There is nothing on earth quite like a music festival: the sense of community, the hedonistic atmosphere, and of course, the music. Over the past two years, I’ve seen two Coachellas, one Austin City Limits, and this weekend will mark my third Free Press Summer Fest. Each festival has taught me certain lessons on how to make the most of my festival experience, lessons that I hope will help any first-timer or seasoned veteran have the time of their lives.
- Wear What Makes You Happy and Comfortable.
While festivals can be great showcases for your personal style, you have to keep in mind that you will be wearing these clothes all day in the heat/cold/rain/etc. Knowing that you’ll look good is one thing, but knowing that you’ll be comfortable is something else. By all means, dress up for the occasion: wear a flower crown with pride; adorn yourself with a bear coat a la Workaholics; hell, show up in as minimal clothes necessary, if that’s your game. Just remember, no one will judge if you’re wearing a comfortable t-shirt and shorts. Wear what makes you happy and comfortable.
- Download the App.
If the festival you’re going to has an app, use it. Most of these apps have features that will give you the performance schedule, maps of the venue, and send you notifications of any pertinent information. You can also compile a list of the artists you want to see and receive notifications so that you’re always where you want to be, when you want to be there. Download the app.
- Stay at Shows Until the End.
Ok, I know that this can be probably the hardest tip, especially when there are so many great artists on the lineup; but trust me, it’s the most rewarding. Each show is a performance, one that should be watched from start to finish. While it’s not always possible to see the start of a show, it is within your power to stick it through to the end. Imagine showing up to a movie late, walking in front of a bunch of people to get to your spot, then not knowing what the film is about. Not only does it throw you off, but it disturbs the illusion of the performance for others as well. Then you have to go through it all again when you leave before the show is done. That is no fun for anyone. If you stay to the end, you might see the artist’s big song or surprise guest or any one of the numerous things that can happen at a festival performance. Plus, at the end of the day, you’ll thank yourself for sticking at shows for a while and not running around the festival grounds like a chicken with its head cut off. Stay at shows until the end.
- Scheduling Conflicts: Listen to your Gut.
Unfortunately, there will probably come a time where two artists that you want to see have been booked for the same time. It sucks. It really does. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that your gut will always tell you the proper course of action in these trying times. After seeing one of my favorite bands perform at Coachella, I was confronted with the difficult choice of seeing either Tyler, the Creator or Jack White. I’d been a fan of both artists for years, and I had no idea what to do. I walked over to Tyler because his stage was the closer of the two. After a couple songs went by, I felt this nagging voice in my head saying, “Jack, go to Jack. JAAAACKKKK, GO TO JAAACKKK!!!” Upon realizing that I was not hearing a hallucination, but rather, my gut, I obliged. What ensued was one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen. The next day, I read online that Jack White’s performance at Coachella would be one of his last performances before a multi-year hiatus from touring. I spoke to a girl named Rayne earlier in the day who told me that at festivals, everything will happen as it should. She couldn’t be more correct. Listen to your gut.
- Stay With Friends, or Make New Ones.
One of the most beautiful aspects of the festival experience is the sense of community that permeates the air. Seeing the artists you love with the people you love makes the festival so much more memorable. If your friends are aching to see an artist that you don’t really know, go with them anyways. Not only could you discover an artist that you’ll love for years to come, but also your friends will remember that selflessness and be more likely to do the same for you. There might be times, however, when you’ll find yourself at a show alone. No worries, either enjoy the solitary time, or talk to those around you at the show so you have people to sing with. Breaking out of your comfort zone will help you meet so many new and interesting people; people who want to experience the community atmosphere just as much as you do. Stay with friends, or make new ones.
- Put Your Phone Down!!!
I must address the elephant in the room by saying, yes, I did write the first draft of this article while on my phone during Florence + The Machine at Coachella. We must accept our mistakes, and learn from them. Regardless, what makes a festival truly incredible is being to enjoy it in the moment with the people around you. Sure, take the occasional picture or video, but let them serve as reminders of the memory and not BE the memory itself. When you spend the entire concert recording, you are experiencing it as an outside observer, not as the participant you are. Social media can wait. Worlds will not crumble if you wait to post after the day is through. Enjoy the privilege of being where you are. Put your phone down.
- Be Safe.
Now I’m not one to tell you what activities to partake in, but please be careful in what you do. Getting drunk or high to a dangerous degree will not only jeopardize your day, but could seriously harm your well-being. It is of utmost importance that you know what you’re putting into your body, and that you know your limits. Also, there are water stations all over the festival, so you have no excuse to not stay hydrated. Oh, and wear sunscreen. Trust me. Be safe.
- Embrace your emotions.
There are fewer feelings like looking out into the crowd and seeing tens of thousands of people gathered with the sole intention of hearing live music. At times, it can be overwhelming, but in the most beautiful way. Look into the eyes of your friends, and tell them that you’re happy to experience this moment with them. Sing along to your favorite songs and dance, baby, dance. Embrace your emotions.
Jack M. Keller
Jack was born and raised in Houston, TX. He is a big fan of comedy, cooking, and music festivals (obviously). At the moment, he is exploring his future with bright things to come.