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Electric Forest 2018: The Forest Has Us Now

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Welcome to Electric Forest - Photo by Chris Taylor
Welcome to Electric Forest - Photo by Chris Taylor

DAY ZERO

We’ve been in the car, Chris and I, for some eleven or so hours, and the anticipation is finally coming to a head. The two of us have been tasked with attending Electric Forest, an eight-day, two-weekend EDM festival in Rothbury, Michigan. As it stands right now, at 1:00 Wednesday night/Thursday morning, the above sentence encapsulates the entirety of my knowledge of this event. I have never been to a festival before. I have never been to Michigan before. I have never been in a car for eleven hours straight before. Chris and I have only met twice before. I am 100{a43c2147d37bcf8b898f59ebaaf066dc60bd9fbfc7430ae40ed3f9adbaab469e} prepared. I am confident. I know what I’m doing. I repeat these words to myself like a mantra. Lies can become truths after enough time, pressure, repetition. I know what I’m doing. I will walk Through the Forest, not Against it.

We have arrived. Already, from the far edge of the festival grounds, music can be heard. After our car is searched (read: an exhausted security guard shines a flashlight around the vehicle’s interior for seventy-five seconds,) we are directed to a second tent to have our wristbands checked. We have none. Park your car over by that fence, we are told, and go to the will-call tent. The fence marks the border of the RV camping grounds, inside of which a wild dance party is already well underway. I thought we were early.

Not three minutes after parking at our campsite (cars are parked in rows with spaces for tents in between) I’m offered a shot of warm vodka from the occupants of a car that’s just parked next to us. I’m drunk before the tent’s set up and already in love with my surroundings. Sleep…

 

DAY ONE

 

Besides cheap beer, cigarettes, and iced coffee, I have opted against bringing drugs to the Forest. My thinking here is that I’d prefer to let my substances fall from the sky and right into my lap, to let the universe direct me. Around high noon on Day One I am sitting at camp alone, drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette, when from behind my tent comes the call: ‘Hey man, you need any doses?” The universe has delivered to me three hits of LSD and at two-thirds the Minneapolis going-price.

Blotter paper on my tongue around one pm Day One. I have not seen much of the Forest thus far: the media tent, the first two stages, Foresters. Chris, Phil (Phil’s a journalist from Buffalo, New York. We met him this morning in the media tent and quickly joined forces,) and I are finally making our way into the Forest. It is 5:30 pm when we first see the Sherwood Forest sign. I cannot use my phone. LSD turns smartphones into pitiful little holes. Instead, I pull a small notepad from my pocket: “SHERWOOD 5:30. I can smell the pines. They open my airwaves. I can BREATHE.” Time travel is immediate: my paternal great-grandparents owned and maintained a tree-farm in Louisiana that I visited often as a child and as soon as I see and smell the forest I am small again. The tree-farm is an odd collision of the natural and the constructed: trees surround but in man-made uniformity. The chaos of the Earth is alive in the tree-farm but directed, diluted, defined. Thus are the trees in the Forest. I stop. I spin in circles. “Where am I? Where am I?” Phil says we only have a few minutes to get to the Jubilee stage before Savoir Adore begins. Okay. Okay okay.

Sherwood Forest - Photo by Chris Taylor
Sherwood Forest – Photo by Chris Taylor

Savoir Adore 5:30 PM at Jubilee

Having interviewed the band’s two lead singers, Paul and Lauren, Phil wrangles Chris and I to Jubilee for Savoir Adore, a Brooklyn-based indie-rock band. Jubilee is a large, tented stage on the far side of the Forest. One of the smallest of the stages not directly within the Forest, Jubilee is still quite vast, and Savoir’s modest crowd gives the first-impression of emptiness. Their sound, however, is full. They’re a five-piece: Paul plays electric guitar and sings, Lauren plays keys and sings, we have a bass, drum kit, and another electric guitar. Paul and Lauren harmonize beautifully. This is pretty straight-up mellow indie-rock with some electronic elements thrown in: Lauren triggers samples at her keyboard station and the guitars all rely on extensive pedal-boards. Chris and I dance for a few songs but soon we have to run. This will become a theme of the weekend: too many shows and too little time.

