5 Tips: Surviving a Summer Music Festival
Tomorrow is the first day of summer 2011! You’ve just finished a grueling Spring semester and because you got straight A’s (right??), you deserve a break. There isn’t a better way for a musician to spend their free time than by going to a summer music festival. Whether it’s the behemoths like Coachella, Bonnaroo, or Sasquatch or the smaller ones like High Sierra Music Festival, The Gathering of the Vibes, or Camp Bisco, these summer music festivals aren’t like going to a concert at the park. While often a life changing experience, you should know what you are getting into – so hopefully these tips will help you survive and have a great show-going experience!
Confucius said, “Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” Apply this advice to your summer music festival planning. The good news is that almost all music fests will have a lot of info on their respective websites. For example…what can I bring (or not) to the festival? Visualize the festival in your mind and how you want everything to go. If you are a nature-loving individual you should camp out, and if you like a little comfort you should book a hotel. Make sure to book early; hotels and condo rentals often sell out faster than the tickets! Same goes with RVs, if you are thinking of going that route. After looking at your music festival suggestions, make your own personal checklist for what you need packed before you leave. The truth of the matter is that there is a Target or CVS in every town in case you forget a toothbrush or a pillow. One thing you can’t replace is your ticket!
I’m sure you’ve heard the stories about music festival traffic. If you haven’t, check this video out:
You should plan on arriving to the festival as early as they allow (check their website again for when that is), if for no other reason than avoiding massive traffic jams. There are other perks too! If you are camping, you can pick the best spot; you can often catch stand-out performances that happen before the crowds come, and you can get a feel for the festival grounds before there are so many people around that you feel like cattle. Arrive early! There is nothing worse than having to hear the faint sounds of your favorite band playing as you sit in traffic.
YOUR BODY IS YOUR TEMPLE
One of the biggest pitfalls of a summer music festival is overextending yourself physically. You will most likely be in the hot sun all day with minimal sleep. Take care of yourself! Pack plenty of water in your car and OVER hydrate yourself throughout the day. The food at festivals is notoriously delicious but also notoriously unhealthy. Pack some healthy, non-perishable foods like bread, crackers, and peanut butter, you can rely on when you want to avoid the fried food for sale. Bring a nice summer hat, shades, and lots of sun block; coming down with heatstroke during the greatest weekend of your summer is not the way to experience a festival. There will be lots of temptations like drugs and alcohol — avoid them if you want to be at your healthiest. The band “The Hold Steady” even wrote a song about people that don’t follow this advice!
All music festivals usually follow a pretty standard format: book lots and lots of bands, and spread them out over several stages throughout the day. No matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to see every single show. Luckily, festivals release the schedules several weeks before, only so you can prioritize. Make three categories of artists: I MUST SEE, I WANT TO SEE, I COULD GO EITHER WAY. Make sure you schedule out your days to see all your MUST SEE’s and then fill in your spare time with the other bands. Often, show schedules will overlap and you might need to be OK with seeing just half of one set and half of another. The stages are often based on the popularity level of the band or artist. Don’t forget that smaller stages with smaller artists often put on the best shows because they have everything to prove. We all remember the story of Kanye West making the Bonnaroo audience wait for hours:
We should note that companies like Aderra.net record live performances at venues and festivals and sell those performances via USB drives/devices from a booth immediately following the show. Keep an eye out for Aderra booths at shows in case you want to take your experience home with you.
HAVE AN EXIT STRATEGY
As hard as it is getting into the festival, it can be equally hard leaving the festival! Some people decide to sneak out a day early, or plan their exit before the final big band of the last night. Others might decide to camp an extra night and party it up in the camp until everybody has left. If you are a concertgoer like me, and stay until the last show, be prepared for traffic but make the most of it. A football or Frisbee can go a long way! Make sure you have enough sleep before you head out of the festival or plan to recuperate at a hotel (remember again to book this in advance!). Too many people have died on the drive home from the festival, either from exhaustion or other factors, from having a three-day party.
If you do make it out to a festival, take lots of pictures and let us know how it went. Stay safe out there, remember to take some earplugs, and don’t forget your ticket!