Sometimes life works out for you in ways that you can never expect. CityNova, this wild child passion project of mine, has taken me to some incredible places, but even I realized that it was a long shot to apply for press passes at Electric Forest. Even in the media tent, as we told people who we were with, there was this air of pulling off some kind of grand heist. Yet, as I reflect on all of this now, I can’t help but feel that the world was perfectly aligned, if only for a second, to make this happen. As strange as it may sound: I was meant to learn a lesson at Electric Forest.

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It didn’t hit me when I got there on Thursday evening, as rain pelted the campground; turning our tents into moats with a lakefront property. Even from our campsite, though, it was clear that there was something different in the air. I felt as if I was on the outside of a dream, unsure of if I’d ever fully experience it. Looking around, and feeling the energy from others, it was clear that the dream I was describing was their reality. Coming in with only one other person, and for the first time, I knew that many whom were there had already come many times before. They already got the idea.

The rain continued as I walked up soaked pavement; completely drenched in rain. I had no idea where I was going and hadn’t had a chance to take a look at the map. My disillusion was only further intensified by mesmerizing lights coming from within the forest and the outfits of people around me. I made the joke that they must have been the “sprites” of the forest, but there was something more to them. Their creative expression, lack of judgment, and positive energy made them “spiritual guides” of sorts. They kept telling each other “Happy Forest” and carried around “totems” to make sure that they could keep their pack together. I stopped in the middle of the commotion and felt as if I could have been anyone, doing nearly anything, and the people there would have understood. What a feeling…

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Sure, it would be easy to say that these were those earthy-crunchy types that care about free love, but there was more to it than that. Every set I wandered to, I realized that there were different subcultures within this umbrella subculture within Electric Forest. Yet, the air of nonjudgment was still apparent in all regards. As I was watching Jai Wolf on Friday night, I saw a sign with a simple saying that I had heard too many times before, but it still sent chills down my spine when I saw it: “This is Where I Feel Alive.” I captured those moments so I wouldn’t forget, because in that moment, hidden in a Michigan forest, I, too, was alive. I felt it.

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Perhaps it had just been the monotony of my career, maybe it was just the fact that I’d been asleep at the wheel… but I felt like I had woken from some deep slumber to find myself immersed in a beautiful experience. Jai Wolf’s mellow flows only added to this as I did a full three-sixty to take in the crowd around me. Everyone was feeling it. Multiple giant lines of yarn were being passed from person to person as sayings like “we are the world” were flashing across the visuals on stage. It was in that moment I realized what it meant to be part of the “forest fam” and it felt like I was at home. Once again, I could have been anyone, but everyone was connected there by their love for music and positive energy.

I had no idea that Electric Forest would have the profound impact on me that it did, but it reminded me of the importance of promoting positive energy upon the world while never forgetting the unique ride of the human experience. It’s always easy to get stuck in the loop or some kind of monotonous state of mind, but if you only remember that you’re in control of the ride, you have the power to change and bring the good vibes back into your life. Even as we drove back home, the universe was sending me signals as a boat named “No Bad Ju Ju” was towed next to me. I couldn’t believe it.

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If you’ve ever been curious about the forest, or even if you simply like unique experiences and quality music, I definitely recommend that you make your way up to Rothbury for a stacked Weekend Two, as GA tickets are somehow still available, and check it out. As one of the newest members, I’ll be happy to welcome you to the family. Until then, I’ll be dreaming of what awaits next year. See you in the forest!

Matt Teaford is a meatatarian, craft beer enthusiast, and follower of his spirit animal, which he believes to be a Kodiak Bear. He can often be found hiking in the backwoods of Kentucky or bragging about both his hometown of Cincinnati and expansive knowledge of music. Except Polka. He knows nothing about Polka.

Matt founded CityNova because he wants people to experience life for all that it’s worth. He also thinks that nap time should be offered by all employers. Since he found no such opportunity, he thought a startup might be his best chance.

He’s also a political Independent who vies for true transparency and accountability in government, but that’s neither here nor there…

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