Electric Forest Weekend 1: A Peek Between the Trees

Written by Ariana Assaf

Photos by Billy Lawrence

I can’t move my neck. My feet are covered in blisters. I’ve never been so relieved to take a shower in my life…and I wouldn’t have it any other way. What on God’s green earth is wrong with me? That depends on who you ask, but at the moment the more important question is: “How was Electric Forest?”

It was everything.

My neck is stiff from headbanging to Whethan with the zaniest person I know. We met at Forest last year, and Whethan’s set was a more perfect reunion than I could have possibly asked for. My feet are destroyed because I prefer the sting of hydrogen peroxide to the sting of a wasted opportunity to dance. Baby wipes and dry shampoo did enough; I know that because my Forest Fam pulled me just as close at the beginning of the weekend when none of us could contain their enthusiasm, as they did at the end of the weekend when I was so tired all I could do was flop all over them.

For four days, I was surrounded by 40,000 other people just as eager to indulge in the ridiculous as I was. The weekend was full of random, wonderful interactions that only felt they way they felt and happened the way they happened because of where we were, and that’s the best part. Whether they knew it or not, these beautiful Faces of the Forest let me crawl inside a piece of their lives during my walk on the festie wild side, and I’m back to tell you all about it…

 

The Snuggler

There’s nothing better than a solo adventure that leads you to the best set of the weekend. On Friday night, I took the road less traveled straight to NoMBe while my friends were at Pendulum/TROYBOI, and skipped right in to the Jubilee tent just as Noah McBeth’s angelic voice started on the first chorus of “Can’t Catch Me.” Though not exactly bursting at the seams with people trying to squeeze inside, the tent was exploding with the electro-soul singer’s talent. It totally made me feel like the cool girl who’s in on the secret of small artists before they blow up — mark my words, you won’t be able to escape NoMBe’s name by this time next year —  and I took advantage of the space by skipping around the tent’s circumference for the entire set.

On the way to my next destination, the sweetest girl you ever saw popped her head out of her hammock like a cuckoo in a clock and said, “Hey! Do you have time to warm me up?” Through the trees I could hear Chris Lake setting the Forest Stage on fire with the sonic sriracha he was pouring all over your typical bland deep house set. But it was still early, so I crawled right in, and in six seconds flat she had my flannel wrapped around both of us, her head in my shoulder, and muddy shoes intertwined with mine.

She felt just like my sister, which I told her. It was how I knew without a shadow of a doubt I had found the right cuddle buddy. She proceeded to tell me all about her five siblings: the two who are her best friends, the one she keeps trying but can’t seem to crack, the youngest and oldest of the family who she feels are just too far away from her own reality to really connect with even though in theory she’d like to (she’s in the middle). We saw the second half of Chris Lake together, I dropped her off with her friends just as Odesza began before I found my own group’s totem in the crowd, and we went our separate ways with the world’s greatest snuggle under our Forest belts.

 

The Ben & Jerry’s of Kombucha

So I did a dumb thing. I kinda sorta maybe forgot that glass is a big no no and tried to bring six bottles of turmeric kombucha in my cooler. Oops. Lucky for me, the Forest gods brought Buchi Kombucha and all of it’s deliciously detoxifying goodness to Rothbury this year, so I wasn’t entirely shit out of luck.

Buchi baby emerged out of my post-Odesza haze like the most hydrating dream you could imagine — is this getting too close to a wet dream analogy? — and my eyes actually rolled to the very back of my head when I took my first sip. I give the kombucha itself 80% of the credit for my dramatic reaction, 20% goes to the cute kombucha boy who poured it for me and that freaking smile…can girls even have wet dreams? Who knows.

My brain was saying “Go see Barclay Crenshaw!” but other parts of me were saying “Goddamn all these samples he keeps pouring are tasty.” One of them reminded me of root beer, and I wondered aloud if it would taste good with ice cream. Kombucha boy grabbed some milk and told me to drink what he was about to pour fast or else the milk would curdle. It tasted exactly like a root beer float, my favorite thing in the whole entire world (right after sushi and carrot cake).

“Go see Barclay Crenshaw!” My brain does not give up without a fight. “I have to go see Barclay Crenshaw,” I said. My brain patted itself on the back. Kombucha boy came out from behind the table to give me a hug goodbye. It was the best hug ever. We started making out under my scarf, and my brain gave up. I missed Barclay Crenshaw.

Oops.

 

The Wedding Planners

There are a lot of things to be felt at Electric Forest, first and foremost of which is love. Mr. Nectar said it best on Saturday night with a little help from Bill Hicks and the Life is a Ride bit, which the most loyal of bassheads tell me has only ever been played one other time in 2015, at the basshead mecca that is Red Rocks. The thread of love ran strong before, during, and after my festival experience, but no two people personified it more than Brittyn Anderson and Nick Lavelle.

