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Enchanted Forest Gathering | FESTIVALPHOTO

 

 

Enchanted Forest Gathering

 

2017-07-10 17:47 - More Enchanted Than Wonderland Itself

Nestled away in the mountains of Northern California is a place that Jerry Garcia himself made famous. A place where fresh, clean water flows freely, making its way through the forest, alongside a beautiful ranch. An enchanted and magical place, with high vibes, and an energy to transform. It is in this space that fest heads from all over come together to celebrate life, love, music, art, creation, comedy, safe spaces, and sacred movement. Here we find ourselves falling back in with the commUNITY we all love the most, at Enchanted Forest Gathering.

Laytonville, California won’t mean much to many people, not even the locals, but you’d be hard pressed to find a place you’d rather prance from June 9-11, than at the Black Oak Ranch. The mountains that surround the area are all covered with tall, knowing trees, and with nature being so plentiful, happiness is, too! For a “small” festival of around 5,000 people, it felt so full, and left those who attended feeling nothing less than joyous. It was an experience I’d been wanting to have a for a few years now, and am so glad to have gotten.

I went to EFG alone, knowing I would likely run into a couple people I’d met through the festival circuit, but knowing what my soul needed more than anything was to be there by myself. I used to go to festivals by myself regularly, or go with friends and then separate myself frequently from them. I’ve found it to be a very telling, very healing experience. Because this is the kind of community where even if you get lost, you’re always among friends and family. And usually what happens when you “get lost” or go alone is pretty magical.

You end up meeting people you wouldn’t otherwise meet, having experiences you wouldn’t otherwise have, and it frees you up to just embrace and express yourself fully, and really be on your own time. There’s no rendezvous point, no coordinating, nothing to do but relax into the natural flow, and vibe with the energies around you. Enchanted Forest Gathering was THE PERFECT PLACE to go and be alone in my skin with my community.

Arriving to the festival and simply pulling off the highway and into the lot made my eyebrows raise a bit. No long, long drive into the middle of nowhere? No winding up and down around hills to arrive at the gate? No lines that last hours giving festival goers the chance to get it going before it all really begins? It was so…easy. One of the benefits of a smaller gathering. And per usual, every face from the ones giving directions to the ones putting on wristbands, was plastered with a smile. Kindness oozing from everyone around, and simplicity in our intentions. Breaths already growing deeper and more collective, as we all fell into sync with one another. The family reunited again!

I arrived at night, timing it so I would make it just before the night could really set in. My idea was to set up my camp before it got dark, but when I arrived and heard Dimond Saints rocking the main stage, I parked the car, put on some warmer clothes, and took off at a near sprint! The sound from afar was calling me in, and my mind, body and soul were ready to respond!

As I followed their familiar sound to the stage, I took in a beautiful, stunning sight as the near-full moon rose above the ridgeline in the distance. Wandering and weaving my way between gorgeous people and gorgeous trees, letting the music beckon me onward and be my guide, I found my way to the current source. And in a moment, everything opened up, and there, nestled in the forest, was a stage.

A lovely stage, a not-too-big-stage, but a stage with a crowd that was most certainly getting down! Dimond Saints had everyone going, and was breaking us into the weekend quite nicely. Giving us their nitty, trap-style swag, loaded with instruments and vocals. A sound so distinctive, you know instantly who it is once you’ve heard them. It seemed the festival had already warmed up, as we were gratefully lacking the slightly uncomfortable feeling that tends to float through a festival on the first night as people assimilate into their surroundings and true self. I tried to leave The Grove Stage, but found myself there for the next five hours.

Stylust Beats pretty much dictated what time I wanted to arrive at the festival, though through the epicality of Dimond Saints, I’d almost forgotten he was up next. I have a mild obsession with his 2015 Lightning in a Bottle set, and knew I needed to let my body get down to his sound being pumped out of some Funktion Ones. And oh my gosh, it was glorious! Hair was flying everywhere, bodies bouncing up and down, and the damp, soft earth so inviting, we weren’t worried about letting our feet ground down into it and shuffle around in the dirt.

Following up next to help round out my four or five hour run at The Grove Stage were Space Jesus and Ozzie, who gave us some good, needed, wanted, epic doses of some dirty, dirty dubstep. Yes, that’s a lot of adjectives, but if you’d been there, you’d know why they’re all needed! We got that nasty, filthy, nitty gritty goodness that we all miss hearing, and desperately crave in order to release that wild inner beast. I haven’t seen that much long hippie hair flying around in a very long time! Finally, I woke up the next day with a sore neck, something I’d been calling in since Lightning in a Bottle 2016! The T-Rex hands were flying, geometric shapes being outlined in the air to the beat, and that “Uhhhhhh” face was plastered on because we were definitely gettin’ it good!

