We were only 2.5 hours into our 18-hour drive when my buddy got pulled over for speeding. Honestly, we hadn’t even left Colorado yet and he already got lit up because he had made a wrong turn and was trying to catch up with us. Luckily, he got off with just a ticket and nothing else. I was about 10 miles ahead of him and I wasn’t too concerned with being pulled over in Colorado but in the next 5 states, we had to drive through to get to our destination we could potentially run into trouble with a lawman. As Jay-Z so eloquently put it, the trunk was raw.
We were heading to a music festival in Michigan called Electric Forest. If you have never been to an electric music festival, it is like camping, with more music, girls wearing nothing…and drugs. On second thought…it’s just like camping. Really most music festivals are just an evolution of Woodstock in this day and age. This particular one centers around jam band and electronic music, however, it didn’t always. In fact, when it originally started it was called the Rothbury Festival and focused mainly on jam bands and rock and roll. In 2011, however, the new name and focus came about and since then this has been one of the bucket list music festivals for millennials.
I would write about the rest of the drive but honestly, once we left Colorado there wasn’t much to see on HWY 80. We did find out on the radio that we missed a tornado by about 20 minutes in Iowa. When we got to Indiana we experienced the worst traffic signage I have ever seen. It took us an hour and a half to go about 50 miles there. Once we escaped that hell we ended up in Michigan City, Indiana…go figure. We crashed at a crumby hotel as we couldn’t have gone to the festival grounds even if we wanted to. The entrance was shut down due to a storm and apparently a lot of lightning.
The next morning, we hit the crappy free breakfast in the lobby and then the Walmart for some last minute supplies. We had about 3 hours to Rothbury and the crew was anxious to get there. When we rolled into Michigan I began to realize that I kind of liked it there. In fact, by the end of the trip, I would say that it rose into one of my few states I actually like besides Colorado. It was green, definitely green and heavily wooded. I could do without the humidity but the mild temperature made it not so bad. I noticed that everyone I met seemed to be overly nice, which reminded me of Colorado.
When we pulled up to the festival grounds the stoke among the crew was high. I mean we drove 1200+ miles for this shit. After a quick search at the entrance, we were headed to our campground. They basically just file you in car after car and line you up with about an 8 to 20-foot section behind every car for your “campsite” and then it is a mad dash to set up. We got out camp situated and met our neighbors who were really cool. Once that was done we slammed some beers and headed into the main venue to go start listening to music.
One of the stages is right next to the entrance so as you approach and stand in line you are always hearing the music. I feel like this is awesome because it starts to get everyone really stoked even while they are just standing in line. The venue is absolutely amazing. Everything in there has some kind of story and the stages are all so unique. The absolutely coolest thing there is Sherwood Forest. It is this area with a few stages in it and endless other things to do and explore. There are hidden details in every corner of the forest. Secret sets happen all the time on the smaller stages and when the artists perform they are so close you can almost touch them. You feel like you are in a different world in there, like nothing and no one can get to you, and that’s not just the drugs talking. The amount of effort and thought that went into that place is absolutely amazing. My girlfriend and I spent most of our time in Sherwood Forest and I would recommend the same to anyone who ever attends the festival.
Let’s not forget this is a music festival though right? The first day we saw big gigantic who absolutely killed it. Honestly, I have seen these guys multiple times and have never been disappointed, not once. Friday we were set on seeing Black Tiger Sex Machine but stumbled on Big G playing in the forest beforehand. Again, Big G was sending it and they were so close I could touch them, absolutely unreal. The next day we headed to Sherwood Court stage and I saw and heard Black Tiger Sex Machine for the first time. I am not a dubstep fan and these guys made me their fan that day. Their set was some of the most impressive music and stage presence I have ever seen from a DJ or DJ group ever. After that, there was a run to the camp for drinks and some food, once we were back in we headed to Flume. I have only seen him 3 times live but every time he amazes me. That guy is so much deeper and more talented than his standard album songs suggest. He gets so scratchy and poppy with it up on stage it really is something to see. After that everyone else went to see Dillion Francis but Alexis and I went to explore Sherwood Forest.
We discovered a legitimate trading post where you could trade one of a kind items for another one of a kind items. There were signs about sustainability hung up all around the forest and amazing sculptures of goddesses and elephants. There was a chapel where they were marrying festival goers and holding drag shows. We stumbled upon what appeared to be a buried robot, called Mechan9 and it was covered in strange writing. We learned that there were clues all through the venue and you had to first get a decipher to figure out what the symbols meant. We decided to focus on other things instead but we heard someone got so far that they found an underground stash of food! We stayed in the forest until about 3:30 am that morning until we finally decided to call it quits and head back to camp.
Saturday, we headed out to see Trevor Hall and Mod Sun. Both of those guys put on a great show. It seemed that everyone was so happy to be performing in the forest. After that, it was beers and food and hanging out listening to The String Cheese Incident. After all, it really is their festival. They have been playing there since it started and it showed. They were set up for 3 different 5-hour sets which to me was insane. I do have to say they are pleasant to listen to. Later we headed to the ranch stage for DJ Snake. I was pretty stoked for that but I have to say I was disappointed. In fact, this was the only set I was disappointed in. So, Alexis and I headed back into the forest until it was time to turn in.
On our last day at the festival, we woke up to rain. Rain at a venue that is normally a horse pasture leads to a lot of mud…like a lot. We decided to take it a bit easy as we had already walked over 90 thousand steps in 3 days according to my phone. The rain continued most of the morning but when it let up we headed into the venue. Unfortunately, the rain and the massive amount of people had turned most of the stage areas into mud pits. We tried to make the best of it and saw a few acts but we were pretty beat and ended up heading back before the Bassnectar show. Apparently, we missed quite a show but we were content with an early bedtime as we had to get up early to head home the next day.
The drive back was a bit somber as I am sure everyone wanted to be back in the forest. The prospect of going back to reality was not something we wanted to think about. We stopped in Nebraska to crash in a hotel and break up the drive. The next day we were back in Colorado, back to our regular lives, until next time Electric Forest. – Martin Upton
Pictures by Martin Upton and Dave Heimer