So, here you are, cruising out to the Midwest or carpooling up I-69 through Indiana, making your first journey to the one and only Rothbury, Michigan to take part in the epic Electric Forest Music Festival. Hosted by Double J Ranch off the shore of Lake Michigan this holds a special place for the 40,000+ visitors who inhabit this town annually. Below are some tips to help you make the most of your first Electric Forest.
The conditions of Electric Forest is like Burning Man meets EDC… on a much lighter level. It’s a rather lengthy festival that hosts interactive art, where you’ll have to endure various weather elements, but with onsite amenities there is no true threat to raver survival.
Campers can stay from Tuesday-Monday but the festival runs Thursday-Sunday, . That’s nearly a week. In the northern Midwest. In the summer. On the shore of a lake. The point being is that you should expect to deal with heavy sunlight and musty dust storms one afternoon while also coming prepared to swim out of your tent the next morning. Even the best meteorologist couldn’t predict the weather so plan ahead and pack smart.
Set up camp
First things first- whether you brought the whole squad or bunkering down with just a couple of close friends, you’ll want a safe and cozy space to make your new home away from home. While it’s easy to overlook the need to set up an elaborate camp at a festival…. after all, you’re there for the event, not to kick it in a tent all day! you’ll be happy you did. Bring coolers, grills, blow up furniture, comfy blankets, whatever you want and settle in for the weekend. Lastly, I feel like this should be known by now, but if you take it in you bring it out, don't be those people who leave their stuff at a fest they’re 10x worse than people who leave shopping carts in grocery store parking lots.
Get to know Main Street
Main Street, which is located just outside of the festival entrance, is an amazing spot to visit a wide variety of skilled artists and vendors, sample the many food options, or use as a meeting spot for current and new friends. It’s also the location of the Brainery, a small, public stage where you can participate in anything from comedy to group meditation. Its a vibe to say the least plus when it’s 3 am and you find yourself overwhelmed by the crowds, lights, and heavy bass from the stages, Main Street can be a welcome break from the action.
Get to know the stages and their crowds
Electric Forest has seven official stages, and each offers its own epic experience. First on the list and right as you enter the venue you’ll arrive at Tripolee, a vast, open plain next to a mysterious themed stage. Soooo where my headbanger’s at? Many bass heads will spend their entire day at Tripolee without even bothering to enter the forest. As we continue this journey you’re met with a giant clearing in the trees known as the Ranch Arena – the largest stage at the festival, and the setting for what many consider the festival’s main event: a three-hour jam session by The String Cheese Incident followed by a transcendent show the resident DJ... Bassnectar.Once you’ve passed the Ranch, you finally reach Sherwood Forest, home of both The Observatory (an intimate elliptical venue that will host anything from dance troupes to headliners and vaudevillian acts) and The Hive (a smaller stage that opens to a more laid-back portion of the forest perfect for lounging while listening to a new artist). Northwest of Sherwood you’ll pass on to sweet sweet Jubilee (a giant, tented dance floor that hosts a variety of eclectic acts) as you approach The Hanger, a fascinating trip through prohibition-era Americana and home to the Carousel Club, a cabana-themed indoor venue often playing host to some of the more live-performance-oriented under card, such as Too Many Zooz. Leave the hanger and to your east and you’ll find yourself at last entering Sherwood Court, a larger, grassy arena that exists as a melodic EDM Yin to Tripolee’s headbanging Yang.
