"The experiences we shared on this wondrous ranch in Dufur, Oregon, are all experiences that are unchangeable."
When you venture to a festival, it’s safe to say that the main thing fueling your trek is the possibility that you, as an individual, have the magical opportunity to transform into someone you have been striving to be. When I drove 3,000+ miles across multiple states with a small crew that I will always hold dear to my heart, that thought was always drifting around. Who exactly do I want to be? Can I ever get there? Where the hell was I going? After attending What The Festival, I can say with a giant smile on my face that these questions will never be answered. What The Festival taught me that this life we live in and are apart of is too short for silly questions like this. Instead, you must fully dive deep into the life that this universe gave you and do your best to not only work day by day to improve it, but also improve the life of everyone around you, including mother nature.
To put it (somewhat) simply, WTF is an immersive boutique music and arts festival located on the beautiful Wolf Run Ranch in the remote city of Dufur, Oregon. Equipped with camping in the woods, a musical lineup that will make your ears dance and body quiver, a massive three-pool stage, some of the best food trucks around, beautiful scenery, MARIO KART 64 IN THE ILLUMINATED FOREST, and some of the greatest human beings from around the world, this festival really is hard to pass up. It’s quite impossible to actually go into detail about all of the wonderful art and activities you can be apart of at WTF, but the fun and beauty is absolutely endless. I did mention you could play Mario Kart, right?
This having been my first time at What The Festival, I'm really glad my crew and I were able to make it in early Thursday to join in on the pre-festival fun. Being able to set up camp somewhere deep in the woods, meet our neighbors, then walk around and experience the art displayed before the rest of attendees was truly a great introduction to the festival. Unfortunately, I rolled my ankle pretty badly and had to call it quits early into the night. One thing I would like to note is how incredible the on-site EMT staff was, and luckily I was able to get to the medical tent and get my ankle wrapped up so I could enjoy the next few days ahead of me.
The rain and cold weather did not stop us. Waking up to rain hitting our tent Friday morning was peaceful, yet also a bit worrisome. Was this cold and wet weather going to put a damper on everyone's mood? Absolutely not. This is where I really got a taste for just how caring and united the community of What The Festival is. You didn’t prepare well enough for the rain? Don’t worry, there are tons of people who will give you the jacket off their back just to help you out. Although a bit chilly, everyone had beaming smiles, and the live music filling up the day was equally as spirit lifting. Featuring the ever-so-talented GIBBZ, FKJ, and Lettuce, the multiple instruments and vocals being showcased Friday seemed to bounce around the forest in the most groovy way. Another highlight of Friday was Jai Wolf’s set at the Splash stage; although cold as hell with minimal sun, the energy engulfing that pool made it seem like the most wild pool/forest/day party you could ever imagine. Let’s not forget the Dirtybird takeover on the Dragon stage, (a stage that literally spits FIRE out of a dragon’s mouth) with extended sets by both Claude VonStroke & Ardalan.
Waking up early Saturday was a surreal feeling. Did all of that just happen to me? Hell fucking yes it did. Although it was still raining when I woke up, I knew that this weekend was going to be filled with an overload of warmth and light. As I am starting to think of all the very warm souls and beats I encountered Friday night and day, my mind begins to wander… to WARM FOOD. I make my jolly way over to all of the food trucks and come across a one in particular that caught my eye, Killa Dilla. A warm quesadilla filled with even warmer breakfast foods? Count me in, please. I had a very unique experience where the woman who took my order spelled my name right, only the second stranger of my life to do so. Only at WTFest, right? Now a warm breakfast dilla satisfying my stomach, I was ready for what the Saturday had to offer. With a seriously massive musical lineup ahead at nightfall, we all decided to take it easy at our campsite and hangout with our neighbors. Nothing beats relaxing in the forest with people who you have just met, but seem like you’ve met decades ago, playing games and reveling under the peaking sun. During this moment of pure bliss, I had a realization. A bunch of my friends were all the way over in Las Vegas for EDC, and I am here at WTFest in the middle of Oregon, and there is no other place on Earth that I would rather be. Looking around, I’m positive everyone would agree with me.
Saturday night included the absolute BEST musical performance I have ever experienced in my life: Thievery Corporation. HOLY F*CK. There really are no words to describe this set other than exactly what I needed, wanted, and desired, and that experience couldn’t have happened without the magical creationism of What The Festival. Other artists to take the stage (one of the eight), were Lunice, Lido, Alix Perez, G Jones, Phutureprimitive, Random Rab, and Shades. One of my favorite aspects of the night was the battle between the Equinox and Dragon stages. We were easily able to go from the hyphy drum & bass filth of Alix Perez & Shades at the Equinox, to the soul-soaring musical madness of Phutureprimitive, and a beautiful sunrise set by the one and only, Random Rab. A night that will keep my soul dancing for eternity.
As us creatures began to wake up Sunday morning from the coziness of our little nooks, there was one thing literally on our heads, SUN!!!!!! We had survived the rain and cold, and we now had a bright orange treat. I knew that the vibes for Sunday were already set, but I had no idea just how insanely awesome everyone and everything would be. We started the day off with a stroll through the Illuminated Forest, even joining in on a little K-Poplates fun. A Pilate’s class fueled with some K-pop (Korean pop music). Sunday was also a great day to check out all the art walks set up around the forest because we didn’t feel rushed. We spent a good 2-3 hours soaking in and admiring all the beautiful art, time and time again I was reminded that the WTF community is definitely full of captivating artists.
As the sun rose higher, and the hot air started to creep in, we headed back to camp to eat lunch and rest. At this time, there was only one thing on our minds. GETTING THE F*CK DOWN AT THE POOL STAGE. The weather never really did stop us from getting wet n’ wild all weekend, but with a warm day like Sunday I only slightly knew just how insane it was about to get. Without a doubt, Le Youth and Motez both threw down for a collective 2 hours that I will never forget. It was like a pool party out of my wildest dreams; smiles and naked bodies engulfed the pool, house beats and creatures stomping had the water sloshing, and all the while we had good ol’ Mt. Hood and the sun looking over us. My face hurt from smiling so much. Sunday of What The Festival will go down as one of the best days of my life.
One of them most special things about WTF is the fact that even though the pool party is done, there is still more music. In fact, music runs all the way until Monday morning. A highlight of the night for me was being able to get down to the ground with some more Dirtybird funk, J.Phlip. Then walking across the field to witness the legend himself, Bonobo. Although it was the last night and energy should have been running low, everywhere I looked people were able to give me more fuel to dance. Laughs filled the night sky, beautiful trees overlooking the festival grounds accompanied by large groups of happy people frolicking along the grass really showed me that no matter what, we are not alone.
Whenever times get hard, or things just don’t seem to be going your way, I want you to think back on this weekend. Think back to everything that made you smile, laugh, or even cry. All these things, they are real. Every person you connected with, they are real. The mountains, the trees, the blue water and green grass, all alive and very, very real. The experiences we shared on this wondrous ranch in Dufur, Oregon, are all experiences that are unchangeable. What The Festival taught me oh so many things, it especially taught me that you don’t need answers. You are ALIVE RIGHT NOW. That is the only answer you need. Look around you, so many things are alive just like you, and this beautiful planet and universe are doing their part to keep you that way. Its up to you to make them smile. To everyone that was apart of this fruitful, life changing experience, I will see you next year, keep on flowing. <3
Written by: Cullen Lobe
Photos by: Melanie Gordon