Savoir Adore - Photo by Chris Taylor
Savoir Adore – Photo by Chris Taylor
Savoir Adore - Photo by Chris Taylor
Savoir Adore – Photo by Chris Taylor
Savoir Adore - Photo by Chris Taylor
Savoir Adore – Photo by Chris Taylor
Savoir Adore - Photo by Chris Taylor
Savoir Adore – Photo by Chris Taylor

Too Many Zoos: 6:00 PM at Carousel Club

We walk into the Carousel Club right as the first note is blown. This stage is just next to Jubilee but within a larger building called The Hangar. My best attempt to describe the theme of The Hangar is ‘what if it was still the 50’s but everyone was doing drugs like it was the 60’s?” There are cigarette girls on roller skates selling candy –  5-pieces for a dollar; a barber (yes, a legitimate barber shop;) a game room complete with pool, foosball, miniature bowling, ping-pong; a bar; and of course the Carousel Club: a small stage with a large dance floor all the way at the back of The Hangar.

I’m here for Too Many Zoos, the NYC subway act that went viral back in 2014. We’re looking at a three-piece here: baritone sax, percussion, trumpet. Known for combining elements of house music with the brass-band tradition and Leo Pellegrino’s (Bari) mesmerizing dance moves, Too Many Zoos has quickly found a fandom that extends far from the depths of the subway system. Leo P’s dance moves are serpentine: he’s a snaky Elvis Presley in a leopard-tank thrusting and lurching his way around the stage without ever lifting his horn from his mouth. Our percussionist – The King of Sludge David Parks – stands mid-stage under immense burden, his bass drum laden with myriad percussive knick-knacks. He never stops, he is an atomic clock, a perpetual-motion-machine defying all known laws of physics. And Matt Muirhead, our trumpeter, blasts the crowd with waves of brassy chirps and 32nd-note splatter. Combined, these effects all coalesce into something I’ve never heard or seen before: the song structure and innovative brass effects make this music inherently ‘electronic.’ There are long build-ups, bass drops, strange and glitchy over-blown reed effects, piercing tight-embouchure trumpet-blasts, never-ending bass-drum throbs.

For this set, I stay from start to finish. I cannot stop dancing. I am immersed in it, deep down inside of it, hooked. Finally, at around 7:00 I emerge from the crowd, covered in sweat and smiling a wild acid smile. Must find Chris. Must keep moving.

Too Many Zooz - Photo by Chris Taylor
Too Many Zooz – Photo by Chris Taylor
Too Many Zooz - Photo by Chris Taylor
Too Many Zooz – Photo by Chris Taylor
Too Many Zooz - Photo by Chris Taylor
Too Many Zooz – Photo by Chris Taylor
Too Many Zooz - Photo by Chris Taylor
Too Many Zooz – Photo by Chris Taylor
Too Many Zooz Crowd - Photo by Chris Taylor
Too Many Zooz Crowd – Photo by Chris Taylor
Too Many Zooz - Photo by Chris Taylor
Too Many Zooz – Photo by Chris Taylor
Too Many Zooz - Photo by Chris Taylor
Too Many Zooz – Photo by Chris Taylor
Too Many Zooz - Photo by Chris Taylor
Too Many Zooz – Photo by Chris Taylor
Too Many Zooz - Photo by Chris Taylor
Too Many Zooz – Photo by Chris Taylor

Gryffin: 7:30 PM at Sherwood Court

It’s time for the big stage, Sherwood Court, for house phenom Gryffin. This is the largest crowd I have seen yet. Sherwood is an absolutely humongous stage at the edge of a few football fields of open grass, approximately 1.25 of which are filled with people. Here is my first real glimpse of unfettered Festies, and it is a sight to behold. First, upon walking up to the edge of the crowd, you see the totems.

 

to·tem

ˈtōdəm/

Noun

  1. A tall pole with a sign or symbol affixed to the top, often adorned with bright neon lights.

The goal with these is visibility: a totem-carrier must be seen from the far edge of the crowd. These things are funny, creative, handmade personal statements. Totems serve dual purpose: (1) public broadcast of style and humor and (2) personal beacon to mark one’s location. It is incredibly easy to lose track of one’s group in the Forest. Totems are rallying points: “Meet me at Sherwood tonight for Gryffin, I’ll be the one holding the giant, six-eyed Steve Buscemi!  Most totems are pop-culture in-jokes and this gets my acid-brain started.

Notes from the Pad:

This is America experiencing itself obliquely. A time warp with an infinite scroll, neverending self-reference. This is pop culture digested, reconstituted, and displayed, on drugs, for all to see.

