Every year the summer music festival calendar gets more and more crowded, allowing festival-goers to be increasingly selective when charting out their summer plans. There’s often plenty of overlap between festivals when it comes to lineups, forcing event organizers to focus on creating unique experiences and environments to differentiate themselves from each other. It’s hard to think of a Northwest festival that’s done a better job of that than What The Festival.
It’s all in the name. What The Festival isn’t just a music festival. Sure, it boasts an impressive lineup of some of the world’s finest electronic acts—but it’s also an interactive art exhibit as well as a giant pool party with independent film screenings (among other things). The festival grounds feature hookah lounges, group yoga lessons, art installations, a relaxation spa, and other attractions. WTF’s organizers left the words “music festival” out of the name for a reason. There’ll be enough happening out at Wolf Run Ranch (in Dufur, OR) on June 20-23 to leave guests wondering, “What is this?”
That’s really the key to the whole festival. WTF’s undefinable nature allows attendees to approach it from multiple angles and enjoy it for different reasons—as opposed to the relatively structured (and corporate) feel of competing festivals. It holds a charmingly malleable feel that turns guests into active participants as opposed to passive spectators. Fittingly, it’s been dubbed a “summer camp for adults.” The fact that there’s a giant wading dance area that plays host to daily pool parties DJ’d by the world’s best electronic artists also probably has something to do with that.
With two successful (and critically acclaimed) years under their belt, WTF’s coordinators look to build on the foundation of a diverse stable of attractions already set in place. The Illuminated Forest will return with a variety of art installations, a late-night cinema, and several interactive audio/visual exhibits. This year’s incarnation of What The Festival will also see additional movement classes (including yoga and burlesque sessions) and enough organic food vendors to keep you fueled for the weekend. The festival’s website also hints at a revamped LOL stage, but is waiting until the event itself to reveal the details.
As far as the general atmosphere of the event goes, WTF has been described as: “Burning Man meets the Pacific Northwest.” The festival’s open-ended model, artistic aesthetic, and environmentally conscious outlook on waste management are similar to Nevada’s annual event—but in a much more lush and comfortable location at Wolf Run Ranch. Of course, What The Festival also puts a larger focus on music than Burning Man (and draws a slightly different crowd as a result). All of the non-musical features make WTF what it is, but the majority of people who attend WTF are there for the music—and the festival’s budget reflects this. As has been the case for the last two years, 2014’s line-up features a collection of world-class musicians that would make the event a popular destination even if everything surrounding the music wasn’t in place. That being said, here are our picks of five artists you shouldn’t miss at WTF 2014:
The Glitch Mob
At the forefront of L.A.’s beat music scene, The Glitch Mob (illustrated above) rode the breakout success of their 2010 LP, Drink The Sea, to their current position in the upper ranks of today’s EDM acts. The trio’s headlining slot at this year’s WTF will be worth checking out on the merits of their first-rate stage production alone and even if you’ve seen them before, stick around to hear new tracks from their 2014 album, Love Death Immortality. Producer Ed Ma recently discussed the new record with MTV, saying, “After touring for two years, we learned what worked best on stage. It’s our same sensibility, but designed to bang on a festival sound system in front of 50,000 people.”
Following a storyline that’s become almost commonplace in the world of electronic music, 22-year-old Norwegian Kygo went from unknown college student to one of the hottest electronic producers in the world in the span of just twelve months thanks to a string of impressive remixes uploaded to his Soundcloud page. What isn’t commonplace is his sound. Fans have even resorted to making up a new genre to describe his inventive style. They’ve appropriately dubbed it “tropical house.” Kygo’s breezy, playful remixes have made him one of the most exciting young producers on the planet, and we can’t wait to hear one of the first live sets of his career at Wolf Run Ranch.
After bubbling under the surface for years, trap music has finally emerged to see mainstream success and acts like RL Grime are the reason why. The side project of successful producer Clockwork, RL Grime punches listeners in the face (in the best way possible) with earth-shaking trap drums that’ll wake up even the most sleep deprived festival-goers. It’s an energy you can get a glimpse at through a pair of headphones at home, but won’t truly appreciate until it blasts through your soul from 50,000-watt festival speakers.
If you’re looking for a producer capable of crafting fully-formed songs featuring vocals of their own, don’t miss Portland’s Natasha Kmeto (featured on the cover of Vortex Music Magazine’s first issue). The vocalist/producer is just as comfortable behind a synthesizer as she is delivering jaw-dropping vocal runs—a skillset that translates very nicely to the stage. Well-versed in the festival landscape with appearances at Coachella and Bumbershoot (among others) under her belt, we’re excited to see what she has planned for a local crowd at WTF.
While the majority of WTF’s line-up is made up of electronic producers and DJs, there are a few acts who stray from the boundaries of the electronic genre. One of those is Portland’s Lost Lander, an indie pop/rock four-piece. The band does at times incorporate electronic elements into their sound, but the quartet’s organic folk rock core will serve as a nice palate cleanser between DJ sets.