When Insomniac and Madison House Presents throws a festival in 80 acres of wild forest in Michigan, you know it's bound to get weird. Here are sixteen of the most fantastic, bizarre, and at times, slightly uncomfortable things that I encountered during my four days in the Forest.
If you find yourself hovering around the "hippy" side of the festival scene then you should be pretty familiar with the art of the totem. Picture Gandalf's staff plus some wacky lights and maybe some "enhancers" and you'll be right on the money. They're great for keeping a crew together, sword fighting and, most importantly, decorating the crowd with some visual goodness. My crew decided to construct our own "orb staff" and let's just say it was an awesome addition to the weekend.
They might as well have named this festival Electric Hammock because these things were everywhere and I felt left out because I didn't have one (poor me). The forest was covered in hammocks—some strung as high as forty feet in the air. Watching hippies climb trees is an afternoon of entertainment, believe it or not. You might see five or six hammocks directly on top each other, something I deemed the "hippy stack." Convenient for passing joints.
I was wondering where he's been hiding this whole time….
Upon a mere few minutes in the forest I started to hear festival-goers screaming in unison "CAAAARL—WHERE'S CARL?" It was all very confusing but upon some further research I learned that Carl is a lost forest festival legend. Apparently Carl went missing in 2008 and festie hoppers have been searching for him ever since. It was pretty amazing to see one person start the chant and before you knew it the whole forest was screaming Carl's name. Let's hope we find the guy one day.
5. This guy
You see a lot of weird shit at festivals but this guy in the blue shirt might have taken it to the next level. After relieving himself while sleeping standing up in the middle of a crowd of people, he decided it would be nice to cozy up on a blanket with an already-sleeping pair of festie-goers. Nothing follows a nice pee like a little nap. Moral of the story is: take it easy on the drugs kids.
One of the most heart-warming things I found in the forest had to be taking a nice morning yoga sesh with thousands of festival goers in front of the main stage. There was truly a strong feeling of community and the music selection was on-point. Nothing like seeing some crunchy hippies trying to best eachothers' downward dogs.
Another staple of the festival scene is the famous flying lantern. This is another way to feel a connection to your fellow festie-goer as it takes more than a few people to get a lantern lit and launched into the sky. As the sky darkened each night you could see thirty or so lanterns ascending their way into the heavens. My friends and I tried to light one off on our second night and nearly burnt down our neighbor's tent. Once again: be careful kids.
8. The Hippy String
At one point during the festival I noticed what seemed like a giant string being passed through the crowd. And I was right! It weaved its way through thousands of people and everyone who wanted to could hold onto it for a while or pass it to a friend, attempting to gain further connection to their fellow stranger. If you looked closely you even would notice the occasional "treat" tied onto the string.
9. Light saber ground score!
If you keep your eyes peeled during a festival you're bound to find some cool shit on the ground. At one point during the weekend I came across a mint condition rave-saber. You can call me Ravey-Won-Kanobi… if you want.
10. The Electric Forest drum bus
Upon my first exploration through Sherwood Forest I came across the drum bus. This consisted of a hollowed out steel bus with all sorts of weird shit that you could bang and drum on. Drum sticks consisted of pieces of metal, sticks, and of course one's hand. It was pretty cool to see how over time the bus would transcend into one collective beat or song, if you can even call it that. I had to make my way inside once to drop down a fat bass line.
11. Tim and Pat
This was hands down one of the highlights of my career as a festie kid. While in the crowd during one of The String Cheese Incident's sets I met two amputees breaking it down in the crowd. Their prosthetic legs were covered in glow sticks and they were grooving hard so I couldn't resist saying what's up to them. Upon talking to them they told me how they were both injured veterans from the war in Afghanistan and had for a long time lived a life of hate and violence. They said they came to the forest to find a place of love and community and that it had already showed them so many beautiful things. This was an amazing example of how music and festivals can change one's outlook on life, and in Tim and Pat's case, for the better.
Another growing favorite of the festival arsenal is the coveted moon mat. These things were everywhere in the forest. They are pretty much giant squishy carpets made out of the material used for earplugs but with hollowed out holes that feel awesome on your feet. They're great for sleeping, lounging, using as a jacket and, most importantly, as the setting for a giant disco dance party at the moonmat stand. At three in the morning. Call them the light up disco floor of the new age festival generation.
13. Lasers in the forest
14. Live painting
If you've ever been to a festival in the United States of America, you've seen the live painting. Its pretty interesting to see a guy painting along with the music in front of 10,000 dancing hippies.
15. What happens when you do too much acid…
...or eat the wrong stick of gum at the Wonka factory.
16. The Sollun
There's weird and then there's really weird and then there's forest weird. At one point at about four in the morning I found myself in the Sollun, deep in the forest. Imagine stumbling upon a barn filled with ravers in hammocks, puppets, trippy blink-y lights, and a beatboxing band passing each other cigarettes mouth-to-mouth. Every so often a new dancer would appear out of the the woods and I realized that this is where you go if its four in the morning and you just don't wanna stop dancing.
….and of course this guy was there so it had to be the place to be.
So that's what I found in the forest. Take my advice and make the trip next year so you can find a few things yourself.
Part of David wishes he had just stayed in the forest, but while he's here you can check out his tweets. Or give him string cheese. He'd prefer the string cheese - @DLGarber