Experience or Escape?
Dear fellow festival goers and music lovers,
I write this article to you in a state of distress and determination. The affliction I am sharing with you is a result of my enriching experience at Electric Forest Festival 2014. Electric Forest was indeed everything I imagined to be; magical, enlightening, beautiful, full of love and lessons. Yet in the same breath, Electric Forest was nothing like I imagined. I was exposed to many different people and had quite an unlikely adventure. I invite you all to open up your minds and hearts to the duality of music festivals as I share my Electric Forest experience with you all.
Before my friends and I had even arrived at the festival, we had endured one of the most insane road trips and experiences of our lives thus far. On our way to Electric Forest we had to make a very unlikely stop in Chicago to check our close friend into a mental hospital. She had gone to Sonic Bloom (a music festival in Colorado) the weekend prior to Electric Forest and unfortunately lost herself there. We realized pretty soon into our road trip that she had not slept in days and was still tripping on the acid she had taken the weekend prior. We were all devastated and so baffled on why this had happened.
Here I was, getting ready to embark on this magical journey into the Electric Forest. It was my first time going to a camping festival and I imagined it to be this sort of fairytale land where there were no worries, no sadness, and certainly no one losing their minds. Yet there I sat, pulling into the campsite of Electric Forest with worry stealing my smile and a tear falling from my face. After the tears had finally stopped, I was able to think clearly and reflect on what this all meant. I accepted that this was a sign not to experiment with any sort of substance at Electric Forest and that this was a warning. The Forest was so full of love and positive vibes that it allowed me to forget about it all for a little.
I was immediately pulled back into reality when everyone I was camping with decided to drop acid. We all stood in a circle and passed the bag of white squares around. When the bag came to me, I looked up at everyone putting the acid on their tongues and couldn’t see anything but our friend Kara’s face. I fought back the tears and remembered I only had control over myself. I said no thanks and passed the bag back to Mark. Emilia asked why I wasn’t dosing with them at ELECTRIC FOREST because I mean come on, it was ELECTRIC FOREST. I halfheartedly smiled and explained how it just wasn’t worth it. I couldn’t ignore the signs from Kara, I couldn’t ignore the warnings instilled into my mind. Exploring my mind without drugs and enlightening myself beyond going on an acid trip is always the most authentic trip of all.
As everyone stayed awake exploring the forest, I laid in the tent a long time by myself that night, reflecting on what this all means and what the point of these festivals really are. As I laid there exploring my thoughts, I heard glimpses of side conversations. I was just about to fall fast asleep when I heard someone very clearly state “Whenever I feel any human emotion, I dose. If I feel hungry, tired, sad or anything, I just dose”. That statement was followed by giggles and talking that slowly faded into the distance. I felt sick to my stomach and had a tough time falling asleep after that. I couldn’t get that statement out of my head. I couldn’t get Kara out of my head.
With my racing mind keeping me awake, I decided to go for a walk. As I yawned and checked the set list of when STS9 came on, I realized it was only 11pm and all the headliners didn’t come on until 2am. I was already exhausted from dancing all day and tried to understand how it would be physically possible to stay up until 2am every night to see your favorite acts. I ended up having to miss tons of the artists I wanted to see because my body simply could not stay awake. Just as I was reflecting on all this, I saw a group of people taking bumps of ecstasy and finger dips of molly. Then I recalled how people were able to stay awake for 4 days straight…. Drugs.
This brought up many emotions for me. It made me contemplate what these festivals really stand for and what they are used for. Are they used as an experience or an escape? When I first bought my ticket I imagined nothing but beautiful music, amazing scenery, and incredibly spiritual individuals all gathering to go on this journey through the Electric Forest. I later realized that was not realistic. Real life is not perfect. Reality is not all rainbows, flowers and pixie dust. Unfortunately, these music festivals are too often used as a way to escape reality. They set up the festival in a way that it enables people to abuse their bodies and live in this fairytale land for four days.
Reality is perfectly imperfect and that’s what makes it so beautiful. Being able to legitimately feel and experience reality is a blessing. To truly experience life and live in this reality we must explore the depths of the darkness and the light; we must feel the polar opposites of good and evil within us and within the world. When we do so and truly understand the darkness, then we can fully live in the light. It genuinely shocked me to see how many individuals were trying so hard to escape reality, how many people were truly scared of feeling the darkness. I saw far too many beings using drugs and the music as a way to escape the darkness, to forget about all their problems. In reality, all they were doing was going deeper and deeper into confusion and illusion.
I invite you all to reflect and look deep in your hearts to how we can use the music scene as an experience instead of an escape; to how we can use the power of music to actually make a positive impact in this world instead of as a means for escaping reality. It was of extreme importance for me to share my story in hopes that no one has to go through what Kara went through. Please be mindful of what you are using psychedelics, drugs and music festivals for. Are you using them for an experience or an escape? Thanks again and if possible please share this article to help spread awareness about the duality of music festivals. To spread awareness about why it’s not all fun and games and why that’s what makes it real, that’s what makes it beautiful.
Written By: Meghan Hargaden