As I type this, I’m still peeling body paint off my skin, cleaning dirt off my feet, and tending to minor wounds incurred from raging too goddamn hard. This is both disgusting, and an indication of how amazing Electric Forest is. This festival takes a lot of things that are normally terrible, and makes them into an incredible experience. When your neighbors wake you up at 7AM blasting Knife Party, you dance with them. When you wake up after 3 hours of sleep, hot and hungover, you drink more. When you puncture your foot on a broken camping chair, you wrap up the wound, take a bunch of painkillers (or other drugs that they probably don’t sell at Walgreens) and dance until you forget that your foot is mortally wounded.
Rather than focusing on what shows were best in this piece, I want to focus on what makes Electric Forest amazing year after year. Things that you’ll be able to experience next year, albeit differently than I did. The reasons why Electric Forest is one of my favorite festivals, and why I’ll be there year after year.
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Go With Friends, Stay With Friends
The number one way to survive/enjoy Electric Forest is friends. Friends give you food when you’re hungry, booze when you’re sober, and drugs when you’re bored. Friends bring useful things like a beer pong table, and not-so-useful-but-really-entertaining things like a giant toy t-rex on a leash. I rolled into Electric Forest with a crew of 12 cars, 30 people, 3 shade tents, and gallons of booze. We spent almost as much time at our campsite as we did at the festival, and had a blast the entire time.
When you’re in the festival, staying with at least a few friends is always ideal. We had base camps at both main stages, where the lazy fuckers sat down and guarded bags for everyone who wanted to run around and dance. Between our inflatable animals, glow stick covered everything, and loud voices, we managed to stay together incredibly well.
Never Stop Dancing
From the moment I entered the festival grounds Wednesday night until I stumbled out of my tent on Monday morning, there were very few waking hours spent sitting down or standing still. The rain during Digital Tape Machine and Madeon on Thursday night only served to make the sets more enjoyable. During “breaks” from the action on Friday night, we traveled to the Silent Disco to spend a few minutes dancing with ourselves. Even walking through the forest was more just dancing with a destination. At the campsite, we would blast music out of the iHome, or just blast music out of car speakers until the battery died. The music never stops at Electric Forest, and neither does the dancing.
Bass Drops 101
No matter how you feel about dubstep, there few things as exhilarating as hearing an incredibly heavy drop at top volume in a crowd of thousands of people ready to rage. As the beat builds, the people familiar with what’s about to happen coax the nonbelievers into slowly jumping up and down throughout the buildup, until the beat finally drops and thousands of people all start dancing like idiots in blissful unison. – File under Benny Benassi dropping the Skrillex remix of “Cinema” on Thursday night, Krewella’s “Killing It”, and possibly the biggest rager I’ve ever heard live, Knife Party’s “Bonfire”.
Getting Day-Drunk to Bluegrass
After waking up at 10am because the sun is cooking you inside your tent, most people choose to hang out under the shade tents with their withered colleagues and start drinking all over again, sans-energy. By early afternoon, everyone is drunk and ready to enter the festival, hit the cigarette tent, and listen to music. But nobody is ready to dance yet. For those who didn’t spend their afternoons exploring Sherwood Forest, hanging out in the shade at Ranch Arena was a pleasant alternative. Railroad Earth and Greensky Bluegrass both played excellent sets on Friday and Sunday afternoon, respectively.
That One Song Everyone Knows
At every music festival there are artists that have one hit song that everyone knows. Half of the crowd sits around, or dances lazily, and then it happens. Everyone knows the first note, and as soon as it’s played everyone goes apeshit. It doesn’t matter if you’re the pretentious prick who knows every song and thinks the single is “overplayed”, it’s still the most fun song to dance to because, well, acting stupid with thousands of people is just plain fun. – File under “Walking on a Dream” at Empire of the Sun, “Alive” at Krewella, and “Cinema” at Benny Benassi.
Essential Festie Gear: Inflatable Sea Mammals
Inflatable creatures are abundant at Electric Forest, and this year the theme seemed to be mammals of the sea. Our camp acquired several over the course of the weekend, much to the dismay of the previous owners. The only thing more entertaining than watching your friend run off with someone else’s whale is subsequently watching her bash someone in the face with it for suggesting to name the newly acquired whale Carl. The stolen dolphin was being drunkenly paraded around the campsite accompanied by music, bubbles, and an inspired tramp stamp by the next afternoon.
Drunk n Tumble
Watching people fall is almost as entertaining as the music itself, and with lax security this year, plenty of people smuggled in enough booze to make themselves entertainingly drunk. Hell, my friend got so drunk that she fell into a tent at our campsite before the festival even started. As much as I’d like to think I can handle my booze, I unfortunately also took a tumble that weekend. After drinking enough Hamm’s to drown a kitten at the campsite and then smuggling in a pint of whiskey, I decided to try on my friends bouncy boots (think boots with pogo sticks on the bottom). Stomping around after my friend was a great idea. Skipping in those boots was not, and I found that out in front of a very entertained crowd of people. And we don’t even need to get started on how many people tripped over our shit at shows like Pretty Lights and Empire of the Sun. When you have an entire group of backpacks in one place, nobody is making it through alive.
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There are thousands of other reasons to attend Electric Forest (the actual music being a primary one, but more on that in my next post). The vendors, the art installations, the cute festivalgoers, the $1 packs of cigarettes (absolutely necessary in the state I was in for much of the festival). It’s an unparalleled experience, one that I’ll be attending every year for the foreseeable future. Stay tuned, when I write about the actual music and admit to the world how much I love seeing dubstep live.
Photos by Steven Pham unless noted.