“I wish someone would have told me sooner. I never knew. Is it always this magical?” I asked Corey, a new friend from Canada, as tears ran down my face We were watching the sunrise on the roof of an RV afterparty the Monday after Electric Forest Weekend 2. His friend Peter had helped me up a treacherous ladder to stand on the top of a renegade RV set in the campgrounds. This potentially was one of the best house sets I have ever heard from an unknown DJ in my life. In fact, every time I invoke memories of this incredible weekend I find myself welling up with tears that I honestly have no idea what to do with. My friend Skyy who has been multiple years assures me that this is not only a normal reaction to your first Forest experience, but a happy moment because you actually found “IT.”
A fellow forester found a card that summed “IT” up perfectly: “You’ve found IT! You may not know what “IT” is until you leave here. May even be a few days or weeks after you leave here. But the “IT” that I’m talking about will hit you like a ton of bricks. “IT” will make you cry happy tears. “IT” will make so much sense. So many of us do not find “IT.” I’m so glad you did! I love you fam! Happy Forest! BTW… Where the Fuck is Carl??” Later, I found out that Chris, a fellow Forester who has attended for the past two years made them and hid them throughout the forest. “Last year changed my life! I found “IT” after not even knowing I was looking for “IT!” he said.
So now that I have found “IT,” allow me to reminisce with you about the most emotionally moving weekend I have EVER experienced at a Festival. Electric Forest is not just a “music festival.” It is a totally immersive experience. After countless festivals (and I have hit almost every single notable festival on the East Coast in the last few years), Electric Forest is a breath of fresh air. As the lineup queen of my group, I was concerned about such a bass-heavy festival. I am here to tell you once and for all, that the lineup DID NOT MATTER. Never have I cared LESS about missing any artist. Never have I been so unconcerned with not making it to any stage on time. Never have I wanted to get more lost in nature. That is the magic of Electric Forest, the actual Forest itself. I can’t explain it to you. In fact, I don’t even want to. I want you to be just as entranced as I was the minute I walked into Sherwood Forest. The Forest comes alive at night, and I absolutely promise that armed with a positive outlook, you will find exactly what you are seeking inside. It sounds so trite to say “life-changing” but there is literally no other way to explain my experience. I am forever changed by the Forest.
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Thursday evening I had worked 8 solid hours and made the trek from Indianapolis to Rothbury Michigan with my festy-besty Tim, and my new friend from Chicago, Adrian. We had booked a hotel at the Weathervane Inn, which was a vacation in and of itself. It was like walking into a postcard. A quaint picturesque little houseboat town, with amazing people, beautiful sunsets and sunrises, a whirlpool in the room, all shops closed on Monday, and to our surprise no Ubers in the area. (Oops). We unpacked voraciously and headed into the festival for Anna Lunoe, MK, RUFUS DU SOL, and Get Real. I was super excited for Get Real, but MK stole the show, as per usual. After the long drive, I didn’t even have any idea what was “behind the curtain” so to speak, so we headed back to get ready for Friday, but not before forgetting my phone in a bathroom, and then it magically appearing before we headed for the car. (Where else but the Forest would a phone go MISSING and then RETURN!?!)
Friday we rushed to get ready and arrived before the gates had even opened for parking! I guess we were super excited! After sweet talking the security (every person who works this festival legit deserves a medal for their impressive positive attitudes) we parked in day parking and were escorted to the front gates of the festival. Tim was in hammock nap mode, and I immediately lamented not purchasing a hammock of my own when I saw the amazing amounts of hammock family relaxing all over Sherwood Forest.
Adrian and I decided to take this moment to explore, as it was our first day inside. We were blessed with the most impressive natural artwork I have ever witnessed. Posters scattered with the ideology: “Work on yourself, not on your Selfie” absolutely resonated with me, and would be the reason I only took photos one day of the actual festival. Thought-provoking messages of harmony, peace, love, and nature are everywhere in the Forest.”Mother Earth is Forever Giving, Let’s Give Back;” “You’re in the right place, doing the right thing, at the right time;” “You are Magical;” and “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished,” are messages that will stick with me forever.