It was upon this night that I realized how special EFG is: scattered about the entire festival were those big balls you can sit and bounce on; the kind that have a handle you can hold. These at a festival are GENIUS! Because there is something impossible about sitting in most cases, yet the body needs a break. These giant bouncy balls provided an opportunity to not only remain dancing, but also add a prop into the mix. Watching adults bounce up and down and bound all around like kids on the dance floor was amazing and provided so much happiness.

Having gotten up at dawn, I decided to call it a night around 2am or so, feeling completely satisfied with my experience, a bit cold, and highly motivated to nap before Kalya Scintilla’s sunrise set (which I unfortunately did not get out of my tent for, but heard from the comfort of my nest – magic!).

Saturday morning I awoke to the sounds of two mothers conversing while simultaneously parenting, and I have to say, it was one of the most special things I have ever heard. To hear the way they spoke to their children, about their children, and about conscious parenting made my heart sing and my eyes water. I do not know if I’ve ever heard a mom speak to her kids the way this one amazing goddess did. It truly touched my heart. She spoke with such clarity, such love, and such wisdom. Her patience was incredible, and it was such a blessing to overhear her interactions throughout the weekend. I saw so many signs of conscious, present parenting at EFG. It left me so inspired. It’s a perfect festival for families, too. Not too big a festival, loads of activities all day long in Kidslandia, and plenty of fun things to explore and interact with. I would definitely recommend going with your kids to this one!

After this maternal morning blessing, I dove right on into five straight hours in the Dance & Yoga Tent. Friday night’s spent dancing are, for me, best followed up with a day full of yoga and massage, so…

The Anahata Flow with Magnolia Rasak was a brilliant way to start my Saturday in the festival. She’s such a great teacher and presence, with such a beautiful and easy energy. A storyteller, a movement master, and a goddess, Magnolia took us into ourselves, and opened us up.

Reno Gorman and TJ Gillick followed it up with an Intro to Acro Yoga workshop, that got us all rocking and rolling around together. Laugher filled the area as we took turns hoisting one another into the air, sometimes managing only to fall into a cuddle puddle instead of take flight. But everything was caked in caring, and the bond between us all grew a little deeper, winding the thread of the festival fabric together a little tighter.

It’s a playful, loving, curious community that we come from and are a part of, and moving through movement is one of our highest forms of expression. So are the gifts of giving and receiving, which Claire Thompson, another incredible teacher, took us through in her Partner Massage workshop. Humans were melting all over the floor, as we followed her lead in giving and receiving an upper body shiatsu massage. Connections made, and again the thread grows thicker.

After participating for a little in the Sacred Orgasm for Women workshop with Aimee “Hara” Thompson, my body was craving some moving and grooving, so off to eat some beats I went!

I found myself at the Lazy River Stage, and was pleased to discover the Irie Rockers at the same time. An Irish reggae group with stories and insight to boot, they were an energy-packed and fun time! Unfortunately, or fortunately, it wasn’t too hot during the days of the festival. In this part of California, and at this time of year, you never really know what weather you can actually expect. But it was colder and rainier than it usually is, so the river didn’t really see too much action in this edition, a big draw in general.

The rest of the day was spent bouncing between the stages, and relishing in the blazing glory of The Saucy Spa. Dr. Bronner’s is a forward-thinking, earth-protecting company that makes household and body cleaners. They’ve been hosting the showers at festivals for a while now, and it’s always quite the place. With hot bodies using firefighter-sized hoses to wash everyone down as they suds up, Dr. B’s crew knows how to keep the party poppin’! This was possibly the first time I’ve seen the shower zone open to everyone though, not just those actually showering, and it was one of the most rocking places at the festival. Of course I happened to show up for The Bounce Takeover, which meant extra high vibes and booties getting extra low. At the party were a 60-something in an inflatable T-Rex onesie spreading the love, bodies adorning their birthday suits, and the usual crew of characters getting wild. A colorful, energetic sight, and the perfect way to get a little boost before beginning potentially the biggest night of the festival!

Saturday’s lineup at The Grove Stage drew a lot of people to EFG for just that night, as it was TIPPER’s ONLY show on the West Coast for 2017. Where the stage was far from packed on Friday night, Saturday night was slammin’!

