Held in Rothbury, Michigan, Electric Forest is a four-day camping music festival featuring jam band and electronic artists that has attracted 25,000+ attendees each year since its debut in 2011. With over 60 musical performances as well as beautiful light displays and a multitude of interesting activities and vendors, Electric Forest draws fans from across the country who want to share this amazing experience. My roommate Nora, and friend Rico and I drove 13.5 hours together to get to the festival. It was worth every mile.
At the concert, we met up with our friend Chase, who is driving a school bus across the country with friends Hallie and Katie. All recents graduates of Colgate University, the three friends are making a documentary on local musicians and the impact on communities in which they perform. Traveling from state to state, show to show, hearing all sorts of music, and meeting all sorts of people, they will capture performances and interviews that provide a particular glimpse into hometowns and the music scenes they call their own. This truly amazing idea and once-in-a-lifetime experience is called the Locavaux Project. I urge all of you to read more about it on their kickstarter website and keep up with their adventure on their blog.
The school bus they are traveling on is no ordinary school bus. The seats and floor have been ripped out and replaced with a couch, counters, cupboards, a table for two, a stove, a sink, four bunk beds, and a dresser. Talented and extremely handy, Chase, who loves his projects, built the entire thing himself in just three weeks!
It looks so professional, I swear to god I would not have believed he built it had I not watched this incredibly cool time lapse video he made. I couldn’t be more proud of the effort they put into this project and making it happen. Chase, Hallie, and Katie, thank you for letting me stay in your bus! I wish you the best of luck on your trip, and I cannot wait to see the end product.
For my first camping experience, I was certainly treated with the bus. The bed was extremely comfy, and I got to eat delicious home cooked meals (we grilled lemon marinaded chicken on the portable BBQ and cooked pasta with pesto and avocado on the stove – it was all delicious).
The best part of the bus, however, was the roof deck Chase built on top of it. We had a spectacular view of the entire campsite from it, and we could also watch the Ferris wheel by the electronic stage entrance that lit up in cool patterns to the music. We spent a lot of our time on the bus up there eating, drinking, tanning, and making friends with passer-by’s who were all intrigued by the bus and wanted to come up and see the view as well.
Now, enough about the bus! Although the bus was a treat, the festival was so much fun, I wouldn’t have minded sleeping in a tent (or even a hammock in the forest). On Friday, we saw Dispatch (who were absolutely phenomenal live), Bauer, Clockwork, and Kill The Noise. On Saturday, we saw Flosstradamus (who I was happy to hear play his remix of Original Don – plus trap music is always fun to dance to), Empire of the Sun (who had the coolest craziest costumes – what a performance!), Knife Party (who amazing set and fantastic light show), and last but not least, A-Trak. Now, I’ve seen A-Trak before at Igloofest in his hometown of Montreal, where he was amazing. And I’ve noticed that many djs and producers fill their sets with a lot of crowd pleases at these festivals, so I was a little disappointed in A-Trak that he didn’t do more scratching or play more of his own mixes like he did in Canada.
Musical performances and light shows aside, I have to say that the best part of the entire festival was Sherwood Forest, a wooded area of tightly packed gorgeously tall pine trees. Filled with beautifully trippy artwork and light displays that come to life at night, it was incredibly easy to explore and get lost for hours in. And we certainly did spend a good portion of our time doing so. Everything in the forest was built from scratch with such intricacy and attention to detail that everything felt as if it truly belonged there, like a real enchanted forest.
Like a playground for adults, the forest had more than just beautiful sculptures and lights but also these cool and interesting places for people to stumble upon throughout the forest where there was something to do, watch, or a place to just hang out. For example, there was a hut made of neon lanyard, a human sized nest, a silent disco, and bars that felt like the old Wild West. Lastly, there were actors dressed up in costume throughout the forest, but you didn’t know who was ‘real’ and who was ‘fake’. As the Electric Forest website described it, “The electrified Sherwood Forest provided the perfect environment for thousands of people from all over the country to join together for the love of nature and music”. However, despite all my descriptions, photos, and videos, the Forest is not a place one can simply explain, but must be experienced.
I’ve been to my fair share of music festivals, from Lollapalooza to Electric Daisy Carnival NY and IdentityFest. I love them because its more than just a concert, it’s an entire experience where everything feels so interconnected. Not only do you get to see multiple artists, but there are countless unusual activities to do, sights to see, and vendors to explore (of course some festivals are better than others in this respect, and the ‘awesomeness’ of the lineup will vary from person to person). As far as the camping experience of Electric Forest compares to past festivals, it’s nice to have a home base and fun to camp together with friends. But camping experience aside, the experience of this concert and the people who attended it made it truly different than any other I have ever been to. I definitely plan on making it to all four days next year.