Gryffin - Photo by Chris Taylor
Gryffin – Photo by Chris Taylor
Gryffin - Photo by Chris Taylor
Gryffin – Photo by Chris Taylor
Gryffin - Photo by Chris Taylor
Gryffin – Photo by Chris Taylor
Gryffin - Photo by Chris Taylor
Gryffin – Photo by Chris Taylor
Gryffin Crowd - Photo by Chris Taylor
Gryffin Crowd – Photo by Chris Taylor
Gryffin - Photo by Chris Taylor
Gryffin – Photo by Chris Taylor
Gryffin - Photo by Chris Taylor
Gryffin – Photo by Chris Taylor

 

The Forest Comes Alive - Photo by Chris Taylor
The Forest Comes Alive – Photo by Chris Taylor

It’s time to get lost in the Forest now, to wander, to discover. Much of Day One has been spent outside of the Forest at the large stages, but now I must delve in and drift amongst the trees. Here there is so much more than music: treehouses, art galleries, jewelry shops, people, discussion, performance art. Walking aimlessly will get you far here. Near the edge of the woods, I find two large bookshelves and a communal board for magnetic poetry. I must leave my mark, quickly. I write:

RAVENOUS SUN GODDESS

WORK LIKE DROOL

 

Moving through the trees: a troupe of women on stilts, dressed in flowing pastel-colored Victorian dresses carrying parasols; a man in a banana suit that reads “FREE BANANA HUGS;” hackysackers; jugglers; heathens, heretics, weirdos, and witches. So many people come here just for the Forest, for the people, for the sights. There is a new experience around every tree. Stimuli overwhelm me. I must head back to camp to refuel…

 

Galantis: 12:00 AM at the Ranch Arena

I’ve arrived late to this party but the crowd is immense for Swedish EDM duo Galantis. My main qualm with DJ sets is the lack of on-stage action: too many electronic shows revolve around one man and one laptop. Galantis throws this stereotype to the dogs. We have five giant bass drums on a riser behind the duo, dozens of symbols mounted on either side of them. Most of the sound is coming from a computer, yes, but this is a stage show. Flames blast the front of the stage as Galantis pounds drums at the center, I can feel the heat from one hundred feet back. Confetti Cannons. Blinding visuals from a 100-foot LED screen behind them. This is a spectacle you can’t find anywhere else but an EDM show. They speak to the crowd little, but they give a shout out to recently departed Avicci.

“We just lost a good friend. Tim, this one’s for you!”

And the flames illuminate the crowd in a brilliant sunset.

Galantis - Photo by Chris Taylor
Galantis – Photo by Chris Taylor
Galantis - Photo by Chris Taylor
Galantis – Photo by Chris Taylor
Galantis - Photo by Chris Taylor
Galantis – Photo by Chris Taylor
Galantis - Photo by Chris Taylor
Galantis – Photo by Chris Taylor
Galantis - Photo by Chris Taylor
Galantis – Photo by Chris Taylor
Galantis - Photo by Chris Taylor
Galantis – Photo by Chris Taylor
Galantis - Photo by Chris Taylor
Galantis – Photo by Chris Taylor
Galantis - Photo by Chris Taylor
Galantis – Photo by Chris Taylor
Galantis - Photo by Chris Taylor
Galantis – Photo by Chris Taylor
Galantis - Photo by Chris Taylor
Galantis – Photo by Chris Taylor

Everyone Orchestra: 1:00 AM at Carousel Club

Here’s the funk. I found it. Everyone Orchestra is a band in flux: the line-up changes with every performance and the music is all improvised. All musicians are hand-picked from any of the hundreds of musicians performing at the festival. Tonight we have Leo P and Matt from Too Many Zoos on barry sax and trumpet, respectively, as well as Michael Travis from String Cheese and EOTO on drums. The rest of the ensemble this evening is new to me. Everyone Orchestra is like nothing I’ve ever watched: Butler, our conductor, picks one member to begin a groove. He has an array of small whiteboards on his music stand which he uses to cue the group: “whole notes,” “slow down,” “crazy vocals,” “8 beats of chaos.” All musicians watch Matt fiercely – he controls their fate. He controls our fate too, and before I know it I’m spit back into the Forest, searching.

 

Only those who still use AT&T have any amount of cell service here. An integral part of the Forest experience is being unplugged and unreachable. Sometimes calls go through, oftentimes they don’t. Text messaging is even less reliable. Luckily, the Forest has built-in landmarks that make rendezvous quite simple. When entering a pit: if we get separated, meet at the big red bell! Or: If we lose each other, I’ll be at the media tent from 3:30 to 4. Or: I’ve taken a lot of drugs and want to get lost in the forest, meet me at the sound-activated LED table at sundown! Chris and I make the meet, and it’s back to camp for us. 

