So, you’ve saved up some money, taken the time off of work, and ordered a fanny pack from Amazon, all in preparation for your first music festival; how exciting! No sarcasm, I really mean it; festivals are by far one of my favorite ways to experience live music, and I’m glad you are taking the plunge. I don’t consider myself an expert on going to festivals; I put the glitter and gems on one arm at a time like everyone else. But I can tell you that my nervous mind has led me to overthink certain things to the point of developing sort of a methodology for how to avoid common festivals problems. So that I have sucked all the fun out of it with big words, here are a few tips to keep in mind when headed to your first music festival:
The boring, but absolutely essential stuff
Forgive me for starting with the “boring stuff” but it’s absolutely necessary. It might be funny to watch someone get wobbly in the crowd, but it stops being funny when you watch 7 different people have to get hoisted over the barricades and carted away by medical staff. Yeah, not a good time, and certainly not a good use of your money. So please, please, please hydrate with WATER (not alcohol or energy drinks). I recommend getting a hydration backpack for $20-$30. Yes, you will look like everyone else, but carrying 1–3 liters of water will save you time and possibly even save your life. Also, sunscreen, because no one wants to dance with somebody that’s molting like a young cobra.
There isn’t one. Wear whatever you want. I have seen people wear everything from onesies, to full suits, to just shy of nothing at all. Just keep in mind that comfort is key. Know the terrain, too; is it a parking lot like Warped Tour (RIP), or a woodlands like Firefly? What you wear however is going to allow you to dance without getting tired.
Again, and thankfully for me, there are no rules here. No one cares how much you can’t dance. So go ahead, start flossing. Maybe even hit the whip or some other corny meme dance. Go on; do it. I dare you. That being said, if you can dance, feel free to start up a dance circle and show off, while of course being courteous to those around you. Don’t be that a**hole that tries to clown someone for bad dance moves. Support, friendship, and respect is the name of the game. For the love of all that is holy, just please clap on the beat. It hurts when you don’t.
Crowds can be the worst, or the best. And every crowd is a roll of the dice. Just use your common sense and be respectful of other people; that’s what most of these tips are going to boil down to anyway. Don’t be a jerk and try to push your way to the front; you can’t show up late to a stage and then expect to see your friends at the front of the crowd. I never found being close to the stage to make that much of a difference anyway, but that’s just me. The dancers and more chill folks tend to hang in the back were there’s more room to spread out. Also, learn how to describe your spot in a crowd based on the totems and signs around you. It’s your best chance at survival, and the easiest way for your friends to find you and vice versa.
If only my past self could see me now. When I was younger, I used to absolutely hate mosh pits but my tune has changed, I enjoy mosh pits now, and even seek them out if the vibe is right. It’s important to know what kind of crowd you’re in first. Use your judgment based on who’s performing. I’m lucky to be tall enough where I can see the pits form and how crazy they are before I go in. Whether or not you do is up to you. But be respectful of others too. Use common sense when deciding how crazy you wanna get. Don’t crowd kill; you can seriously injure someone. If someone falls, help them up. And if someone’s eyes go wide with fear the minute the pit opens up, don’t push or pull them in. That’s a dick move, and if I see you do it, I will pull you in, and toss you around. Instead, maybe ask if they want to switch spots with you to get away from the pit. This is my preferred method, as I consider myself too big to safely thrash around wildly, but big enough to form the edge of the mosh pit and keep people bouncing.
I love making friends at music festivals, and while it may not be easy for everyone, never be afraid to put yourself out there. Exchange numbers or Instagram/Twitter handles. Be the most honest version of yourself (I’m serious) and people will respond. You never know who you could meet! For Firefly this past year, I went all the way down to Delaware and wound up standing in line, and subsequently talking to someone who lived minutes away from me back here in New York. What are the odds…
Be prepared/Be smart
I don’t bring a lot to festivals, that way I don’t have a lot to worry about. Keys, wallet, phone, a poncho in case it rains, chapstick, and that’s about it. Extra stuff is more than can get lost or stolen. Theft is unfortunately a big thing at festivals, especially phone theft, so try to guard against that as best you can. My phone stays in the same pocket the whole time I regularly check to make sure it’s not missing. I also make the lock screen a message offering a reward in case it gets lost and turned in.
More serious stuff. When it comes to drugs and alcohol, be smart with whatever you do or don’t do. If you’re driving, make sure you time things so you are properly sober by the day’s end. Do not drink and drive. It’s reckless, selfish, expensive, and a stupid mistake that you might not live to regret. If you’re not driving, still know your limits when it comes to whatever you’re partaking in. You paid for an experience, and I’m pretty sure puking in a port-o-potty or outside the medical tent isn’t what you had in mind. Don’t try anything for the first time at a festival, and be EXTREMELY careful what you accept from strangers.
*Jeb Bush voice* Please Have FUN
As I said earlier, you paid for an experience, and you deserve an amazing one. What that means is different to every person. Some people might want to get there for the opening of the gates camp out at one stage to see an artist they absolutely love. Others might roll in a few hours late and just walk around hearing a little bit of everything. It’s ok if your idea of fun changes too. I frequently find myself trying to run from stage to stage before changing my mind and just taking a nap in a hammock; it doesn’t matter. When the festival is over, if you feel relaxed from the vacation, excited from all the new music you found, happy with new friends and stories to tell back home, and a bit sad that it has to end, then you have officially succeeded in having a good time™. And that my friends, is what you paid all that money for.