By Matthew Demarko and Elizabeth Windham
“This is the coolest place on the planet” – Griz, Friday night, Electric Forest 2022
“There’s no ego, there’s no bullshit here.” – Louis the Child, Sunday night, Electric Forest 2022
“Who am I most excited to see? The people. This is Forest for me.” – Overheard at Electric Forest 2022
What happens when everyone who attends a festival arrives with their heart chakras already burst wide open? Where hot air balloons freckle the horizon for golden hour each and every night? Where most people there are four+ year loyal attendees who have thoughtfully curated a culture of kindness and gratitude? Where people dress up more ‘play’ than ‘slay’? Where magic is in the air because it’s emanating from the trees that fill the grounds?
Forest magic. That’s what happens
For 10 years, the legend of Electric Forest has been told throughout the festival world. Many have attended. We had not. Having gone, we are more magical beings because of it.
Electric Forest felt like a four-day long summer sunset. It was as wild and carefree as graduation day. Where everything was alright, everyone is your neighbor (the kind that’ll lend you some sugar), and you can feel the warmth of existence itself.
Simply, this was the kindest fest we’ve ever attended. Walking around with a hunchback’s worth of photo-gear through crowds has gotten us good at saying “Excuse us” while we dance by. But at Forest, people apologized to us! There was no crowd too thick that someone wouldn’t let you through (and with a smile.)
Kindness. Kindness is the way of the forest.
There are a couple of camping festivals that inspire such camaraderie that you hear everyone wishing every interaction a “Happy [insert festival here]”. It’s a common phrase, but we heard it three times before we even got our tent out of the car. Even toddlers on shoulders said it to us as they passed by. It’s the way of living here, to greet others with kindness, an open heart, and a sense of jolly good cheer.
These people didn’t need to be warmed up, their “real world” shells were pre-shed to embrace the open heart of festival living.
And that’s just describing those attending. Those facilitating this special place, with all its activities and gatherings, were otherworldly in their spirits.
The entrance (at least for GA) is deceptively unassuming. Lovely flags and banners are there to welcome you in, but the first stage you encounter during the hot-midday-sun entry is a large field with the stage known as Tripolee. “Where’s the Forest?” was the first thing that came to mind, but as the festival progressed, Tripolee proved to be a powerhouse.
Vaguely decorated after the ancient Phoenician city, this wide expanse of stage, while lacking trees, hosted everything from the curated event series days of Louis The Child’s Playground, Yoga every morning, Friday’s Bassrush series with Liquid Stranger, Mize, and of the Trees, and the deep sounds of Shiba San to close out the festival.
LP Giobbi also graced the stage, with a feel-good sun-is-setting-set of her Gospel house.
“The world seems like a scary place right now but this place proves that it’s not”LP Giobbi, Electric Forest 2022
The field provided a lovely spacious dancefloor for every show. It also provided incredible views, as the hot air balloons were most visible here during sunset and partnered with the Ferris wheel for a very sick landscape.
As you snake back into the first view of evergreens, the calm of the trees overtakes you. Akin to the Spirit of Spirit Lake in Hulaween, this Forest isn’t just a locale, it’s a character attending its own festival. Grass, uninhabited for two long festival-less years, was soft and flowy, begging you to take your shoes off and tickle your toes within the soft green blankets.
“Man this grass is giving me life”Overheard at Electric Forest 2022
The Giving Tree
The trees waved “Hello” with the wind. One tree caught our eye immediately, towering over all the others with a crowd surrounding its trunk. This tree looked wise – an old willow tree. Drawn by our curiosity, we recognized the tree was an altar everyone was calling “The Giving Tree.” Sundries, talismans, and offerings were gingerly placed around the base, in the bark, and even high in the branches for those willing to climb (of which there were many).
