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Electric Forest: The Most Magical Place on Earth

At the end of every June, a magical thing happens in Rothbury, Michigan. Music fans from all backgrounds take their annual mecca voyage to a place on earth that seems farther away from the rest of the world than anywhere else. No matter how long the trip, attendees know that their paradise awaits them. A place where surprises await and around every corner there’s a new experience to stimulate your spirit. A place where the biggest electronic musicians from around the world come together to share their passion. A place where negativity floats away and there isn’t a care in the world for anyone to have. I’m talking of course, of Electric Forest.

Now if you asked me about Electric Forest before this year, I would have been dumbfounded with what to say. My experience with Forest only reached as far as watching recap videos, hearing stories from friends, and daydreaming about what it would be like to be there. It seemed like such a far away, almost distant land, filled with adventure and excitement. I had dreamed of making my way there, but even this year the possibility seemed out of the question. With tickets selling out in December I was yet again heartbroken. I was too broke to buy the passes, and in my mind, the endless mystery of Forest would continue for another year. However, about two weeks before the event, I got the best News of my summer. I was headed to Forest to not only experience the event, but to provide coverage for our site as well. I headed into the experiences without expectations and was excited for the road ahead.

As I got in the car on Tuesday night, my giddiness and excitement were practically bursting out of me. Twelve hours later of on and off sleep, I awoke to the sunshine and fresh air of Michigan. We pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot that seemed to be flooded with Forest fans rather than your average shoppers. We met up with all of our friends we were planning on camping with over the course of the next few hours as they fluttered in from their respective home towns. By the time we were ready to head inside the venue, we had a total of fifteen cars, and around forty people, creating for one hell of a campsite. While I may not have known many of those who had arrived as apart of our giant squad, I had this interesting feeling that they were going to make Forest the perfect experience that I had made it out to be in my head. The vibes coming off of them all just felt so genuine and filled with excitement for the madness that lied ahead of them, and being one of the only Forest babies of the group, I was ready for them to show me the way. If you were apart of our campsite and you are reading this, bless your soul for taking me in and showing me what the Forest family is all about.

We headed into the venue and got camp set up before sun down, and began to explore the campgrounds on our first night in Rothbury. We met tons of welcoming strangers who indulged themselves with peace and contentment with where they were in the world. This night was the first night where I truly felt the power of Electric Forest. Things just seemed so far away from the world, yet perfectly in place where they should be. It seemed that I fit into every place where I was in that exact right moment. It’s hard to describe, but the best way I can understand it is that it’s a sense of feeling so heavily in the present moment, something I’ve never experienced to the level I was. The best part was that this feeling just gradually synthesized to greater and greater levels every day at Forest. Every day I seemed to feel more at peace, and more as if I was living in a dream. I headed to sleep that night with a small fraction of my Forest experience fulfilled. I truthfully was not prepared for what was coming over the next four days.

Thursday morning we awoke with complete and utter excitement. Today was the first day of music at Forest and our first chance to explore the venue and art installations we had heard so much about. The day started off perfectly with a set by PLM’s own Marvel Years. Marvel Years, usually a solo act, was joined by a drummer for this performance. His classic combination of funk, glitch hop, and live instruments created for the perfect groovy atmosphere that showed us what Forest was all about from the get go. I made a ton of friends at that set, and genuinely felt my happiness could never exceed that perfect storm of beat bumping glory. As the set came to a close, we decided to take a little time to explore Sherwood Forest for the first time this weekend. This became our routine for the rest of our adventure, and never did we find a dull moment in the Forest. Between the massive amount of art installations, the stages in the Forest, the surprise performances, and all the friendly faces, Sherwood swept us off our feet on our first day inside.

