It’s been a whole month since the gates of the Double JJ Resort in Rothbury, MI opened up to an estimated 30,000 fans for this year’s. Over the past 30 days, I’ve tried multiple times to sit down and come up with the words to accurately describe the experience, sometimes spending upwards of 8-10 hours in front of my laptop, just to read over it the next day and delete everything. The truth is, while I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every other festival and most shows I’ve been to, this is the only event that incites so much emotionality when I look back that I can’t seem to write anything that does it justice.
Not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about the short time I spent at The Forest, my home, with family and friends. Somedays, it feels like a lifetime ago…while others, I could swear it was just yesterday that I was chilling in a hammock, gearing up to finish EFF with Le Castle Vania’s heavy-hitting electro house and Pretty Lights’ soulful electro funk. There’s times when, even on the worst of days, the memories would put an ear-to-ear smile on my face…but there’s also been times when they’ve brought me to tears because of how much I miss being home with my family. (Even as I write this I’m going through battling emotions of absolute joy and overwhelming sadness, crying and smiling, like I’m bipolar.)
Normally, I like to write a day to day recap of my experiences at festivals, but this time, for this festival, I feel it’s grossly inappropriate to simply narrate with things like, “I did this and then saw that,” and would rather try my damnedest to depict the event as a whole and explain why it means so much to me. Apologies for the lengthy read…but here goes nothing:
As a few of my friends and I pulled in to the little town of Rothbury, the car was overflowing with excitement. Words and phrases like, “Holy shit!”, “OMG!!”, and “I can’t believe we’re here!” were the only things that could be heard coming from us. Then I saw a sign, and my stomach jumped up into my throat and I struggled to breathe. The sign was simple and it read, “Welcome to Electric Forest”. It was such a weird and unexpected feeling; one that I had never felt while showing up to any event…I was nervous. The butterflies in my stomach were so intense that I felt like I was about to throw up. Even now, I’m not exactly sure why I felt the way I did. Maybe I was scared it wouldn’t live up to my own hype that I had built after last year for myself and for a few of my friends that would be attending for the first time. Or it could’ve been that I was worried that a few recent life events would distract me from the experience and prevent me from enjoying myself. Either way, no matter the reason, I’m pretty sure there’s something to be said about having that type of powerful reaction to something as small as a welcome billboard.
I was very fortunate in that earlier in the week, I was introduced to a wonderful person through a mutual friend, whom I connected with very well and would spend a good portion of the weekend with. We discussed in length about The Forest; what it meant to us, what we expected from it, and we agreed to go adventuring together. I couldn’t have asked for a better Forest Buddy because while our goals were similar, our comfort zones were different and we were able to lead each other into those new experiences that we may have missed if we had been on our own. We took turns dragging each other to music we had never heard, to people we hadn’t met, and to places we never would have gone (except the ferris wheel, I couldn’t get her over her fear of that, haha)…all while continuing to get to know each other and explore the connection we shared.
As I have mentioned in a previous article, the theme and mindset at The Forest isn’t to get as fucked up as possible and party ’til your pants fall off. (As if most people even start with pants, haha…but you get the point.) Instead its one of exploration and acceptance. Whether it be musical, spiritual, emotional, artistic, personal, or any other type, the vibes encourage you to seek out new and sometimes uncomfortable experiences in order to expand your mind and broaden your views. The perfect example of this is perhaps the main attraction of the entire event, the Sherwood Forest. While the entire event is considered to be “The Forest”, the Sherwood Forest is the actual portion of the venue that resides inside the trees which hold so many crazy art installations and interactive sites that you could spend all day in there and not experience everything. There was the Heart of the Forest, the Giving Tree (a place where you’re encouraged to leave something useful in exchange for something you might need or want, like bracelets, lighters, sunglasses, etc.), a trading post where you can barter with a friendly mustached man, gong massages, hula hooping classes, a silent disco, my personal favorite…a metric shit load of hammocks…and so much more that I could go on for days.
There was a sort of bittersweetness to the Sherwood Forest this year, though. Unfortunately, some of the trees had been infested with Diplodea and Bark Beatles and in order to preserve the rest of the eco system, they were forced to cut down the infected ones. The sweetness came from the fact that for the first time, the Sherwood Forest was expanded and a totally new, breathtaking stage, The Observatory, was built right in the middle. As sad as it was that many of the trees had to be removed, it was wonderful to see the space used to enhance the Sherwood Forest in such a remarkable way.
While I did spend the majority of my time adventuring with my Festival Buddy, she wasn’t the only person I was lucky enough to get to know and share amazing times with. There’s an incredible sense of camaraderie and generosity throughout The Forest that I just haven’t seen anywhere else amongst strangers. One of my neighbors would leave a bag of delicious homemade granola at our campsite every morning for no reason. I was freezing one night and a guy I just met gave me the hoodie off his back so I could warm up. Its an incredible phenomenon how in just four short days you can meet a bunch of strangers and grow closer to them than those whom you may have known your whole life. Yes, it happens to some extent at other camping festivals like Camp Bisco and Coachella, where you might begin and solidify a lifelong friendship over a weekend. The Forest is different though, and everyone that I’ve spoken with, all of whom have been to these other camping festivals, agrees with my sentiment. You don’t leave The Forest with a load of new, great friends. You leave with a much larger family. I would go to the ends of the Earth for some of the people I met only a month ago and I take comfort in knowing for a fact that they would do the same for me if I needed them.