The variety of items was instilled with the spirit of true gifting – there were beautiful bracelets, practical supplies like ear plugs and cigarettes, and even clothes. We often plucked lollipops from the tree to start our day in a delicious way. The most random item to me seemed to be a 6-can cooler for a golf bag. And the biggest smile starter was the box of Pokémon cards.
“Condoms? This is a good Giving Tree!”Overheard at Electric Forest 2022
It was obvious that there were some items in here that were placed with tender intentionality. People revered this tree. Both acts, taking as much as giving, were sacred. While kneeled over taking pictures, a girl came up behind me and placed a stone of hematite in my palm.
“The choice is yours, leave it or take it with you.”Mystery Hematite Girl, Electric Forest 2022
These are the types of interactions, mystery mixed with generosity, that flavor Electric Forest so well. And the act of giving didn’t stop here: it was a prominent part of most encounters shared in the Forest. Whether it was passing strangers, reunited festival family, or finding gifts left as surprises under statues and fairy cottages, giving was an ethos here.
Moving on, we came to a tree-laced amphitheater named The Ranch, the heart of the perpetual sunset vibe. You know the Sunday sets where you lay in the shade and relax into feel-good music after raging for 3 to 4 days all weekend? That feeling was The Ranch every day. While there were other stages that matched The Ranch in size, none could match it in presence. Geographically and spiritually, this was the heart of the fest.
This here is the type of stage I was praying for when going to Electric Forest. It’s a towering main stage with a basin that naturally leads all down to the front and center. The border of food, craft vendors, bar and forest all blended together. The trees were a-plenty, reminding us of Okeechobee vibes, providing shade and even a dance partner when the winds hit just right. The sun scattered across the field and the stage towered tall and wide. You could see the forest surrounding the stage leading into Good Life camping, bars and food vendors on either side of the viewing/lounging/napping/dancing field, and craft vendors to the back for some easy access shopping.
Big Wild and the fiery femme team of Haley Johnsen, Maddie Rice, and Ida Hawk brought the feel-good vibes to kick off Thursday night and the festival itself. The rockstar performances offered the crowd a chance to get a little (or a lot) weird to head into the whimsical land of the forest after dark.
The transition into the night felt like the perfect voyage through a groovy, sexy, and colorful world. Lasers blasted into the crowd and the humans we were dancing with became lit up with sparkles.
Other feel-good performances that graced this stage were Porter Robinson, Griz’s “Chasing the Golden Hour” set, and The String Cheese Incident’s BIG Saturday night party.
Being the hosts of Electric Forest, The String Cheese Incident can be found playing multiple sets on multiple days, and they always throw the biggest party on Saturday night. Cheese’s cheesiest and most delightful performance, they wowed the crowd with old-school analog antics in the brilliance of a giant disco ball hanging from a crane in the sky, blasts of confetti, and Macy’s Day Parade sized floating stars and hearts in the crowd.
The open-heartedness, all-out good feelings of togetherness, and epicness of nights on The Ranch were exactly what we all needed in 2022.
Crowned by the adoring crowd as Electric Forest’s unofficial host, Griz’s second set started with the invocation needed after a long weekend:
“I just want to say before we start you are so inclined to just chill and do whatever serves you the most 100%. We’re gonna catch a vibe and send you off into the evening.” Griz, Electric Forest 2022
Griz fans GROOVE. These people are some of the most accepting, welcoming, and funky fresh lads and ladies we’ve ever met. And during that magical “Chasing the Golden Hour” set, he bathed the crowd in joy, lounging in the present moment and creating a sea of endless smiles.
While the trees are plentiful at The Ranch you’re still not in the thick of the Forest. For that, you have two entrance options. Taking the right entrance from The Ranch, you are welcomed by the largest rows of suspended umbrellas I’ve ever encountered. Instagram bait, this magical entryway gave way to an expanse of trees, art installations, and stages that are jaw-droppingly broad.
The left entrance takes you through an iconic heart statue, Frick Frack Blackjack, and a neighborhood of fairy homes.
