Thanks to our guest writer, Ross Hepner, for this article!
Forest. Forest. Forest.
Electric Forest is undoubtedly one of the most popular music festivals in the U.S., and with that heavy-weight title brings a lot of hype. Even if you haven’t attended, you’ve more than likely seen enough videos or pictures to have some sort of image already engraved into your brain. I’m guessing the image probably includes things like…
-The Hammocks (The place is a living Eno hammock commercial.)
-A shit ton of trees?
After 5 long years of attending festivals and being thoroughly convinced I would never make it to EF, I had constructed a similar image in my own mind. However, 2016 proved to be my year to road trip out to Rothbury, MI and as expected, it was the experience of a lifetime.
I realized that the hype around this festival was not so much hype as it was just plain facts. I also realized that the image I had created in my head was askew in more than a few ways. So let me help you paint the complete and accurate picture of Electric Forest…
- The deeper you go into the forest, the more “lost” you become.
Initially upon entry I was confused. Disappointed even? Call me naïve, but I sort of expected to be lost in a forest straight off the bat.
Starting from the campgrounds, the beaten path leads you to Tripolee, then the Ranch Arena. After spending the first half of our day at these stages, I had to ask, “Where are the trees? This isn’t what I imagined.” I WANTED THE TREES, MAN.
“Oh, you’ll get there. No worries.”
Lo and behold, as you go deeper into the festival, the trees slowly grow thicker, and the atmosphere gets suddenly weirder. The good kind of weird — with the shadowy trees, the neon glow, people on stilts, and the hidden stages.
It just takes a while to get there. But, “Oh, you’ll get there. No worries.”
Just keep walking, and go one deeper to have your expectations blown. Get lost in the woods. It’s the only way your Forest experience should go down.
- This festival is HUGE.
Maybe you could’ve guessed that yourself but when I think BIG, I think of (more) mainstream festivals like Bonaroo, Tomorrowworld (R.I.P.), and Coachella where you will spend 90% of your time walking.
The same goes for Forest. I guess I always associated EF with the intimate vibes it’s well-known for, so naturally I assumed it would be a bit smaller. Nope— it’s just as big.
If you have any schedule conflicts or are in any rush to catch the next artist, you can expect a v.strong power walk from the first stage to the last. So forreal don’t bother trying to catch everyone.
++ Brownie points to Electric Forest for being able to put on such a huge event while still maintaining the intimate vibes. Isn’t that what makes the Forest so magical? Isn’t that what every other festival/production company tries to mimic, but fails?
- THE SUN DOESN’T GO DOWN.
Close your eyes for a second and teleport here with me. Again, what do you see (besides hammocks & trees)? Neon lights, perhaps? In a dark wooded forest? This is the living image of EF that exists in most people’s minds, and it doesn’t deviate too much from the actual thing.
But all in due time.
So, I lied. The sun does go down, the forest does get dark, and it’s all pure captivation and bliss… (BUT NOT UNTIL 10PM.)
As a southerner, (ATL Fam, holla) this came as a shock to me. I feel sillier for this one, but I expected darkness at a normal, earlier time. (Michigan natives and all others, you may continue your laughter because I honestly didn’t know.) So don’t expect to spend your whole time in that magical dark atmosphere, or expect to catch the sunset at a reasonable hour.
Oh, but when it does get dark… you truly do lose yourself.
- You’ll want to spend a lot of the early afternoon at your campsite, socializing with friends and making new ones.
- Go out of your way at least ONE day to get your squad together, or just a friend and head into the fest early.
- Do some exploring!
- Take a hammock nap.
- 4 days seems like a long time for a festival, but trust me, there is so much going on that you won’t have time to see it all.
- You will actually live off of Spicy Pie. Don’t even bring food.
- Bring a bandana. The dust is real.
- CARL is still a thing.
- I might actually get death threats for this but I have to say it… skip Bassnectar. Skip Sound Tribe. Skip ONE Cheese set. Or whatever cult you associate yourself with. The truth is you will see these artists headlining every other festival, and if not they will tour a million times over. I consider myself a Basshead of sorts, but skipping out of his set early to catch some new artists was the best decision I could’ve made. If you’re going to major festivals solely to see the same artists you’ve already seen 45 times, you’re doing it wrong. Point blank.
What a trip. See ya next year in the Forest! I leave you with a .gif of the ‘Cheese set before Bassnectar.