The entire weekend isn’t just about meeting new people though. In fact, one of the greatest aspects for me this year was all of the friends and family from different times in my life all coming together in one, beautiful place. It felt like one of those dreams you have where everyone you’ve ever met is there, even if they were from different places and times of your life. Some people I had met at previous festivals and came from as far as Arizona and California. Some were friends from high school that I haven’t seen in years and many were people that I talk to on a daily basis. All in all, considering everybody that was involved in my experience this year, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to be with at The Forest.
Let’s not forget about the other amazing part of EFF…the music. Just like last year, there was a great variety of tunes flowing throughout The Forest at any given time to suit anyone’s taste. Some of my favorite sets came from artists I had seen before and knew would be great, but many of my favorites came from those that had either never experienced live or had never heard at all. Here’s a quick rundown of my favorite sets:
Madeon – Missed a chance to see the “Prodigy” at Identity Fest last year and regretted it massively. Blew the crowd at the Ranch Arena away.
RL Grime – Another artist I’ve been trying to see for a while and the amount of twerkin’ was only matched by the waves of bass-heavy tunes.
Benny Benassi – Seen this guy many times…will never miss a set from Benny.
Break Science & Trombone Shorty – Trombone Shorty had the Ranch Arena grooving just prior, but the surprise appearance alongside Break Science was incredible.
Big GRiZmatik – The Forest’s worst kept secret all weekend. The reunion from last year’s “TBA” slot at the Forest Stage might have been my favorite set of the weekend….if Pretty Lights hadn’t been there.
Clockwork – Honestly, didn’t realize that Clockwork and RL Grime were the same person. Much like the RL Grime set, this one was pristine.
Noisia – Wasn’t a huge Noisia-fan prior, so I never really had much motivation to catch a set…but the atmosphere-ripping sounds that came from the Tripolee Stage were the coolest noises I’ve ever heard live and I will never miss another set from these guys.
The String Cheese Incident – SCI is the main musical attraction at EFF, and for good reason. Anyone who goes to The Forest and doesn’t “cheese” for at least a little bit should definitely revaluate somethings, especially since they play lengthy sets numerous times throughout the weekend.
Flosstradamus – The key to a Flossy set is the crowd. Everybody gets so dirty and disgusting that it should be mandatory to shower afterward.
Knife Party – Along with LCV, this was one of the sets I was most excited for. While it felt a little short, the onslaught of bass-y electo house, dubstep, and trap was enough to rattle the nearby trees.
Robert Delong – Liked his music before, but was completely blown away at the creative and unique way he plays. (Wii controller, joystick, a drum set, and much more)
LowRIDERz – First time being exposed to Acid Crunk. The small and intimate Forest Stage made for a badass set.
Pretty Lights – Fresh off the release of what I think will be the best album of the year (Sorry, Daft Punk), Derek’s funky and soulful set was, in my opinion, the best of the weekend. I spent only the first 20 minutes or so on my feet and then enjoyed the rest chilling and dancing on the ground with my Festival Buddy.
Dixon’s Violin – I heard about him after last year and vowed I would not miss him this year. He took everyone at The Observatory on a meditative journey through time and space with his violin looping that ended my forest experience perfectly.
I woke up Monday morning and was already filled with sadness. I had such an amazing time and did not want to accept that it was over. I reluctantly walked back to my own camp site after staying else where, happy to find that everything was pretty much packed and ready to go. Me and the friends I drove with made our way back to my mom’s house, who lives only about 30 minutes away from Rothbury, and chilled out while waiting for the rest of the gang to show up so everyone could get their belongings back into the right vehicles before going our separate ways. It was a pretty emotional couple of hours and nobody wanted to say goodbye. Once we finally succumbed to the need for some folks to get on the road, we hugged each other and shed some tears.
As the cars drove off, I could feel the early onset of PFD, or “Post-Forest Depression”. Although there’s a certain level of sadness after any great festival, much like the higher levels of camaraderie and togetherness felt at EFF, the depression is worse too. Anyone who’s lucky enough to have been to The Forest knows what I mean and can vouch for the reality and severity of PFD. It didn’t fully set in for most of us until a few days after rejoining “real life” and the euphoric feelings had finally subsided. At this point, all we were left with were the pictures and memories of everything we experienced together and to this day, we spend a lot of time reminiscing about it all.
I’m not exaggerating when I say both of my experiences at EFF have been life-changing. Last year’s festival was my first and it opened my eyes to a whole new world of emotions and experiences that I’ve continued to explore. This year’s Forest not only reaffirmed it as my home, but the vibes and time with my family took all those feelings to a completely new level. They’ve truly altered the direction I want to take with my life, something I’ve been struggling with for a while, and I can’t thank everyone enough for giving that to me.
I hope everyone had as wonderful of a time as I did and I’m looking forward to seeing you guys again next year. I can’t wait to see my family again.
I’ll leave you with one of the more powerful (and absolutely true) quotes I’ve heard regarding The Forest:
“You go into the forest to lose yourself…but the only thing that happens is you truly find yourself.”
Hello, my name’s Justin. I’m 25-years old and have been a music enthusiast for as long as I can remember. I’ve always enjoyed EDM, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I truly embraced it and fell in love with the community. My enthusiasm has evolved into passion, and I’m thankful to the EJ team for providing me with a medium to share it with all of you.