Chris here, this will be one of my few interjections in this story. This is Harley’s saga after all. Someone’s got to be the degenerate writer here; I can’t do both (kidding, totally can.) #TeamPhotoBoi. Anyways, I’ll be filling in the gaps in the adventure from my perspective, because in all honesty, Harley and I had very different experiences, it was discussed multiple times. While Harley, took a very organic approach to the festival, allowing the forest experience to whisk him from place to place; I engage in what we joked was “combat photography.” I left forest battered and bruised. My feet were stomped on, I had cuts on my hands, and I took plenty of inadvertent hits to the lens, which for most of the festival was an extension of my face, I felt those right on the nose. Think I’m exaggerating? Go ask the medical tent. I had to make a visit after damage from the set I’m going to talk about next. Do it. You won’t.

Space Jesus: 12:30 am at Jubilee

If there was anything I learned about the biggest tent on the festival grounds, it was that it did not fuck around, especially after the headliner of that particular night took their bows and moved on to their secret bus after parties (obviously not that secret.) Jubilee hosted a variety of artists over the weekend, all medium sized acts that ranged from indie rock to jam band acts. However, after 1:00 am three out of the four nights it got crunchy. We’re talking EDM, but not the Galantises, Diplos or even the Louis The Child’s of the world. No, we’re talking the stuff that your mom would demand you shut off immediately in the car.

I arrived at Jubilee immediately after Galantis’ upbeat Tropical House beats to feel vibrations. The bass resonated deeply throughout the area surrounding the tent, and the ground was caked in mud, and it was a struggle to move up in the crowd. One poor soul even had to be carried to medical staff because they simply couldn’t get to them easily. It was really cool to see the crowd work together to come to the rescue, though.

Once I made it to the front I was greeted by an unfamiliar and uneasy feeling. I watched as the entire front row grabbed hold of the barricade and was headbanging in unison. This multi-ton weighted fence was being pulled up from the ground, with most the security staff counterweighting it so it wouldn’t tip over. But these are the moments I live for, the pure insanity, the absolute loss of control, chaos. And who was responsible for this crunchy bass fueled anger train? Space Jesus. With a name like that, you can expect it was going to get weird, and it did just that The place was bedlam from start to finish, his voice was a goofy low baritone and his tracks sampled the strange, turning it into crunchy dubstep.

Space Jesus Crowd - Photo by Chris Taylor
Space Jesus Crowd – Photo by Chris Taylor
Space Jesus - Photo by Chris Taylor
Space Jesus – Photo by Chris Taylor
Space Jesus - Photo by Chris Taylor
Space Jesus – Photo by Chris Taylor
Space Jesus Crowd - Photo by Chris Taylor
Space Jesus Crowd – Photo by Chris Taylor
Space Jesus - Photo by Chris Taylor
Space Jesus – Photo by Chris Taylor
Space Jesus - Photo by Chris Taylor
Space Jesus – Photo by Chris Taylor
Space Jesus - Photo by Chris Taylor
Space Jesus – Photo by Chris Taylor

At some point, my shoes filled with a lovely mud & water combo as my toes were stomped, but I didn’t care. I had my first experience of lens-to-hand combat and I was itching for more. The sheer spectacle of it was just incredible, and when it was all said and done, I gleefully limped to camp, it was the end of Day 1. Shit…. The end of. Day. One. I have to survive this three more times. I needed to sleep, so naturally, I met my neighbors at the campsite and stayed up to watch the sunrise. And it was so worth it, the sunrise was quite possibly one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. The sky appeared as a reflection. It was as if you were staring into the water of the lake as the sun set. The clouds ebbed and flowed, while the warm tones got only brighter. It even produced a rainbow before full daylight.

Friday Sunrise at Music In MN's Camp - Photo by Chris Taylor
Friday Sunrise at Music In MN’s Camp – Photo by Chris Taylor

 

DAY TWO

 

Lines have begun to blur. My connection to reality seems tenuous. I have slept eight hours in the past forty-eight. Up at 9:00 am. Crack a beer. Brush my teeth. Pour some water on my head. Chat with the neighbors. To our left is a clown car tent filled with nineteen-year-olds. They are so bright and shiny. When I was nineteen I just smoked pot in public parks. Kids these days. I give them all nicknames. We share a breakfast: bologna sandwiches and beer. Cheez-its. Peanut butter. Pure sustenance. To our right is a group of early-thirties professionals. Travis is a teacher. Tina owns a restaurant. But real life has been left far behind, for all of us. This morning we are Festies. We are hungover. We don’t have anywhere to be. Hair of the dog. Shit, shave the dog and throw the clippings in a blender with margarita mix and molly. Serve over half-melted cooler ice. Drink quickly. Discuss what to do, who to see, who’s got drugs. Has anyone showered yet? You paid how much for acid? Jesus. Go three tents down next time. Noname today. Can’t miss her. Be there. Who else? Fucking Thundercat. Get there. Bonobo. Can’t miss him. It’s all going to happen…

