Sunday started even later than Saturday. We stayed up just as late, but in the morning (11:30), I felt zero rush, which was a welcome feeling.
Instead of basing our day’s start off the music schedule, we decided to make the Forest our destination because, well, it’s the Forest, and we haven’t historically made it a priority.
We thoroughly explored the Jenkstars’ “SoLLun,” which showcased methods and inventions for living in a more environmentally conscientious way, like homemade rain barrels and electricity generators, but they also had a photo booth, a DJ booth and a couple stages for live music. It was a beautiful and education entertainment complex constructed entirely of used materials.
At one end, they’d set up a post office, complete with postcards that they stamp and seal at the end of the festival. We took somebody’s suggestion to address the postcard to ourselves, then pass the cards around the group and send them without looking at them, so in a week or so after the festival, when you’re really missing the Forest, you have a little piece of it delivered to your mailbox.
We scaled a set of steps and wound up a trippy lookout tower, with psychedelic (let’s be honest, pretty much everything in the Forest is psychedelic, but these were particularly so) artwork on the walls and little viewing windows on all sides. I glimpsed the giant pink beehived vampire-like ladies making their way through the trees, and on my way down the stairs, found a magical dragon moss creature I’d somehow missed on the way up. He was smiling, but I couldn’t tell if it was a happy to see you kind of smile, or more of a mischievous “don’t turn your back” sort. It wasn’t until later when I looked at all the pics I snapped when I realized its eyes had been changing colors, so maybe that accounted for the shifting purpose for that wide smile.
We made our way back to Tripolee for the end of Alison Wonderland who’d worked up a massive crowd into a frenzy, followed by TOKIMONSTA, with a significantly smaller and less rowdy audience. We were in the back, in front of the ferris wheel for a group photo, and I watched a female Peter Pan get stopped by what looked like a big bro who I assumed was going to yell at her about how hot she looked, but my expectations were not even close to met. He held out his hand, palm up, and she put her hand on his. He lowered himself into a bow and kissed the top of her hand. She giggled, curtsied, then sauntered off.
After a couple rotations on the ferris wheel, we pressed back into the Forest for more SNBRN, who looked to have brought a few friends with him. Indeed, Louis the Child, Dr. Fresch, and Autograf were all up with him, dancing and taking turns at the decks. It was around this time that I all but gave up on “seeing” the music, and instead opted to sit and witness everything around me.
There was a vanity and bedroom set up not far from us, where I watched two players in a game where the well-dressed man (Maybe 1930’s era) flirtatiously taught a young woman in a somewhat modest bodysuit how to juggle.
Lady Casa was in the house, with a troupe of her own, and made her way to the bedroom set and surroundings to pose for a few pictures and freshen up at the vanity.
We ended our Sunday at Sherwood Court for Goldroom, Gramatik, and finally Big Gigantic’s show with The Motet. Allegedly, Griz was onstage at some point, and possibly one or both members of Cherub. I honestly don’t know, because again, I was through with this standing business. From our vantage point in the back, all we could see was an orgy of totems in a shifting mess of colors. Even the music was a little difficult to hear at times. They needed some Charles Bradley volume adjustments, or additional speaker stack further back, or something.
Once Big G finished up, we darted back to try and catch the rest of Paul Oakenfold’s set. As soon as we go in front of the stage at Tripolee and were basking in the glory of electro-house, it felt like home. It felt like that’s where we belonged, and without a doubt we were finally in the right place. I was back on my feet, I was dancing and not caring about anything. The music was in me, and I welcomed it fully. We got to hear most of one song, and just like that, it was over. Is there another name or term for musical blue balls? If not, then the musical blue balls I got at that moment were just an incredibly deep blue. Painfully blue.
So we limped back into the Forest and found a music coming from the Sollun…it was house and it seemed to beat to the same rhythm as my heart, or maybe it was the other way around. I later learned this was the Illuminarium, and the theme was “Under the Sea Prom meets Speakeasy SoLLun run by next level permaculture mad scientists.” I was so happy to find them, and be able to milk a little more experience from the Forest.
Afterwards, we posted up against some trees near a couple sets of furniture that faced a series of fully-loaded bookshelves. There would be an occasional impromptu literature reading, and glowstick art, and a general sense of love. Eventually, even staff swept through and asked everybody to make their way out, and we reluctantly obliged.
It is sobering to walk out of the Forest, where they’re turning on standard, harsh white floodlights and into the Ranch Arena, under similarly bright light conditions where they’re already dismantling the stage. The Forest is being pieced apart around you, and there’s nothing you can do but start the countdown over until next year.
The twists and turns of our exit from the forest continued through camping, towards a party at a set of RV’s across a path from where we’d been camped. There was very little room, and we had to wait for people to leave to get in, and for more people to leave to get to the music. We could see very clearly it was Dominic and Jeremy from Big Gigantic up on top of the RV’s. Dom had his sax strung to himself and stood hunched over a pair of decks and a mixer. Jeremy looked to be sitting at a small child drum set. They both played at lower than usual volume. It was difficult to hear at first because they were facing away. As we pushed our way inside, the music got louder and the crowd a little more crazy. Eventually we got around the last RV to see they’d created a kind of makeshift courtyard with three RV’s, and they had the music pointed down into the crowd. More people joined them atop the RV’s, which turned out to be Cherub, while they kicked out a DJ set. Their playlist was almost entirely not Big Gigantic. They were essentially DJing a house party. They may have been restrained, but they still played their asses off to a crowd of four or five hundred people as the sunrise painted the sky a deep, then brighter and brighter shade of pink.
Dom gave a heartfelt thanks to everybody there, to their fans, to Cherub, to the Forest, and celebrated with a group photo.
At some point, Electric Forest stops being a music festival, a place where thousands of people gather around a series of stages where music is broadcast live. This transcendence doesn’t take long to happen, and when it does, you are enveloped in with everybody sharing in it, twisted and turned over like a human rock tumbler as you listen to each other’s stories and learn how they tick.
In the end, I lost the purpose I’d started my journey with, to capture the music experience of Electric Forest in pictures and words. But with that purpose, I also let go of expectations, baggage, grief, and grudges. I gave up the fight upstream and went where I went to see and hear whatever I crossed paths with. Instead of musicians on an elevated stage, it was people at eye level. There was less running, more wandering. The most important thing wasn’t a thing at all, it was my Forest family.