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As the sun began to set on Thursday night, we decided to head over to the Anjunadeep curated stage at the Tripolee arena. We got there right in time to check out a double dose of Above & Beyond’s sub label, with deck duties being handled by Moon Boots and Lane 8. The two rising stars absolutely captivated the stage and had the entirety of the crowd bouncing from start to finish. We got sucked into the Anjunadeep universe for a few hours, but felt a craving for something heavier. Luckily for us, 12th Planet was just beginning his set on the other side of the Forest at the Jubilee tent, so we headed over for our daily dose of filth. I’ll tell you this: I’ve seen 12th play countless times over the course of his career, and never have I seen him play a set so utterly soul shredding. He took baseheads on a journey through dubstep of all styles, focusing in on the new up and coming savagery that is riddim. Covered in sweat, and disgusting amounts of bass, we left the tent and headed to cool off at a stage we had discovered during our trip to Sherwood that day, The Observatory. Playing at the Observatory was a smaller act called The Desert Dwellers who I had never heard before. We decided to give them a shot and wow did they blow us away. Their weird mixture of ambient beats and psychedelic synths turned the Observatory into a whole new world. After their set, we couldn’t seem to keep our eyes open any longer, and headed back to camp to get some rest for the next day. We went to sleep smiling with joy at our first day inside of the Forest, and couldn’t wait to be back in a few short hours.

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Friday morning came with sunshine and a major rise in the heat levels in the area. With the sun beating down we woke up rubbed our eyes and with little to no effort got ourselves ready to go for the day. Today was as very highly anticipated day at our campsite as it was Bassrush day. All day the Tripolee stage would be taken over by the legendary members of the Bassrush movement. We got inside the venue early though, and made sure we got our chance to explore the Forest for the day. Highlights of the Forest included a real old timey trading post we discovered, our first chance to get into the hammock’d areas of the Forest, and some delicious tacos curtsey of the vendors inside. It’s hard to truly put into words what it’s like to be in the middle of Sherwood. You feel so small, yet so alive. I felt a real connection to the people around me, regardless of whether or not I knew them. I genuinely felt as if my mind was elevated just by the slightest bit. Whether or not I knew it at the time, looking back on it, the sense of what reality was was extremely warped. Forest is it’s own playground that the outside world can’t touch.

The Bassrush takeover for our large group from the campsite began at 6:30 when G Jones took the stage and proceeded to take us on a trip through a mixture of some of the hardest hitting trap we’ve ever heard, and some of the strangest combinations of sounds that have ever entered our ears as well. After Jones came one of the best sets of the entire weekend, curtesy of drum and bass legends Metrik & TC. Drum and bass tends to always be a breath of fresh air when it comes to the United States, especially our major festivals. Metrik & TC took us on a journey through DnB of all types from melodic to gnarly and didn’t give the crowd a breather the whole set. Filled with energy, they set the stage surprisingly well for one of EDM’s biggest newcomers to the higher circles of the industry, NGHTMRE. I’ve seen NGHTMRE many times over the course of the last year, and it’s been fairly evident to me that he never really disappoints. With a very creative style of production and mixing, his sets tend to now set the tone for what a trap superstar’s set should sound like in today’s day and age. However, on the last two stops I’ve seen him, I did become a little bored with his transitions and the set he played overall. I saw him getting stagnant, and became a little less of a fan each time. However at Forest, he pulled me back to the fandom I had for him the first time I saw him by dropping an extremely diverse, creative, and perfectly balance set. NGHTMRE is so young in both his life and his career, and after Forest, I’m convinced that he will continue to surprise us all for years to come.