 

Awaken at 1:15 AM. How long have I been asleep? Fuck. I saw Noname, I remember that. She killed. Did the whole set smiling like she couldn’t believe she’s here, either. Caught another Everyone Orchestra set. It was funkier than the first, with a brand new line-up. Saw Thundercat. He walked up to the mic and said “Hey. Is everyone ready to go down the rabbit hole?” We went down. It was dense and fast and fucking weird and we screamed. That was hours ago. What happened? I remember telling everyone I was going to lay down for twenty minutes…  EOTO is on right now! RUN!

Noname - Photo by Chris Taylor
Noname – Photo by Chris Taylor
Noname - Photo by Chris Taylor
Noname – Photo by Chris Taylor
Noname - Photo by Chris Taylor
Noname – Photo by Chris Taylor
Noname - Photo by Chris Taylor
Noname – Photo by Chris Taylor
Noname - Photo by Chris Taylor
Noname – Photo by Chris Taylor

At Jubilee, the tented stage all the way across the Forest and out the other side. It took everything not to stop and play in the trees. I found Chris, somehow. He’s been going all night. Says he hasn’t seen me in four hours. What is that in Forest time, a week? EOTO is going full force and I am pulled straight into the front row. I’m hugging the barricade. These lights. This music. This crowd. There are two people on stage: one surrounded by keyboards and synthesizers and one behind a drum kit. This is a live electronic performance: no pre-recorded material. You can watch them create every sound, every loop. When the song calls for a vocal sample, our drummer does it through a headset mic. Incredible. I am surrounded in all four dimensions by lasers. This is a science fiction laser prison. My body moves on its own.

EOTO - Photo by Chris Taylor
EOTO – Photo by Chris Taylor
EOTO - Photo by Chris Taylor
EOTO – Photo by Chris Taylor
EOTO - Photo by Chris Taylor
EOTO – Photo by Chris Taylor
EOTO - Photo by Chris Taylor
EOTO – Photo by Chris Taylor

Sleep must come soon. Well, the Forestian iteration of sleep. It serves a different purpose here than in the real world. You sleep as you eat: just enough to keep going.

Woah Woah Woah hold up, Harley said I had been going for four hours, we’re not just ignoring those, are we? After all, it featured one of my favorite musicians in recent memory in a way I’ve never seen him.

GRiZ (Live Band): 12:00 am at Ranch Arena

For those of you not familiar with GRiZ, he’s been around for about a decade now. However, he wasn’t the saxophone toting, band conducting GRiZ that took the stage Friday night at the start. He started off like so many new musicians do today via pure production. Beat making so to speak. However, it was back during a time where the software was not nearly as ubiquitous as it is now. (My favorite song of 2017 was totally recorded in mom’s basement, and I’m not embarrassed about it. Here’s a link) GRiZ made funk-infused beats and that was more or less comprised entirely of samples. When I saw him in October of 2017 as a wee lad, he was still using the tried and true method that catapulted him to stardom. Samples and the alto saxophone, but with the support of the producer Muzzy Bear.

However, as a main stage act, GRiZ brought out the big guns. Instead of a producer, he was a conductor, instead of sampling, everything was live. Those first 15 minutes us photographers got into the pit were some of my favorite of all time. It was an infusion of so many things I loved. The big band jazz music, the spectacle of a giant festival stage, GRiZ’s production style, and, of course, photography. I was jumping up and down like it was the beginning of the 4th quarter of at Camp Randall. Fuck taking photos for just one minute. I’m here to take this in and embrace it, to feel the noise.

GRiZ’s live band was massive, big enough where I couldn’t quite remember the number of people in it. It had a little bit of everything and multiples of things too. Trumpets, saxophones, multiple singers, a drummer and a keyboardist. I’m sure, I’m forgetting someone in the lineup, but they had no problem playing anything from GRiZ’s new work, which sounds a lot like big band music. It was a truly impressive display and a mini-homecoming for GRiZ who is from Michigan and got his start in the state. Even outside the pit, the energy was contagious; it was simply music that just made you feel good.