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I then needed to make the trek back to the Ferris wheel to meet a good friend who had granted me an interview. Ashley has been a beacon of light to me since I started covering festivals, and I have always had such admiration for her. She was the first female I met who also covered festivals as press, and I was so excited to get her thoughts on her career, her ability to interview her favorite artists, as well as her impressively mind-blowing hooping abilities. The only problem… I was completely lost in the forest, with absolutely no signal. I sent a message before our meet up time, and let her know that I was literally just pulled into a “wedding.” Miraculously, the forest provided and the message went through! “That happens,” she said. Within minutes of watching the most hilarious wedding I have ever attended where a beautiful girl married her forest totem, Ashley appeared. We spent two magical girl power hours together exploring the Forest and discussing feminism in her favorite place on Earth. We were checked on several times as we laughed, cried, and hugged each other by so many beautiful people, which showed me that not only was I at a music festival, but I was in a crowd of amazing people where no one is a stranger. Everyone is a friend you just have not met yet. “Forest is HOME,” she said. I only now understand why.
After heading back to find my friends, Adrian and I wandered into Jubilee and were hit with the hunger of 1000 kingsmen. Obviously, we headed to “FOOD YUM” because we found it absolutely hilarious. Forest or not, you don’t want to make me wait when I’m hangry. There, while we ate some very basic chicken nuggets, we met Sam, a wonderful young gentleman who became family over the course of the weekend. So much so that the “self-dubbed King and Queen of the Forest” dubbed him our “Forest Prince.” Sam was traveling alone and became an instant friend who I absolutely loved entertaining/irritating as much as possible. While he and Adrian hung out by the trees, I made my way to the middle of the crowd for Bonobo and legitimately wept for their set. I felt the same emotional quotient seeing them for the first time live as I had for my first time with Odesza. It was a perfect moment alone, and the only set I really caught Friday. I returned to find Adrian and Sam, at the tree line, and “the Forest had come alive.”
Electric Forest is beautiful during the day, but it is absolutely stunning at night. I wish I could do the Forest justice and put it into words. Electric Utopia is the only phrase that would fit. It was the first time I have never cared about being behind a camera and capturing the memories for my friends as the “resident grandma scrapbooker.” We continued to explore and had difficulties tearing ourselves away for much-needed sleep.
Upon walking in on Saturday, I headed to the luminaria area immediately. I wanted to get something special out of the way. I had walked past them and knew that avoiding lighting one would become a regret. After a moment of peace, I lit a luminary for my late father and asked my friend Ashley if it was normal to cry. “I weep often in the Forest” was the response. It was such a cathartic experience, letting go of someone who had meant so much to me in my life. My father truly would have loved the Forest.
It was now time for my girl Forest Day. I set my hand wrapped gifts on the giving-tree, one of my favorite experiences at Electric Forest, and waited for a dear friend of mine to join me. Danielle has become a friend I have fested with for what seems like years… and I can hardly believe it has only been since Ultra in March. She was looking forward to this event more than any other festival, and I now can see why. We spent our day together exploring the maze in the Forest and crying together like “old grandma” saps at all of the messages of love, respect, and peace we found hidden in the Maze. I had made something special for her, and giving it to her in the Carousel was the warm and fuzzy moment of the festival. We met so many incredible people together, and we both agree that it strengthened our hope for all of humanity and the younger generation. Black Gummy, Lane 8, and Testpilot were Saturday’s musical highlights. I’m still on cloud nine that after all these years I finally got to witness Lane 8 live.
After the 100 plus heat index, we were more than happy to stay inside for a portion of the day on Sunday. We walked to the Dog N Suds for lunch and quickly realized that getting to the festival might be even more difficult today. We stumbled upon a nice couple who offered us a ride, and off we went. Yet again, another Forest miracle. We luckily ran into each other again during Dixon’s Violin. As they say in this magical place, the Forest provides. After watching Zhu, Rezz, and Bassnectar for his Bass Church set, we said our goodbyes to the Forest and ended with my favorite set of the weekend, Vorteque. As a Ballroom dancer, his take on “swing house” was a true dream come true. I instructed the Charleston to a beautiful girl who really wanted to learn. “I could never learn that,” she said. “You can do anything you set your mind to,” I replied, thus my final gift to the Forest. She took to it like a pro, and as I took my friend Uncle Marty’s hand during the last few moments of the set, I finally knew it would be too difficult to leave this beautiful place. Everyone gets a “Happy Forest.”
“Happy Forest” is not just how people start and end a conversation here, it is soo much more than that. At times it was “Happy Forest.” At times it was “Crying Forest.” Finally, at times it was “Tired but I must go on, Forest.” “Happy Forest” is a state of mind. One I intend to carry with me through my personal journey of life. Thank you, Electric Forest, for helping me find “IT.” I can’t imagine anything more resonating. I’m already planning my journey back. I found exactly what my soul was searching for after YEARS of festing, deep in the heart of Sherwood Forest.