Forget about the big commercial music festivals people pay big bucks to attend. Sometimes the smaller, more "experienced-based" events are the better choice when it comes to summertime fun. That's the idea behind the electronic dance festival known simply as WTF.
Sure there is music. Lots of music. Big names too. But WTF is about so much more than just great producers and DJs creating giant dance parties. There is a community-based vibe to WTF that comes from things like its location, decoration and amenities that make it a one-of-a-kind retreat filled with exciting discoveries.
Located two hours east of Portland on Wolf Run Ranch, the rural and natural setting for the camping festival adds to the communal mystique and of course, makes it easier to party with wild abandon. Festival organizers have made WTF into a kind of three-day journey rather than just a schedule of artists performing on different stages. The exploration of the festival grounds may actually hold sway over the concerts themselves, with music serving more as the backdrop for a trip down the rabbit hole.
Here's what to expect:
King Dazbog Dinosaur Puppet
Artist: Sam Johnson
Imagine being at an outdoor electronic dance festival, tripping on some righteous mushrooms when a giant glow-in-the-dark dinosaur starts traipsing right through the middle of the party. Yikes! No need to imagine: Look for King Dazbog to have more of a gentle-giant than T-Rex destroyer demeanor, though.
Mr. Toad's Gypsy Wagon
Artist: Manuel Carreras and Ildiko Cziglenyi
Returning to the festival this year will be the sweet hangout spot of Mr. Toad's Gypsy Wagon. Built from scratch, the wagon includes all the pillow-y comforts one would expect in a nomadic lounge on wheels. The wagon is just one feature in the festivals' Casbah Zone, which also includes a hookah tent.
Other art: WTF will also be adorned with the likes of giant lighted flowers, geometric domes and the world's largest mirror ball. Sounds like the kind of wonderland Alice could appreciate.
WTF is not just the result of planning and booking artists, it's also a feat of engineering. Case in point, the challenge of building a pool complete with surrounding beach on a ranch in the middle of nowhere. But that's just where many festivalgoers will be found. This year's splash pool promises to be even bigger and better. It boasts its own stage with daily performances, so deciding to cool off doesn't have to mean missing out on the musical action. Oh, and camel fighting is encouraged.
This addition to WTF 2013 is straight from Burning Man. A gargantuan structure complete with 3D light show, The Opulent Temple is sort of an anything-goes dance arena constructed out of steel and resembling something borrowed from Kevin Costner's post-apocalyptic Waterworld.
The rest: WTF is a smorgasbord of creativity that includes crafts and workshops as well as food like vegan tacos and tasty sandwiches from the popular Portland Bunk Truck.
Canadian producer duo Purity Ring had one of the best albums of 2012 with its debut Shrines. The reason was simple: Megan James and Corin Roddick blend ambient synth with poppy lyrics and hip-hop inspired beats is a welcome change of pace from the normal partitions that separate electro music to either be entirely hard-driving or entirely atmospheric. James' delicate voice communicates a quieted innocence that resonates against the angelic and sultry minimalist beats of the music.
The bouncy '80s-inspired disco track "All You're Waiting For" from L.A. duo Classixx led the Source's last Friday Mixtape last May. It was chosen because of its ear-grabbing likability and throwback sound. And though Classixx only has the one album under its belt, the list of remix collaborations is long and building the duo's reputation as experts at re-working everything from rock to R&B tracks into electro-masterpieces.
When it comes to experimental music, Jake Atlas—who records as Thriftworks—is at the top of that genre. His 2013 album Terry-D is full of dark jazz and buried dub-step complemented by noise-tronica that at times can sound like laments from a tortured pinball machine. Dancing might be hard to imagine during a Thriftworks show, but the intelligent mind-journey brought on by his music is well worth standing around for an hour with closed eyes soaking in the R&B beats.
Other notable appearances: A-TRAK / YACHT / TYCHO / ELIOT LIPP / MEDIUM TROY / ANOMIE BELLE / LUSHBUNNY
What The Festival
July 26, 27, 28
Wolf Run Ranch
Tickets $200 at www.whatthefestival.com