It doesn’t matter which path you take. The structures spring forth with a history far deeper than being set up and torn down every year. The whole forest is an art gallery that has been tenderly developed over the course of the last decade, and the care with which it’s been crafted emanates from everything.
There are inhabitable structures for all your climbing and sightseeing needs. There are ecologically educating as well as spiritually-uplifting signs hammered to trees. There are flower installations with flowing water features.
There’s an iridescent fully-functioning chapel where comedy shows alternate with weddings. The one wedding I stumbled upon started with the “cult-leader” officiant congratulating the husband, saying he was a very lucky man.
“Don’t worry, I wouldn’t sleep with your wife…unless you wanted me to.” – Electric Forest 2022
Next, he polled the audience if he should sleep with the wife-to-be.
The grounds also contain a functioning Library, as well as a Luminaria, a thoughtful temple that’s an “interactive way for others to keep souls alive in The Forest.” Those who have lost someone (or are just missing someone who couldn’t attend) can find solace in decorating a luminary bag and placing it thoughtfully within the temple structure or along the border of the trees.
You can play a beautiful organ in the Forest. You can honor spirits and entities present in giant statues throughout. You can lay in nets with 10 of your closest friends, or buy art from a wide range of talented colorful creators that have their own galleries peppered far and wide.
Are you beginning to understand that this Forest is big yet? It’s also big enough to handle three full stages, not even counting the Silent Disco, Frick Frack’s stage productions, or the stage in the Library.
The first main billed stage is Honeycomb, perhaps our favorite personal stage of the fest. Why are there not more dope stages that are in-the-round? With one central hive in the center, a series of asymmetrical honeycombs rise around the stage, providing unique and entertaining angles for every set. With a high-rise section in the back, previous festival experiences made us feel as if it would have been a “VIP” section, reserved for only the select few. However, to our delight, it was open access to everyone – even the viewing platform at the very top that let you see deep into the forest.
This stage is special not just for its design, but for the thoughtful activities it attracted. It hosted two of the most emotionally powerful events witnessed throughout the entire weekend.
The first was the curiosity-tickling “Humanity Circle,” hosted by the same teacher as the daily yoga class, Kate Conner. People came to the circle to listen to their fellow Foresters, to be heard, and to tap into the true gratitude they felt to be present in the space.
After pairing off, individuals took turns answering questions while the others were urged to listen – deeply, fully, and with no interruptions; to authentically witness their partners. With questions like “Who is someone who loved you into being?” tears were free-flowing throughout.
“What hope is in your hearts about the world today?”
“What’s the biggest teaching the Forest has shown you?”
After allowing ample time for these questions to be explored the sharing turned to blessings. Individuals looked each other deep in the eyes and slowly prayed “May you be Happy. May you be Healthy. May you be Peaceful. May you live your wild and one precious life with ease, sweet ease.”
“I was able to lock eyes with her and feel peace.” Roxann, Electric Forest 2022
It made me wish we could start every festival day with such a grounding exercise.
And then LP Giobbi grabbed the mic and ended the ceremony with a prayer! What a surprising ending to a surprising morning.
The second beautifully charged event was the Pride Parade on Sunday. Originally an event that started in GA camping, it had clearly outgrown its origin. Individuals showed up in droves to support the LGBTQ+ community with their rainbows and color everywhere while a cavalcade of individuals showcased their talents on stage – everything from hooping to gravity-defying Slinky tricks.
The founder of the Pride parade came on to celebrate what had been achieved and left us with a powerful sendoff.
“Share love, express yourself, and carry that outside of the forest.” – Electric Forest 2022
It’s probably impossible to fully explore the Forest, and it’s likely you’d end up going through it before circumnavigating it. To the back of the Sherwood Forest is the aptly named Sherwood Court, another massive stage framed in playful LED panels that hosted a lot of the weekend’s heavier bass acts.
LSDream provided one of the most impressive sets, starting things out with a proper display of showmanship Thursday night.
