Waking up again, in a field of tens of thousands of strangers, all hungover and exhausted from dancing all night, the feeling of gratitude hit me in the chest like a panic attack. How could I be so lucky, to be in this field right now, with all these lovely people, sharing an amazing weekend of laughs and music. Sometimes these gratitude-attacks come out of nowhere and almost bring me to tears. Maybe its imposter syndrome or something, but I often feel like I haven’t done enough to deserve to live the life I do. Taking photos of concerts is truly my favorite thing in the world to do, and to be able to do it for a festival like Electric Forest feels like a huge milestone.
Day 3 brought with it the heaviest lineup of the entire weekend. Non-stop head banging from artists like ISOXO, Kai Wachi, and Svdden Death, mixed in with much more relaxed performances Chromeo, Kasbo, and STS9. Group therapy in the woods with Therapy Gecko. The insane experience that is an Elohim set. Again…I could write all day about these sets, but I’m choosing the let the photos tell that story. Once again, to me, the true star of the festival were all the amazing people I talked to in between the chaos.
From the fans in the campsite, to the artists on the stage, to alllll the people behind the scenes making things run and keeping every one safe, the true magic of the forest lies in the people who take the time out of their lives to be there and make it happen.
In an age of life that can sometimes feel completely online, the human-ness of these big festivals is what has been striking me so hard lately.
I try to force my eyes away from the stage every now and then to turn and look at the thousands of people in the crowd behind me having the time of their lives simultaneously. I’m often left breathless as I behold the massive crowds all singing and dancing together. Sometimes I’ll tap the person next to me and whisper “that’s a lot of fucking people…” just to let them know.
Some of my favorite moments of the festival were ones I didn’t even take photos of. This is actually a bit of a regret of mine. However, I also understand that I can’t be fully present if I’m taking photos the entire time, so there needs to be balance. Morning swims in Lucky Lake with the people I was camping near. Shooting the shit with the other photographers in the media area. Sitting around camp and laughing about all the insane and amazing people that the festivals draw in. Looking back, those are the moments where the magic of the forest really works its way in. Sharing moments and laughs and smiles with your friends. The moments that you could never plan for and would only happen if you leave some wiggle room in your itinerary. Maybe you could say that spending time on moments like those took away valuable seconds from my job of documenting the festival in its entirety. Maybe it did.
But I think the festival itself is only a festival because of the people there and the moments they can create for each other.
Being present and paying attention to the people around you opens doors and leads to more special moments than you could ever imagine. If it wasn’t for slowing down and talking to the people next to me that I was experiencing the festival with, I wouldn’t have made a friend who let me around backstage…and into the pit for the end of Shaq’s set. This is just one example of many where a conversation got me way further than the camera ever could on its own.
It’s difficult to wrap my head around the idea that there were something like 50,000 people having similarly magical experiences within a couple square miles of each other for 4 days straight. It’s even harder to come to grips with the thought that I was given the opportunity to document the entire weekend. And finally, it’s truly amazing to think that festivals like these are happening every weekend, across the world, and so many people are having life changing experiences because of the drawing power of music.
It’s nice to think that not everyone is online being angry all day. People are happy and having the time of their lives at the Electric Forest.