For those first 45 minutes, it was gravy, I’d live it again in a heartbeat, given the chance, however that leaves the other half of the set which, while I enjoyed left me a little confused. It started with a slow jam, then another slow jam, and then a slow extended piano build up, and then a slow jam. Are you seeing a bit of a trend here? While it was musically interesting and impressive, it was a wrong place, wrong time situation. The main stage is supposed to be that last blast of energy before the night winds down, it should not be doing the winding and unfortunately, it was reflected in the crowd, many of which chose to leave to something a little more high energy, which was honestly too bad. I’d absolutely watch something like that slow set, but in a theater, not at the finale of Friday night.

However, that first 45 minutes almost canceled out any negativity from the second half. It was probably the most fun I had during the weekend, I just wish that energy was carried through the whole set, GRiZ certainly has the band the songs to make that happen. However, once I met Harley at the laser space prison that was EOTO, my energy level was peaked once again. That was just ridiculous. Plus, we made friends with the Easter Bunny.

GRiZ - Photo by Chris Taylor
GRiZ – Photo by Chris Taylor
GRiZ - Photo by Chris Taylor
GRiZ – Photo by Chris Taylor
GRiZ - Photo by Chris Taylor
GRiZ – Photo by Chris Taylor
GRiZ - Photo by Chris Taylor
GRiZ – Photo by Chris Taylor
GRiZ - Photo by Chris Taylor
GRiZ – Photo by Chris Taylor
GRiZ Crowd - Photo by Chris Taylor
GRiZ Crowd – Photo by Chris Taylor
GRiZ - Photo by Chris Taylor
GRiZ – Photo by Chris Taylor
GRiZ - Photo by Chris Taylor
GRiZ – Photo by Chris Taylor
GRiZ - Photo by Chris Taylor
GRiZ – Photo by Chris Taylor

DAY THREE

 

The day begins again. Is it the same day? How long have I been asleep? Who’s playing right now? Did I remember to put beer in the cooler last night?  I need some time to answer these questions. Allow me an aside:

Tiny House Movement - Photo by Chris Taylor
Tiny House Movement – Photo by Chris Taylor

FOREST INTERACTIONS:

A Few Suggestions

Glowsticks: The Forest is consistently littered with these (one of the only littered objects, actually.)

  • Grab a glow stick from the ground. Hold on to it until you pass a Forester on more drugs than you. Point at them intensely and say “Hey!” They will freeze. Extend your glowstick. Speak seriously and do not break eye contact: “Someone told me to give this to you.”
  • Find three or more glow sticks. Bend one a bit at the bottom. Hold them all in your fist. You now have straws. Approach a group of 2 – 4 Foresters. Ask them if they’d like to draw straws. Whoever draws the short straw gets a gift. (Bracelets are currency in the Forest, this is the preferred gift. However, a sticker, a cigarette, a high five, or a hug will all be equally effective.)
  • While in the crowd, gather glowsticks and chuck them at totems. Two points if you nail one.
  • Sneak one into a Forester’s pocket while in the crowd. (I only happened upon this interaction after finding several glowsticks in my own pocket.)

 

Clothespins:

  • Clothespins are cheap, easy to decorate, and very simple to surreptitiously attach to the bill of a baseball cap or the strap of a backpack. The goal here is to be stealthy and to give a fellow Forester a surprise gift when they return to camp. As Chris discovered when he returned from Space Jesus.

 

Searching for Carl: Carl got lost in the Forest long, long ago. We must find him.

  • Spontaneously shout “CAARRRL?” This works best from a treehouse, upper-level deck, or the edge of the crowd.
  • Shout ‘KNOCK KNOCK!’  When the inevitable ‘Who’s there?’ comes back shout ‘NOT FUCKING CARL!’
  • Upon grabbing a Forester by the shoulders: “You’re not Carl!” Immediately turn around and resume shouting for Carl.

 

Slapping the bag:

  • Though a ubiquitous party game, the bag slap holds a new relevance at Electric Forest as a bag of wine is one of the few alcoholic beverages you can sneak into the Forest (it won’t set off the metal detector you must pass through to enter)
  • If you’d like to drink you must slap and if you slap you must drink.

 

Wishing your fellow Foresters a Happy Forest:

  • This is simply common courtesy. Not much else needs to be said here.

 

Ah, thank God, there’s cold beer in the cooler. Bassnectar plays tonight and already, upon entering the Forest in the afternoon, the influence is noticeable. The population here has seemingly tripled. The Bassheads have come swarming in, thirsty for that sweet, sweet nectar. It’s two tabs on my tongue today and the crowds seem to blot out the sun, to thicken like rain clouds. I think I’ll play it easy today. Carousel Club first.