“This is what I needed”Overheard in the pit at LSDream, Electric Forest 2022
Back to back, he showcased a new debut with Clozee (who joined him on stage), a new Tame Impala remix, fresh Abraham Hicks samples, and went back to an insane rendition of “Across the Universe” from the Beatles. If that didn’t put us in the feels enough, he showcased Twitter responses when he polled his community: “If your future self could go back in time and give you some advice, what would your future self say?”
Here in the Forest, the artists were constantly mixing the deep emotions of what it means to be a human with their music. The roots of this gratitude strongly contributed to the kindness of the crowd throughout.
Also rocking Sherwood Court was Clozee herself, who, through technical difficulties at the start, reminded everyone why she is EDM’s French Queen. Sylvan Esso also headlined here, providing an electrifying showcase of dance moves, silhouettes, and acoustic fun.
Sherwood Court also hosted our most intimate Forest proposal (we witnessed many ha). In the exact place they met three years prior, Shannon, wrapped in a wolf cloak of his making, got down on one knee in front of his soon-to-be-betrothed Moxy. With their Forest Fam surrounding them, she threw the Uno reverse on everyone, and suspecting something like this might happen, mirrored a proposal right back. It filled the hearts of everyone in attendance; our cups runneth over.
“The magic of the Forest will live in our hearts forever.” Moxy, Fiancè, Electric Forest 2022
Before reaching the zenith of the entire festival grounds, The Hangar explodes into your vision. What the Hangar is…defies words. Part playground, part town, part Scavenger hunt, this sublime area houses a fully functioning mystery hotel where “guests” have to complete puzzles to explore the variety of rooms available. Smooth-talking Foresters either try to convince the attendants to let them in through code or dedicated Foresters present their findings from the Scavenger Hunt, acting as a sort of key for the experience.
We talked ourselves as far as the Poetry Brothel (located in Room #5) a saucy red-light room where we were read salaciously-fun erotic art.
“These patrons are making me wetter than an otter’s pocket”Overheard in the Poetry Brothel, Electric Forest 2022
After we had our poetic fill, we tried to find any of the magical places we heard were tucked behind secret doors. However, we only managed to find an exit. You couldn’t walk through the festival without hearing someone surmising where “The Speakeasy” was, the mythologized final stop in the mystery tour.
In the other wing of The Hangar were storefronts for a Tattoo Parlor, a Barber Shop, a Matchmaking Outlet, and even the “Rosie Room,” a Rosie the Riveter buffer-style massage hall. Crowds flitted from storefront to storefront, possibility to possibility with glee. It felt like being in an old Western town where every store had style.
The Carousel Club
At the very tail end of the festival was the Carousel Club, a recently enlarged stage that differentiated itself from the rest of the festival from your first step into its midst.
“The second you hit the sand it slows you right down.” – Overheard at Carousel Club, Electric Forest 2022
Part Vegas showroom, part Tropical oasis, the grass turns to sand while stark white peacocks bookend an old-school rainbow clamshell stage. This felt like the most eclectic of all stages, hosting acts like Lettuce, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Jake Wesley Rogers, and the body-whipping Femi Kuti. Femi Kuti was an absolute Afrobeat rampage. The only way to describe the lead was a man-possessed by music. Horns, dancers, singers, and Kuti himself moved at a double-time pace, frenetically rocketing notes out of his Saxophone or conducting the large band.
Much like Honeycomb, this stage also had viewing booths that one might mistake for a VIP experience, but they were for everyone. This was an all-inclusive club, and a dope one at that. One of the few covered areas, one could find shaded relaxation in the sand during the midday hours.
Going back into the Forest, you still had The Observatory and The Grand Artique Bizarre to explore.
