Electric Forest: Be Prepared, Be Excellent

(Originally published at ElectroJams.com on June 9 2014)

Going to a music festival is not as simple as hopping in a car and driving to the venue. Especially in the case of Electric Forest, spanning four long days with camping in a remote location, meaning you have to bring everything you’ll need when you’re awake, sleeping, dancing and quite a bit of walking.

I started to put together a post listing all the things I find great and the things I find not so great at music festivals, but then I thought it might be more helpful to ask for additional input from other festival goers, so I put out an informal poll to the Electric Forest and festivals subreddits asking for advice, lessons learned, grievances as well as what everybody is looking forward to at the Forest this year. As usual, the feedback from Reddit was both enlightening and entertaining.

The common answers for advice can be summed up with the Boy Scout motto: “Be prepared.” Do as much research and work ahead of time as you can, and a good starting point would be to find an online community to help you. I highly recommend consulting redditor Lsdryn’s post here outlining everything you’ll need for camping, VIP, rideshare, a meetup for redditors as well as Spotify playlists from the lineup. Taking care of your basic needs insures a good time for you as well as the people around you, so make sure to drink a lot of water. Bring a hydration pack (like Camelback, Osprey) or large water bottle to fill at the water stations in the festival grounds. Take it from the guy who passed out at Flaming Lips a few years ago, as well as during Dr. Dre’s incredible performance at Coachella in 2012. You don’t want to be the limp body people have to carry out of the way, and all you need to do to make sure that doesn’t happen is to see to it that your basic needs are met. You could potentially ruin the show for the people that have to help you, who will in turn never let you forget what you did to them, and you really, really don’t want that.

Plan what you can, plan every last detail if you feel the need, but make sure that you build in breaks and anticipate hiccups. Nothing will go exactly to plan, so just drop that expectation right now. Then consider that sometimes the things that feel like they are destroying our plans are actually illuminating an alternate path. Be open to change and be open to the people around you. The general rule is that the more you give yourself over to the experience, the better the experience will be for you. It was redditor Abelownesu’s answer that captured this idea best, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

If you’re going to rage, that rage is going to need fuel, so make sure you’re fed as well. Common suggestions are granola, fruit, nuts, veggies, jerky if you’re into meat, and pita with hummus. Also an easy solution that keeps well without refrigeration is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Coffee was a popular suggestion, adding that it’s great for making new friends with your neighbors who look like they had a particularly rough night. Having some kind of drink with electrolytes is a good idea, to offset all the sweating from the heat, dancing and walking.

I also asked why people chose Electric Forest in particular, and what everybody was most looking forward to. The following response from a seasoned veteran speaks to the full experience of the Forest:

“I’ve gone to both Rothbury festivals, and continued every year when it became electric forest. It’s my home away from home, my sanctuary and my sanity. It doesn’t matter who’s playing – I go for the atmosphere, the good vibes, and the forest – it’s a life changing experience that isn’t easy to explain. The music is just a bonus.” -/u/crazy_cat_mama

Interestingly enough, “people” was as popular a reason for coming to Electric Forest as “music” was, both narrowly beating out the 1,500 hammocks provided by ENO. The most popular answer united all the qualities of the Forest community, describing a sanctuary, friendly atmosphere and spiritual enlightenment. The last two answers were, “Looking for a place to call home,” followed by, “It is my home.”

It’s not all hearts and flowers, mind you. It certainly doesn’t all smell so sweet. The most popular grievance of this or any festival was the porta potties, in particular when they aren’t cleaned enough. Four days is a long time to be using the same hot plastic bathroom boxes as thousands of other people who may not be in the best state of mind when they’re fumbling in the dark, trying not to pee on themselves after waiting for 20 minutes in line. It’s a long time to have to squat and hover over the toilet seat for fear of catching or touching whatever is all over the lid, so make sure to bring baby wipes and that extra roll of toilet paper.

There were also a few answers from people who clearly had bad neighbors in years past, with complaints of late night noise and irresponsible festival goers who don’t know when to call it a night. It’s usually easier to bring earplugs than it is to convince your neighbors that the party is over, and to call it a night. The other complaint was about fellow festival goers who leave their trash for others to pick up, who litter despite having a trash can, composting bin and recycling bin every 40-50 feet in the campground and in the venue. Take care of the people around you, and don’t just be decent, be excellent to each other. I think this ties into one of the ways people consider the Forest to be their home, and that investments means cleaning up after yourself.

Lastly, you will inevitably learn valuable lessons at Electric Forest. To make sure you don’t learn them the hard way, make sure these are taken care of ahead of time so the lessons you learn are the good ones. Drink a lot of water, make it a goal to drink two gallons per day. Your body will thank you. Remember the basics like food and extra toilet paper. Be open, be friendly, be selfless and a caregiver. You are not alone, so don’t lose hope if you find you’ve forgotten something and likewise, make sure your neighbors are taken care of.

I’ll end with a quote provided by an anonymous, and rather insightful submission:

“No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride…and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well…maybe chalk it off to forced conscious expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.” -Hunter S. Thompson

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