Even Furthur 2017: A Techno Pagan Ritual for the Ages

in music •  2 months ago

Last summer Drop Bass Network pulled Even Furthur out of the foggy memory banks of the collective conscious of the Midwest, providing a fresh opportunity for newcomers and old-timers to gather together and let their freak flags fly. It was a mad weekend of fresh discoveries and random reunions, all underscored by the inimitable sound of underground techno pounding the earth hard enough to ripple the waters of Lake Superior.

This year found us back in the same region. That’s right. Much like last year’s festival, this one took place up in the Mellen Mountain Meadows of Northern Wisconsin. It was quite a trek to get there from most of the major centers in the Midwest, but one of the new developments at this year’s installment was a limited number of early entry passes that allowed people to arrive on Thursday afternoon. Early birds were not only able to get on the bus a day earlier, but it also meant that they could set up their camps well ahead of the pack that would cram themselves into the space over the weekend. It was a nice gesture that gave weary travelers a chance to unwind before the party really got going on Friday.

I hitched a ride with select members of The Northern Hardcorps. We rolled down from Canada, and arrived well after sunset on Thursday. As we approached ground zero we tuned in and turned on to the Free Radio Furthur FM broadcast, and successfully resisted the impulse to race to the main gate.

Photo by Tonya.After clearing the checkpoint we parked and struggled to orient ourselves in the darkness. After a bit of exploration we connected with our crew and pitched our tents within the heavily fortified confines of Camp Blood…. and by fortified, I mean; our own fence and a front gate fitted with flamethrowers. A good party isn’t just about whiskey and kisses. At Camp Blood security is serious business. We even had a series of safety meetings over the course of the weekend.

Photo by Tonya.There had been a storm earlier in the evening, so the ground was muddy and soft. The only firmness around was the distant thunder of Gabber Jihad on the main stage, which drifted through the woods and helped us settle in for the night. After a dozen hours on the road, the warm fuzz of distorted kick drums saturated the night with the constant reminder that we have arrived.

The activity slowly ramped up on Friday morning. Camp Blood sat at the top of the ridge overlooking the rig run by Speaker Kreatures / M.E.L.T. / Mobcore. The stage sat in the center of an immense pit and had been named Land of Sunshine. That stage and a few of the other DIY sound systems had been set up the day before, but the rest of them started coming alive as the day began. Soon the sounds of the countryside were quickly replaced by a wide range of electronic music. As usual, crews had been invited from across the Midwest. They had all programmed their own lineups and lugged their gear up north to keep people entertained during the daylight hours. There were eight DIY stages strewn across the festival grounds, with each one catering to a slightly different audience.

One of the highlights of the Friday DIYss was an unscheduled hardcore set by Bombardier that closed out the afternoon at the Children of the Corn stage. If you recall, at last year’s event Bombardier had demonstrated his ability to drop a mindblowing set at a moment’s notice by stepping up and filling a headlining slot on the main stage. This year a last minute opening on the Iowa crew’s DIY presented him with another opportunity to do the same, and he produced a raw and brutal assault on the senses that ripped through many of his hardest offerings. It was one of those surprising Furthur moments that requires being in the right place at the right time, and it left an exhausted crowd begging for more.

Bombardier’s raw and brutal assault on the senses. Photo by Tonya.Of course, with DJ Dan behind the decks at Déjà Vu, and Decontrol tearing up the Land of Sunshine it seems like just about every stage must have felt like the right place to be. The DIY sound systems all did an impressive job bringing in headlining talent, but when they shut down at 6pm it was time to freshen up and make the trek down to the main stage.

It’s hard to believe that a gang of miscreants from Wisconsin has now been droppin’ bass across the whole planet for twenty-five years. It’s even more difficult to figure out how they have managed to constantly reinvent themselves without ever straying from the type of event that they’ve become internationally known for curating. This year’s main-stage lineup contained an exceptionally well-programmed mix of more recent discoveries alongside established legacy acts. Friday night featured an old school vinyl set by TJR sandwiched between captivating performances by Jlin and Black Asteroid. The showstopper, however, came early in the evening via a live PA by Prototype 909.

The trio of Dietrich Schoenemann, Jason Szosteck, and Taylor Deupree laid down a phenomenal set that reached deep into the core of my being and reminded me what electronic music is capable of doing. Sometimes we lose sight of what connects us to this scene, and P909’s masterful offering was exactly what I needed to hear. It simultaneously erased my regret at not having been present for their legendary ’95 appearance, and made me more aware than ever of what I had missed.

It was a relentless and flawless display put on by three skilled performers well versed in the capabilities of their gear and the intricacies of getting the most out of their equipment. Toward the end of the set a problem with the generator interrupted things momentarily. It disturbed the flow, but it also afforded those in the audience a chance to catch their breath.

As the sun came up on Saturday morning it was time for Hardcore Breakfast with Tim Shopp, with a special guest appearance by the original Drop Bass Terror Unit DJ – Mr. Bill. The tireless DBN Support Squad tapped a keg of PBR and made pancakes for the hungry masses. Eventually the plates ran out and famished partiers resorted to making Canadian Tacos by drenching the food in maple syrup before folding them in half so they could be more easily devoured.

