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Western Michigan's Electric Forest Festival is charged for a big thid year

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Thanks to its earliest ever sell-out, the buzz about this year's Electric Forest Festival in Rothbury, Mich., is stronger than ever.

The music and lifestyle event, which features more than 75 bands over four days -- June 26-29 -- on the ground of the Double JJ Ranch -- is in its third year under the Electric Forest name after debuting as the Rothbury Festival in 2008 and 2009. And festival producer Jeremy Stein of Denver-based Madison House Presents says he expects somewhere in the neighborhood of 35,000 to catch this year's performances by the String Cheese Incident, which is doing three shows (plus one with Ms. Lauryn Hill as the Ms. Lauryn Hill Incident), Umphrey's McGee and STS9, who are doing two shows each, Zedd, Moby, Cut Copy, Aloe Blacc and many more.

"There's no doubt anticipation for this year is like no other. It's pretty exciting," says Stein. "Most festivals sell a lot of tickets in the last four weeks or five weeks, so to be sold out that far in advance shows there's quite a bit of demand beyond where we stopped."

Stein credits "the greatest marketing scenario of all -- word of mouth" with Electric Forest's sales success this year, with a sell-out announced on May 29. "It's people telling their friends to come," he says. "Everybody believes in the integrity of the event, so we're trying to hold that up. There are a lot of festivals out there, a lot of very good lineups -- to the extent it might seem like a homogeneous landscape out there. But there are events that stick out as super-unique, and this is certainly one of them."

Stein says that beyond the music, "a sense of community" has grown around Electric Forest -- and not just at the site, where the decorated wooded area that gave the festival its name remains a strong signature for the event. Beyond that, however, Electric Forest lives year-round via online initiatives such as an Electric Forces story sharing site, active blogs and a Plug In program that provides constant communication between festival organizers and attendees.

"It really makes people feel empowered that it's their own," Stein explains. "I think most of all people are coming because we've just stayed absolutely true to the event up and down They're coming for the sense of community that's really so hard to find. People know it's their festival and it's what they make of it, and there are a lot of ways to be part of it.

"I'm not sure that exists to this extent at a lot of other events out there."

There was speculation earlier this year that due to Double JJ's latest sale -- to Chicago businessman and Michigan native Matt Halbauer -- this could be the last year of Electric Forest, or that the 2014 festival would be canceled altogether. Stein, who's on his third ownership regime at the site, says he was never really worried and that Electric Forest now feels more secure than ever.

"We have a great, long-term arrangement with the new ownership, who's been great to work with," he says. "I think it's probably a new day for the site. This (owner) by far feels the most stable, so we're ready to have this year's festival and move forward."

For information on Electric Forest visit www.electricforestfestival.com.

Web Site: www.electricforestfestival.com

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