Electric Forest: The Legend of Carl

by Good Sign on June 23, 2015


By Kevin Alan Lamb

This evening I pack my bag of tricks (Chief Whistle, cape, etc.), paint my Good Sign totem (Rage Carl), and will escape to my sleep where I hope to discover enchanted dreams. Because tomorrow, I head west to Rothbury, Michigan, for my third Electric Forest.
Each year is more special than the last. Before I ever set foot in Sherwood Forest, 5k Good Signs had been given away at Rothbury ‘09. While Good Signs span the globe, and have become a one-of-a-kind festival mainstay, Electric Forest is our Holy Grail, and the Chief is coming home. And for those keeping score at home, I am the Chief.

I remember the days when we used Rage Carl to find our group of friends. Last year I counted close to 15 Good Sign Totems at Rothbury. Curious if others similarly ponder over this phenomena: no two totems are ever the same, minus the army of hope dealers with their Good Sign (Carl Jr.) raised in all its rage and glory. This tells me it’s working.

(Related: Electric Forest Group Hug World Record Attempt)

Now, let’s discuss this Carl nonsense. While many will liken the presence of Carl in the Forest to a played out chicken fight with Peter Griffin (Family Guy), I’ve always enjoyed the mystery, and folklore surrounding the origin of such a man. I recall Electric Forest ‘14, my first music festival, and a story of man named Carl who loved to climb trees, and lie in his hammock. Carl is obviously a bold man, spending most of time in places where few others dared to venture. It would only be fitting that Carl had a handlebar mustache, played the fiddle, and learned karate from Kareem Abdul Jabbar, following his work in Game of Death (1986).


Amateurs hammock on the ground level: “Carl is no amateur,” said Walter Sobchak following last week’s league play at Holy Star Lanes, in Santa Monica. Constantly searching for the perfect Forest view, Carl disregards his safety and climbs higher and higher, securing his bird’s eye view of the magnificent creatures below, stumbling, and dancing about. Carl believes their strange behavior has something to do with what they put in the water; but it is just a theory.

While Carl never concerned himself with the ruse known as popular opinion, he has grown both quite, and rather disturbed by the overwhelming obsession with his discovery. If Carl wanted to spend time with you, he probably wouldn’t have elected to climb a tree and never come back down.

(Related: Uniquely Detroit, This is a Good Sign)

Because I am a silly bastard, and appreciate a good tall tale, I decided it best to remember the legend of Carl and bestow his name to describe the various forms of Good Signs. Since Carl is obviously spoken for, Carl Jr. was born in the form of your standard 18×18 Good Sign. When the Chief and the Chicken Hawk tire from getting low, because after all, they are the dos that get’s the lowest, they enjoy a tasty Cold Carl (beer), which you most definitely ought not confuse with a Hot Carl. Naturally my cape is Super Carl. The sticker on my phone is Sticky Carl. The Good Signs with inspiring words on the back (that we hand out by the thousands), is your limited edition Business Carl. If you’re ever in trouble, be sure to call Fat Carl (our Fathead). Perhaps you’re not into carrying a giant yellow sign that confuses the world into asking you questions, give Baby Carl (6×6) a whirl around the proverbial block (the ladies love him). We probably named our pins as well, I can’t recall… but you get the idea.


Thanks to Carl, Good Signs have been personified, creating an infinite number of storylines in this strange and beautiful happening that is human experience. In the most bizarre, yet strangely appropriate fashion, I later learned the true origin of this character name Carl, and that he was a friend of mine. But that story is for another day.

Here is some of the Carl conjecture floating around that thing Al Gore invented…

“As we are adapting back to the unfortunate reality we live in, away from the Rothbury utopia, your memories will reappear and ask you, ‘Where’s Carl?’ Carl was not left in the forest, lost and wondering. Instead, he was found within everyone who yelled his name, and he thrives on.”

