In the state of Illinois there is a city called Des Plaines, and in that city called Des Plaines there is an office complex, and in that office complex there is a parking lot, and in that parking lot there is a tree. It looks, at first glance, like any other tree. Standing at about 15 feet tall, it extends from its trunk into a wild tangle of branches that stretch out in all directions beyond the neat perimeter of soil beneath, itself circumscribed by manicured grass. A healthy looking tree, it’s flush with pine needles and the occasional cone, leading one to reasonably assume that it is well-cared for. It’s also green.
But this tree, of course, is not like others. This tree is the one and only tree immortalised on the cover of avant-pop duo 100 Gecs’ 2019 cult hit, 1000 Gecs. This is the Gec Tree.
Labelled by Google as a “place of worship” and by Yelp as an “art museum”, the Gec Tree is also the subject of a change.org petition (addressed to Elon Musk) to make it the eighth wonder of the world, which has garnered over 3,500 signatures at the time of writing. (Meanwhile, the petition to cut it down ended with a paltry 36 signatures). Most importantly, however, it has become a destination to which enterprising Gecs fans have travelled: a “pilgrimage to Gecca”, as some have put it on Twitter.
In TikToks and Tweets, they have documented their journeys, including the offerings they leave behind under the tree’s canopy: bracelets, dolls, cans of Monster Energy, and other pop culture detritus that naturally finds spiritual affinity with 100 Gecs’ multi-genre, ADHD-infused memes-turned-music. “There were cigarettes and pregnancy tests,” remembers Kylie, whose TikTok of her visit has racked up over 100,000 views. “There was a condom on the tree!” her boyfriend, Troy, adds.
The pair, who live in the suburbs outside of Chicago, made the hour and a half drive to visit the tree in early July. Die-hard fans of 100 Gecs, they made the decision to visit the tree after sleuthing the address on TikTok. Describing the band’s appeal, Troy explained that “they just do what they want, and that’s what people care about nowadays… They just make music for fun, and people like that.” Kylie has also found that “the community of listeners themselves is super accepting. There are a lot of gatekeepers in other music genres and I haven’t seen much of that with 100 Gecs.
“The only other time I’ve been this big a fan of an artist is probably Tame Impala, or literally The Beatles,” she says.
Friends Louise and Kat journeyed to the tree about a week later. “I’ve lived in Illinois my whole life and I go to school in Indiana – there’s not much to do here! If you don’t live in the city, there’s nothing,” says Louise. “So you turn to music, and 100 Gecs, you know what their music sounds like! It’s really an escape.” Kat puts it more bluntly: “We were bored, so we just decided to go.” Writing a five-star review of her experience on Google, Louise reported that she could “feel the energy of the gec tree [sic] coursing through my veins even now after we’ve left”.
But there is trouble in paradise.
Given that the tree is not, in fact, located in a park, but rather in a random (and private) office complex, some Gec fans have run into trouble with security. Adrian Rojas, a graduate student from Chicago, went to the tree to take his graduation photos and was quickly confronted. “As soon as we parked there,” he recalls, “a security guard comes out and was like, ‘You guys can’t park here, this is private property,’ which we were kind of caught off guard by because it was a Sunday morning. We didn’t think anyone would be there, let alone a security guard telling us to basically get off the lawn.” Luckily, the security guard showed some sympathy when she saw Rojas’ graduation regalia and gave him five minutes to take photos. “The fact that she said, ‘Just get your pictures and get out,’ knowing exactly what we were there for, was hilarious,” says Rojas.
Rumours have begun to circulate on social media that the company that occupies the office, Juno Lighting Group, is so fed up with visitors that it might even cut the tree down. (Neither Juno nor its parent company, Acuity Brands, responded to requests for comment.)
“To have it taken down would be awful,” says Rojas. “I’m already imagining a lot of Zoomers tying themselves to the tree the same way an environmentalist would do so at a redwood in California.”
It wouldn’t be surprising. Anything is possible in 2020: the world is seemingly falling apart around us, the song of the summer is a recycled Russian cereal jingle from circa 2010, and the Gec Tree is, after all, a newfound Gecca: a place of worship uniting people from all walks in ways that only they can understand.