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Revisting The Electric Forest (Essay and Gallery)
Once again the wintery weather has us pining for summer, so we present this extended look at the Electric Forest Festival, which took place at the The Double JJ Ranch in Rothbury, Michigan from June 28-July 1.
The beautiful 1,000 acre Double JJ Resort in Rothbury, Michigan, provided the perfect backdrop for festival goers this past weekend at Electric Forest Festival. Starting in 2008 as Rothbury Festival, Insomniac and Madison House Events continually strive to offer not only an eclectic array of music and art performances but also promote sustainability and overall improvements to the environment (Rothbury won the Greener Festival award in both 2008 and 2009). The festival took a one year hiatus in 2010 due to funding issues and was recreated in 2011 as Electric Forest after the ranch was bought by Progressive Resorts, LLC.
Energy was high as cars slowly trickled past security gates and onto the grassy and slightly dusty campground fields Thursday afternoon. Temperatures soared past 100 degrees in direct sunlight, making campsite setup and organization a little tougher than usual. Rolling into the campgrounds one caught a first glimpse at the festival grounds – a medium sized Ferris wheel in front of the Tripolee stage. Anticipation grew as fans got situated and met their neighbors, and a contest put on by the festival for the best campsite peaked creativity – canopies were lined with colorful tapestries, funky artwork and life-size cutouts of Snoop Dogg and Justin Bieber toting an unusually large blow up johnson. Individuals of all shapes and sizes began the nonstop four day party and originality and a sense of community were in full-force. The festival gates had not yet been opened, yet you had a sense that this was going to be a very special weekend you would not soon forget.
Once the festival gates were opened around 5:30 PM Thursday evening, we were free to roam the seemingly never ending gorgeous festival grounds. Entering the grounds was usually a smooth and painless process – security at the gates was minimal and the line was never longer than a fifteen minute wait during peak hours. Once inside, you were greeted by the Tripolee Stage and Ferris wheel. Next up you could either walk to the Ranch Stage (one of the main stages) or cruise on over to the Wagon Wheel Stage, located right next to one of the ranch’s lakes. The Wagon Wheel Stage featured both indoor and outdoor party spots, with sound quality excellent both inside and out. The Ranch Stage was surrounded by an enormous field dotted with trees and a slight slope making the stage easily viewable from most spots in the crowd. Wandering further into the grounds led you to the most spectacular commodity of the event: The Sherwood Forest.
It is incredibly difficult to articulate the magic created by the ‘Forest’; the massive amount of light instillations in their own rite was breathtaking but only touches the tip of the iceberg. The forest was filled with thousands of hammocks tied to skinny pine trees, with two large pathways leading from the Ranch Stage to the Sherwood Court Stage. Amidst the trees were several different art instillations including a giant crazy four sided clock in the middle of the madness. Wander further you found several bars illuminated by black lights, maze-like constructions created out of spandex material, and performance artists including several very attractive girls dressed as mimes. Two stages were located within the forest – the festival’s official Forest Stage, which despite its lower sound quality allowed you to get your groove on among the craziness in the woods, or the Sollun stage, a solar powered stage inside of a pirate-ship like construction. Day or night, one could spend hours wandering through the forest, never ceasing to be amazed by the quality and quantity of impressive artwork and obvious planning that went into creating this wonderful environment. The Sherwood Forest was hands down the highlight of everyone’s weekend.