“At Rothbury Music Festival in 2008, a girl spent the entire night calling for her lost companion… Carl. While no one’s sure what became of the real Carl, any time you shout “CARRRRL?!” in a crowd, you’re guaranteed to get at least 10 echoed responses. It’s hilarious.”

“I meant to post this earlier, it is one of the craziest coincidences I have ever heard of in my entire life. I have attended both Rothburys and just now, the Electric Forest. I have to say that if anyone has attended at least ONE of these festivals, they have heard the running “Where’s Carl??!?!?” joke over and over and over again. Honestly, its pretty annoying.”

“Well here it is.. What I am about to say is 100% true, I have no reason to lie about this. I met two shroomerites at eForest and I might have told them this story so they can back me up on it being valid. I don’t remember if I told them or not though. Whatever. Three years ago a group of kids from my high school went to Rothbury 2008 and one of the kids name was Carl, obviously,.. Well long story short, they lost him the first night (Thursday) and didn’t find him til late Sunday/early Monday morning LOL. So the entire time that weekend they were almost constantly searching for him, somewhat worried ya know, screaming “Carl???! Where are you Carl??!?”…. For days they yelled this at the festival. It turned into a huge joke, literally everyone was screaming CARL WHERE ARE YOU OMG CARL’S DEAD!!! And the funny thing is… the dude is like 26, a total dork and virgin that lives in his mom’s basement. Hard to believe, my jaw dropped when one of my group members told me about it.”

(Related: With our powers combined)

“I was told that Carl was the crazy shirtless christian artist guy who is at like EVERY fu*#%ng fest and walks around and sells prints.”

“Upon a mere few minutes in the forest I started to hear festival-goers screaming in unison “CAAAARL—WHERE’S CARL?” It was all very confusing but upon some further research I learned that Carl is a lost forest festival legend. “Apparently Carl went missing in 2008 and festie hoppers have been searching for him ever since. It was pretty amazing to see one person start the chant and before you knew it the whole forest was screaming Carl’s name. Let’s hope we find the guy one day.”

“Last year at Rothbury, I spoke personally with a group of kids who recognized me, buddy was named Carl and they told me the funniest story. They were in the forest and it was dark and this was around the middle of bisco on Thursday night. They called out for carl who had lagged behind and got caught in the mix. Everyone started calling out for Carl. Hence the “shout for carl”. I was laughing in amazement and this young guy pulls out his wallet voluntarily and sez “see Soulmate! My name really is Carl”. All the kids were so excited about this!”


“Dude I figured out who Carl is he is the man who put on Rothbury he just sits behind a desk and plots about what magical events are going to happen so everything that happened was his doing and everyone is looking for him just to say thanks for the wonderful weekend.”

“Oh man, so my first time at forest (2013) I was at my friend’s campsite and a group of us were just hanging around watching the sunrise, and one of the people there was telling the story of Carl (as he knew it) He had been at one of the earlier years (like the second Rothbury I think) well now i’m realizing i remember much less of the story than I originally thought, I know that it involved him hearing people shouting carl, asking a security guard why, and a long story from the security guard about a guy who got lost in the forest at the first Rothbury festival named Carl. But then again i think that’s kind of the point, nobody is quite sure who Carl is, nobody is quite sure what the story of carl is, but when we’re in the forest Carl is there.”

“To find Carl, is to find ‘it.’ But it is different for every person. For some Carl is happiness. Others it’s love. To some it’s meaning. And for some it’s purpose. My true perception of Carl is just that- to find ‘it.’ Even if for a brief moment. Find good. Find meaning. Find purpose. Find love. Find happiness. Find all of these things, and more! Find ‘it,’ or as the saying goes “Carl” And once you do, never let go. Even if you find Carl momentarily, relish the memory of that moment and carry it with you always. And always keep looking for Carl. Make life one long string of finding ‘Carl’ in everything you do. Not just at forest. But in life.”

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