined the Thursday night set. He played at the Equinox stage right at the entrance of the festival, which also served as the unveiling of the new stage at What the Festival this year. It is known as the Groove Qube. After a quick walk around the food vendors and shops, we decided it was time to find a good spot on the hill above the Equinox Stage in order to prepare us for what would become to be one of the most wild sets of the weekend. Buku opened with a more house-y set, and slowly started mixing in that grimy bass that he is known for. The Equinox Stage turned into a huge party by the end of his set. Following Buku is tough for everyone, but Break Science found the perfect balance between bass and mellow sounds that we have come to know and love from them. However, the night was only beginning for us, as we started to work our way down through the forest to check out the Groove Qube. Upon entering this stage, I knew right away where I was going to be spending the majority of my weekend. This stage was seriously impressive, and was easily one of the coolest stages we had ever seen at ANY festival. Day 0 ended with an impressive trap set from none other than Mikhal, who couldn’t seem to run out of bangers to get the crowd going. Needless to say we ended Day 0 on a high note.

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What The Festival

Friday began the same way as Thursday did. Everyone eagerly anticipated the opening of the coveted Splash Stage, which has become one of the main attractions of this amazing event. Halfway through the day though, the rain started. Now at most festivals, rain generally means the party slows down to a screeching halt, but not here. By the time crowd favorite Jai Wolf came up to perform his set, the rain had turned into a torrential downpour, but still the pool was partying as if it was 90 degrees out. This set turned into one of the highlights of the festival. It showed everyone in attendance as well as all the artists that a little bad weather wasn’t going to stop the weekend long party. After Jai Wolf and Kasbo completed Day 1 of the Splash Stage, it was time to put on some warm clothes and get ready for the night. Every stage was open and at full volume on Friday, and each one had its own diverse lineup and brought a different vibe to the festival. Highlighting Night 1 was Mr. Carmack on the Effin Stage. Upon hearing that Djemba Djemba wasn’t going to make it due to being sick, he promised us with a full extra half hour of his incredible productions and mixing. He delivered his promise. After the main stages had shut down, the attention shifted to the late night stages, with the Groove Qube (sensing a trend here?) and the Dragon Stage promising us with yet another legendary evening. The Dirtybird Records vibes at this festival were at a fever pitch for Night 1, with Ardalan and Claude VonStroke delivering sets that we will remember forever.

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What The Festival

After a good night sleep, it was time for Saturday to begin. The rain continued on through the night, but word around the campground was that by mid afternoon we would be treated with that big glowing ball in the sky we were craving oh so badly. When the sun finally decided to make a guest appearance, the entire campground erupted into cheers and howls, and it was time for everyone to start the party again. Now on Day 1 the splash stage was awesome and it rained the ENTIRE time, but when the sun came out, you could feel the energy that everyone in attendance was ready to rage for hours on end at the pool. JACKLNDN and Louis the Child highlighted Day 2 at the pool, with Hippie Sabotage literally sabotaging their careers by starting fights with security; as well as throwing electronics and microphones into the pool itself. (There are videos online, if you feel the need to look.) Shortly after the pool party closed down for the day, the nighttime sets began. Ekali, Lunice and Lido provided us with a few fun and high energy sets  on the Effin and WTF Stages. So the night started off  in all the right ways to say the least. They set the bar high for what would be the best night of the entire weekend. Once the late night music started, all attention shifted to the Equinox Stage, where Alix Perez, G Jones and Shades gave us 3 straight hours of heavenly bass music. The Groove Qube was also going at full volume all night long, with Buku giving us one of the best trap sets in recent memory.

By Sunday, the sun was at full strength, and the party going on at the Splash Stage reflected it. Darius gave us one of the best house sets of the weekend. Motez then played BY FAR the best set at the pool stage. Closing it out with A-ha‘s “Take On Me,” the entire crowd sang along and rejoiced on what we had just witnessed. It was a legendary. Nobody was ready for the pool party to be done, but alas, it was time to wave goodbye to one of the best stages in the Pacific Northwest (for another year). Now Sunday was not as nearly crowded as the other 2 days so it was nice to take a couple hours and roam around the Illuminated Forest and see what art installations this festival had to offer. It’s nearly impossible to view everything in a couple hours, but we were able to see quite a bit. The art they were able to cram into that forest is seriously impressive. They even had a Nintendo 64 with Mario Kart playing all the time. Next year we plan to see it all! After our stroll through the forest and some tea courtesy of the Shinto A Go Go, we made our way to the Effin Stage, just in time to see Jerry Folk lay down one of the most feel good sets of the weekend. Following that was no small feat, but J Phlip and Claptone played some of the best house sets I’ve ever seen in person. I left wide eyed and feeling the house music inside my soul. Josh Pan was the focus after that, who seemed to be having issues with his speakers as he lost an entire side of the Groove Qube’s amazing sound system, which left many people with a bad taste in their mouths. However, Dimond Saints rescued the evening with an incredibly dark, melodic trap set over at the Dragon Stage which will go down as one of the best sets of the weekend. We weren’t quite ready to be done for the weekend, so we went back to the Groove Qube to see X&G close out one of the best stages in style. During their set, Josh Pan made a surprise appearance for a B2B to remember. They kept playing well past their 3am ending point. In fact, only finishing when they were forced to shut down by the event organizers.

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What The Festival

What the Festival?! is one of the premier festivals in the Pacific Northwest. It ranks among Shambhala and Burning Man as an experience that you must have. The sense of community, togetherness, and kindness is an amazing feeling that only a festival like What The Festival can provide. Everyone we talked to throughout the entire weekend was extremely kind and genuine. It made the experience that much more amazing for all involved. Shout out to the incredible volunteers, who picked up trash and made sure the festival and farm stayed clean throughout the weekend. A big thank you to the organizers and vendors who gave us a thankless service and never asked for anything in return.

Lastly, a HUGE THANK YOU to What The Festival?! for having us out this year. We cannot wait to be back  next year to see what they will have in store for us.

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What The Festival

Photo Credits:

Daniel Ztterstrom: @daniel_zetterstrom

Aaron Glassman: @imgtrip