Hey readers – we’re trying something new here in our approach to event reviews. Rather than doing field and online research to provide a singular perspective of a festival, concert, or arts event, we plan to interview an eclectic group of attendees to feed you funny stories, critical feedback, and highlights. So here goes nothing: welcome to our first installment of the SF “Inter-review” series, featuring the one and only Electric Forest.
For those of you aren’t already aware, something went down this past weekend in the woods of Rothbury, Michigan; something pretty significant. Electric Forest threw its fifth anniversary party from June 25th – 28th, hosting an estimated 45,000 campers, music junkies, and free spirits. EF was first born and branded as the Rothbury Music Festival in 2008. The members of the String Cheese Incident are often credited as the forefathers of this holy event, and currently host the festival every year with the help of Insomniac Events (Electric Daisy Carnival, Beyond Wonderland, Nocturnal Wonderland) and Madison House (Bass Center, Horning’s Hideout).
EF brought the heat this year with a star-studded lineup, featuring performances by the String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar, Skrillex, Flume, Big Gigantic, Keller Williams, Lotus, The Motet, and Gramatik. It’s been confirmed that although not on the official lineup, Cherub decided to crash the party and play a surprise set atop an RV in the campgrounds with Big Gigantic. Skrillex also took to stage with an electric guitar in hand to play as “Skrilldawg” during one of SCI’s performances. As you read some stories and comments from attendees we interviewed for this article, treat your ears to some classic Keller Williams, The Motet, Lotus and Big Gigantic (don’t miss out on the NYC boat cruise concert next Friday featuring Keller & The Motet – tickets here).
Bree Koivu from Fargo, North Dakota:
“We had a group together that went, we mapped out what shows and stages we wanted to see. We met so many lovely people and created a new squad, and only saw half the shows we wanted to. There was so much OTHER music to explore and discover. All our plans were out the window! You have to do what feels right and see where the wind takes you. We went up to the cops and thanked them for everything and for attempting to keep us all safe. I found a “tiny hand” that fit at the end of my pointer finger and high-fived each of them. They thought I was weird for sure! We tried to express to them that we try to look out for everyone. The community is BIG, and we NEED eachother. They seemed relieved we were so normal! (If only they knew). But in seriousness, no deaths confirmed yet and that makes my heart and soul happy!”
Cole Raxter from Warren, Michigan:
“While we were in all the lines with thousands of cars waiting to go through security my buddy lost his phone. I called it, and within one ring a guy answered and said ‘Are you trying to find his phone? Look for three guys on top of a car.’ Sure enough, I did a 360 scan and looked a little bit father down the lane we came up and saw three guys jumping on the roof of a car. We went over hugged them and got the phone back. My buddy was is disbelief, thought it was gone for the whole weekend for sure. Awesome people like them are one reason why I call the Forest home! I was met with only great vibes all weekend!”
Soni Thompson from Moorhead, Minnesota:
“Friday morning, after hearing the Supreme Court decision to make same-sex marriage legal in all states, my girlfriend and I drove 15 miles to Hart, Michigan, filled out a marriage license, and contacted a marriage officiant to perform our ceremony. We legally married on Saturday, June 27, in our tent at Electric Forest Good Life VIP camping via FaceTime. A story of love and celebration doesn’t get much better than that!”
Katie Lynn from Michigan:
“I didn’t attend, but I did help out a young lady yesterday that was stranded, and what a beautiful person! Next year I’m there!”
Dan Gordon from Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan:
“On Friday I was with my friend at The Nest for an hour before we decided to go to Autograf. When Autograf was almost through I noticed that my wallet was no longer in my pocket and figured it was a lost cause at that point. We went back to The Nest shortly after, and there was a group of people holding onto it waiting for me to come back. Nothing from the wallet was missing when they gave it back to me. I had to have been gone for at least 40 minutes before I even realized it was missing!”
Emily Dermer from Glenview, Illinois:
“I got my wisdom teeth out on Wednesday so I had no intentions of going to the Forest, but I quickly talked myself out of it and made the drive from Chicago. I had to go back home Sunday morning for work but once work ended I said fuck it and drove back up for the last remaining hours. The pain was worth the gain!”
