You currently exist in two camps. There are those of you who are very curious about how our Electric Forest plans went down, and those of you who will be surprised to learn that Adrian and I never did have tickets to this event.
A quick explanation: We tried to do work exchange, but they didn’t want us because we’re Canadian and don’t have work visas. Apparently you need a work visa to volunteer your time in the United States. America the free! But whatever.
We snuck into Electric Forest and it was no big deal. In fact, we made it a much larger deal than it really was. But here’s what happened.
It all started at a Walmart in South Haven, Michigan near where we woke up that morning. With our giant bags wedged into a shopping cart, the two of us perused the little girl’s clothing section, looking for colourful bracelets. We also got ourselves a red bandana and a yellow fabric paint pen. Later we did this with it:
The bracelets don’t look at all like the actual festival wristbands, but they were passable from a distance of 5 feet or more. They actually came out very beautiful. We’ll both be wearing them for a while.
But before we did that, we did this:
We got a ride with a nice guy who’d always wanted to pick up hitch hikers but was always worried that he’d get murdered if he did. He was just a little offended when we mentioned that we were looking forward to making fun of everyone who didn’t ever camp trying to camp at the festival. We ended up forgetting our tarp in his car, so I hope he takes good care of it.
He dropped us off on the side of the highway once the campground came into view and we spent the next four hours hiding in the long grass, waiting for dark. This was probably wholly unnecessary, but we did it anyways. During the wait, we took a nap, made dinner and lost our minds, all while hiding from the hardcore mosquitos inside the mesh of our tent with no poles in it.
Darkness fell and we made our move, creeping up to the 6-foot fence in dark clothing, bushwhacking in a not at all subtle way with our giant backpacks. But then, we heard voices. People talking loudly about drugs that showed no sign of moving on. We thought for a minute about what to do, but then decided just to go for it, reasoning that the people were much more likely to congratulate us than rat us out.
Adrian boosted me over the fence and sure enough, the people came running over.
“Oh, hi neighbours! Wait, are you guys jumping the fence? That’s awesome! Do you need help?”
They invited us to camp right next to them, but we declined, choosing to look for a spot closer to the festival grounds. We left them as they began excitedly speculating at the possibilities of getting a tank of nitrous oxide delivered to them over the fence.
We hurriedly pitched our tent, threw our stuff inside, chugged a few glasses of wine, then headed for the corner of the campground that we had chosen off the map as a possible access point. With very minimal searching, we came across a section of the fence that had been detached from the bottom of the post. We crawled underneath and sprinted into the trees. A moment later, we realized we were following a well-travelled path.
It was almost too easy. Fireflies led the way, blinking the colour of tennis balls. The occasional prickle caught on our clothing, but mostly the grass was soft and long. Easy to hide in.
Then, we got to the first road. There were security guards standing in a brightly lit area about 500 meters down the road and on the other side, there was a large meadow with no trees for cover. Cars came by with no rhythm to speak of. We crouched in the grass, the headlights shining just barely above our backs. We felt trapped, but then this song started playing:
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. We looked both ways, as one should always do when crossing streets, then just went for it, running as fast as we could all the way into the trees.
There, we found thick bushes full of prickles and dust that coated the insides of our mouths. It wasn’t a large patch of forest, but it was very difficult to get to and all it led to was another fence and another road. This road had golf-cart-style vehicles passing by more frequently but no more regularly than the previous road. To make matters worse, we had no idea what was on the other side. It was just a wall of darkness. If there was another fence, it would be hard to make it over in time to avoid detection.
We decided to go one at a time. There was a part of the fence that had already been broken, top bowed towards the road, presumably by another infiltrator, so we followed suit. We waited for a quiet moment, then Adrian rolled over the top and disappeared into the darkness. I watched the fence bounce and realized that would be an obvious tell-tale to the next vehicle to come by, so I went for it. I dove into the bushes. Right into a bush. Thick stalks blocked my path. My heart was beating so hard. I had no idea how many seconds I might have left. I ducked around the side and slipped into the bush just seconds before the next vehicle passed.
