What The Festival 2012

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  • Funktion-One soundsystems as far as the eye could see, plush leather couches, a portable spa and several food stations serving healthy organic food: something about Oregon's What The Festival exuded luxury even as attendees set up tent cities in the desert. Taking place in Oregon's White River Canyon (about 100 miles from Portland), the festival took over a private ranch nestled between scenic mountain landscapes and buffered by a pristine river. The setting proved oppressively hot in the daytime but was otherwise ideally suited for the festival's purpose, providing huge swathes of grassland for the two main stages as well as a splash pool which proved to be the hot pot for the festival's afternoon time. Photo credit: Daniel Zetterstrom In its first year, it seemed like What The Festival was catering to a diverse crowd that nevertheless largely overlapped with the Burning Man and Symbiosis set of colourfully-dressed West Coast hippies. The musical lineup was in tune as well, though dubstep-leaning Americans were the festival's focus. But what actually proved to be the dominant theme of the festival, especially with American DJs, was trap—the emergent style of hip-hop based off of Lex Luger-style gangsta/drug rap. Nearly every set on Friday and Saturday had a preponderance of those distinctly skittering hats, with Mimosa dropping a trap remix of Darude's "Sandstorm" and two other DJs each dropping an edit of Pink Floyd's "Money." Photo credit: Daniel Zetterstrom House and techno were occasionally present, with Scuba and Claude VonStroke both providing reliable ending sets on the large Effin Stage, while Bonobo serenaded the main WTF stage as the sun set on Sunday evening with a perfectly-paced and gorgeous DJ set heavy on his own material. The festival was also a handy showcase for the West Coast, and especially Portland locals: Danny Corn played a forward-thinking set of bass music and trap, Celoso blended live drumming with smooth deep house and EPROM's jiggly, aquatic live set of bouncy basslines and strange implacable sounds on Saturday night was the festival's definite high point, the weekend's weirdest yet most danceable hour of music. Photo credit: Daniel Zetterstrom Some quibbles with the music programming aside (which too often highlighted bland, mainstream-catering acts), what was so striking about What The Festival was that it seemed to go off without a hitch, remarkable for a festival in its first edition. The sound quality was impeccable, there were little to no signs of any incidents, and for the most part everything ran smoothly and on time. It was a promising start for what looks to be a potential new addition to the yearly West Coast festival lineup, one that combines outdoorsy flair with more than the usual amenities, a camping festival with emphasis on comfort, ease and organization.