Think of all the synonyms for "fun" and you'll have a pretty good idea of What The Festival is all about. A quick hour and change east of Portland, What The Festival offers one of the most enjoyable, intimate, and cleanliest festival experiences in the United States.
The funnest stage by far of any festival I've ever attended, What The Festival's Splash Stage was the place to be for the majority of the mid morning and afternoon hours. Offering a myriad of DJs over the course of the weekend including Claude Vonstroke, Kygo, Viceroy, Kepi, and more, the stage was a dance happy relaxing atmosphere surrounded by tranquil cabanas that offered shade to those who needed a break from the wet and wild.
Need a break from music? What The Festival has it covered. Offering a plethora of daytime workshops and classes including yoga, meditation, capoeira, and hula dancing; there was nothing short of mental and physical excercise over the duration of the weekend. Festival goers were also treated to art exhibits, a hookah lounge, a stone maze, diverse craft vendors, a top notch outdoor massage parlor, and some of the best non-standard festival food I've seen this side of the pond.
Washed Out provided a relaxing Friday evening set with hits from their recent release Paracosm . Saturday night featured Los Angeles trap master RL Grime who put the raucous crowd into a steady up and down cadence of bangers that lasted into midnight and Sunday culminated with The Glitch Mob pumping out mixes and cuts from their 2014 release Love Death Immortality.
Break Science, Friday at 8:00 on the WTF Stage put on a show that rivaled any of the weekend. The Brooklyn based duo, consisting of Adam Deitch and Borahm Lee bring a stylelized showcase of articulate mixes and mashups (Tycho + Kendrick Lamar FTW), that are further enhanced by Deitch's poignant drumming during live sets. Their 2013 release Seven Bridges is one that you should be spinning more often if you aren't already.
Local favortism withstanding, Emancipator Ensemble was a personal highlight for myself and I'm sure many others. When Doug Appling takes his show on the road with seasoned musicians the result is vibrant, engaging, and aurally pleasing on mental and physical planes of self existence. Featuring smooth instrumentals from Dusk to Dawn and more, Emancipator Ensmable is a not to be missed live act and you'd be hard pressed to find better.
If you skipped out on Washed Out, I don't blame you because that means you were probably being blown away by Magnus August Høiberg, better known as Cashmere Cat. One can't even begin to fathom all the collaboration requests this guy probably has pending.
AfroQBen brought some sweeping bass grooves to the Splash Stage Saturday afternoon, the multi-instrumentalist jammed with a degree of creativity that massaged the crowd into a gusto of upbeat relaxation.
Gladiator, L.A. based duo that killed it, nuff said.
Local Electronic talent loomed large Friday night with back to back performances from Portland based Ben Tactic and Natasha Kmeto. Tactic, slotted at the 6-7 hour, had everyone forgetting that the main stage opened halfway through his set and for good reason. Kmeto, who played in Calgary the evening before made a mad dash to make it to the festival in time and did not disappoint, offering empowering vocals to many of her tracks.
Those looking to extend the party into the early hours had plenty of options including the retro Late Option Lounge (pictured left), the OMG Stage which served drinks and was exclusively 21+, and the Silent Frisco, a personal favorite of AudioHammock contributor Anthony Saia. The Late Option Lounge provided a break from the electronic scene and featured Portland locals Trash Can Joe, Ukeladies, and Cello Joe among others while the Silent Frisco featured dual DJs offering contrasting electronic cuts to have you pondering which channel best suited your groove.
What makes What The Festival so enjoyable? People do. Honestly, I've never met so many personable and hospitable people in my entire life. Perhaps it's the mantra of Portland heading east, but whatever it is I dig it. From security and staff to festival goers and volunteers, everyone was helpful and on point. Neighbors were helping one another set up tents, share food and drink, and even sort out recycling for one another. In a festval scene that is usually peacock dominant and highly pretentious with fashion, What The Festival truly feels like the event that permeates with unity. During my entire weekend I was never armbarred by someone trying to get up front and I only met one frat guy who made beer pong references, that's some sort of North American festival record.