It didn’t get easier past the first layer of branches. They were too thick to bend, but too thin to see in the dark. As we walked through the forest, they scratched at our faces, caught on our clothing and snapped like alarms under our feet. But then, we saw lights. The music that had been leading us forward the whole time was so close. One final fence, and we would be in.
Through a small gap in the fence, we could see everything. Food vendors, a few people walking by and, beyond, the crowd for Kaskade. We decided just to go for it, no subtlety to speak of. I leapt on to the fence and let it bend under my weight, spilling me on to the ground. I got up and ran as hard as I could towards the crowd. Adrian ran past me and grabbed my hand, pulling me faster. There were people everywhere, but I could barely hear them above the music. Fire exploded from the stage and all of a sudden, we were in the crowd. We peeled off our sweatshirts and channelled the adrenaline that consumed us into dance.
The next night, we got in the exact same way, except we moved with more confidence and even ran into a few other infiltrators on the path. As we made the final leap into the festival, we heard someone stoked yell “Those guys just jumped the fence!” I felt like a rockstar. That night we saw Flux Pavillion, Skrillex and Skrillex playing a cover of “Break on Through” with The String Cheese Incident. All-around excellent night. It seemed like once you managed to get into the festival, you were welcome to stay and enjoy, worry-free. Like we deserved it almost.
During the final full day that we stayed in the festival campground, we felt confident that getting in for the last night would be no problem. We spent the day offering people glasses of wine in exchange for their stories, which turned out to be a really great way to pass the time. Then, we fell asleep.
We woke up to darkness and the sound of fireworks coming from the festival grounds. In a panic, we checked the time. The phone said 10:50 and we had no idea whether that meant it was almost 11 or almost 12. It’s been impossible to keep everything set to the right timezone, but we knew that Bassnectar went on at 12:30 and it was nearly an hour’s journey to get inside.
We put our shoes on in a hurry and jogged towards the corner of the campgrounds that led to the trail. That spot was across a road, which security guards always sat at. We’d become accustomed to their presence and weren’t worried because they had never asked to see our wristbands, but as we walked past we heard, “Wristbands!”
“We’re just going to our campsite,” I told him, as I kept walking.
“Wristbands!” he repeated, clicking on a flashlight.
Ahead of me, Adrian held his wrist out over his head and I followed suit. We just kept on walking and he let us go.
Shaken, we reached the first road that we had to cross, only to see three people walking with a flashlight. We dove into the grass, hoping that they hadn’t caught a glimpse of us. Our heart rates were only getting higher, but they carried on their way and so did we. The rest of the journey went as planned until we reached the last stretch of forest before the final fence into the venue. That was when we heard snapping of branches that didn’t come from either of us.
There was a flicker of flashlight and we hit the forest floor, lying flat, as still as possible. There was nowhere to hide the from the beam of a flashlight and no way to know if the person was gone. We decided that we’d probably get caught whether we made a run for the fence or not, so we went for it, crashing our way there.
When I reached the fence, the first thing I did was a dramatic roll to avoid being peed on by a dark silhouette on the other side. He wasn’t peeing, though. After a second, we realized that he was just pretending and actually sorting out his drugs. As we crept along, we ran into more and more of those people, until we heard one say “I think there’s somebody behind this fence. There’s definitely someone behind this fence.”
I never looked back to check that guy’s reaction as I ran towards the crowd. Adrian grabbed my hand and we almost ran right into a couple of cops. But we had made it in time for Bassnectar. Which was hands-down the best electronic concert I’ve ever been to.
Later that night, we had stranger with a talent wish that we’d always be happy at the wishing well and another stranger show us his crystal and ask if we were human. It was magical, but it was time to leave. The next morning, we packed up and hit the road, Detroit-bound. Once there, we received immeasurable amounts of both kindness and pasta from Adrian’s long-lost family in the East. We had a great rest for a few days before getting back at it. I’m a whole week behind on the story now. Stay tuned.