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Continuing into the night, the Bassrush party crowd began to become much more crowded as the clock approached eleven. By the time the crowd had massed all corners of Tripolee, the act that everyone was waiting patiently to see walked on stage. Dubstep OG’s Caspa & Rusko brought all the old school dubstep fans to life throwing down a perfect mixture of their classic sounds. While throughout the rest of the year, the duo had been performing with an MC, they took the MCing into their own hands on Friday night. The performance was high energy, nostalgic, and filled with dub heads of all ages. Whether you were young or old, you knew the names Caspa and Rusko at the end of the night at Bassrush. While they did not close the stage, they were definitely the best set of the night, and through the powerful force of headbanging, the Forest crowd thanked Caspa & Rusko for all they’ve done for dubstep and bass music overall. We checked out our schedules to see if we would stay at Tripolee for the rest of the night, or of we had somewhere else to adventure to. We had been at Bassrush the majority of the day, and on our schedules popped up a secret set at our favorite stage, The Observatory. We decided to go check it out with little expectation, knowing it could be someone we would die to see, or just a local get together of musicians. Either way, we felt good going into it. In all reality there was no way we could have ever guessed who popped up on stage over the course of the next ninety minutes or so. The set began as 12th Planet b2b Brillz which on it’s own is extremely rare. As the set went on OWSLA star Mija joined the duo, as well as NGHTMRE. Finally, Griz came on stage to close out the set, but unfortunately as he did the set was cut short. Issues with the elevated viewing decks at the stage due to major capacity brought the secret set to an end, but not before those who made it on stage savaged the crowd with bangers from all different corners of dance music. We headed back to our tent pleased with ourselves for catching our first surprise set in the Forest. Tomorrow would be a new day filled with new adventures that we couldn’t wait to experience.

Saturday morning began with the most intense weather of the weekend. The heat wave had reached its highest peak, and the temperatures were reaching into the 90’s during the day. Exhausted from the night before, we took our time to enjoy camp life with our new made family. We sat in the shade of our canopies and enjoyed some home cooked food, as simple as the camping recopies could be. Before we left, we hydrated up, threw on our sunscreen, and began to walk together like a giant group of kids on the first day of summer camp. Our exploration of Sherwood Forest was cut short for the day, however upon entry to the forest we found a spot that we simply could not leave. Inside of the Forest was a small stage where long form Improv was being performed. The acting was some of the strangest most out of this world stuff I’ve ever seen, but they had us cracking up till our stomachs hurt. We chilled in the shade and laughed for over an hour with the actors, and felt satisfied leaving the Forest. That improv show was one of my favorite experiences in the Forest as the spontaneousness of it made it that much more golden. It was becoming more and more clear that the Forest was filled with tons of wild surprises.

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Music wise we began our night with an awesome vibe heavy set from Hermitude. All of squad was present and getting as weird as we possibly could in the crowd. The night already seemed to have a significant aurora over it that I couldn’t necessarily put my finger on. We moved into the Forest and made camp at the Observatory which was being curated by none other than Griz and his label All Good Records. One of our favorite acts of the weekend was a smaller act on the label, The Geek & VRV. Their combination of jazz, funk, dance music, hip hop, and so much more set the tone for The Observatory for the rest of the night. We got down and got down damn well with them. Up next was a sight that this world has never seen before, the first full label All Good Records Jam. The entirety of the label came together to play some of the biggest rock and disco hits of the past few decades and added in their own flare of jam to fit the songs to the All Good style. Songs like Play That Funky Music and Ain’t No Sunshine brought together the biggest crowd I saw all weekend at the Observatory. Getting down with Griz and all the other All Good homies for a few hour solidified The Observatory as my happy place in this world. Since that night, every time I close my eyes and imagine a place where there is no wrong, that’s all I can ever see.