Samantha Michele Houston from Kansas City, KS:
“I saw a guy in a shark costume attack the neck of an abandoned dolphin pool toy!”
Sammie Bee from Chicago, Illinois:
“Found someone’s phone on the ground during Big G and when we returned it to the guy I swear I could see the immense appreciation and joy just seeping out of him. It felt so right and so amazing. I was just glad we could get it back to him!”
Caelia Y from Minnesota:
“This year was me and my boyfriend’s 5th year at EF together. We had a wonderful time, as always, and met so many awesome people. That being said, the vibe has definitely changed over the years, and not for the better. In the very long line into the venue on Thursday a very intoxicated guy started yelling and trying to get the crowd to ‘push forward’ saying things like ‘they can’t hold us all back.’ I told him how dangerous pushing through the gates would be and he then tried to fight my group because we are ‘terrible people for thinking we would trample those in front of us.’ Great logic dude. Thank goodness his friends held him back, otherwise that situation could have ended very differently. I also heard about a lot of stealing and people getting sick from not taking care of themselves. A lot of EF veterans want to stop going because of the negative vibes, but we don’t think that’s the answer. We look at it as our job to teach newcomers what the forest is all about! We as a Forest Family must show them how to be kind, caring, respectful, clean, and safe and make them understand why all of that is important. When we attended our first festival, EF in 2011, we had a lot to learn, and some beautiful people showed us the way. Now it’s our turn to give back and spread that love. If all of the beautiful souls with the best of vibes give up, what is going to happen to our beloved festival scene? It’s disheartening to see my favorite place on earth grow wildly and change so much, but I’m not ready to give up.”
Jeff Sitzman from Buffalo, New York:
“My friend who rode with me got to our campsite and when it was all set up and we were all getting ready to head in, he realized that he forgot all his clothes. We were from Buffalo, so no way we were making that ride back. Everyone around us offered him clothes, but he didn’t even need them, he had a nice pair of shorts and sweatshirt all 4 days and didn’t mind one bit. One more: I was sitting under a tree, and some girl walked up to me and said something. So I smiled and said hello, then she flipped out at me yelling, “Why would you say that!!”. She ran away crying and I was left utterly confused.”
Austin Stevenes from Grand Rapids, Michigan:
“In the depths of the Forest on Saturday night about a couple dozen strangers surrounded me and sang the most beautiful version of happy birthday I have ever heard. It brought me to tears instantly. I have seldom felt so loved.”
Jordan Bartley from Charleston, Illinois:
“I had a amazing time with all of my friends coming back for my third year but I did notice a lot has changed. For example, I was hearing a lot about tri-con security doing some sketchy shit. It seemed like it was really over packed this year with people even camping in the firelane in front of our site. It took 6 hours to get out of the festival because of one exit in GA with no security directing it. Besides that I had an amazing time for my last year of Forest. Time to explore and see what else is out there”
Lee Nickisson from Big Rapids, Michigan:
“I don’t have a single story. My entire experience would be my story. EF this year was not only my first EF experience, but my first festival ever! I even got the opportunity to work as a WET member for pre-fest, I ran cables and helped build Sherwood, I even set up dressing rooms! I had heard so many good things about EF. Going on my own I was afraid I wouldn’t get along with people, or that I would stay on my own. But this was not the case. Within 5 minutes of setting up my tent I had already made friends. By the end of the week we had a 3 canopy hangout area with probably about 20 people. There was so much positivity and so many friendly people. I was introduced to so many new bands I had never heard of, and had a great time. I am so glad I made Electric Forest my first festival, and hope to come back next year!”
Jeff Sitzman from Buffalo, New York:
“Big g sunrise set! They played on top of an RV with a member of Cherub as the sun was coming up …someone posted an awesome pic (below). That was the only secret set I saw, but I was in GA, and there are way more in Good Life. I heard Skrillex had one…and Macy gray.”
Well that wraps it up for the first installment of our “Inter-review” event coverage. Thanks so much to all the wonderful people we interviewed for this article, and stay tuned next week for our Inter-review of the High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, California!