Festival Review: The What The Festival Superlatives

The most turnt moments from the annual four-day rave in the woods of Eastern Oregon.

It must be a good sign that What the Festival booked fewer big names than ever but sold out for the first time this year. On the unseasonably temperate weekend of June 19-22 at Wolf Run Ranch in Dufur, Ore., some 6,000 festies bought into the festival-as-experience rather than headliners-as-festival—and I was one of them. Disappointing performances from some large-type names on the bill (I’m looking at you, Big Gigantic and Keys N Krates) did nothing to stifle the posi vibes, as lesser-known performers on smaller stages amazed. Though not nearly enough women found their way into the lineup, those who did, namely Tokimonsta and Anna Lunoe, brought the hardest hip-hop and house sets, respectively. Despite temperatures in the low 80s, the daytime pool party was still the hottest place to be, where bros in board shorts and burners wielding giant forks splashed and squirted to everything from Mac Dre to a deep-house remix of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” WTF is not yet Burning Man, but it doesn’t necessarily want to be. At half the cost, a fifth the distance from Portland and a tenth the size, WTF truly is a festival for the rest of us.

Here are the best (and some of the worst) of what we saw and heard last weekend.

Best Use of Thursday Early Entry:
Worst Use of Early Entry:
Biggest Complainer:

Tents under Mt. Hood.

Biggest Asshole: The eastern Oregon wind, which kept lifting Lincolnup’s needles off his hot dancehall records. 

Best Opening Track of the Day: Schoolboy QT dropping hyphy hits left and right.

Most Aerobically Talented DJs:
Two Fresh. The L.A. club and hip-hop duo were so hyped I swear their sweat whipped onto my face even while standing 20-deep from the stage.

Two Fresh jumping around.

Best Overheard Concept for a New Festival:
“Trashhouse 2016.” The dance floor is covered in food waste; the only audience members are raccoons.

Best Far-Fetched But Well-Executed Remix: Golden Beets’ drop of Kygo’s remix of “Jolene” at the pool party.

Worst Remix:
Our camp neighbors playing a trap remix of Nickelback’s “Photograph.” Have mercy.

Least Enforced Rule:
“No renegade sound.” Some of these camps had systems that would put Portland’s clubs to shame, and they were often going hard all night.

Tokimonsta gets Saturday's crowd hyped.

Most Turnt-Up Set:
Admittedly I didn’t attend every single producer’s set, but this one goes to Tokimonsta. The L.A. native eased into her set with bubbly originals before throwing the needle on Waka Flocka Flame’s “Hard In Da Paint” and a series of other club bangers.

Most Turnt-Down Set: Maybe it was the collective "take all the drugs" moment that happens on the last day at festivals, but everyone seemed to be vibing way too hard on Slow Magic, especially given that Eats Everything was playing at the opposite stage. I know AmCo aren’t what they used to be, but that’s no excuse to suck the first teat of any dude in an animal costume making very average future beats.

Best Use of Live Fiddle: Okay, it was the only use of live fiddle outside of some random stageless marching bands, but Thomas Jack opened his pool set with oddly boreal music. He’s more known for marimbas than mountain music. 

Who Should Move Up On Next Year’s Bill: Tokimonsta, Snakehips, Eats Everything, STWO, Wave Racer, TroiBoi, Soulection crew, Justin Martin, the Librarian. 

Who Should Move Down (Or Preferably Off) Next Year’s Bill: 
Big Gigantic, Keys N Krates, UZ, Slow Magic. 
A giant dancing squid haunted the night performances.

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