Article | Onlythebeat

Backwoods, the Hidden Gem of the Midwest

There are times where even the best of writers struggle to find words. While I barely classify myself as a “good” writer, I’m struggling to find the perfect words to describe my experience at Backwoods Music Festival. So I guess here it goes…

Amazing. Unique. Life-Altering. Mind-Blowing. Peaceful.

From group hugs to ferris wheel rides, rumbling bass and earthquakes, Labor Day weekend 2016 is one that I will remember for a long time. Friendships were created and rekindled, love was in the air across the venue and when Monday came around… I didn’t want to leave. Rolling into Tatanka Ranch on Friday a feeling of youth rushed over me like I was 21 again. With camp all set-up, the festivities officially started. Traversing the long walk through woods camping into the venue, the excitement couldn’t be contained. As my crew and I made our way to the Diskoportal stage, the heavy bass from Big Chocolate coarsed through my body. Flames shot out of the stage giving my skin a nice medium-well sear as the sun went down. [caption id="attachment_38583" align="aligncenter" width="720"]Nahko Backwoods Music Festival Nahko & Medicine for the People shredding at Backwoods Music Festival. Photo shot by Andrew Dolan Photography.[/caption] I was a little skeptical when one of my friends told me that they wanted to see Nahko & Medicine for the People, but boy am I glad I watched them perform. The band brought their indie bluegrass sound to Backwoods, speaking of freedom, making changes and helping America be the country we want it to be. The guitarist shredded, the lead singer connected powerful chords together as they performed my favorite song of the night “Make A Change.”

Nahko and Medicine for the People - Make A Change

Highlight of the Night: Catching the fireworks perfectly at the top of the ferris wheel at the end of Nahko & Medicine for the People’s set.

Early Saturday morning I awoke to what sounded like rumbling bass only to figure out a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit not far from Tatanka Ranch. I guess it’s not a festival until an earthquake shakes the ground. Maybe it was from Liquid Stranger’s set the previous night that softened the ground or the layer of dew from the cool air over night. Whatever it was, the earthquake definitely set Saturday up to be a stellar day. Phuturephil’s beach set, Elephante’s superb set at sunset and Manic Focus’ closing set helped Saturday at Backwoods pass by with no issues. Morgan Ganem, with a perfect set time after Elephante, was nice enough to feature his set on his weekly podcast, Morgan Ganem On The Air, which you can listen to below if you weren’t in attendance. Featuring the Backwoods anthem “Forever Young” along with some other unreleased tracks, check the set out for a piece of Backwoods magic.

Morgan Ganem On The Air 007 (Backwoods Live Set)

Highlight of the Night: Watching the sun go down behind The Meadows stage during Elephante’s set.

Sunday brought electronic music to the forefront as countless acts made their Backwoods debut. Heading to the MainStage for the sunset, Illenium brought the feels with his style of melodic dubstep mixing in tracks from his album, Ashes, and recent releases. Giving the Backwoods family a taste of his new Flume remix, "Say It," this was definitely one of my top sets of the weekend. [caption id="attachment_38584" align="aligncenter" width="720"]Backwoods Music Festival Fire Artists Backwoods had some stellar fire artists this year. Photo by Andrew Dolan Photography.[/caption] Tritonal’s progressive touch set the night ablaze before Nero stepped onto the stage, meshing both worlds between their two albums, Welcome Reality and Between II Worlds. After seeing their live set at BUKU this year, it was interesting to see their DJ set out at Backwoods. Remixing tracks from Welcome Reality like "Fugue State" kept the set fresh and new while incorporating perennial bangers "Promises" and "Me and You." Big Gigantic was a great choice to close out Backwoods as they combine the best of both worlds, heavy beats with live saxophone and drumming. Performing countless tracks from their new album, Brighter Future, the entire Backwoods crowd rocked out to Big Gigantic Sunday night. If you haven’t already, check out their new album Brighter Future and check them out on their tour which will be starting very soon.

Highlight of the Night: Nero’s and Big Gigantic’s sets

Final Thoughts

Improvements can always be made and Backwoods is no different. The additional shade structures around the pond were great, there just needs to be more. This is Labor Day weekend in Oklahoma, it's hot. The extra water stations and food trucks were welcomed with big smiles and the switch to cashless proved better than messing with dollar bills the entire weekend. My two biggest requests for next year would be to increase the MainStage presence and the sprawling VIP camping. I know, I probably saw the biggest MainStage last year for their 5th year, but I wanted more with this year's iteration. Something iconic to remember it like the eye last year. Meanwhile, the expanded VIP camping seemed to cause more issues than benefits. It overtook the northeast corner, forcing GA to walk the long way around the pond to get to MainStage. I get it, if you pay more, you get perks, but it shouldn't take away from the experience that GA receives. All in all though, Backwoods Music Festival continues to become one of my favorite festivals in the United States and I look forward to see what they will improve on for 2017. Backwoods definitely has something special that is worth checking out. With a unique lineup, iconic location and that small festival feel, Backwoods Music Festival 2016 was a success and I fully wish everyone the chance to experience the Backwoods magic. Disclaimer: All photos provided by Andrew Dolan Photography. Check him out on his website and Facebook for more photos from Backwoods Music Festival and his other events, he's a really talented photographer so make sure to show him some love!