The headliner for Saturday’s festivities was the most anticipated act on the entire bill. Bassnectar was set to play a 90-minute set at the biggest stage in the venue, the ranch arena. All day the stage was packed with fans and as the night moved farther and farther towards the scheduled opening for the set, the crowd grew double in size every ten minutes. It was pretty clear that the entire festival was at this stage, and all the bassheads were absolutely ready for what Lorin had in store for the Forest. As the first song began to play, something happened to me that has never happened before. I will do my best to describe it, but in all reality I’ve been at a loss for words since that night about it. I felt as thought I was transported somewhere else. The music followed me to a far away land, even farther away from the world than Forest itself. All I had in this place were positive thoughts. Thoughts of my family, my friends, my school, my Job, all of the things in life that I am extremely grateful for. I stood there in that Forest for the next 90 minutes, zoned into the set. I barely moved, my mouth didn’t stray from wide open, and I felt as though the music was moving a mountain that had been on me up until that point. I was completely engulfed by the sounds, surrounded by the energy, and infused with the passion of the music. Time felt as it it was moving so slow, and so fast simultaneously. It was the single greatest musical performance I have ever bore witness to. At the end of the set, without saying a word, I moved myself flat on the ground and laid in the grass for god knows how long. I laid there and smiled. I really had come to understand the power of the Forest more than any other time over the course of the weekend.I felt as though I was exactly where I should be in that moment in my life, and was perfectly content with the things I have. My ego felt deflated, as I did not want for anything else anymore. I was exactly where I needed to be, and who I wanted to be. I texted my parents, my girlfriend, my best friends, and many others. I wanted to let them know about what I just witnessed, but couldn't find the words. I spread my love and gratitude to them, and walked back to camp with serenity. I truthfully have not been the same since that night, and I am eternally amazed at how much impact a series of sounds can have on the human mind.

Sunday morning was highlighted by the first rain we got all weekend. While rain is usually a bad thing, it actually provided us with some cooler air, and for the last day while we were all exhausted beyond belief, it gave us a great feeling of relief to not have to bake in the sun. We slowly but surely meandered our way into the festival to take our final walk arounds in Sherwood. The vibe of the day was lazy and we enjoyed a few bands at The Observatory to start the day. The bands Stick Figure and Miner were our favorites, and they provided a great show for us to lay out to. We ended up finding a nice spot in the trees and dozed off for another hour or so. As I was falling asleep I was staring up at the treeline, and a thought came through my head that is quite telling of my experience at Forest. I genuinely had the thought of: maybe I should just sell everything I own and buy my Forest tickets for the next fifty years just so I never have to go without this place for more than a year ever again. I felt so comfortable, so in my own skin, and so happy to be where I was. To top it all off, I was woken up by my lovely friend who had another plate of Taco’s and a red bull waiting to pick me up. A final burst of energy was pushed into me, and I came back to life to enjoy music for the last time in Rothbury.

The first set of the night we really got down to was by a young up and comer who is pushing the boundary of pop music and the new style of bass music known as future bass. Louis The Child laid down a plethora of tracks, each with their own individual vibe to fit the proper moment. Adamant on stage, the crowd was into the performance and couldn't stop moving the whole time. The level of energy was perfect for a final night performance at such a beautifully exciting event. After Louis, we headed over to Sherwood Court, a stage we did not explore much until this last night. The Floozies and Griz were set to close out the stage, and we camped out and found our spot so we could enjoy the funk filled party that lied ahead of us. Over the next few hours, with back to back and simultaneous performances we lived out our last few hours of music to the fullest. Both The Floozies and Griz played incredible sets, and set the bar for how good both acts can be separate, and also together. During this time a friend and I also had the chance to discover the hangar, a small stage and exploration area near the Jubilee tent. Inside we rocked out to some old disco music, played pool with a performer hired by Forest, went bowling, got some sick temporary tattoos and ate some delicious food. It was our final discovery for the weekend and it was a sweet one. We headed back to camp tired both physically and mentally, and ignored the fact that we had to face reality yet again tomorrow.

As we woke up the next morning and began to pack, the post festival depression already began to settle in. We had a long drive ahead of us, and lots of hours to sleep and reflect on our time in the Forest. Since I have come back home, I truly have felt like a different person in a very positive way. I felt as thought I lost a lot of negativity I was holding onto in the Forest, and gained a new place in my heart where the levels of happiness and joy are incredibly abundant. In my opinion, there is no other place, festival, or event, like Electric Forest. I’ll see you again next year Rothbury, and can’t even imagine what you may have in store for me.

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