One of Its Kind: Enchanted Forest Gathering [Festival Review]

 photo Vitamindevo-EnchantedForest-2016-31-2_zps0igusxya.jpg

If you’re looking to get away from the real world and take a break to meander among the woods and in the river, surrounded by the kindest of people, the most touching of yoga practices and the bassiest of music, Enchanted Forest Gathering is the place for you – and it’s unlike any other festival I’ve experienced.

Self-titled as NorCal’s premiere conscious living, music, and movement festival, the event took place July 22-24 in Laytonville, California, roughly three hours north of San Francisco. The three-day celebration consisted of a number of live performances and musical sets, yoga practices, flow workshops, talks around subjects like relationships and sexuality, science and spirituality, permaculture, health and wellness and so much more. Though it was a bit overwhelming – there was a lot happening all of the time, in sweltering heat – it was intriguing to see all of the options available.

The lineup had a number of killer performers, including Shpongle, The Polish Ambassador, Ayla Nereo, Hamsa Lila, PANTYRAID, Autograf and Thriftworks. Autograf has always been a favorite of mine, so it was an experience to be able to see their set by the river. Though I usually expect mellow house vibes from them, they put on quite a different show this time around – really embracing the weekend’s idea of exploration and experimentation. The Polish Ambassador, however, was arguably my favorite set of the weekend. Playing at sunset Saturday evening on the main stage, David Sugalski brought funky beats mixing old and new tracks for a set that kept bringing surprises. Shpongle, of course, is always a fantastic show to watch – and a great performance I’d recommend anyone to see at least once.

 photo Vitamindevo-EnchantedForest-2016-241_zpsypmlsb5h.jpg

The stages were amazingly put together, as I couldn’t help but study the intricate details that went into the decorations around the main stage. There were four: the River Stage, the Hearth Stage, the Mighty Oak Stage and the Shower Party Stage. Each stood in their own design, unique and colorful. They offered beautiful designs and some with colorful shade structures, which were perfectly balanced in their design and appearance while simultaneously providing much needed shelter from the midday heat. At night, the lasers on the main stage played into the surrounding trees, making the visual experience stretch so much further beyond the stage and bringing the crowd together. I did notice during a few sets that the sound was relatively low – you couldn’t stand too far back into the crowd without seemingly losing some of the experience – but I had heard rumors this was due to neighbors complaining about noise, so it made sense.

As for scheduling, I personally wasn’t a huge fan of how everything seemed to be “clumped” – the mornings seemed to be filled with only yoga and rituals, and the evenings with talks and music. I would have preferred for there to be more talks spread out over the course of the day, as all of the ones I wanted to attend were overlapping with other events, so making decisions was challenging. I did, however, truly enjoy Saturday afternoon’s Yoga of Bass, whom I had heard about often prior to Enchanted Forest but never had the opportunity to attend.

 photo Vitamindevo-EnchantedForest-2016-59_zpsbfzrecod.jpg

Hosted by yoga and meditation teacher Claire Thompson and DJ and Producer FreQ Nasty, Yoga of Bass was an afternoon workshop that truly dives into the study of the intersection of music and yoga practice. I find yoga to typically be a calming, soothing practice so this idea of practicing to bass music was, at first, odd to me: I expected it to be challenging and offsetting with this heavy bass music interrupting the flow. I was wrong – it was quite the opposite. It was intriguingly soothing to listen to a deep bass guide you through the practice, as Claire talked through a flow that allowed you to open up and experiment with yourself. It was lovely.

 photo Vitamindevo-EnchantedForest-2016-7_zpspfrov1su.jpg

Overall, beyond the logistics and physical offerings of this festival, there was something much larger about it that was so beautiful: the idea of open expression and acceptance that truly embodied the weekend and its participants. Their motto – “get saucy, not sauced” – played into the concept that all attendees have the opportunity to find a way to express themselves and create their own forms of stimulation beyond alcohol. They fully embraced the concept of “free the nipple,” as there were free-flowing, naked bodies everywhere you turned, open and welcome and free to move as they wish, with no constrictions that come with the social standards of the outside world. There were no expectations, no rules, no standards – simply an open platform to come as you are and be as you wish.

I’d recommend Enchanted Forest Gathering to anyone looking to escape to the woods for a weekend and challenge who they are as individuals, as this weekend was a wonderful opportunity for attendees to explore themselves, learn and flow as they wish. With its intimate setting, array of musical offerings and opportunities for education and growth, it was an event unique in its own right.

Keep an eye out for Enchanted Forest Gathering’s 2017 event and, in the meantime, check out their 2015 recap video below.

All photos by VITAMINDEVO.