 

Natalie Cressman: 6:30 PM at Carousel Club

Oh! She was singing with Everyone Orchestra last night! Now I get to watch her on her home field. Natalie is primarily a studio player and band member, having played with Trey Anastasio, Dumpstaphunk, and Big Gigantic, amongst others. Here she is stage front with a full band behind her and it’s a slow and smooth R&B funk trap beauty. “That was a Trap Ballad,” she says, after a particularly moving slow-jam. “It’s a new genre we’ve just invented and you were the first to hear it!” Oh, my heart.

I’ve lost some time here. The Forest has swallowed me down it’s pulsing purple gullet. It’s sticky slimy in here but there are lots of nice friends to be made and pretty lights to blink slyly at and delicious trees to find faces in. I met another person named Harley for the first time in my life. We embraced for a very long time. I climbed into a treehouse and smoked a joint with some muralists. I became obsessed with a small fairy-shack built into the stump of a tree. I braided glowsticks. I found my way to a show.

Natalie Cressman - Photo by Chris Taylor
Natalie Cressman – Photo by Chris Taylor
Natalie Cressman - Photo by Chris Taylor
Natalie Cressman – Photo by Chris Taylor
Natalie Cressman - Photo by Chris Taylor
Natalie Cressman – Photo by Chris Taylor

Marian Hill: 9:00 PM at Jubilee

Oh, this band is the definition of cool and collected. The brainchild of producer Jeremy Lloyd and vocalist Samantha Gongol, Marian Hill parts the synth-pop crowd with their unique brand of soulful electro-R&B. Accompanying the duo this evening is saxophonist Steve Davit, who bursts forth to center stage just as I finish snaking my way through the crowd to the front row for a monstrous solo. Gongol’s dance moves are at once birdlike and sharp and serpentine and smooth. She flits from stage left to right, holding our eyes in her hand. Lloyd’s minimalistic approach to production ties this package up nice and tight.

Marian Hill - Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill – Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill - Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill – Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill - Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill – Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill - Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill – Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill - Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill – Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill - Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill – Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill - Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill – Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill - Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill – Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill - Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill – Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill - Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill – Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill - Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill – Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill - Photo by Chris Taylor
Marian Hill – Photo by Chris Taylor

Silent Disco: 12:30 AM

I’ve been wandering a long, long time but I’ve found a home, it seems. I’ve decided against Bassnectar tonight. I can’t handle the crowd, the spectacle, the intensity. I need something smaller. Deep in the forest lies the Silent Disco. It’s a small, gated-off dance floor with a small DJ booth. Upon entering, you’re given a pair of headphones and a few instructions: ‘the switch on the right changes the station, the dial on the left adjusts the volume. Go find someone to dance with.’ The game here is to find someone listening to the same mix as you. There’s two DJ’s on stage each doing separate live mixes. I spend an unknown amount of time dancing and chatting here: a wild-man with bracelet sleeves who has a lot to say about reality. He’s an attorney in real life. How far away is law from here?

Bassnectar: 12:30 at Ranch Arena – Chris

Have you ever brought your baby to the front row of a rave? Do you think that’s a good idea? Child services would have a pretty strong opinion. However, my baby definitely isn’t a real live baby, it’s my camera, but it’s my baby, and you bet I was nervous. Why? I was at the in the pit and then eventually on the rail for a Bassnectar concert. If you have an idea about Bassnectar fans, they’re not your typical breed of EDM fan. Lorin Ashton (Bassnectar) is treated with a sort of personal reverence. To fans, his personal life is known, but at a distance, he is still revered as an idol. Electric Forest looked very different on Saturday morning. Electric Forest was awash with fans all wearing Bassnectar gear, the crowd had almost seemingly doubled, and fans were rallying up on the rail 8 hours before Bassnectar was supposed to take the stage. 8 hours. That means avoiding the forest, forgoing food, and dumping off all the other acts for the rest of the day just to secure a front-middle spot at the main space. This is a true passion, this is a dedication of the highest pedigree.

You could probably understand I was a little intimated. This was going to be hand to camera combat, every drop would be another opportunity to break a lens lose the camera altogether. But, I was ready, and with a little help with my new basshead friend (What up Sasha!) I was able to secure a safe spot on the rails after my photo pit time expired, but also gain insight into why Bassnectar was such a revered figure to his basshead fans. To her, he was an inspiring person with a message to do good and take care of each other. His music is the soundtrack to a lot of her life and some of her fondest memories were formed at Bassnectar shows. She’s also 5’ 3” on a good day, but that did not scare her one bit from posting up at the rail, to have her chance to headbang and be mere feet from one of her idols.