Soohan, Charlesthefirst, TIPPER, Ivy Lab, Noisia, and Proko kept us glued all night long, while simultaneously at The Knoll Stage, High Step Society, Mojo Green, Butterscotch, Pimps of Joytime, Sasha Rose, and Last Jam Standing were throwing down. And not to negate any of these absolutely amazing acts, but let’s touch base on TIPPER again for a little bit here…

TIPPER: The Legend. The king of the most amazing, trippy visuals, and beats that keep you drifting in and out of booty shakes and daydreams. Faces were melting everywhere I looked, and people could not have been more psyched to be experiencing him. Forever embedded in my mind will be the faces of those dancing that I was dancing on the platform with! It was evident a lot of people came out just for his set, and since EFG is known as “The Producer’s Festival” (the festival all the other festival and music producers attend to party on their own accord and also do some scouting), he delivered some absolutely stellar ear nectar. Zero complaints, lots of new dance buddies! 10!

Then we got another phenomenal dose of duuubbbbbb and drum and bass with Ivy Lab, Noisia, and Proko. WOWWW! Neck re-broken from the night before, we danced until the lights came on and the sound went out. At which point it was time to transition to The Knoll Stage or Saucy Spa (always home to the “after the main stage shuts down” parties)! Fort Knox Five, Miss Cooper & Her Pet Craigslist Hook-Up, The Rhino, Kalvin & Clein, Richard Xavier, Treyzilla, Tokimonsta, BOGL, Partywave, Professor Stone, and E-TY held down the Saucy Spa from the pre-sunset sesh until sunrise.

Sunday ended up being more centered around the community connections for me. Long conversations that spark up out of nowhere are one of my favorite things about this community and setting. People aren’t really in a rush, because, what are you rushing for? What are you rushing to? We’re living in a forest surrounded by beautiful stimulation, and have total freedom of expression. We dictate our own time, and it always seems to slow down a little bit when we’re together. So we find ourselves having these deep, meaningful, life-and-world-changing conversations with people we’ve only just presenced. We’ll stop dead in our tracks just to give each other a hug and a compliment, then continue on to wherever we were headed before that. I think it probably helped that I started the day with Gettin’ Squishy, Playful Partner Yoga, hosted by the wonderful Zach Beach, so energy was already flowing in the direction of unashamed, uninhibited connection. So much love!

And then the day took-off…

The Lazy River amped up the BPMs a little bit, and we got some sweet, varying doses of house beats and other worldly sounds from DJ Joe-E, Mr. 415, Marjo Lak, The Middle Agent, and Acacia Beats. The Knoll Stage was a haven of happiness as The China Cats did a Grateful Dead tribute, and I sat there watching people dance in joy with a smile permanently plastered onto my face. So much ecstasy in one spot! You get any group together whose culture has been affected by the Dead and give them an afternoon tribute, you’re going to be met with content.

Jumpsuit Records brought on a freaking kick ass lineup of their own to take over The Grove on Sunday! From Whitebear at sunrise, to Scott Nice, Ryan Herr, Isaac Chambers, and Ultimate Fantastic, The Grove was nearly impossible to leave! Jumpsuit Records has officially become a top label name, and you can bet that whoever signs on with them will be delivering absolute magic. But with the nights being as cold as they were, outfit changes were necessary, so we scattered to layer up before the big, closing night.

Dragonfly and PEGA5U5 delivered their expected awesome, and then something happened to me that hasn’t happened in five or more years: four straight hours, front and center at the main stage. I couldn’t even hardly leave to go refill my water bottle!

It all started with The Polish Ambassador, when random people from groups of friends started to branch off, all finding their way to the same general area at the stage. And there we stayed, dancing, getting low, throwing our heads and bodies around for the next 4-5 hours.

TPA always brings on an energy that cannot be denied, and he even gave us a taste of some darker stuff he’s been working on (it was DELICIOUS)! He has a way of weaving the music into our energy fields, that ends up drawing the community closer together. He solidifies through his music this thing that we all believe: We Are All One. Everyone with smiles on, dancing to his upbeat, happy and funkadelic stuff, we can’t help but look around at each other with even more love. Then to follow up that funky sesh with The Funk Hunters…wow oh wow! Talk about being primed! Impossible is a good word to describe how hard it was to stop the boogey. (As if anyone wanted to!) And then…OPIUO.

There are times when you’re dancing that you release so much into the flow, that you literally become ecstatic. You are in a moving meditation, have worked through any blockages that might have existed, and are totally going for it without any inhibition. And when this happens as a group, it’s even more magical. This is what we experienced, this group of misfits and bandits and I, as we closed down the main stage on a sweet Sunday night at Enchanted Forest Gathering. PURE BLISS! An experience that we seldom have, and couldn’t even know is possible without participating in it.

