The crowd at EST Fest 2014

During the first weekend of this month, there were festivals galore. Some people were out in Chicago at Lollapalooza, others were north of the border at Caribana and/or OVO Fest…but there were also about 6500 fans, Waka Flocka, Juvenile, Kid Ink, Caked Up, Mod Sun, what would have been Nipsey Hussle (if he didn’t miss his flight, lol) and a ton of others camping out in the woods outside of Cleveland, Ohio for 2 full days at Machine Gun Kelly’s second annual EST Fest.

Marisa Mendez

While the other festivals were way more prevalent because of the media coverage and the huge names like Drake, Eminem and Outkast to move tickets, MGK’s fEST was completely fan-driven. A Facebook group dedicated to finding carpools for all of those looking to attend reached over 10,000 people alone! Crazy, right? To think this is only the second year…and with attendance having doubled since last year.

It’s one of those prime examples of a “hardcore fan base,” because if you ask the typical person walking down the street or even someone in the music industry, they’ll probably assume that Machine Gun Kelly is broke and struggling to find another hit since 2011’s “Wild Boy.” A quick glance at his social media pages will tell you it’s quite the opposite, however, and digging deeper will speak to the point even more. Machine Gun Kelly is selling more tickets to shows and garnering more interaction on social media than artists with multiple top 10 hits! (He’s currently working on his sophomore effort, to be released likely in early 2015 via Interscope. I’d love to start diving deeper into the intense relationship he has with the EST fans but that’s another post for another day. Just know – it’s pretty amazing.)

The first annual EST fEST brought out fans of Kells’ from over 40 states (including Alaska and Hawaii) and from as far away as Canada and Norway, and this year was no different. The grounds looked like a new age Epcot, adorned with elaborate camp sites with signage and decorations that represented fans from all over.

Doors opened at Nelson Ledges in Garrettsville on Thursday afternoon, encouraging campers to get there early and claim their spots. On Friday, the “dome” returned, and with this year’s circus theme, everyone dressed up and partied with sets from popular DJs in the area. Saturday started with a memorial on the beach, lead by MGK, honoring all of their fellow EST members that they’ve lost throughout the years.

“i realized that THIS was the epitome of what EST means,” MGK wrote about the memorial. “EVERYONE STANDS TOGETHER. this was one of the most powerful moments I’ve ever been a part of.”

From noon on that day was the actual show, and it closed with a 3-hour set by MGK almost 12 hours later. THAT’s a lot of raging!

Throughout the entire weekend, Machine Gun Kelly and his team (who his fans have also come to know and love over the years) hung out and interacted with all of the attendees, and I think that’s what makes this event even more special. I’m excited to watch this one as it grows throughout the years, and I have no doubts that it’ll one day rival the OVO Fest’s and the Lollapalooza’s down the road. More info available here. See you there next year?

Photo/Video Credit: Chris Goody || Danny Evans || Star Music Media

Additional stats: Cleveland