All photos & coverage by Anders Seefeldt
At one time they seemed infinite. The technicolored lights and beating tones dancing through the trees alongside the tens of thousands of restless Foresters. Then, at the end of the last night of Electric Forest, Moby took off his headphones and stepped out from behind the podium. With the reverb from the last track melting into the roar of the crowd, he approached the very edge of the stage, stopped, and perched there for several moments. Without saying a word, he peered out over everyone as if completely humbled by the site of it all - right where he was meant to be.
It is impossible not to be in awe of Electric Forest. Even though I had been here before, it was as surreal as ever. The giant new Forester statue and redesigned Tripolee stage were spectacular new sights, but they were small compared to all I would discover.
I arrived at the four day camping festival Thursday afternoon with a great deal of uncertainty. My good friend and fellow Forester had a family emergency the day before (all is well now thankfully) and couldn’t attend, so I decided to join up with a friend of a friend and a couple others. Not overly outgoing or a camping expert by any stretch of the imagination, I was well out of my comfort zone as we began to pitch our tents under the sweltering sun in the thick of the action. But I had to keep moving... There were shows to catch.
On the surface, Electric Forest appears to be largely an EDM festival. But as soon as you arrive you realize how broad the spectrum of music really is. Cut Copy threw down a silhouetted multicolored dance party Sunday night, Umphrey’s McGee jammed away on consecutive occasions and Steve Angello turned up the heat with a fire breathing set so scorching the fire department was in attendance in case things got real.
Austrailian house producer Anna Lunoe joined in the fun, dancing along with the audience, and Ms. Lauryn Hill even joined up with The String Cheese Incident during one of their three mesmerizing shows. Aloe Blacc, Matt & Kim, St. Lucia, Classixx, Poolside, and Tycho were all in the mix as well.
To escape the heat Sunday afternoon, I trekked towards the Forest stage to catch some cool house vibes from Kygo, a Norwegian dj, playing at the stage. But as so often the case here, I was sidetracked. Standing in the middle of the open plaines was Kansas Bass. Two guys with a bass and a fiddle, beard and suspenders. Their bare feet caked with dirt from kicking up a good ol’ fashioned barn dance. I stayed for a few steps which was enough time for a small group to jump in. A short walk later and I had arrived at my intended destination in the Forest, flooded with people swaying to Kygo’s digitized dance.
As fascinating and diverse as these shows were, they were only a small part of the festival. And this is what makes Electric Forest so special. There is so much to see and do; it is a foregone conclusion that you will become lost in the energy of the place. From silent discos to psychedelic bingo to a meditative gong hut (you really have to see this for yourself), the more we wandered the forest the more we discovered, and the closer my makeshift group of friends and I became.
Late Saturday night after STS9 and Art Department unplugged, we ventured out into the Sherwood Forest to see what kind of nocturnal commotion we could drum up. Sure enough, we found a small band wailing away at The Grand Artique, a wooded turn-of-the-century bungalow and trading post burrowed deep beneath the trees. The cozy spot was so intimate that Francisco Fernandez’s mic was hardly needed as he poured out his emotions with the Ferocious Few under an American flag scrawled with the note “Victory today or tomorrow. Liberty forever.”
One of the greatest discoveries however was Emerson Jay. The indie dance group was performing only their fifth show ever and threw an energizing party one afternoon with synths that seemed to ride in on sunbeams. Even their tropical and native patterned clothes seemed to fit in perfectly with the spirit of the festival. And when I asked them about their colorful attire, it all made sense. “Another buddy that we met here, he was like ‘I make clothes and I heard you playing. Would you guys be interested in wearing my clothing when you perform?’ And we were like, ‘Oh, yea, of course. Please!’”
Mother nature joined in on the fun too. As soon as the sun went down, Mars and Venus glowed red and yellow in the starlit sky, adding to the festival’s already amazing production. At one point, a shooting star blazed overhead as if it were a wink from the heavens.
On the last day, my new friends and I took shelter from the sun under the shade of a wooden hut. On the underside of the roof we discovered a trove of hand-drawn art, and it reminded us of all the discoveries we’d made, and the memories we’d created. Talking as if we’d been friends for years, it seemed completely foreign to think that just days earlier I was uncomfortable at all. From strangers to artists to nature - everyone was part of everything.
“It’s the energy of the place,” Anna Lunoe said to us in quiet amazement after her set, “It’s the whole community that has a certain outlook on life.” Adorned with kandi bracelets and a dreamcatcher necklace given to her by fans she added “This festival is incredible and so different to so many other festivals that I’ve been to.”