Arriving at the end of June every year, Rothbury Michigan invites thousands of people from around the globe to be a part of the much anticipated event, Electric Forest Festival. The many who return know they are coming back to a place within themselves and newcomers arrive with open hearts and minds, taking in every surrounding experience back home with them from the new home they helped build.
Kicking off this year, I realized everyone was going to be in for a treat when all of my friends received their wristbands that weren’t green. The past couple of years, general admission bands had matched the leaves on the trees in the forest. Every year is always a whole new barrel of monkeys but not too much has changed, except for some forest expansion. 2015 seemed to be a different story though, and the red passes gave me a precognitive feeling this year would be fantastically different than the past years.
Waiting in the line for the campsite Wednesday night, future foresters weaved through rows of cars, dancing and celebrating before their tents were even up. The line began to move along a dusty path past forest work volunteers just as hyped for the weekend as everyone else. They directed us into our camping slots and we poured out of all of our cars, jumping and yelling and hugging our new neighbors. Once we had everything set up, I decided to go in early and get a sneak peak of what was happening behind the gates and snap some pictures of the finishing touches on the building process.
Being a fourth time returning forester, I knew my way around fairly well. Everything was mostly in the same place, except for the new additions that were added this year. Immediately as I walked through the main entrance, Tripolee Stage was being constructed right in front of me. The stage was set in the same place as last year and kept with a similar theme of last year as well, with three-d carved panels of giant faces on each side. It definitely kept with the spacey feel, this year adding more realism to the art and making it look more rustic than the last year.
Moving on past Tripolee, set up right before Ranch Arena this year, Electric Forest added a huge white tent for merchandise. Personally, I thought it was a good idea having it out there to be noticed because last year, I really didn’t see where they had the merchandise store. Although I might not have been looking for it, it was definitely not hiding this year. Basically, you had to walk under the tent to get to Ranch Arena and beyond. That being said, it was a little crowded this year, over flowing campsites and feeling like a herd of animals at times. Eventually the congestion dispersed throughout the weekend and the forest expanded even further this year for enough play room.
Walking into Sherwood Forest I could see a few paths outside off the trees for extra walking space this year. Some construction was still happening in a corner of the forest when I was inside at around two in the morning, opening day. I still got to check out all of the new art installations this year, and see how some things changed and added. A little library area with couches and chairs and real books to read were set up off the path a little ways. Past that, some extra stages for forest performers were ready to hold their acts and make some laughter. Cool new installations like color changing LED clouds and mirrored boxes were strung through the trees above my head, and lit up in the night. Although they haven’t gotten to holograms yet, they were pretty close to it with a dragon sculpture made from the shiny side of hundreds of compact discs. I was most definitely impressed with how things were looking for the rest of the weekend, even though I was secretly hoping for pop-out holograms still. It is 2015 right? Thanks, McFly.
Exiting the forest, I was expecting to come up onto the lawn for Sherwood Court. But yet again, there were two more new additions past the tree line. An added Jubilee big top stage and The Hangar stage right next door allowed extra performances and gave the space for a wider array of music. The inside of The Hangar was designed like a club, with tables on the dance floor to stand at and drink and socialize. A huge round about bar when you first walked in was serving the sponsored alcohol for the festival. On the edges were fun activities to do, from temporary tattoos and buffer massages, to a photo booth with costumes to dress up for the part. Even a hair salon, where I saw a brave woman had shaved off her hair, maybe to embody the famous Skrillex look?
Back outside, the Jubillee tent was screaming bright pink, yelling at everyone to come under. The sign reminded me of a carnival ride and brought me back to the giddy feeling of being a child. A perfect size towards the back, the stage stood higher than most, so throughout the whole tent there was a vantage point. The inside was painted black for better viewing of light shows, while lanterns and décor hung down from the top. The circumference was huge and fit a good crowd of people while still being able to breathe and feel a breeze, despite not being out in the open. Out of all the new things put together for this year, I was really most excited for the Jubilee Stage to come alive.
Electric Forest literally keeps getting bigger and better every year. 2015 has proved why the people enjoy it so much and keep coming back each time we make another journey around the Sun. The people that go there to experience it are just as appreciated as the art, music and people that make it happen. For a while, everyone will continue to talk about memories that were made, bonds with random strangers and what’s to come for next year, until it sneaks up from behind and you’re there again! We are all excited to see what surprises are in store for 2016.
By Brie Goodno