This is Part 1 of our coverage of Even Furthur 2016. Check back in the coming days and weeks for Furthur coverage.
Exactly one month before this post was published (August 22, 2016), I woke up in my tent at Even Furthur, an electric music festival in Somewhere, Wisconsin, in a most foul mood. Three days of intense physical activity and little sleep had taken their toll, and I was not in the mood to pack up my mud-covered belongings.
30 minutes later, though, I was in heaven.
I found heaven 10 minutes after my nastiest porta-potty experience of the weekend. It was 2 hours and 30 minutes before I would pat myself on the back for getting to the venue's exit without getting stuck in the mud as so many others had, and 2 hours and 40 minutes before my front left tire shredded to bits on a dirt road after I took a wrong turn out of said exit. Yet despite my mishap on my way home from Somewhere, I will forever recall the events of August 22, 2016 with a smile on my face, thanks to that brief time in heaven.
I was not surprised to hear the thumping bass when I woke up from a brief nap at 8 AM, I woke up to a similar sound the previous two mornings as well. On this day, however, it was a bit louder. As I walked to the porta-potty I realized that was because the music was coming from the main stage, not one of the smaller DIY stages as was the case the prior two mornings. I was in a terrible mood but I thankfully decided to at least stop by on my way back to scope out the scene.
When I stepped inside the tent, everything changed in an instant. Miles Maeda was pumping out some classic house jams and there were about 100 very happy looking people on the dance floor, most of them showing no sign of the wear and tear that comes with trudging through the mud and raving one's tits off (for lack of a better phrase) for 72 or so hours. I stood in the back of the tent, taking it all in. I saw a solid Minneapolis crew holding it down up front, just as we had done all weekend. I saw Drop Bass Network head Kurt Eckes, Tommie Sunshine, and other rave legends getting down in the midst of the crowd.
The first time the word rave was used to refer to a dance party was in the 60s in England. The word was used to imply that its participants were raving mad. The people in the tent that morning proved that's still the case 50 years later. They are freaks. They are weirdos. They are insane. Just like me.
My feet hurt in a way that I didn't previously know was possible. My brain was fried and I was ready to pack up and go home. Despite all this, I couldn't help but smile because of what was going on around me. The music caught me like a tractor beam. I started to sway from side to side, against my will. "Ok, fine, I'll stick around for a few minutes" I said to myself. Swaying turned in to actual dancing, not my finest dance floor performance mind you, but I was moving. I looked at my watch, the few minutes had passed but I couldn't pull myself away.
I approached Kurt Eckes on the dance floor and thanked him for an amazing weekend. I noted that the attendees had been relatively well behaved. "A little too well behaved", he responded. Literally within seconds of that exchange, my new friend Joe and a man called Hardkor Nate hopped up on the speakers to dance. "There may be time to fuck this up yet!" I said. Eventually they were in their underwear and go-go gender norms had been shattered. This was the nail in the coffin of my foul mood.
I found myself in a familiar space, directly in front of the speakers on the right side, surrounded by friends from Minneapolis. The people with me on the dance floor were not just happy, they were BEAMING. It was impossible not to join them. These victory laps are one of my favorite things about attending these kind of events and being around these kind of people. It's about pushing ourselves further than we thought we could go. It's about taking Mother Nature and Father Time's best shots and saying "Oh yeah, is that all you got?!" It's not so much that we don't know when to stop, it's that we downright refuse to. Music, particularly this kind of music, has the power to take me away like nothing else. For a while, I forgot my feet hurt. I didn't care that I still had to go pack up my muddy belongings. It was a fitting end to one of the most amazing and inspiring weekends of my life.
I left the dance floor at 9, the few minutes I had planned to spend there turned into a half hour. Miles played for another couple hours, but given how the rest of my day turned out I have no regrets about leaving when I did. I was about to have a bit of a meltdown after my tire shredded on that dirt road outside Somewhere, but thankfully a farmer who lives nearby stopped and helped me dig out my spare and put it on. We spoke at length about the festival, he said he could hear the bass at his farm a few miles away, but mostly just on the first night. He said he didn't mind it much but he knew it bothered several neighbors who live closer to the venue. I told him I could sympathize, but for what it was worth, that was the most bad ass party I've ever been to. We have to do it somewhere, and Somewhere is where it was.
I wish we didn't have to sneak around and feel like criminals for wanting to be ourselves. I wish society didn't look down at us with judgmental eyes. I wish we didn't have to question whether there will ever be another Furthur. That's how it is, though, and it's just one more thing that bonds us, one more thing that we danced in spite of on that Monday morning, in addition to the extremely muddy conditions, exhaustion, pain, and our impending departure.
I wish more people realized how powerful and beautiful an experience something like this can be. I wish more people could see the things we've seen and feel the things we've felt, but maybe if they did it wouldn't be as special. So instead of feeling bad for them, I will be thankful that I know, that I found my people.
I've had my fair share of miraculous dance floor comebacks, but I've never come from that far back. I pushed myself all weekend. I danced hard and I didn't leave anything on the dance floor. I've been at The Works in Detroit at 6 AM Tuesday morning of Movement weekend and felt pretty cool about it, but this was the most physically grueling experience of my life thanks to all the mud. My feet still hurt.
Exactly one year before Even Furthur, I was in Glacier National Park in Montana. It's the most naturally beautiful place I have ever been, there are breathtaking sights in every direction. If I had to pick, however, I'll take the sight of 100 blissed out ravers putting some icing on the cake in the middle of a muddy field in Somewhere, Wisconsin at 9 AM on a Monday.
I've been to plenty of victory laps since I first got in to this music, but none were as powerful and beautiful as this one. This was something more. For a half hour, I escaped reality. I wasn't tired, I wasn't in pain, I didn't have to pack up my car and drive home. I was still surrounded by my people, but I was no longer in the middle of a muddy field in Somewhere. I was in heaven.