It was a dusty hot mid-July day in Laytonville, California. Driving up Highway 101, I finally came across a “Special Event” sign and cones leading me directly off the road and into the Will Call area. Taking my car down the short dirt road, I was greeted by smiling faces welcoming me into the 6th Annual Enchanted Forest Gathering. While the venue was strikingly close to the passing cars on the 101, this interactive and beautifully designed festival nestled among the redwoods transported attendees to a dreamy, distant place.
Held at Black Oak Ranch, the intimate space, with short walking distances between all attractions and camping, was occupied by just the right number of festival goers, estimated at 2000. Music on the Mighty Oak (the main stage) was just getting going on this gorgeous Friday afternoon. Wandering around the festival grounds, I instantly became relaxed and grounded by the surrounding natural beauty, while my excitement grew. Almost immediately this festival began to feel like one big family gathering, with the sight of friends meeting, reuniting, and embracing.
The get down commenced at the Mighty Oak just before sundown. I was able to make it there just in time for a beautiful set from CloZee. As an accomplished instrumentalist, who started playing guitar at the age of 11, this talented young producer opened the festival perfectly with her smooth blend of melodic world-bass music, written from her home in Toulouse, France. I caught up with her later that night for an interview (coming soon), just before she took off to catch a plane. As the breeze picked up and the sun dipped below the surrounding hills, smiles swept across the crowd and the weekend was off to a great start.
After a tasty meal with close friends at the charming food court, we were off to catch some bass with PANTyRAiD on the main stage. The production duo (MartyParty & Ooah) started with some brand new tracks off of their freshly released album, After Glow. Their signature low-end heavy style got the crowd hyped nicely. However, what stole our attention was the gorgeous and intricate lighting and visual designs by Audiowaska and PhotonicBliss.
As great as that was, the biggest stand-out of Friday night was not the sights and sounds at the Mighty Oak, it was our experience late night at the Nectar Temple. From the outside, this giant red draping tent structure appeared much like any chill space you would find at a similar festival. Passing by, however, the glow and hypnotic sounds peaked our curiosity as we found ourselves being sucked in. Lying down on the provided cushions and pillows, we were treated for the rest of the night to the innovative and enchanting music of DanceHer. Layering live instrumentation, including vocals, keyboard, didgeridoo, and pan-flute, ancient sounds bounced around the surrounding speakers, panning from corner to corner in a dynamic 4-channel technique. Mesmerizing visuals danced above us as a vocalist hopped on the microphone and surprised all with a robust chanting of ghostly opera-style melodies. Eyes wide at first, and then slowly closing, I’d found the perfect bedtime spot for the rest of the weekend, even with my own tent only 20 feet away.
Awoken by the blazing sun on Saturday morning, it was time to hit the water. The Swimmin’-Hole stage was setup beside the running creek, featured shady awnings to dance under, and boasted the second biggest sound system at the festival, washing the surrounding camp areas in pleasant daytime tunes. The cold water surrounded by redwoods was so refreshing; I waded and swam for at least a couple hours before drying off on the dance floor.
Late afternoon was a big highlight when SOOHAN took over the Swimmin’ Hole. The whole river area was packed, with people crammed under the awnings and large merry groups dotting the perimeter. In the center of the clearing, just outside the large crowd, flow-folk danced with their array of hoops, poi and staves, of which I was compelled to join. SOOHAN finished his set off with a remix of System of a Down’s track, B.Y.O.B., which brought huge, nostalgic smiles to many faces.
Workshops were a huge part of this festival, with over 50 movement-orientated classes in yoga, dance, flow arts, and physical connection, held at 4 locations: the Namastage, the Dance Temple, the Flow Zone and the Yoga Dome. Many other talks and classes were given by world renowned instructors at five separate locations, each specializing in one area of content, from areas such as science, spirituality, relationships, permaculture, nutrition, and arts. After catching an informative and entertaining talk, by Eric Purp-Heal, on “sustainable raging”, I was inspired to get some rest before going out for the night.
As my friends and I stomped into the main stage area with our glowing flow toys, like a pack of super heroes, Saturday Night started started off with a bang. Pumping through the crisp Funktion-One sound system was the funky, galactic glitch-hop of NOMINUS. Accompanied by the bright, futuristic lighting, the whole stage painted a very electric theme, as bodies bounced and eyes lit up. I even caught some guy with a futuristic get-up, wielding a pair of staves that looked like lightning bolts, adding to the charged atmosphere. Next, we headed to the Dr. Bronner’s themed Saucy Spa stage—an enclosed area that featured a ‘human car wash’ during the day, as well as a bumpin’ dancefloor and a chill zone at night. Friends boogied with huge grins to dirty bass beats from ONHELL and DJ Professor Stone as I met some amazing people and conversed on a 30 foot long glowing waterbed. Finally, it was back to the Nectar Temple to once again be lulled to sleep.
After greeting the Sunday Morning with a Kundalini Yoga class, I encouraged friends to venture to the far reaches of the car-camping lot where I’d heard about a renegade stage. This spot turned out to be the secret gem of the festival. A surprisingly large wooden stage decked out with a PK sound system stood tall beside the creek. The water behind the stage was the cleanest and deepest anywhere in the festival grounds. We marveled at the small fish sliding by our feet and swam around to the deep bass sounds that were heard loud and clear nearby.
Later on, passing by the Live Lounge, a stage for acoustic performers, I was stopped dead in my tracks and drawn in to take a seat to watch Elijah Ray belt uplifting original songs, while he looped his acoustic guitar. A trumpeter joined him on stage, and together they had the whole audience smiling and grooving as a late afternoon breeze brought some relief during the hottest day of the weekend.
One of my final favorite sets of the weekend was during the last sunset on the main stage. Morillo’s eclectic bass music took us around the globe with remixes and originals ranging from jazzy salsa tracks to big, bassy ‘Roman Empire Trap’.
It wasn’t until very late Sunday night that I felt the full ambiance of the enchanted forest. Music had stopped around midnight (besides the Silent Disco) leaving the space calm and quiet. Strolling around the glowing woods, temperatures had dropped significantly, so I decided to stop by a tea lounge that I’d passed earlier. The softly lit lounge turned out to be the perfect cozy spot to warm up as I was served a tasty brew and received a palm reading. Exiting the tea lounge and heading back to my tent, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d been transported to a far away fantasy land.
All in all, this was an extremely pleasing experience for my first time at EFG and I look forward to returning next year. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an intimate gathering with solid production, a plethora of activities, and a killer music line-up. For a festival that bills itself as “sacred, sexy, silly, and saucy”, Enchanted Forest Gathering certainly lived up to its name.
Enchanted Forest: Website | Facebook | Event Page | Twitter | Instagram | Vimeo
Many of the photos in the article are courtesy of Jacob Avanzato