"Spread Good Vibes." I can't tell you how many times I heard that phrase at my first festival experience. I thought it was just a bunch of crazy hippies, but by the end of four full days of hot, tight camping conditions, dancing until we could not feel our feet, and making friends with everyone we came in contact with, I understood exactly what this meant.
I have always loved concerts, music, dance parties and singing for as long as I can remember. To be honest, I really love anything where I get to be moving, talking and/or singing (probably to a fault, since I can't keep myself quiet for too long). This blog is actually looking like a great outlet - not just for me, but for the ones close to me who may sometimes want me to zip it! Ha! But I digress; music moves me to my core, always has and always will. I remember one summer I went to a Spice Girls concert AND a Hanson concert, and I think I was on a body high for a solid year. I loved every part of it. I love how instruments come together with vocals to create such beautiful sounds. I love the power of a song, and how it can mean something completely different to every person who listens to it. This love of concerts carried throughout my youth, into high school (John Mayer and Dispatch, heyy!) and into college. Post college, I was finally able to experience my first festival! Festivals were just starting to get more popular, and I saw this as a golden opportunity to see my favorite bands all day and all night for four FULL days.
My longtime friend, Mary, and I had just graduated school, didn't have any "real" jobs yet and didn't have anyone holding us back from going, so we loaded up my car and drove 7 hours to the Rothbury Music Festival (RIP) in Rothbury, MI. It is now called Electric Forest, but Rothbury Music Festival, in my opinion, was the dream. We had the essentials: a few pillows, bread, peanut butter, beer, water and a tent, which neither of us knew how to set up. We were set, clearly! When we pulled into the Festival Site, there was just a sea of cars and tents - music was blaring from every one of them. The people are what got me first. They were the happiest bunch of people I had ever seen and all seemed like best friends. I immediately knew we were in for quite the weekend. First thing was first: setting up our tent. Frick and Frack trying to set up the tent…quite comical. Eventually our nice neighbors helped us. We put our pillows and blankets in there, cracked open some cold ones and we were ready to see what this festival thing was all about!
Everyone we met was so kind and we all had something in common. We had all traveled a long way to get to this middle-of-nowhere forest for the love of music. We entered into the festival grounds with butterflies in our stomachs. There were lights in the trees, hula-hoop parties, glow sticks everywhere, hammocks in the forest, face painting, delicious food trucks and insane live shows. All around, good times were had by all. Mary and I lost each other no less than twenty times, but it was surprisingly okay! We always felt safe and we were constantly absorbing everything around us. We ran into old friends and formed new friendships - ones that I still have today. Our phones never worked and it was awesome. We didn't have to answer to anyone outside, which forced us to be totally present with the people we met, the music we were loving and the atmosphere where it was all happening. We watched shows in the middle of trees filled with lights and swinging dancers. It was wild. We literally danced until we could not move our bodies, or feel them for that matter. Every night. We watched fireworks go off while singing our hearts out to our favorite bands. We always woke up next to each other in the a.m., which was a success in my book. Even if we were still covered in dirt, in the same clothes, in face paint, or had blue hair (?)....it was an absolute blast.
I went into Rothbury feeling a little down about where I was going career and relationship wise, and just all around overwhelmed with becoming an "adult." I left Rothbury feeling tired, but so happy and energized by the people I met, the music I discovered and the entire experience as a whole. It gave me this optimistic feeling about the beautiful world we live in and the people who surround us. I know it sounds cheesy, but it was life changing in a way. It played a huge part in my love of music at that time, which eventually led me out West to live!
I wasn't sure what to expect at Rothbury, but I knew I needed to at least experience it. If you know me well, you know that as much as I love music and festivals, I am also a girly girl. My friends and family thought it was pretty comical that I was going to camp out for four days in the middle of a hot, hot forest with a bunch of strangers in the dead of summer. They reminded me showers were going to be sparse, I was not going to be waking up with Starbucks, or sleeping in a big comfy bed and getting a restful night’s sleep. Those luxuries were not what this weekend was about or even available if I wanted it. Looking back, we barely showered off the sweat and dirt on us from dancing and wandering all day and night. We ate PB&J’s for most of our meals, washed down with Coors Lights, and slept on mats where I swear I could feel the grass on my back through it. Our bodies ached from the craziness of it all, but I would not have changed anything.