So where do we even go from here?

After the set ended, there was a linger affect, as we had all just had one of the best experiences of our lives, and didn’t know where to go next. Luckily, the organizers decided to keep The Knoll rocking and rolling all night long, so after some exploration, conversation and relaxation, it was back to the dance floor to close out the night with the Amae Loves Life and Mama Crow. OH MY GODDESS!

If you have never heard the likes of these two and their crews, you must. I have seldom been so taken with a performance as I was that of Mama Crow. My whole body was tired, my mind fading away, but there at the Knoll I stayed. A priestess, a poet, a voice to swoon over, Mama Crow kept us all up later than we thought our bodies capable of. Unlimited gratitude, truly. Preaching unashamed to the masses, she speaks and sings words to a community that doesn’t always get to hear them, and used her position to spread a word, a love, and a message incredible meaning. Take a listen, and see if you hear what I hear.

It was so hard to say goodbye to the night and go to sleep knowing it was over, but this time, space and place isn’t just physical, and we can go back anytime. Of course it might not look exactly like Black Oak Ranch during EFG, but mentally we can conjure these feelings at anytime. But before I allow this post to close, it must be mentioned some of the rare things that are happening at Enchanted Forest Gathering. And consider this: rare is a word that’s commonly used to describe this counter-culture, but hard to find once you’re within it, because everything seems to be somewhat radical and strange. Ready?

Alcohol free festival.
Yes, you are more than welcome to bring your own, but don’t expect to find any for sale here! It’s part of an initiative to keep the grounds cleaner, as well as the conscious minds. Alcohol, while fun, can really clutter us, and as part of the sacred space initiative of the festival, they choose not to sell any. This is also a deterrent to those who might only be going to “get wasted.” (Although, all ARE welcome! That’s the byline of this commUNITY.)

Women’s Tent.
EFG is one of the only festivals that has a designated women’s tent, where women and those who identify as women can go to hold safe space for one another. Conversations, activities, and encouragement are all found here. If you have been violated, this is the place to go. If you’ve got questions, they’re welcome here. And if you’re on your cycle and you just need a bathroom that’s not so public to handle your business, you’re taken care of, too! Part of the EFG community action is to ensure that women feel safe and at ease at the festival. There is a zero tolerance policy for harassment, and everyone is encouraged to look out for one another and party and play in a responsible way.

Flow arts.
No other gathering places such an emphasis on the flow arts that they have workshops all afternoon long to learn to poi, play with the flow wand, staff, double staff, and etc. If you’ve ever been interested in the flow arts, this is the place to come to learn without judgment!

The Emerald Forest.
What other festival can you go to and leave with a medical marijuana card??? Being in Northern California, neighbors to the main part of the state responsible for growing green, it’s not so surprising to find this as a major initiative and aspect of the festival. Though I was incredibly impressed by what they created there. It was almost like a village/festival within the festival. Food and merchandise vendors were beyond the “gate”, little tea houses were setup, and they had a full lineup of their own loaded with speakers and presentations. You could even have a five minute Skype session over an iPad with a doctor, and be written a prescription on the spot! Once inside, there were buds abounding and an assortment of smoking apparatuses available to be enjoyed. Very unique!

Car buffers. Yes, you read that correctly.
Leave it up to a bunch of fest heads to figure out that car buffers make the most amazing massagers of all time. And leave it up to Enchanted Forest Gathering to leave an abundance of them in a massive tent that’s filled with pillows, blankets and cushions for everyone to use! I had never experienced such a thing before, but after dancing all-out for hours and hours, there’s nothing more the body needs that a good massage. It was especially hilarious sitting there having a chat with a group of new friends, and hearing someone walk into the tent saying, “Who wants to buffer me!? I’ll buffer you back!” So many jokes followed.

Yeah, EFG was one for the books, that’s for sure! It’s the perfect place to go with a group, go with family, or go alone, and it’s the perfect place to dance yourself into a healthier place than you were in before! You’ll find new friends, bliss, buffers, bud, boobs (#freethenipple – also a very strong and promoted initiative at EFG) and beats. It’s one hell of a festival, and a family reunion you shouldn’t miss! To stay tuned for information on the 2018 edition, head to www.enchantedforestmendo.com and follow along on Facebook and Instagram at Enchanted Forest Gathering!

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  Writer: Allison Fedor
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