By Kevin Alan Lamb
Show up for yourself long enough and you will begin to show up for others. Never underestimate the enduring strength that is your presence. Like a kid in a candy factory I strolled through the Electric Forest intent on giving my best effort to capture but a breath of the magic that moves men and women to tears. Operating a professional camera for the first time, covering the first music festival I ever attended three years ago, I found strength in numbers, shooting 2,200 photos in four days time. I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you the best Phun Photo I assembled during Friday’s String Cheese set was terribly out of focus, as I swiftly backtrot to capture the mass of 400 festivarians in all their sweet glory. Some of the best moments in this life cannot be put on film in a cage; their wild nature necessitates them to be lived, loved, and remembered.
No matter the headliner in Rothbury, the best the Forest has to offer is found at the Observatory and Forest Stage. It is in the trees; in the leaves; in the wide-eyes, and the gentle breeze; in the hearts of those in love, lying in their hammocks asleep to the sound of acoustic guitar strings, echoing on mahogany. It is found on the edge of lyrics, carried by Katie Boeck’s voice.
“Sing, sing me a song
one that I know
one that I can lean on”
Because after all, we all need somebody to lean on. Those very words resonated in my bones, drawn to the Observatory where I discovered a blue eyed poet and prophetess, showering fellow Foresters with moving melodies and bliss. All the way from rural Montana, Katie Boeck, a storyteller stood, glowing with an effervescent visage as she deposited soulful folk into the magic that moves Sherwood Forest; which is ultimately, something we all need.
“Pray, pray along with me
let’s share the words that we both need.”
Moved by music and magic, with the distinction lost between, her words remind us to find solace in one another’s love, thoughts, and presence. A graduate of UCLA’s School of Theatre, the virtuous, emerging performer has created her niche as the guitar-strumming actress of Los Angeles, who will be taking her show to Broadway in Duncan Sheik’s critically acclaimed musical, Spring Awakening.
“It’s being done by Deaf West, which supports hard of hearing actors. It’s about the breakdown in communication between adults and children, and takes place in 1890 Germany where there was a movement to get rid of American sign language, and force deaf people to speak. Deaf actors have voiced counterparts who are musicians, and follow them on stage, shadowing them as spirit guides to tell their story. I’m paired with Wendela, a main character. It opens in September and runs until January.”
Imprinted upon her angelic skin are words that carry a mantra that helped deliver Beethoven to eminence: Nulla dies sine linea.
“It’s a motto that Beethoven used. He said the reason he was able to write so much and prolifically was because he had a mantra of writing every day. It means no day without a line. To me, it’s about creating your story, it means having a blank page, but also having discipline. I relate to Beethoven because he was sort of a torture artist, opposed to Mozart who could just write these symphonies in his head; there were no scratches on his manuscript, and I’m not like that. I need to really sit down, it feels like a purging, and I have to get this thing out, and it can be hard and frustrating.”
No day without a line is a commitment the blossoming performing artist made to herself and her gifts. Tattooing the mantra inside her left arm is an effective true north to guide Katie in the right direction, serving as a necessary reminder when darkness lingers, and doubt disables. I too know the effectiveness of imprinting a philosophy upon my skin. The lyrics, “decide what to be, and go be it” lie along my left and right wrists, ensuring I use the gifts I was given to tell a story of a protagonist emerging from a sea of apathy; a story of people like Katie Boeck who are positively influencing others, guiding them to happiness, and home.
“I know I’m here for a reason, and they wouldn’t have me here if I wasn’t meant to be. And I see the people with good souls who need it.”
Like critically acclaimed Sara Bareilles and Maroon 5, Katie won UCLA’s well known campus talent competition Spring Sing for a record-breaking three consecutive years. From there she took a headfirst dive into the world of independent artistry, playing her songs wherever there were ears that needed to listen.
“Music is so influential, and it’s interesting to me how certain music is involved with certain culture and lifestyle, and I think people need to ground themselves a little bit. Having the jam bands, real music… I love. They’ve done a good job having people on stage making music with their hands.”
New to the festival scene, she wasn’t certain just what she would discover in the Forest.
“This is my first time to Electric Forest, and it’s also my first major festival as an artist on the bill. It’s been crazy, I didn’t know what to expect. I was happy to have two shows, because first show jitters got out, and I was happy to be the first show on a Sunday morning. I think I’m sort of the chill, nice, peaceful vibe.”
She was just that: With the passing of each year comes the departure of another instrument wielding performer, offsetting the equilibrium in the Forest due to the growing popularity of electronic music. Collaboration is an art mastered by musicians, yet struggled with by fans. A great number of attendees come to Rothbury and they are not focused on the music and the experience: the spiritual awakening, respect, and togetherness which is the foundation of the Forest.
“I think there’s a lot of misguided people influenced by music. That’s why I do feel so passionate about being a positive voice in the music industry because a lot of people are just looking for somebody to feel connected to; so if the primary thing out there is this intensive, we don’t care about anything, that’s something people connect to, but love – that’s something people can connect to as well… and beauty.”
The precipice of this competing energy was most prevalent at the Ranch Stage as String Cheese exited, and Bassnectar entered. I couldn’t help but to be overwhelmed by the blind sense of entitlement that many Bassheads carried themselves with as they pushed, stumbled, and disrespected their way through a swollen-festival-crowd.
“Dancing is healthy and it really depends on the type of music, and it’s inspiring. There’s elevated music, and there’s music that kind of just floats through the ether that isn’t connected to this primal, rooted place.”
Tension eased when Forest Fam began to sing the very song Electric Forest 2014 exited singing, “You, you got what I need, but you say he’s just a friend, you say he’s just a friend.”
The notion of tension at a music festival of all places is absurd; there are greater tragedies. There is no place for evil in Rothbury: be respectful; be kind; be decent; be a good human and do not steal from others! We travel across the state, country, and world to escape the shadow darkness casts over our lives; do not poison this sacred space with your inadequacies.
“You gotta remind people that there are good signs all around, and hope is there, and good people do exist.”
We exist and we grow stronger with numbers. Sing your Siren songs and we will not hear what you have to say!
“Music is cathartic, it’s reciprocal, it’s a positive feedback that just kind of flows. Last night I got to get on stage with Everybody’s Orchestra which was kind of scary. I sat in as a vocalist, I was nervous, but focused on keeping a positive vibe and a lot of people came in from the Bassnectar concert needing the peace and the love, and I could see it.”
We all need peace. We all need love. And what we need will be within our grasp when we internalize the desire to reach for it; when we embrace the necessity of showing up; when we discover that magic is real and only made with the fervent-burning passion in our blood, sweat, and presence.