Home, Love, and Family: The Pillars of Electric Forest, and Why We Keep Coming Back
written by Don Idio
Electric Forest at a glance
To thousands of festival goers, Electric Forest is home in every sense of the word. It is where the closest of friends can reconnect after months apart, or where relationships unchallenged by distance can find new strength in closeness. It is where members of the Forest Fam, as devoted attendees refer to themselves, come together as their most unique and most free. What started as Rothbury, a jam band/rock festival first held in 2008 by Madison House Presents, has become a leader in EDM/jam band crossover curation after a hiatus in 2010, followed by a partnership with EDM promoter Insomniac and rebranding as Electric Forest. Read on to learn everything you need to know to have a successful Forest, and find out why we’re among those who call the Forest home.
Music genre: Progressive/Deep/Tech/Future House, Glitch Hop, Funk, Rock, Soul, Bluegrass, Indie, Jazz, Trap, Dubstep, Bass
Camping: Car and RV camping, separated by a security checkpoint into the main venue
Capacity: Medium-Large (around 45,000 people)
Crowd type: A true melting pot, where individuality is encouraged. Mix of young and old, rave babies to Dead heads, all who share the same love of music no matter the style.
Water stations: Yes
For the first-timers
Electric Forest is located at 7100 South Water Road, Rothbury, Michigan. Pro tip: stop for food and supplies in the city of Muskegon, where US-31 and US-96 meet, just 30 minutes from Electric Forest.
We’re big fans of road trips, but for attendees who choose to fly, we recommend landing at Detroit Metro Airport. The rest of the trip is about a four hour drive that can be made via rental car or official Electric Forest Shuttle. In 2016, official shuttles were offered from Detroit, downtown Chicago, Chicago O’Hare, Grand Rapids Regional Airport, and Grand Rapids Greyhound Station. Prices vary depending on where you come from, so refer to the website for those details. Unofficial shuttles are also offered by third parties, but origin cities vary by year (information is updated here on EF’s website).
You can also fly into Grand Rapids Regional Airport, which would put you at an hour and a half drive from festival grounds, but fewer flights means this option is generally more expensive. Uber is available in Grand Rapids, but we have yet to talk to anyone who has Ubered from there to Rothbury (aka be wary of steep prices).
Last but certainly not least, thanks to EF’s far reaching community, ride sharing is a great option for meeting festie friends and cutting down on travel costs. Jump on the Electric Forest forum to check on ride sharing here.
Camping is the only way to go at EF, and general admission camping is by far the most plentiful and popular option. The earlier you arrive the better your spot will be (i.e. closer to the venue entrance), but don’t fret if you end up way back in Blueberry. Complimentary shuttles run from the furthest ends of the campgrounds to the entrance gates every five minutes. Food, general supplies, and merch can be found on Main Street. Showers are $10 for GA.
Group camping is the only way large groups (20 or more) can guarantee a spot together, but you really have to be on your shit to snag a group camping spot…they go fast and can be a challenge to coordinate (getting all your friends on the same page is the responsibility of individual groups). That said, having a crew of 20+ means someone will always be hanging around camp, and you’ll always have friends to catch a set with.
There’s not much to say about RV camping, other than that it exists and is great for people with RVs. Aside from a very small tent camping only area, Maplewoods is the only spot that keeps cars at a distance. Camp in the woods with access to private air conditioned restrooms and showers. There’s also a central hang out area for lounging and making new friends. Finally, Good Life camping is EF’s version of VIP camping, and boy is it worth it. A premium, spacious, secured campground with unbelievably convenient entrances, Wednesday night entrance, and VIP-only after hours sets leave Good Life campers with some of the best stories of the weekend.
Electric Forest has eight unique stages, plus two small unnamed spots tucked away in the forest and a comedy stage. Tripolee hosted lots of trap and bass music from the likes of Nghtmre, Flosstradamus, Apashe, and Slander. Colorful pillars were added since last year to enhance the theme, and those looking for a different point of view could ride the ferris wheel adjacent to the stage. Further inside at the Electric Glen was a small tent where artists such as Bass Physics, Papadosio, Jackal, and The Floozies drew crowds to discuss their experience in the music industry.