Photo credit: @fegonzalezm
Explore the forest, The Hanger, indulge your curiosity and talk to performers
As at many festivals music is only a fraction of what’s an option for guests at Electric Forest. The Hanger by itself offers hair stylists, massages, a tattoo parlor, an old-fashioned candy shop, a game room, and a mysterious time travel agency. A large covered beer garden stands at the back of Sherwood Court. Sherwood Forest is populated by countless strange and wondrous art installations, hammocks, and even an organ where you can hold your own soulful show or perhaps stumble across an impulsive performance from one of the festival’s acts. There are fun houses and a silent disco. There are scavenger hunts, secret passages and hidden puzzles may reward the diligent with exclusive festival perks or entry to the mythical Poetry Brothel. The festival is bristling with costumed performers who may point you in the direction of an unlisted venue or underground speakeasy if you take the time to chat. There’s a Ferris Wheel, hot air balloon rides, and shuttles to both a water park and the nearby Lake Michigan beaches. It’s nearly impossible to run out of things to do, so don’t worry if you find yourself overwhelmed – you aren’t going to experience everything the Forest has to offer on your first visit, and that’s the way it’s meant to be. Not everything has to be an elaborate puzzle, either. If nothing else, you can engage in a number of EF traditions – barter for unique trinkets at the Trading Post, leave a meaningful gift at the Giving Tree, find out what’s up with all the phones scattered through the woods, or finally learn what happened to Carl! While I generally lean on the side of staying off your phone at festivals, it’s not a bad idea to keep an eye on social media, as the festival coordinators and performers themselves are fond of catching festival-goers off-guard with last-minute announcements, surprise performances, and interactive events throughout the weekend.
Hit up the RVs
You may recall earlier when I mentioned 7 “official” stages . This is because at Electric Forest, the party doesn’t end when the festival grounds close. Once everyone is herded back in the camping grounds at 4am, the true night warriors aka Team No Sleep will head to an unofficial secondary venue that OG’s refer to as “the RVs.” As the name implies, this is a section of the campground that’s occupied by campers traveling in recreational vehicles, but invariably there are a number of these vehicles (or buses, or other art cars) modified to function as DJ stages, complete with concert-quality PA systems. Every year, without fail, an assortment of both unknown and A-list acts will find their way onto these makeshift stages to perform an impromptu show as the sky begins to glow a faint orange above the treeline.
Your Guide for a Virtual Rave
With almost every major music festival canceled or rescheduled in 2020, the coronavirus has driven the festival season to a halt. Festival goers around the world have had to change their plans and adjust to the new norm of raving from home.
Fortunately for us, the EDM community and some of the world's biggest DJs have come together to host virtual live streams providing us with the sets we have longed for, except now from the comfort of our homes.
We had the opportunity to catch up with Carissa AKA the “Stream Queen” who is an avid festival goer and completely fell in love with raving 6 years ago when she attended Das Energi Festival in Salt Lake City. We asked her several questions about what her experience has been like transitioning from in-person raves to live streams and she was kind enough to share several helpful tips on how to maximize the experience!
What would you say has been the top virtual experience so far?
“Tomorrowland’s Around the World Virtual Festival blew everything out of the water. It was the only live stream so far where they actually charged money and that got you access to their online platform and interactive world. They had 8 different stages on an island and you would have to click each stage to see the artists playing. Having gone to Tomorrowland twice in person, I can say that it actually felt like you were there. They even had set time conflicts that gave you that real festival feel. They created a crowd and added in sound effects which I thought I wouldn’t like initially but it added to the experience. Overall, it just felt real and all the DJs took it seriously playing full-on festival sets and dropping new unreleased songs.”
What Have DJs done that have stood out?
“The one that comes to mind is David Guetta and the set he played at Tomorrowland’s virtual event because he showed a completely different side to his music. I think when DJs step out of their comfort zone and don’t just play their normal type of set it really helps them stand out. This is a perfect environment to do that.”
What are some tips on how to make the most out of a Virtual Event?
- “Bring the Magic to you! Decorate your house to make it feel like you are there. Little things that you can get from amazon like adding flowers, flags, and bubbles can go a long way.
- Putting LED string lights around the house to give you that Festival feel.
- If you have speakers, hook them up to the TV! Sound quality can definitely improve the experience.
- Dress up like you are going to the festival to get the full rave experience!
- Last but not least, having a small group of your friends over to enjoy the experience together."
Even though we are all missing the in-person experience a festival would give us, we can still do our best to have fun and bring the same type of energy a rave would give us to our home. We wanted to give a special thanks to Carissa to help us do just that by sharing her advice and tips to make the most of our situation. You can find Carissa on IG @streamqueen_xo or check out the events she is promoting as a brand manager with @pollen.
Sending you all good vibes and great health. #livevaravasa
This blog was written and sponsored by VARAVASA.