Welcome to Chosen By The Funk’s coverage of Even Furthur 2017, Drop Bass Network’s legendary campout rave/music festival in Highbridge, Wisconsin. After a hiatus that lasted over a decade, the event came roaring back to life last year (see our coverage of last year’s event here). The momentum provided from that reunion made a 2017 version all but inevitable. Over the coming weeks, we will have features, interviews with some of the festival’s key figures, and some photo/video content to share so keep your eyes peeled for more updates.
To kick off our coverage, I am going to recount my experience of the nearly 96 hours I spent at the festival site. I will give a couple warnings before I begin: 1) I am going to be writing from my perspective and talking about experiences that may be unique to me. That’s just how I prefer to write about a subject that is very near and dear to my heart. 2) I did not consider myself a journalist while I was there. I was a participant, performer, prankster, and all around weirdo, just like most of the other people in attendance. With only one exception, I didn’t do anything differently than I would have otherwise in the name of coverage. That resulted in a majority of my time being spent at the main stage and the two Minneapolis DIY stages. I am sorry to say that means certain aspects of the festival will be under-represented here.
If either of those are going to be an issue, I would encourage you to write something yourself. Hell, if it’s halfway decent we will even publish it if you’d like. With that said, I present for your consideration: The View From Here.
I knew this year’s version of Even Furthur was going to be epic beyond belief. Anyone who attended the event last year would come to the same conclusion, but something happened a couple days before the festival that gave me the feeling that my life was about to be rearranged. On August 15, three days before Even Furthur began, a comedian and television show host Chris Gethard appeared on Conan O’ Brien’s show, where he mentioned that he was trying to get Anklepants (who happened to be one of Even Furhtur’s main attractions) to appear on his show, which airs live on Thursday nights on TruTV. Years ago, I reached out to Chris via Facebook as both of us were involved in cable access television shows at the time, we traded a few messages here and there. Since then, he has brought his show from cable access to actual cable television, started a hugely successful podcast, and shot a comedy special for HBO.
I hadn’t spoken to him in years, but I felt the need to reach out about our beloved penis-nosed champion. As I was gearing up to head to the festival grounds the day before the festival began, I texted him to let him know I was about to spend 4 days in the woods with Anklepants. I assumed I wouldn’t hear anything back, Chris is a very busy guy. Instead, he responded immediately and told me to tell Anklepants hi for him. 10 minutes later I was in my car, with photographer James in tow, and we were on the way to get on the bus. I had no clue what we were in for, but from that point I knew that my wildest dreams about what a music festival/family reunion/gathering could be were about to get smashed.
We pulled in to Highbridge Hills, the festival’s venue, around 5 Thursday evening. A light rain was falling, and based on all the mud on the trails, it was clear it had been for a while. Upon arrival, we decided to walk the grounds to scope the place out and decide where to set up camp. On the trails that lead through the woods to the main stage area, there were large patches of swallow-your-foot mud that gave me flashbacks to last year’s Even Furthur, which was the muddiest and most physically grueling experience of my life. The Communion truck made it through, only after getting stuck several times. The Headspace Collective truck got stuck as well, and they decided to leave it near the entrance and hope for better conditions in the morning. The Déjà Vu stage seemed to be pretty well set up by the time we arrived, but it seemed most of the other stages were behind schedule and struggling due to the conditions. PTSD was beginning to set in, and we braced for the worst. Thankfully Thursday was as bad as it got all weekend. As we completed our loop around the grounds, we found some Minneapolis friends setting up camp on a stretch of elevated land near the main parking lot, and decided to join them. I didn’t mind the five-minute walk through the woods to get to most of the stages, and I enjoyed the relative peace and quiet the spot gave us.
After spending a few hours setting up camp and getting situated, I finally felt like I was actually at Even Furthur once I got to the pre-party at the Communion stage. I saw plenty of friends from around the Midwest, most of them made at last year’s Even Furthur. Seeing them again for the first time in a year, all in one place, dancing to techno under a tent as the rain fell outside, made it feel official. I took it relatively easy the first night and was laying in my tent as Gabber Jihad played his last few tracks. I got a solid night’s sleep (more than I got the rest of the weekend combined) and woke up feeling great on Friday. I do think the early arrival option is a good one to take, if you can swing it, although it was a little weird being there with only a couple hundred others, and it was frustrating as hell when everyone else showed up on Friday and took all our space.