Hardcore Breakfast montage. Photos by Tonya.At Furthur there is no rest for the wicked. The night may have been over, but the day was just beginning. Unlike last year, which featured designated quiet times that provided some opportunity to rest, there was no downtime. Hot on the heels of Hardcore Breakfast came Mobcore Chicago’s Breakcore Brunch at the Land of Sunshine. Tooth_Eye, Common Dominator and Sir.Vixx served up Milwaukee’s Best and threw down a few hours’ worth of broken beat brutality to round out the morning.

The nearby Psychosis stage delivered an entirely different sort of breakbeat mayhem, and had a stacked lineup of their own on Saturday afternoon. Their camo tent, hidden away in the woods, featured sets by RP Smack, Easyrider, and the Ghetto Safari veteran 3D.

Elsewhere, there was chaos in the air at the Free Beer stage, which boasted Michael Wenz and the inimitable Dan Efex. Niki Kitz, Diva D, Idiom and Mr. Bill made damn sure that things never got quiet in the Land of Sunshine …but most people appeared to be drawn to the Children of the Corn stage where Mark EG held court for an extremely energetic ninety minutes. Bombardier then made an encore performance to wind down the day with a gritty techno set.

Mark EG holding court. Photo by Tonya.One of the most anticipated main stage performances of the weekend for me was Ancient Methods. The ‘In the Mouth of the Wolf’ collaboration with Cinder (aka Bambule from the Praxis label) is one of my favorite techno records of last year, and this was the one set I was determined not to miss. Ancient Methods administered the required dose of dirty and menacing techno that managed to fill the main tent with a foreboding darkness, despite the fact that the sun was still blazing away in the evening sky.

When it was over the sun had set and the stage was ready for the oozing, penis-faced depravity of Anklepants. The theatrical and performative nature of his stage show laid waste to the idea of the electronic artist as a laptop jockey as he engaged with the audience in ways that delighted the crowd and made it one of the most talked about sets of the weekend.

The flyers for Even Furthur contained a reminder to be prepared, and it seems that there’s always something unexpected that goes down. This year was no different. A last minute cancellation resulted in an open slot on the main stage and this time around the void was filled with the impressive stamina of two veteran DJs.

The lineup promoted in advance of the show promised a three-hour set by Josh Wink and an epic five-hour journey hosted by Tommie Sunshine. Instead, this pair stepped up and stretched things out to cover nearly twelve hours! Wink’s set spanned an encyclopedic range of styles over nearly five hours, before Tommie Sunshine rose to the occasion and kept things going until well after sunrise on Sunday morning. It was exactly the kind of magic that DBN’s faithful followers have come to expect.

Once again the DIY sound systems began to fire up as the main stage was shutting down. Dan Bell kicked off a stunning Sunday lineup on the Communion stage that also featured Centrific and a jaw-dropping set from Dustin Zahn. Meanwhile the noisy degenerates were still at it over at the Land of Sunshine. Bits of my afternoon have been blurred by sleep deprivation and the mini-keg of Newcastle that we tapped at Camp Blood, but it certainly seemed like a good time was had by all. The Hermit reared his head and dropped a solid set of hard techno, which offered some respite from the unrelenting hardcore that dominated the crater.

It served as a nice starting point for my own set, which kicked off with vintage tracks from Underground Resistance, Circuit Breaker and AFX – before picking up the pace and racing toward the more extreme forms of speedcore. Dica took over from there and dropped an entertaining set accompanied by MC Spade One.

The Demix closed out the day at the Land of Sunshine, but there wouldn’t be peace in the valley for long; Furthur had other plans for the evening. Adam X and Perc had been slated for a three-hour AX&P performance that was supposed to run out the clock on the main stage, but a delayed flight pushed Perc’s arrival time to well after the main system was scheduled to shut down.

Adam X wound up dropping a mind-bending three-hour set that had the crowd dancing their way through a comprehensive lesson spanning the history of underground techno. At the end of his set he thanked the crowd and announced that the party was going to relocate and continue.

Earlier in the day a contingency plan had been put into place that would allow Perc to perform. Communion moved their sound system and set it up in the Land of Sunshine; Joe from Light Fantastik brought over his lasers; bonfires were lit around the edge of the pit to help people navigate the uneven terrain …and then, Perc took center stage for the kind of magic that surpassed the expectations of even DBN’s most faithful followers.

It was an uncompromising block of hard techno that elevated the energy levels of a group of tired ravers that had been partying for days. People dug deep and found their hidden reserves. No one wanted it to end, and Perc satisfied the crowd with an extended set that stretched well into the wee hours of morning.

By the end of it we were all exhausted. Everyone crashed out late, and woke up early to find that the tireless Tommie Sunshine’s set at Domeland was the perfect soundtrack for loading up the cars and waiting for the eclipse to blot out the August sky.

The tireless Tommie Sunshine. Photo courtesy of The Headspace Collective.It truly was a techno pagan ritual for the ages.

… and if you weren’t there, then you fucked up.

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Had a blast the last two years! Nice meeting you via Tom in 2016! :D