This past weekened, Electric Forest wrapped up its second edition of 2018. The popular Michigan festival expanded to two weekends last year as more and more music lovers learned of the famed Sherwood Forest. What many festivalgoers may not realize is that it wasn’t always called Electric Forest. Once upon a time, it was a festival called Rothbury – named after the Michigan town where it continues to take place. We remember the first Rothbury fondly. It was ten years ago, and it was where we first met.
A Little Backstory
In the summer of 2008, Rachel was doing her internship with Shimon Presents in their Atlanta office. Summer is the peak time for this grassroots music marketing and promotions company, as they’re in charge of the WET (Work Exchange Team) that brings volunteers to festivals across the country. July was going to be a busy month for them, starting with Rothbury and then continuing to All Good and Camp Bisco.
As for me, I was a recent college graduate singing the alumni blues. I had my degree but no job lined up, so I decided to take on an internship selling ads for the college phonebook at Michigan State. If that sounds awful, it’s because it was. With the Michigan economy in the dumps and several businesses closing their doors, nobody had any interest in paying to advertise in a freaking phone book.
Desperate not to get stuck moving back in with my parents, I decided to expand my job-searching horizons. Before you knew it, I was all booked and ready to move to China to start teaching English. With a flight set for right before the 2008 Summer Olympics, I still had all of June and July to do my usual w00k thing. It was time to go out with a bang with a few more festivals, with the first-ever Rothbury being the top choice.
For years, I had been traveling to all corners of the country (and a few others) for festivals. For the first time ever, a massive festival with all my favorite bands was coming to the Mitten! Myself and a bunch of friends signed up with WET once again to earn our tickets to the festival. We even got on the pre-festival team so we could get all our hours in before Thursday and thus be able to enjoy the whole festival for free.
Before we get on to the story of how we met, it’s of great importance that I introduce a key word – WOMP. “What is womp?”, you may ask. Womp is a large group of friends, more like a family actually, that have been traveling and seeing music together for over a decade. The Rothbury festival in 2008 saw the family grow exponentially, as the crew from Georgia and Tennessee mixed in with our large group of Michiganders.
I had my first introduction to the Womp crew a few months earlier when some friends and I traveled to a few STS9 shows in the Midwest. A large group of Wompers made the trip from down south, and about 20 of us crammed into hotel rooms in Chicago and St. Louis for a few ridiculous nights.
Thanks to her internship at Shimon, Rachel met several members of the Womp family who were also volunteering at festivals and doing promotional work. We didn’t know each other yet, but we already had several friends in common. Little did we know that our paths were about to cross for the first time.
Rothbury Music Festival
The campsite at that first Rothbury is the stuff of legends. Not only did we have our very own red, white and sparkly blue Womp flag, but we had a MFing trampoline. That’s right – we set up an entire trampoline at our campsite at a music festival. By Friday afternoon, our Womp village was at least 100 strong, with the trampoline serving as our town square.
No matter what time of day or night it was, there were always shenanigans going on at Camp Womp. We got pep talks from own very own Coach before heading into the festival grounds. We even staged our own late-night sets at the campsite with some of our friends who would eventually play on stage at Electric Forest and many other festivals. You may have heard of them – Cherub and Two Fresh.
A silly video I made from the campsite at Rothbury 2008.
Slap the Bag, Meet the Girl
At one point during the day, I was wandering around the campsite with a nice bag of wine in hand. Slap the bag is a favorite pastime amongst us Wompers, so I was sharing the Chillable Red with anyone who wanted to give her a good schwill and a slap. There were many familiar faces and some new ones as well, including a cute blonde girl who was clearly seeing stars.
It was a brief and hazy moment, but one that stuck with me. A few days after the festival, I was chatting with a friend online. The conversation went something like this:
So what’s up with cute Rachel from Tennessee?
Oh she’s taken already…
Wait, which Rachel do you mean?
There are two?
She was blonde.
Oh that’s Rachel Story! I’m actually not sure about her…
So you’re saying there’s a chance??
I think she’s going to Camp Bisco next weekend.
Awesome! So am I...
A Ring Pop Proposal
And so my scheming began. I had come up with a ridiculous idea to bring Ring Pops to Camp Bisco to hand out to random heady chicks. You know, because girls who go to raves often suck on pacifiers. I’d do a faux proposal out of nowhere and hand them a Ring Pop. It seemed like a pretty dumb plan, but now I had a motivation to go for it. After all, how else are you going to stand out from all the random dudes who hit on cute girls at a music festival?
Fast forward a week, and I was at my last festival before making the big move to China. Rachel was there as well, and thanks to mutual friends she was hanging out at our campsite quite a bit. She didn’t exactly remember meeting at Rothbury, but I sure did.
After a few trial runs with the Ring Pops (pretty much every girl loved them), I decided to go for it. It was just cheesy enough for me to get a laugh out of her and not shoe me away like the countless other random hippies who had hit on her that and every other weekend. While I did in fact move to the other side of the world a few weeks later, we kept in touch that whole time and made grand plans to follow Phish around the next summer.
All Sort of Grown Up
The rest, as they say, is history, and we have a magical weekend in Rothbury, Michigan to thank for it. Looking back on it, that festival was such a massively important event in both of our lives. On the one hand, it was the end of an era, as many of us graduated that year and moved on. It was also the start of a new one, as the southern and Michigan crews came together forming new friendships that have lasted over a decade.
Ten years later, the Womp crew is still going strong. We may not roll 100 deep to festivals with trampolines and an excessive amount of boxed wine anymore, but we’ll always be family. Many of us have even started our own families. We’re among several married couples in the group, and there are even a couple of Womp babies running around these days. Someday when they’re old enough, Uncle Sasha will sit them down and tell them the tale of how their parents were once cool, and the Womp legacy will live on.