Friday for me was a day of work. I had all the pieces in place to put on a variety show that night after the main stage ended at 2 AM, but I didn’t have a plan as to how it would all come together or where we would do it. It seemed to me the best place to set up was right in front of the big black banners behind the main stage tent, and thankfully festival organizer and Drop Bass Network chief Kurt Eckes agreed. Over the course of about 16 hours starting at noon on Friday, I must have made about 15 trips between the parking lot side and the main stage side – thankfully about half of them on a golf cart – to bring stuff for the show over (and to play some funk tunes at the Domeland DIY stage – Thanks Headspace Collective!).
I have to give a shout out to Support Squad members Steve Centrific and Alexx for helping me get all the tiki torches and gear out there for the show, and even more I need to give thanks to their SS-mate Tom Kellogg. I could not have done this show without Tom! Not only did he volunteer to serve as my tech (it was proving hard to convince someone to be sober-ish at 2 AM), he helped me set everything up and stood guard for hours as we prepared for the show. It was sort of strange to be so close to the action in the main tent, yet so far away. The only time I spent inside the main stage tent on Friday was looking for people who were helping me with the show. I did get to catch about 10 solid minutes of Prototype 909’s live set and that was the highlight of Friday for me musically. What I heard of TJR was great too, I was really impressed with his all-around effort to be a part of the Even Furthur community from the moment his booking was announced in May. My mind was too occupied to take in much else Friday night.
The show, which was titled Kool-Aid Promenade, could not have gone much better. I thought it would be cool to light the performance space with tiki torches, but they did not illuminate the space as I had envisioned. Thankfully a lot of people held up their flashlights to light up the performers, which turned out to be one of my favorite aspects of the show. It was charming as hell! The red carpet show was a hit for the second straight year, Barb and Neil provided some excellent laughs, Rikyrah did a beautiful dance and both Tom (as Uncertain Host) and Jakob aka Phrym8 gave us a nice little dance party closer. I will admit to being uncertain about this plan when Kurt asked me to do a show at 2 AM, but it worked perfectly. There were more people at that show than at any other variety show I’ve put on. There were tons of people who I couldn’t see who told me they were there when I saw them the next day. I want to say thanks again to everyone who participated in the show, as a performer, helper, or attendee. I also have to give huge thanks to Kurt Eckes for the opportunity.
The golf carts weren’t as ample in supply at 4 AM, so I packed most of my gear up into my friend’s wagon and hauled it all back over to the other side. By the time I brought the wagon back to return to my friend, I was totally beat. All in all it was a ton of work, but work I would happily do again given the opportunity. It was nice that all of my responsibilities were on the first day too, I don’t think I could have pulled this off on Saturday night.
I spent much of the daytime Saturday at the Domeland DIY stage, put on by my friends The Headspace Collective. I know I am biased, but Domeland was my favorite stage of the festival. There was so much different music being played there, stuff from a lot of different genres that I don’t think would be heard much (or at all) at any of the other stages. I listened to my friends play funk, super chilled-out heroin rock, and ambient techno over the span of a few lovely hours at the dome Saturday afternoon.
As the sun began its descent, I went back to the other side to refresh and grab my camera, I knew I would need it for what was coming up next. One of the main attractions of the festival, Anklepants, the penis-nosed clown whose Boiler Room set had caused quite a stir a few years back, was up soon. I was enjoying Ancient Methods, but I was on a mission; I parked myself right in front of the speakers around 8:15. Ankelpants was nowhere to be seen at 8:30, his scheduled start time. Ancient Methods filled in admirably, but all I could do was look at my watch over and over, hoping everything was still ok just running behind schedule. Each time I turned around the tent seemed more and more full, the space filling with people and even more so an air of anticipation.
Finally, after a half hour delay, Anklepants took the stage and some kind of strange electricity took over the tent pretty much immediately. After a few moments of last minute tests and attempted communication with the sound man, Anklepants hopped up on to the speaker stacks, where he would remain for most of his hour-long set. It seemed for the first few minutes of his set, he was working out some bugs and feeling his equipment out, not quite comfortable on stage – but that quickly passed. Before long he was jumping all over the place, from speaker stack to speaker stack and occasionally back to the stage. Even when he was on the stage, I didn’t see him touch his computer once during his entire set – he controlled it entirely with what he had on him.
His main controller was his microphone, which had trigger points all over and a large antenna. He also had a small controller in his other hand, and I later discovered he has triggers built in to his costume, so he was effectively using his entire body as an instrument. I was completely spellbound, standing directly under him, so close I could hear his actual voice screaming before it was processed through vocal effects. I didn’t mind when he gave us the surprise that his penis nose had the power to ejaculate, rather I had the feeling that Anklepants was raining down his blessings upon us – I wanted, nay, needed more! It felt strange to feel that way, but nothing about Anklepants is normal so that makes sense.
His music was very strange but totally danceable and went all over the place, from ambient to jungle, from dance-floor ready bangers to some supremely weird, freaky noises. It felt like he had opened a door to a different realm, with futuristic music that humans are not quite ready for. To me, he was the combination of everything that makes Even Furthur a great festival/event/rave all in one hour long set. Totally weird and freaky, but still providing a spiritual experience on a great dance floor.
I tried to stay and listen to Heist after Anklepants’ set ended, but I just couldn’t. I had so much to mentally unpack, my mind had been scrambled in the best way possible. In all seriousness, I left the tent viewing Anklepants as some kind of god-like figure. He isn’t immortal, but he does have super powers – the power to build all of his instruments and create his music to entertain the masses. I actually liked what I heard from Heist for the few minutes I was there, I just had this overwhelming feeling that I wouldn’t ever again be able to enjoy art of any kind as it was simply not Anklepants. Thankfully that didn’t last.
After a break back at camp, I finally felt ready to consume non-Anklepants art again but what I found in the main tent kind of surprised me. The music was very quiet and chill, Josh Wink had been playing for at least a half hour by the time I arrived. This feels like a good spot to say the main stage sound felt a bit muted compared to last year, and that seemed to be by design. There were several times throughout the weekend where I could barely hear the music until I got very close to the main stage. Personally, I thought it was still fine once inside the tent, it was just quite a bit different than last year – where my tent a couple thousand feet away was shaking from the bass whenever the main stage was in use, or a farmer miles down the road could hear/feel the bass. This is part of the trade-off of keeping neighbors happy and ultimately keeping this festival running.
Josh Wink’s set was masterful – a slowly burning fire when I first entered the tent a bit before midnight, turning into one of the best dance floors of the weekend by the time I left several hours later. I have had several chances to see him at the main stage at Movement in Detroit, but I passed them all up, knowing I would some day eventually see him in the right environment, and it doesn’t get any right-er than Even Futhur! It was one of those moments where you finally see why someone has been looked up to as a legend by a lot of people for decades. After a few hours of quality dancing to Wink, my body said it was time for a rest so I gave it one. I returned a few hours later to see Tommie Sunshine had taken over the decks, and took in the sunrise with some friends at the Communion stage as Steve Centrific, Dustin Zahn, and a few others played a special tag team sunrise set.
I was actually looking forward to the set that got cancelled Sunday morning, but ultimately it gave me a few sweet hours to rest up in time for Dan Bell, who as expected, delivered one of my favorite sets of the weekend. Tommie Sunshine, meanwhile, was still playing at the main stage well into Dan’s set, playing for more than 7 hours when all was said and done. I really liked the headliner in the morning/early afternoon thing going on Sunday, it felt like the party was really going around the clock at this point.
I had been trying to connect with Anklepants to interview him – Kurt had put us in touch before the event but nothing materialized. After Dan’s set, I saw Kurt by the Communion stage and asked him if he could introduce me to Reecard Farche, the man behind Anklepants, so I could conduct an in-person interview. Moments later I was on the back of a Kurt-driven golf cart, heading back towards the entrance to meet our penis-nosed savior friend. Along the way, people called out Kurt’s name seemingly from every other campsite we passed. He stopped for each one, and listened to what they had to say, even if it was really dumb. Along the way, an old grumpy looking man in a pickup truck tells Kurt “we need to talk”. Unphased, Kurt said “sure, I’m just bringing him to the house”. I don’t know all the details, but I do know the neighbors and the local police/sheriff’s department had been giving Kurt all kinds of headaches all weekend, and I have to say his demeanor didn’t seem to change once throughout the entire weekend, a prankster through and through.
We will be posting the Anklpants interview soon, so I won’t say too much about it here. I’ll just say it was quite surreal, having felt the way I did about his set, to go meet him and have a chance to ask him some questions. At first I didn’t quite know what to say, but once we got going we had a very nice conversation on some really interesting topics. Above all else, what I gathered from speaking with him is that he is someone who thinks so far out of the box that he’s back in the box somehow, and then he busted out of the box again. I don’t know what that means. You be the judge.
Around sunset on Sunday, I heard a rumor that Perc was caught up trying to get to the festival (for the second straight year) and would be delayed, but the sound permits for the main stage only went to midnight, so the plan was to move the Communion sound system in to the pit where the Land of Sunshine stage was and let Perc have his way with it. My initial reaction was NOOOO WAAAAAAY, but just like the rumor that the one set was going to be cancelled turned out to be true, I figured this one would be too. I put on my Junior Detective cap and did some sleuthing. It seemed nothing had changed in the pit as the sun tucked away for the night, but the Communion rig was suddenly absent from the Communion stage. So far, so good.
I was looking forward to Adam X and Perc playing together, I had heard about 20 minutes of their set earlier in the summer in Detroit, but left thinking I would get 3 more hours in the woods. Oh well, that’s life, and Even Furthur is all about resiliency and rolling with the punches. At this point, everything became a strategic battle to remain standing during Perc’s set. I hadn’t slept since Saturday morning, and my body was sore all over (I have to give a shout out to Angelica for setting up her massage chair at the Communion stage as Christian James closed it down earlier in the night, she was a life saver!). Adam X on his own has never really clicked with me and so I took the time he was playing to rest up – it sounds like many other people felt this set was a highlight of the weekend for them for what it’s worth.
After a nice little rest, I braced myself for one last push, and my friends and I found ourselves on the Last Train To Christmas Town. When we got there, the music was pretty banging, not at all what I had drawn up in my mind’s eye/ear when I heard the name Christmas Town (a several hours-long stretch of music put on by Minneapolis’ own Dave, Jobot, and a few others at the Domeland DIY stage). When I had been sitting at the Domeland stage hours earlier, well before Christmas Town even started, I noticed little tiny Christmas decorations popping up at various places around the stage. Each time I left and came back over the next 9 hours, there were more Christmas decorations than there had been previously. It was madness, and it was beautiful. I was not expecting this to be such a highlight of my weekend but I gotta give it to the elders of Christmas Town. You really did it!
We heard Perc had started playing in the pit and high-tailed it over. A massive bonfire had been started at the edge of the pit. Neil from The Headspace Collective told me they had lit up a beautifully made Drop Bass Network-themed Lunar Calendar to start the fire. It seemed a shame to torch something that was clearly made with a lot of care, but it was very fitting. This was no ordinary fire. I genuinely feel bad for people who left early or were sleeping during this set, it was so incredibly bad ass and well executed. One thing about Even Furthur that I really like is that it’s about everyone chipping in in a way that they are best equipped to. The Communion sound system was bigger than what they had at Land of Sunshine, so it was hauled over. The laser guy brought his lasers. Camp Blood set the perfect background of weird looking shit paired with fire.
The flyer promised a “tekno pagan ritual”, which was supposed to be a burning man as was done last year, but the effigy was never built. Perc dropping some of the hardest, fastest music of the entire weekend in a pit for 3+ hours as a giant fire raged, as a bright green laser lit up the sky (along with occasional bursts from Camp Blood’s fire cannon) was way more tekno, way more pagan, and way more ritual than whatever else had been planned. It was downright primal, and it was the perfect way to cap the third and final night of Even Furthur.