The show itself was combat. While we were waiting in the pit for soundtest, dramatic chants and singing were playing through the speakers and the crowd was bathed in a menacing red. The excitement and (anxiety) grew exponentially minute by minute. A security guard stopped by us photographers to let us know the confetti cannons that are at head height were going to be going off in drops during the show. We’d be hurting if we got caught in the blast, I would call it: Camera Combat. You’re taking cover, keeping your distance and on the go constantly. When “Pennywise Tribute” came on, the confetti cannons exploded releasing and cloud that blotted out the sky and in sync heading by the crowd in front, in which security had to brace the barricade to prevent it from tipping over. Keep in mind, these weigh thousands upon thousands of pounds and it was rocking like grandma’s rocking chair.

Eventually, 15 minutes was up and it was out of the frying pan and into the fryer. On the rail. I pushed my way to Sasha and another friend, Anthony and thus began my true Bassnectar experience. Hair like trees in a tornado, full body contact, headbanging that encompassed the whole body. It was simply wild. I joined in, but held my camera like you hold yourself going down the vertical drop slide at a waterpark, looked awkward but, hey, it worked just fine thank you very much. Grown men were crying due to the beauty of the music and messages and the music was excellent. Bassnectar played drop after drop and it really never got old. The energy remained after every single one, and even at the end, a new song debuted.

However, the only gripe was from multiple people I talked to in the audience. He didn’t do much for crowd interaction. Something I’m told is a mainstay of a Bassnectar concert. They assumed he was in a bad mood of some sort as the set was almost entirely focused on music with no crowd interaction. However, even with that, it was an incredible experience to remember. And though I only spent 1 day in the thick of it, I understand the passion of EDMs most passionate fan base and their reason. Bassnectar puts on a great show, he leaves a lasting impression and he has an overarching message.

Bassnectar - Photo by Chris Taylor
Bassnectar – Photo by Chris Taylor
Bassnectar Crowd - Photo by Chris Taylor
Bassnectar Crowd – Photo by Chris Taylor
Bassnectar Crowd - Photo by Chris Taylor
Bassnectar Crowd – Photo by Chris Taylor
Bassnectar Crowd - Photo by Chris Taylor
Bassnectar Crowd – Photo by Chris Taylor
Bassnectar Crowd - Photo by Chris Taylor
Bassnectar Crowd – Photo by Chris Taylor
Bassnectar Crowd - Photo by Chris Taylor
Bassnectar Crowd – Photo by Chris Taylor
Bassnectar - Photo by Chris Taylor
Bassnectar – Photo by Chris Taylor

PHO: 3:00 AM at The Observatory

Here we are, I made it. My hometown funk heroes, PHO, are closing out the night with their lovely brand of dance jams. Chris has brought some friends and we’re all seated cross legged against the pines, far back from the crowd, listening. Any corner of homesickness in quashed.

PHO - Photo by Chris Taylor
PHO – Photo by Chris Taylor
PHO - Photo by Chris Taylor
PHO – Photo by Chris Taylor

DAY FOUR

 

In the media tent this morning to gather our wits. We run into the PHO guys and they’re all nice enough to grant us an interview. They play again at 9:00 PM tonight and that’s my only bullet point today. Day four, I’ve decided, will be a breeze. I am dedicated to ending up wherever I end up ending up. I’ve spent much of my weekend running from show to show, keeping a schedule, telling myself to not get distracted.  There are two ways to walk the Electric Forest: through it or against it. Walking through is to set out with no destination in mind, to accept that the most interesting bit of life is the journey, that whatever the day serves up will do just nicely, thank you.

Interview with PHO - Photo by Chris Taylor
Interview with PHO – Photo by Chris Taylor

There’s much to tell: there was incredible music, people, art. Immeasurable experience, beauty, joy. I’ll spare you the details. You don’t need them. All you need to know is that tickets for next year will go on sale next winter. Get your hands on one. Electric Forest is a community entirely its own, a strange microcosm of musicians and artists and weirdos and freaks that really ought to be experienced at least once by everyone. I’ve got to get some sleep. Chris and I must drive the eleven or so hours back to real life tomorrow. Things might look a little different when we get there: I find it difficult to imagine caring so intensely about things as silly as work schedules or deadlines or brunches. As a favorite totem reads: “Real Life? What’s that?”

Here’s a gallery of all the memories from the weekend (Click Here)

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Written by Harley Patton

Writer and reader in Minneapolis, Minnesota

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