These two lovebirds met in 2010 at the tire shop where Nick worked as an oil tech. Brittyn showed up for her car an hour after the shop had closed, and managed to convince her hubby-to-be to help her get her car back after a few phone calls to computer savvy co-workers and lots of running around to get exact change. She returned three days later with more tire trouble, and left with his phone number. Their first date was at 6:30am on Black Friday: she had a break from dealing with Thanksgiving shoppers, and he got to work early to help her eat the cookie cake she had brought for the occasion.

Fast forward to a year and a half ago, and the two went in on a house just north of Chicago together. In December Nick decided he was going to propose. “Every time we go to festivals, we go in a couple’s costume. I’m kind of an eccentric individual, so Electric Forest seemed like the right opportunity.” They dressed as Link and Princess Zelda — characters from one of their favorite video games — on Nectar Day, and Nick had his friends stand guard over the centerpiece of the stunt: a tricked out treasure chest, complete with a ring, designed to look like it was glowing from the inside as it does in the game.

He led Brittyn to its hiding spot after the set, and managed to pull off the proposal in the midst of some mischievous Forest dwellers trying to steal what they thought was a festival sanctioned prize! The happy fiancees tell me that though this was their first Electric Forest, it certainly won’t be their last. After all, they’ve got a whole lot more love to give and plenty of stellar couples costumes up their sleeves to last for years to come. “We’re a pretty normal weird couple. We spend a shitload of time together, and we loved spending time together here.”

 

The Cake House Dwellers

“There’s always room for you in the trap house.” A sweet sentiment written on the second of three climb-able floors in a hut shaped like a square wedding cake, smack in the middle of the forest. If you were wondering, Festival Squad’s social media handles are in there now too. I had made it a goal to return to my favorite installation at least once, and let me tell you, it’s a weird place. That’s probably why I like it so much: the colors are always off in there, it’s too quiet, an amateur photographer pops their head in about every 20 minutes or so and makes everyone pose. Sometimes they hand out business cards, usually they try to get everyone to follow them on Instagram.

Granted, the cake house is no less weird than the rest of the forest…maybe it just feels extra strange because it’s so small, like someone zoomed in on the perfect sample of “fuck real life”-ness and complete lack of social norms. Seriously, it takes a lot of motivation (and maybe even a yoga class) to fit in there. Once you’re inside, there’s not a whole lot to do other than pat yourself on the back, tag the wall, and try to keep climbing. The top level is largely reserved for the Lords and Ladies of the Trap House, i.e. the people who have been in there the longest…maybe all day? I like them because they’re consistently shifty, but they make sure everyone gets a good tour of the place eventually. Last year I met a girl who was an Olympic ranked surfer at 14, this year I met a boy who had been roadtripping around the US by himself for the past seven months.

I can’t help but wonder if any of the people I came across in there go home and tell their friends about me. Did I stick out? Am I part of that supernatural microcosm of Forest creatures who all stay there just as long, regardless of if they sit at the top all day or pass through the bottom level between sets? Do I want to be? Do I have a choice? I should probably think about something else now.

 

The Hooper

I owe my favorite story of the weekend to a nice hooper chick who asked me if I could hold her glowing accessory while she dug for a sweatshirt on Sunday night. I was on my way to my second hammock sesh of the weekend, because I too was getting chilly, but stopped and chatted with her while she layered up. We bonded over both being from California and hating it, I caught her eyeliner as it came flying out of her bag, and she offered me her last stick of spearmint gum. She talked about how much warmer it was in the crowd, and how rough the walks between sets had been all night. I wondered to myself if it would have been more bearable had she been wearing something a little heavier on top of the pasties and smiley face underwear she was rocking.

She told me about the boy who had put her on his shoulders at Snakehips, and how great of a kisser he was, while showing me how to twirl her hoop around my arm. She asked about my best DFMO of the weekend, the hoop almost flew off. I told her about kombucha boy — “The one with that freaking smile!” she squealed — and the hoop settled into a rhythm just below my elbow as Kombucha boy’s natural reputation settled into my non-Barclay Crenshaw seeing brain. “Was that you last night?”

I smiled and shook my head no, a motion that didn’t agree with the trajectory of the hoop. This time it really did fly off, and we were beside ourselves with giggles chasing it across Sherwood Court. The laugh attack we survived is the most memorable and most impossible bit of the weekend to describe…suffice it to say that she asked me if I wanted to join her for Dillon Francis, and I told her I preferred to watch him on Snapchat. But I made sure she knew where the kombucha truck was.

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