The Observatory is a sprawling wire-frame stage that masquerades multiple tiers around its borders. This spot was a late-night hot spot, hosting some of the trippier acts of Forest. Supertask hypnotized the entire arena during his set, while Wuki was as entertaining as his Instagram. Closing out the fest was a poetry-in-motion Dixon’s Violin set. Everyone sat in peace while we took in the essence of Dixon’s strings, and in between songs he reminded us of our power to be in such a communal space.
“Take a deep breath? What do you want to do with your life?” – Dixon’s Violin, Sunday night, Electric Forest 2022
To get a very different feel, the Grand Artique Trading Post could provide you with a lot of things you might not know you needed. Fashioned almost as if it was a backwoods shack, this was a house with many faces. Want to trade an old piece of jewelry you couldn’t give up to the Giving Tree? The Trading Post could help you (if you could get in). Outside, you could catch a live auction for items as varied as a giant chakra journal or a $1000 flute.
On the opposite side of the shack was our personal favorite attraction: the Pickle Stand. For $1 you could choose pickle or pickle shot. Free with your purchase was the option of a special spanking. Joy, the assistant we met, stood by with a smile to ask consent for each pickle patron, and then what degree of spanking you desired.
“Try not to let the shot glass touch your lips. Or do. Doesn’t matter”Overheard at the Pickle Stand, Electric Forest 2022
An eclectic mini-village, Grand Artique also hosted Elephant Heart for two soulful performances. A band as emblematic of Forest as possible, this powerhouse duo channeled Die Antwoord-meets-Sylvan Esso vibes to a seriously packed stage.
Why do we say emblematic of Forest? Well, as a couple, their music and lyrics are emotionally raw, admittedly written and sung to each other. And whether going through close times or hard ones, the words come from that place we can speak from when we’re not afraid anymore.
Rooted and honest. And when lyrics come out like that, they land in the hearts of everyone who hears them.
“The attitude songs are literally me telling the Devil to get out” – Victoria of Elephant Heart, Electric Forest 2022
Emblematic because Victoria, the female half of the duo, became a part of the crowd for a better part of the show. Not just doing a victory lap through fans, she danced, hugged, and performed with everyone in attendance. It wasn’t just a spectator sport, it was interactive therapy.
Emblematic because watching them you felt like you were part of something greater. When we interviewed them, the sentiment was at their core:
They admitted they didn’t do this because they felt like they were performers, but rather they felt called to their musical mission. Much like all of us felt called to the Forest.
“We wanted to connect people to themselves, to their higher power…Mantras that bring hope, joy and empower people. We’re not just making music, we’re channeling. We’re the vessel”Elephant Heart, Electric Forest 2022
This walkthrough falls short by many dimensions. Forest is monumental – an artistic achievement of a community that has poured love into a thing for 10+ years. We could never see it all, let alone tell its ever-evolving story. We didn’t see Good Life, the expansive VIP program that has its own stage. We didn’t see the Water Parks. We didn’t see the Back 40, the secluded other camping section that also has a personal stage (and comes with Brunch). And we didn’t go up in a hot-air balloon, despite heavy longing. Our feet could only dance so far.
But what we danced, we recognized as THE bucket-list festival. This place is special. It felt like a call to action; to take better care of our Earth; to take better care of each other (especially the more colorful and wacky ones who are looking for a place to belong.) It felt like a call to create a more open-hearted and loving community; to take that call to action back to our different parts of the world from whence we came. It felt like an example of what could be and what is possible to create.
We were all actively a part of something truly special that weekend; an experience of creativity, radical self-expression, wild and abundant play, theatrical glee, exploration, open-heartedness, and acceptance of all things wacky, woodland and weird. An experience yes, but also a ripple in the world; a ripple of happiness; of the forest spreading out into an existence that can feel dark and scary. A ripple of courage, power, and love.
The Forest is a wonder to behold. For these types of places, we reserve a special phrase: Electric Forest is a soul-altering experience.
Electric Forest 2022 Photo Gallery
Thank you to Matthew Demarko from 1000 Word Mirrors for capturing the weekend. View the complete photo gallery below: