I remember my first time. A little nervous, a bit of uncertainty and a natural high off of the excitement and anticipation. My mind was consumed with what I was about to experience and with questions about whether or not I was really prepared. Ready or not, we had arrived.
After a good 12 hours and two days on the road, we were finally creeping through the organized sea of cars entering the Double JJ Ranch in Rothbury, MI. The energy, the happiness and the pure bliss of everyone arriving at Electric Forest that day is nearly indescribable. Leading up to this weekend attending my first music festival – let alone my first Electric Forest – many friends found it hard to fully describe the Electric Forest experience. The most common depiction was always something along the lines of, “Just wait. You’ll see.”
During my initial walk-through of Sherwood Forest, it hit me. I remember turning to my best friend and with the biggest smile on my face just stating, “I get it. I finally understand.” In that moment, I understood why this festival is so special and why those who attend make the effort to return year after year.There’s something magical and freeing about being at Electric Forest that can only be fully appreciated after experiencing this festival first hand.
This year I’m returning to the forest and thought I’d share my own take on surviving Electric Forest for the first time.
AS A DISCLAIMER- This is in no way a complete or even necessary guide for all. I will be the first to admit I am a creature of comfort, and many of my suggestions will reflect that. I also encourage anyone to feel free to share their own suggestions.
GENERAL FESTIVAL TIPS
Expect Nothing and Be Surprised: Do not set expectations for yourself. Do not go in telling yourself this will be the best weekend of your life. Just let it happen, because it will naturally happen on its own. It’s good to keep a schedule in mind for what artists you want to see, but don’t follow it too strictly. You never know what you might experience or who you will meet by just going with the flow and not following a fully scheduled-out day.
Take Care of Each Other: Hopefully you are going with friends you can count on. Keep an eye on each other, know your own limits and know when to step in if you think someone is in need, whether it be friend or someone else at the festival. The med tent is your friend, and without sounding too mom-ish, it’s better to get help before it’s too late. Stay safe out there!
Water: Drink it. You do not realize how dehydrated you can become between all the walking you’ll be doing, all the sun you’ll be basking in and all the alcohol you probably will be consuming. My best advice: buy yourself a CamelBack or some other hydration pack. Having such a pack is easy to carry, and you’ll have water that’s easily accessible throughout the day. Electric Forest provides water refill stations throughout the campgrounds and within the festival venue.
Hammocks: Bring one or you’ll be disappointed you didn’t. ENO Hammocks are my preferred go-to, and if you forget, I’m sure reps will be on site and ever-willing to sell you one.
Cellphone Charging: Although there is a booth where you can charge your phone, for a fee, an external battery wouldn’t hurt to bring along.
Headlamp/Flashlight: Comes in handy for those walks at night back to your campsite or some adventures into the Porta Potties at night.
Gas & Jumper Cables: Make sure your tank is close to full before entering the festival and someone in your group has jumper cables. You do not want to be stranded when it comes time to leave the festival because of an empty tank or a dead battery.
Camping With Your Friends: If you are meeting friends, and you all drove in separate cars, meet up before getting to the festival so you all drive in together. If you are not together when you enter, it will be extremely difficult (if not impossible) for you to camp next to each other.
Porta Potties: As a girl and first timer, I just did not think I would be able to survive an entire four days using such a facility. Trust me – you will survive. Electric Forest is one of those festivals that does a great job of scheduling regular cleanings for them, but the best time to go would be early morning right after they do the first cleaning of the day. Also, BRING YOUR OWN TOILET PAPER. I really cannot stress that enough.
Showers: Some people can go the four days without water and/or soap touching their bodies. I am not one of those people. In general camping, there will be shower trailers available, and many take advantage of going to the Gold Rush Water Park located at Double JJ ($20 per visit, includes shuttle to and from, a towel, and a shower). For a more personal experience and to avoid leaving your campsite, I suggest a camping shower. Also, wet wipes/ baby wipes can really come in handy.
Food: Electric Forest has great food options (delish taco truck, I’m lookin’ at you!). However, in the interest of keeping costs down, I’ve found that bringing a camping grill and splitting some food costs with friends is the way to go. Our food of choices are usually of the breakfast variety and easy to make such as quesadillas and brats. An awesome breakfast saved many of us some days.
Garbage: It’s quite appalling the amount of trash left behind by festival attendees at a camping festival. Don’t be one of those camps to leave tents, trash, etc. just because you know someone else will come along and clean up the mess you left. Electric Forest has been striving to become greener by supplying garbage bags and recycling options. Take advantage of the festival’s green efforts. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to leave the fireworks and Chinese/Prayer lanterns at home. Those beautiful lanterns that light up the night’s sky do not disappear and usually end up on properties outside of the festival grounds.
It all started when a much younger Jackie dove into her parents’ record collection, grabbed that trippy Magical Mystery Tour album, and played “Strawberry Fields” over and over again until it was engrained into her soul. She grew up on the dreams and stories of Simon and Garfunkel, “Bleeker Street” being one of her favorites, the seduction of The Doors, Van Morrison, because “Brown Eyed Girl” is definitely her song, and the likes of Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Jimi Hendrix…you get the picture. It may not show on the outside, but Jackie has a hippie heart, and that reflects in her musical tastes today. While some of her favorites may or may not be jam bands, her taste in music feeds into many genres. From alternative, Brit, and indie rock - OK, maybe all rock - to pop, to rap, to electronic, she loves it all. As a northerner, she thought she would never understand country until she found herself on a Georgia farm in cowboy boots watching Luke Bryan shake it for her- yeah, she got that. She is a chronic wanderluster, she doesn't believe in guilty pleasures, enjoys a great Moscow Mule, and is an absolute music festival fanatic- you’ll find her wherever the music takes her.