[FESTIVAL RECAP] Our 10 Most Enlightening Moments of Electric Forest 2014
Going into Electric Forest for the first time, with virgin eyes, I only knew one thing: people fucking love this place. Having been around the festival scene a while, you usually catch gripes about this fest or that, for one reason or another. But as I was about to experience the forest for the first time, I had heard only great things about the event. In fact, most who go and experience all it has to offer call it their favorite festival, hands down. I can tell you now that I wholeheartedly agree. Held in Rothbury, MI on the now infamous JJ Ranch, Electric Forest took my breath away and blew my mind more than a couple times. It is a festival aimed at higher consciousness, so without any further adieu, here are my top 10 most enlightening moments at Electric Forest 2014.
Ok, so the above picture isn’t from the morning yoga sessions, but I have a good reason for that: I chose to keep my mind clear for the hour-long classes. No camera and no cell phone, just me and the hundreds of others who chose to wake up a little earlier to clear their minds and souls. Led by veteran Hannah Muse each morning and augmented with chilled out electronic music that helped focus the energy, her teachings not only made me sweat out some toxins but also encompassed a wide variety of topics including mantra, pranayama, meditation, mudra, philosophy and her asana instruction.
Lights. Perhaps this was one of the overarching themes at Electric Forest, because no matter what part of the festival grounds you were on, lights were a prominent and often mind melting fixture. So it goes without saying that the bands performing had nothing short of an amazing visual experience once the sun began to set. For those of you familiar with groups such as STS9 and Umphrey’s McGee, it’s no surprise that there light shows were top notch. But given the context and atmosphere surrounding the forest, the dazzling displays of luminescence were just that much more magical.
MmmmMMmmm. Mushrooms. I’ll admit we ate a few during the festival, and it only served to heighten the experience the forest had to offer. It also helped to relax the mind and body, as Electric Forest can be a very arduous task on your muscles. In short, you need time to rest, so that’s exactly what we did. Locating a couple spare hammocks and open ground space, we let the mushrooms do their thing while we closed our eyes and took in the enchanting sounds of Rosen Coven and others on the intimate Forest Stage.
Perhaps more than any other festival I’ve ever attended, Electric Forest encouraged a healthy display of talent beyond just the stages. Everywhere you looked, people were practicing and honing their skills from hooping and dancing, to Poi spinning and more. Skill levels ranged from the beginner to the jaw-dropping, but no matter where you fell on the spectrum there were people willing to help you get better. More than once I saw impromptu lessons being given and it just really drove the point home that Electric Forest is a place where you can truly let your talents shine and come out a better person for it.
Hammocks everywhere, splattered against the canvas of the forest as if some deranged painter had cut loose on the rainbow. That’s the first thing I noticed as I stepped into the hallowed wooden halls of Sherwood Forest. But don’t let them hold your attention for too long, no, as there are a million and one things to discover while walking through. Whether it be be the myriad of art and sculptures strewn about, the decked out meeting pods perfect for hosting a small gathering, or the forest pixies running around and popping their heads into your hammocks making sure everything is alright. Yeah, this was my first time experiencing it all and I hadn’t even been through at night yet….
Walking around Electric Forest is nothing short of inspiring. To an artist it’s the perfect place to show off your art, come up with new ways of thinking about your work, as well as a perfect place to begin a new piece of art. From the funky inflatable balloons that lined the forest walkways, to the towering clock sculptures, to the live art on display, the art was a prominent piece of the EF experience that served to heighten the visual flavors of the festival. Check out the work from artists such as Handcraft Chicago, InflataBILL, Christopher Breedlove, and Anode Design in our full photo recap on Facebook.
“Let us be your weed. You can smoke us,” Aloe Blacc exclaimed. One of the most engaging performances of the weekend has to go to the blues and soul singer for really hitting home the concept of Electric Forest. It’s all about love, and spreading your love to others, giving out two armed hugs (no one-arm bullshit, now) and enjoying the music. Aloe talked, and sang, about concepts of love, drugs, and happiness, enlightening us to the fact that hugs ARE drugs, because chemically, they make us feel like nothing else in the world. He also sang through personal favorites such as “You Make Me Smile”, “Love Is The Answer”, and “I Need A Dollar”. Oh, and did I mention his ability to have the crowd form Electric Forest’s first ever Soul Train? All around a pretty enlightening performance.
Matt and Kim have been around for years now, throwing party after party on stage as the couple work the shit out of the audience, hyping them into a fit of, well, party. I’ve seen them perform a couple times over the years, and knew that they would put on a great show, they always do. But the level those two cranked it up to at Electric Forest was way beyond 11. It turned out to be one of my favorite sets of the weekend as Kim shouted about taking large inflatable penises up her vagina (damn the kids sitting in the VIP section!), showering the fans in a rainbow of balloons, and generally having the time of their fucking life while showing the audience how to do the same. All the crowd favorites made their way through the speakers including “Good Ol’ Fashion Nightmare”, “Cameras”, “Daylight”, and even a smashing rendition of “Better Off Alone.”
Let’s play B-B-B-BINGO!!! What I had just walked into took me by complete surprise and I couldn’t stop smiling from ear to ear. Psychedelic Friendship Bingo is an experience, to say the least, and one that I have not been able to stop talking about since I’ve returned home. It’s part BINGO game, part improvisation, part theater, and entirely the coolest thing ever. With improv actors personifying each of the BINGO letters – from a trio of stuck up rich girls, to a Russian mail order bride, to a fast-talking Euro pimp – two hosts and their DJ took me through the wildest game show I’d ever witnessed. My advice, if you ever see these guys on the bill at your next festival, make sure to attend because I’m doing it no justice trying to explain it here.
Jaw-dropping, awe inspiring, face melting bamboozlement and wonder. Am I over dramatizing the first time I walked into the Electric Forest at night? Hardly. For those that have never experienced the visual and aural ecstasy that permeates every inch of the forest, you have no idea what you’re missing out on. This year was the first time I had the pleasure of feasting my eyes on the seemingly infinite lights and colors that keep the forest ablaze at night. And if that wasn’t enough, it turns out there is even more to discover as you wander aimlessly through the trees. Ever watch a crime scene about not putting on sun tan lotion unfold? Yeah, the Grand Artique stage made that happen. How about collaborating with dozens of others to make a beautiful symphony using covered holes on a pole? If you stumbled into the Sonic Forest, you would have undoubtedly had the pleasure. I’m sure I didn’t catch all that went on in the forest at night, but I can tell you one thing: this is a place built for the curious, the adventurous, and the open-minded, and I cannot fucking wait to return next year.