Sherwood Forest holds The Observatory, the Silent Disco, and the aptly named Forest Stage. The Observatory is a medium sized stage with the only multi-level viewing area complete with a bar that saw acts ranging from Mija b2b Brillz b2b Nghtmre b2b 12th Planet (yeah, it was a lot) to an All Good Records Jam. The Silent Disco is definitely a must-do; choosing between two different channels is super fun, especially when you find yourself dancing with someone listening to a different rhythm. The Forest Stage, which kept the special effects to a minimum save for a steady flow of fog, hosted several bass and deep house artists including a secret Gorgon City set.
The Hangar is a post-war America themed area with lots of jazz and jam bands, plus a few Hoop Troupe performance showcases (shoutout to Melissa Daly and Robert Alberstein for being especially memorable). Free, theme-oriented activities were offered here as well, see Things to do. Beyond The Hangar at the farthest end of the grounds is the Jubilee Stage, a large tent with Gatsby-esque decor (think chandeliers and drapery).
The second largest stage, Sherwood Court, could be identified by a laser-filled sky and featured sets by the likes of Savoy, Hermitude, GriZ, and Porter Robinson. Ranch Arena, the main stage, was home to all three of The String Cheese Incident’s sets, including Saturday’s festivities complete with aerial artists, massive balloons released over the crowd, confetti showers, and fireworks.
- Duke Dumont foreshadowing the weekend glory to come with his sparkling, emotional set; perfectly balanced by 12th Planet rattling the crowd with intense grime stylings later that night at Jubilee
- Catching a few notes of Alina Baraz’ ethereal voice before crowding into The Observatory and anxiously waiting to find out who would appear for the This Song Is Sick Secret Set
- Adventure Club dropping Blink-182’s “First Date”, and us actually believing that moment really could last forever
- Mija b2b Anna Lunoe being the most exquisite expression of girl power that exists
- The calm that descended upon the crowd as the lights went down, just before Bassnectar took the stage…I had chills
Things To Do
- For $20, attendees can spend time in the lazy river and water slides of Gold Rush Water Park
- Get your yoga fix in with Hannah Muse at the Tripolee stage
- Watch multiple painters work on live art scattered throughout the venue
- Hang out in The Hanger and get a temporary tattoo at the tattoo parlor, relax with a buffing massage (they used real car buffers, its heavenly), or playing a game of pool
- EXPLORE THE FOREST! Channel your inner wanderer, find out what’s hidden in the trees, and definitely carve out some time to post up in a hammock
VIP or nah
Though a Good Life ticket is double the price, I’d say it’s well worth it. Good Life is allowed Wednesday arrival, and is met with a party full of free food and craft beer. Air conditioned bathrooms and free showers are relatively uncrowded, and two shortcuts into the venue lead directly to Sherwood Forest and Ranch Arena, cutting down your travel time. Ground-level VIP viewing areas are available at Tripolee, Ranch Arena, and Sherwood Court. A 24-hour Good Life Express Shuttle easily connects The Good Life Village with Back 40, the GA campground, and the water park. All that said, the most compelling reason to opt for VIP is the renowned after parties and secret sets (featuring epic b2b2b2b sets) that go all night long at a stage situated among the campground.
contributed by Ariana Assaf
I arrived at Electric Forest with a standard 25 oz camelbak water bottle, but quickly realized that I’d have to invest in one of Vibedration’s hydration backpacks in order to avoid spending hours refilling. Though water stations existed, they weren’t the most convenient nor the best organized, and I decided buying a $25 two-liter rainbow camelback with a unicorn riding a dinosaur was the way to go. But on Saturday night, after having made what will go down in Forest history as the Porter-to-Nectar hop and finally finding myself sweating like a maniac at Floss, it ran out. So I danced right up to some nice looking hippie wearing a platypus onesie, and started drinking out of his camelbak.
Fast forward to Monday morning after having roamed giddily, dirtily, and aimlessly all night long. My platypus friend laid down in the middle of the campground, and even though I knew I had to leave because it was almost 9:30 and my friends had flights to catch, I laid down too.
I laid down because in that moment he was everything—just as much as Bassnectar is earth-shattering and Forest is home—and I wanted to keep myself surrounded by everything and life as I knew it for as long as possible. I curled up a little and cried, because I knew that getting up and walking away, leaving the festival ten minutes later, leaving Michigan two months later to do God knows what would be close to the hardest thing I’ve had to do thus far; it would certainly be the most confusing. I cried because I knew all this, and because I knew that I would do it anyway. Wish me luck, Forest Fam. I wish you all the same.
Check out our full photo gallery here.