I finally made it to Rothbury, Michigan and experienced my first Electric Forest! I had heard about this festival and location for years (since Rothbury Music Festival) but couldn’t get up there until this year.
People talk about Electric Forest like it is this whole other entity…not a festival…like a living, breathing year long community. Although people always seem relatively pleased with the lineup for the fest, it’s not the main source of excitement. Veterans of the festival will be the first to tell you the lineup doesn’t matter. The forest will still be there, enchanting its occupants no matter which bands or DJs are playing. (Don’t let that discredit any of the artists or the lineup in general – it’s always fabulous, too. It helps that Madison House is a rather big and awesome booking agency representing artists from The String Cheese Incident to South African DJ duo, Goldfish.)
The set up of Electric Forest is a little different from other festivals. So, there’s the normal camping situation; cars parked in lines on a massive grassy field. There is only one entrance to the venue of the festival, which is directly adjacent to the Tripolee stage. Depending on what time your crew tries to enter the grounds, the line can be pretty backed up since there is only one entrance. That was one of the only criticisms I had heard from EF veterans. Maybe the organizers will add a second large entrance next year to alleviate some of that bottleneck. After you walk past the gates and the Tripolee stage and some vendors, you reach the Ranch Stage (unofficially dubbed the Cheese Stage because String Cheese played there 3 times over the weekend). Venturing back past the Ranch Stage is when things get really crazy. Enter the Sherwood Forest. At first glance during the day, this area looks just like a simple forest path to cross, guided by glorious towering pines. However, after a few steps in, it becomes clear that the forest is definitely enchanted. There are hundreds of art installations of varying sizes and designs. Actors (or sometimes just regular festival goers) dressed up as fairies, elves, and clowns are scattered through the forest for entertainment. There are also a couple of stages hidden in the forest. I don’t think I ever walked straight through without stopping to see what was going on at the Observatory or Forest stages. At night, the whole place really comes alive. Lasers shoot out of random places, art installations that looked one way during the day become something totally different at night when lit up. The Observatory stage hosted Psychedelic Friendship Bingo every night from midnight until close….I honestly can’t even begin to describe what that means but it was interesting to watch on the walk back home each night. So, once you make it out of the forest, the final stage greets you with a sprawling field and flanking majestic elephants! Overall the festival layout it spot on. It doesn’t take more than 15 minutes to go from one end to the other. Plus there are all kind of fun things to discover. I seriously think there are some people who go to Electric Forest just to chill in their hammock inside the Sherwood Forest. Oh that reminds me, beware of hammocks and their attachment lines. They’re everywhere and they’re bound to trip up anyone.
So, in conclusion….the venue of Electric Forest is awesome and pretty much the main reason you HAVE TO GO!
One unique thing I realized about Electric Forest is that it’s right smack in the middle of festival season. If you have been to a few festivals this year and have more on your radar…this is typically the time your body starts to get tired and wear down. Since I have my eye on a few more this year, I have been making some conscious decisions geared towards preserving my health.
Here’s a list of things to think about when you’re at the half-way point of festival season:
1) take showers at the festival because it just feel so damn good to be clean after so many days and nights being filthy
2) clean out your nose multiple times a day and use saline solution to do so once you get home (especially this year when so many fests have been sooooo dusty – this will prevent you from getting the Festival Flu…aka a sinus infection)
3) force yourself to sleep – if you can’t do so at night, pull your mattress out of that hot oven of a tent and into some shade to get some shut eye during the day (those cheap pool floats are perfect for this)
4) EAR PLUGS – they really are a must have at any festival! They can help immensely when trying to sleep at any time of the day/night. More importantly, if you want to preserve your hearing for future festivals….you gotta be smart and take care of your ears.
5) Keep track of how much water and food you consume during the day to make sure you are properly fueled for the night’s activities. As your body gets worn down from multiple festivals in a month (which it does no matter how in shape you think you are), these basics become absolutely critical.
6) just be smart, yall