As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, festival goers start coming out of the woodwork, stretching from their long hibernation. They pull out their fringe shirts, flower crowns, and bandanas and make their way towards the closest open field in hopes that a music festival will happen. Realistically, though, music festivals are a lot of fun and the thousands of festival goers are labeled as such for a reason. Going to a concert to experience music is one thing, but attending a festival is an adventure in itself. If you’ve never been to a festival and you’d like to attend one this summer, there’s a few things you should be aware of before throwing on a bikini, packing a cooler full of beer, and cracking a handful of glow sticks.
If you’ve never been to a festival before, it might be easiest to assimilate into the festival environment by going with someone who has gone to festivals before. This way you can observe, trust that your friend knows what they are doing, and go with the flow. Some festivals offer camping overnight, some only last one day, and some have multiple venues in different locations. Despite the festival stereotypes, there really isn’t just one type of festival to explain them all. The music is different, the culture is different, and the activities are different for every festival. Keep your expectations at a minimal and just go with the environment. Watch some bands you’ve never heard of, wander around to the other activities available, and meet some new people. Don’t let your expectations pigeonhole you.
Festivals are just sort of gross. Porta potties are the reality for a large portion of music festival life, so you’ll have to get accustomed to them quickly. The lines can be long and the conditions can be bleak – especially towards the end of the festival. Festivals house thousands of people having fun, drinking, dancing, and camping so things are bound to get a little messy. You might get covered in mud, sweat, and beer. You might not be able to shower for a few days, you might be standing in a sea of other unwashed people, and it might be hot and dusty. This is all a part of the festival environment, so don’t be discouraged by the conditions. The key is to be prepared for it and expect it.
There will be drugs, and there will be booze. There’s no specific age group for festival goers, and each festival seems to attract its own specific type of person, but college aged adults seem to be the most popular age group among attendees. With alcohol, marijuana, and party drugs like MDMA being some of the most popular drugs on college campuses, it makes sense that they’d be common among the festival culture as well. If you’re not into having a drink or partaking in recreational drug use, no problem. There’s enough music and activities to have a blast without it – just be aware that it will be present.
Being prepared for your festival experience is essential to your enjoyment. Each festival experience is different, but there are a few things to always remember:
The extended list is different for each experience and location. For example, at Glastonbury you’ll want to bring rain protection, at Burning Man you’ll want a bandana for the dust, and at the Electric Daisy Carnival you can’t forget your fuzzy boot covers. Jokes aside, it’s best to thoroughly research the festival you are going to in order to be prepared. Bring a backpack and fill it with the necessities mentioned along with anything else you might need – and be prepared for weather changes.
If you’re camping, the list is even longer, but the experience is even better. You’ll create a community within your camping circle and meet a ton of new people. If you’re bringing kids, bring them some snacks, a stroller or carrier, and maybe some earplugs. Be prepared for being hot, cold, thirsty, hungry, or dirty and you should be good to go.
You may or may not have cell service at your festival of choice, depending on which one you go to, but remember to stay in the moment. Your festival experience can be shared with your social media followers the day after the festival. Taking pictures is a must, so don’t shut yourself off from technology completely, but do yourself a favor and dance to the music instead of recording it. Trust me, you’ll never watch that video again. So use your phone to take some short videos or photos, but don’t spend your whole time staring at your phone screen. No matter how many ways you take a photo or video it won’t appropriately grasp the adventure of being at the festival, so be sure you stay connected in the music and culture and leave the phone for a little while.
Festivals are a great time for all different types of people. Not all festivals are Coachella or Burning Man, there are festivals all over the U.S. that cater to families, all different types of music lovers, and a culture that fits your style. Preparing for a music festival is really just preparing for an adventure – just remember to bring water and a good pair of sunglasses.
Guest Post by Chelsy Ranard
Chelsy is a writer from Montana who is now living in Boise, Idaho. She graduated with her journalism degree from the University of Montana in 2012. She is a shark enthusiast, enjoys wood burning, and loves out of date rock music.
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