Dubstep and rock and roll joined the usual sounds of the Shawnee National Forest during the weekend.
The first Soundz of the Forest Music Fest was held Friday, Saturday and Sunday, south of Murphysboro and featured two stages, 40 musical performers and camping.
Devo Lawty, one of the four organizers of the event, said around 400 people showed up Friday night.
The festival was more or less a trial run, he said, and if it all went well, they would consider doing more like it.
He said he and his friends had organized big parties before, but this was the first bona fide festival. Organizing it consisted mostly of posting on Facebook, which attracted DJs and bands, and handing out fliers to get the word out, he said.
“We just want to have some fun and want people to have fun with us,” he said.
Caitlin French, of Carbondale, said the event probably drew people who would go to the former Saltpeter Cave, and Soundz filled the void left by events such as Cavefest.
French ran a mobile thrift shop at the festival and also cooked grilled cheese sandwiches for a dollar tip. She said the store was open for business as long as anyone wanted one.
“We’d have people come up at 3 a.m. and be like, ‘Oh my god, are you still making the grilled cheese sandwiches?’” she said.
Those who decided to camp pitched their tents on one of the hillsides surrounding the hollow, where an old barn had been repurposed as a musical stage. Deeper in the woods, there was another stage perched above a narrow ravine.
Peter Collins, owner of the property, said his son is a friend of the organizers.
While he gave them the property to hold the event, he had a minimal role in putting it together. Instead, he sat with some friends and observed the proceedings.
“I’m just going to watch from the hill,” he said.
As for the crowd’s behavior, he said he wasn’t too worried about it and hadn’t seen anything bad going on.
Overall, the festivalgoers had been peaceful and had not trashed the land, he said.
“I have faith in mankind and hope nature will prevail,” he said.
One group of friends who attended said festivals like Soundz are fun because they attract a cool crowd of people who have common interests and are easy to get along with.
Tawnya Jarman, a junior from Litchfield studying journalism, said a lot of people are really nice and don’t hesitate to say hi and be friendly.
“It’s like your friend that you don’t even know yet,” she said.
Cayman Bone, a sophomore from Sarasota, Fla., studying music theatre, said the atmosphere isn’t typical of SIU’s campus, and it’s nice to come out to a festival about once a semester to relax.
Allie Ribley, a sophomore from Springfield studying behavior analysis, said she didn’t know any of the DJs scheduled, but Saturday’s fine weather gave the group a chance to grill out and talk to neighbors.
As the sun began to get low in the sky, some of them hula-hooped to pass the time around their tie-dyed blanket campground overlooking the hollow.
Camper Dave Carlton said he’s been in the area for years, ever since his friends introduced him to it. He said the festival offered a chance for people of all kinds of personalities to take in the forest.
“I wish that all people under stress feel what I do here,” he said.