By Anna Wright
Another year in the Rothbury forest has come to a close. It’s 2:00 AM, and as the last few notes ring out from Big Gigantic’s set at the Sherwood Court stage, theres a brief, but very pregnant pause. Suddenly fireworks explode, a thunderous roar erupts from the crowd and thousands of glowsticks fly into the air. The sky is a beautiful shade of inky blue and all of the stars are clearly in sight…above all of the massive clouds of dust. As a young festival-goer so expertly told me, “You just can’t come out here without some sort of protection for your lungs, whether it’s a bandanna, face mask or whatever.” Even through all the grit and grime in the air, the spirit of 20,000 people in the afterglow of four beauty, music, and art filled days couldn’t be quenched. The sleep deprivation faced by many seemed to be no match for the desire to take in every second of the last night on the Double JJ Ranch. Underneath the glimmering fairy lights of Sherwood Forest, in the rustic but luxe log cabin suites, and amongst the massive campground sea of tents and hammocks, people after-partied until long after the sun came up.
Electric Forest is in its second year, created to replace the former Rothbury festival which closed it’s doors in 2009. The festival contains an enormous variety of art, with everything from psychedelic paintings to five-foot tall neon mushrooms. There were lots of performers as well, like the ethereal circus-like contortionists dancing on lighted platforms throughout the festival. Every single one of the Double JJ Ranch’s 1000 acres looked and felt like a scene straight out of a Disney movie (think Alice in Wonderland meets Pirates of the Caribbean).There were vendors selling everything imaginable, from intricate light-up wigs and neon feather headdresses to eco-friendly water filters and hemp clothing. Workshops such as yoga, african drums, and hula hoop were held on the meadow in front of the tripolee stage, helping open-minded attendees try their hand at something new.The festival completely sold out this year, and in doing so local charities fulfilled their goals. Food drive partners Conscious Alliance collected over 7800 pounds of food during the festival, which will go to locals in need. The Music in Schools Program collected $10,000 that will help two local school districts foster and improve their music education programs.
For most attendees, the main draw of the festival was the unparalleled musical lineup. Whether it was the mystical jam band magic of String Cheese Incident, Bassnectar’s earthshaking EDM splendor, or the balmy reggae-inspired sounds of Thievery Corporation, music was the heart and soul of Electric Forest. Upbeat positive vibes were there to stay from early Thursday until the last set of speakers went mute on Monday morning.
As folks relaxed and reclined on the Ranch Arena’s massive lawn, people watching proved just as interesting as the performers on stage. With Rothbury being the hippie haven that it is, the expected free-spirited boho attire was present. Mixed in with all of the tie dye and ensembles that would make any gypsy proud were vibrant pops of neon and zany graphic prints, often worn all at once! “Everything that I buy and later realize I have nowhere to wear it to, I bring to Electric Forest,” explained a 20-something girl in head-to-toe sequins. “Anything goes here.” It seems as if the rising popularity of EDM has spurred a return of rave fashion, everything was seen from furry leg warmers to pacifiers on pony-beaded chains. Other 90s-inspired fashion was present as well: grunge was in the air with crop tops, combat boots and destroyed everything. People even suited up as characters from their favorite movies: there were Robin Hoods, Willy Wonkas, and at least a couple hundred pirates. Those dressed as Super Mario, Sailor Moon and Sonic the Hedgehog reminded us that in Rothbury, even video game characters are worth emulation.
With a multitude of lodging options, a variety of ticket types and countless activities, Electric Forest is slowly changing the age-old perception that four day festivals are only for rugged, Animal House types. From the peaceful Big Wildcat Lake to the hammocks strewn throughout Sherwood Forest, there’s a little bit of something for everyone. Yes, you can rage-but you can also rest. After it’s second inaugural year being such a success, fans have nothing to worry about. There will be more.
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