I was exhausted but once we got into the pit I was drawn to get closer, and closer, until I was right at the front. I stopped my headbanging long enough to notice on one side of me was Steve Centrific, on the other Tommie Sunshine, and behind us was Kurt Eckes, all speaker freaking in unison and paying tribute to the KING of the Midwest Hardcorps Perc. After a while, my exhaustion set back in and I couldn’t handle being right in the thick of it, so I stepped off to the side stage. I was struggling to keep my eyes open and leaning on my giant hammer just to stay upright. Thankfully I caught a 17th wind as Perc’s set was winding down, grabbed my hammer and got back on the dance floor, somehow I knew I had the one last chance to pay tribute to the tekno gods. After some cool down and mental unpacking, I went back to Christmas Town one last time, where the party was still raging hard, but I could no longer keep my eyes open by then. I walked back to my tent, and on my way I was treated to the beautiful sight of the sun starting to peek out for the day.
I got 4-5 hours of solid sleep, and during that time the landscape had changed quite a bit outside my tent. Most tents had been broken down and packed up, a lot of cars were gone. I slowly packed up my things and prepared to head home, but first I went over to the other side of the grounds to say goodbye to some friends over there. What I found was a few dozen people having the time of their lives as Tommie Sunshine welcomed the solar eclipse with some R&B and funk tunes at the Domeland stage. It was truly beautiful, every bit the victory lap that we experience with Miles Maeda on Monday morning at last year’s Even Furthur. To be honest, when I saw the billing of the set that ended up not happening, I wasn’t so sure that the magic of the Mile Maeda set would be able to be captured and wondered if it could possibly be the same when it was a day earlier, not as it was time to pack up and leave. Turns out the set in question never happened, but the last day magic still happened anyway, and just like last year, it was on the last day. I actually said good bye to everyone and headed back to the other side to leave, only to turn right back around once I got there to spend more time at the Dome.
None of this is to mention that a SOLAR friggin’ ECLIPSE was starting as Tommie concluded his set. We couldn’t see it very well because of cloud cover, I only caught a couple glimpses through my official Solar Eclipse 2017 ™ glasses, but just the fact that the festival was actually advertised as ending with the Eclipse was epic as hell, and I couldn’t have asked for a much better ending to such an incredible weekend and one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
James and I packed the last few things into my car and were on the road again. Thankfully the cops who had been pulling people over all weekend were nowhere to be seen. It really bums me out that we are treated like criminals just for doing the things we enjoy, which really aren’t bothering anyone (except maybe a handful of neighbors). Well, maybe not criminals so much as an ATM for the local police force I suppose. We spoke with a lady who was directing traffic on Highway 13 on our way out, she told us even she had been pulled over. These sick fucks know no bounds.
Whew! That was long! If you made it this far, congrats, you’re almost done and thank you for reading. Before we part ways, I just wanted to say thanks to a few people:
To Kurt Eckes – thanks for your brilliant vision and letting us all take part in it. This is a community that I am very grateful to be a part of.
To the Support Squad and volunteers– thanks again for your efforts in making this party happen. The true unsung heroes of Even Furthur!
To James Kloiber - thanks for being a fantastic travel mate, camp mate, and photographer. All photos within this post were taken by him.
To SS members Steve, Alexx, and Tom – thanks for your help with the variety show! I couldn’t have done it without you.
To Kujo, Jakob, Rikyrah, Neil, Nick, and everyone who held up their flashlights or helped with Kool-Aid Promenade in anyway way – thanks for helping my dreams come to life! You are the wind beneath my wings!
To Brandi, Shannon, Elaine, and Neil – thanks for letting me DJ at your stage, providing space for some of my favorite moments of the festival, and all the amazing things you do!
To all the DIY crews – thanks for all your hard work. I gained an all new appreciation for what you do in having to put on my show in our own space.
To all the weirdos and freaks who make Even Furthur what it is – thanks for filling Even Furthur with hours upon hours of smiles and laughs, and I am looking forward to seeing you all again next year!
Here are a few more pictures James took. You can see more photos by James at our Facebook Page, there is even an album dedicated to our variety show Kool-Aid Promenade.
So long for now, and keep your eyes peeled for our interviews with Anklepants and Kurt Eckes!