Last weekend’s Forever Festival at the Freedom Hill Amphitheatre in Sterling Heights was one big adventure. As a junior from California, it’s kind of a shame that I haven’t really explored other parts of Michigan yet. But this isn’t the first time the tantalizing idea of a music festival has led me to do crazy things, and driving an hour east of my University bubble seemed to be — and was — simple and more than worth it. Besides, I was looking for an excuse to take a break from yet another (disappointing) football Saturday.
The aura and setup of the festival was interesting, to say the least. There were Lululemons sprinkled among more traditional rave tutus, an exasperated but meager crowd of patrons planning a coup to get themselves closer to the stage, and even weird bell pepper and mozzarella-stuffed burgers. A bored usher tried flirting with me just moments before someone else asked me point-blank if I had any crack. Clearly a wholesome combination.
As it turns out, aside from the asshole security guards and the overwhelming consensus that the pit needed to be opened up to allow more people in, the festival was curated quite well. Unlike larger ones where you have to trek what seems like miles between stages only to be rewarded with too-short sets and too-long wait times, Forever Festival had picked a select few strong groups to play for substantial periods of time.
By the time we arrived, Caked Up was already living it up on stage. Like many of the artists I would see that day, I was not familiar with this duo. A little post-festival research showed they rose in popularity relatively quickly, especially after their remix of “Wrecking Ball” went viral last October. Even in the awkward amphitheater setting, the duo’s hold on the audience was impossible to ignore. Around 5:00, the venue was still more than half empty, and with strict-bordering-on-combative security guards severely limiting the capacity of the pit, feelings of irritation could have easily undermined the intended party atmosphere. Any brave soul who attempted to jump the flimsy dividing fence between the first row of seats and the pit would be swiftly — oftentimes harshly — escorted out. But even when things took a turn toward aggression (a tussle ended in a 90-pound girl being momentarily knocked to the ground), the fans already in attendance still really looked like this was the performance they’d been looking forward to.
Caked Up has clearly mastered the art of variety, even within a sometimes narrow genre. At times, its music is slowed down and sexy, at others its rapid-fire urgency demands a whole new kind of attention. Oscar Wylde and Vegas Banger danced behind their turntables with just as much animation as the fans, enjoying themselves as though they were in the audience watching their favorite DJ perform. Remixing old favorites like “Party Up (Up In Here),” “Move Bitch” and even “Heads Will Roll” really got people to get down with their bad selves. It was a smart move for Wylde and Banger in their effort to continue drawing in new fans using familiar tunes with a twist.
Eventually, this good-time group gave way to something slightly more ominous. Destroid, made up of Excision, Downlink and KJ Sawka, is a live bass music band that adds notes of metal to its mostly EDM sounds. Having never heard of — let alone seen— the group before, my first thought when they came on stage was, “Holy shit, they have robots!”
It’s true; Destroid leaves no detail left out when it comes to portraying its story of aliens taking over the world with bass music. This is the tale that helped define the band’s mission statement, and it’s ever-present in the performance. Destroid’s style is a bit hard to digest, but not necessarily in a bad way. The songs remain energetic while spiraling into slow, deep rumbles that make the experience quite unlike anything else. I’m not all about the monster voices and creepy chimes warning of the impending annihilation, but at least it was theatrical.
Adventure Club followed, blasting an explosive remix of “We Dem Boyz.” By now the amphitheater was full and, despite the somewhat defective setup, the crowd’s energy was great and the performers continued to impress. Fortunately, we snuck our way to the front of the crowd waiting for more room to open up in the pit just in time to be let in, and thus got to enjoy Adventure Club from within the most electrifying area of the whole amphitheater. I generally believe that the more crowded a show is, the better (to an extent). Here, there was so much room that a boy with a semi-obvious Napoleon complex back-flipped every single time the bass dropped, yet I didn’t feel like I was swimming in empty space.
Nothing could bring down the good vibes as Adventure Club spun its remix of Foxes’s “Youth.” I recognized “Gold” featuring Yuna and “Crash” from their 2013 EP, and everyone had a blast listening to them intersperse snippets of Martin Garrix’s anthemic “Tremors” with the group’s own music. The camaraderie was palpable: Adventure Club shared with us its new, ultra-dynamic and perfectly spastic song “Fame,” and we all shared with each other the sweat that comes with raging for hours in pseudo-Indian summer humidity. One group even gleefully reunited with its hip-shaking, tutu-wearing, fairy-polar-bear friend midway through the set, and somehow I felt so glad for all of them. Christian and Leighton carefully sounded out their last notes with a mash up of “Summertime Sadness” and “Crave You,” and headliner Flux Pavilion came on to contribute to the end of their set and see them off.
Flux Pavilion’s cheeky Brit personality and humor shines through the music as he plays. He started right off with beats that made the whole place vibrate and blasted the audience with mist/fog so thick you couldn’t see your own hands in the air like it was his favorite thing to do. Turns out, it was one of our favorite things for him to do, too. Dizzying strobe lights somehow shined their way through the mist. Though we’d been going all day (for some festival-goers, this was their second day), no one thought to stop dancing. He was too good! At times his music got so frantic you almost didn’t know which of the twelve competing beats to pick up on and dance to — it was a brilliant exercise in following along. My guess is he was just having a little fun fucking with us, especially when he mentioned he didn’t realize the thunderstorm that had been roaming across Michigan all day “was really you guys.” We all cheered at his compliment and applauded the joke. According to Flux, “You come for the music, you stay for the puns.”
At Forever Fest, in the delightful fashion of music festivals, I dipped my toes into the musical streams of different artists I probably wouldn’t have had much regard for otherwise. Yes, I absolutely lost my shit when Flux put on Skrillex’s “Recess,” and it was cool to hear two different artists mess with “Heads Will Roll” during their sets. But watching some guy in an astronaut-esque suit attempting to twerk while crowd-surfing to Caked Up’s trap-y stylings and temporarily entering an alien-infested universe are just two examples of the great experiences that made me want to stay in those worlds. With any luck, I’ll go back one day.