Culture

28 Best (And Worst) Things About Music Festivals

1. Pre-Game Puzzles

 

It seems like every festival these days is going to more and more elaborate means to get people hyped to spend hundreds of dollars to spend half a week camping with thousands of strangers to see a couple bands they really like and

It seems like every festival these days is going to more and more elaborate means to get people hyped to spend hundreds of dollars to spend half a week camping with thousands of strangers to see a couple bands they really like and shopping cart full of musicians they have never heard of. Gee, I cannot imagine why they would need the promotion.

One of the more pointless ways festivals do this is by creating a pre-game puzzle. Here’s a clue only an obsessive, autistic savant could decode. It is the UPC barcode to a pack of gum the headliner’s lead singer bought once when he was seven years old. Good luck!

2. Bring the Whole Crew

 

Music Festivals may have seas of people, but that does not change the fact that these kinds of events are always more fun with friends. Aside from the fact that it helps you not look like the creepy loner, it is just better to experience this kind of thing with people that you can make inside jokes with and be comfortable around.

Unfortunately, getting everyone on the same page is a logistical nightmare on par with planning the storming of Normandy. Inevitably, something will come up and you will be left to watch as your buds drop out one by one. Plan ahead–like months in advance–to avoid last minute cancellations.

3. Mass Migration

 

Alright, you have two carloads of people and a van bringing up the rear with all of your supplies and gear. Now it is just a small matter of driving the couple hundred miles to a remote location that always seems to be impossible to find.Never fear, because as soon as you get within 50 miles of the festival grounds, you will run into a 3-hour long traffic jam. Thankfully you brought snacks. Unfortunately, they are all back in the van. Do not worry; you will be stuck in traffic long enough that you can literally leave your car running in

Never fear, because as soon as you get within 50 miles of the festival grounds, you will run into a 3-hour long traffic jam. Thankfully you brought snacks. Unfortunately, they are all back in the van. Do not worry; you will be stuck in traffic long enough that you can literally leave your car running in park, scrounge for a bag of chips and bottle of water in the van, and be back before the line has moved an inch.

4. Lost and (Never) Found

 

You have finally made it through the festival gates, following the apathetic volunteers occasionally waving an orange flag to guide you to the

You have finally made it through the festival gates, following the apathetic volunteers occasionally waving an orange flag to guide you to the campgrounds. Before you ever get to your spot, you will lose no less than three items–probably a pair of sunglasses, maybe your keys, and a mystery item.

However, the real Easter egg hunt begins when you start to unpack all of your gear. After you get your tents set up and the coolers unloaded, you will find the other items have suddenly disappeared. The underpants gnomes are in full effect, and they have come for any small, important item they can get their grubby little mitts on.

5. This Land is My Land

 

Even if you have seen pictures from a distance of the various tent cities, you will still find yourself shocked and overwhelmed once in the midst. The grounds of a festival can be hundreds of acres large, and you will have to traverse all of that distance on foot.

Hopefully, the festival has a map posted every so often, so you can get your bearings. If not, it does not hurt to bring a map and compass, because you will get lost the first day–probably more than once.

6. These Birkenstocks are Made for Walking

We hope you brought an extra pair of shoes because all of that walking will do a number one way or another. So you think your handmade, sandals designed to withstand a walkabout in the Australian Outback will hold up? Good luck.

Maybe you are wearing a pair of sturdy shoes. Hope you remembered to pack some bandages and Neosporin for the inevitable blisters. There is always the option of going barefoot–assuming you do not mind stepping in assorted piles of garbage and waste. Either way, your footwear will be worse for wear by the festival’s end.

7. Artisanal Bazaar

It is not all inconvenience. There is an actual reason people put themselves through all of this right? One of the first pleasant surprises you will be greeted with is a row of stalls with people from across the country come to hock their handmade wares.

From elaborate, blown glass…err, “water pipes” to organic jams to cruelty-free clothing, the vendors at festivals often sell goods that you cannot find anywhere else. Just be careful. Plenty of hucksters come to drain some of that sweet trust fund cash.

8. Brazen Drug Dealers

Of course, handmade goods are not the only thing that might otherwise be difficult to find in steady supply. It seems like every festival has a row or corner, but more often than not, it lies along the main road to the festival grounds proper. We are talking about Drug Alley or whatever colloquial name has been given to the spot to procure illicit substances of all stripes.

This is something most people expect. What they might not expect is how open the dealers are. It is not an uncommon occurrence to be walking through one such area and hear various dealers calling out their wares to people as the crowd ebbs and flows.

9. Everyone is Smashed

Where there is a supply, there is usually a demand. And festivals are famous (or maybe infamous) for the copious amounts of booze and drugs consumed in the span of few days. Look at that guy to your left. Now look at that chick on your right. Chances are, they are both on something.
What they are on is anybody’s guess, though it makes a fun game to try and figure it out. Not everybody goes to festivals to get hammered, but most people end up that way anyway. If you are lucky, someone off their gourd will walk up and offer to share their bounty with you.

10. Doctor McSteamy to the Rescue

With all of these people, drugs, alcohol, and insanity, you figure it is amazing that nobody dies. Actually, it is not amazing, and it certainly is not luck. Most festivals these days provide a full suite of professionally trained medical staff with triage centers located around the festival grounds.

While they are ostensibly there to respond to heat stroke or dehydration, it is not at all an uncommon event to see the flashing lights from one of their “emergency golf carts” carrying away someone who had a little bit too much fun.

11. Super Troopers

Emergency medical staff are not the only “first responders” in attendance either. The fun police are also usually in attendance, and by fun police, we mean the police. It can be a bit unsettling at first, but it is actually wildly entertaining to watch them squirm while throngs of hippies enjoy themselves.

Little known fact: the boys in blue are not above partaking in some festival debauchery themselves. Sure, when the main events are going on, they are all business but wait for the crowds to thin and the action to die down. You might just catch a cop in the act.

12. Nudity

What is your opinion of hairy, unkempt man-butt? Do you enjoy the view of a pasty, hirsute bottom? We certainly hope so, because you will get an eye full–no, make multiple eye fulls–of bros just enjoying the freedom to express themselves. It just so happens that they really want to express the pale forest growing out of their backside.

In fairness, there will also be plenty of people who do look good without clothes on bearing it all. Still, you’ll be playing a continual game of ooh/eww, and it always seems to happen when you least expect it. Modesty is just a bourgeoisie convention though, right? Our advice: do not sit down where people are walking or standing.

13. Festival Flings

Ah, there is nothing sweeter than true love. The rush of warmth and good feeling, the speeding pitter patter of your heart as your beloved comes into view, the inexplicable sense that you have known this person your whole life, and surely you were meant to be together till the end of time, right?

Sorry to burst your Disney inspired bubble, but festivals are where strong, commited relationships go to die. With so many attractive people looking to hook up–and so many intoxicants waiting to lubricate those questionable decisions–it is inevitable that your boo will take a tumble in a complete stranger’s tent.

14. Temperature Extremes

There is no middle ground. You will either be sweating your body weight daily as the blistering sun and sweltering heat slowly bake you into a potato, or you will shiver incessantly in your sleeping bag once the sun goes down and the temperature drops 30 degrees.
There is little to do to escape. You paid for this. Now you are getting the full experience. Pro Tip: keep a super soaker handy during the day to cool off and a parka a night to stay warm and snuggly.

15. Weather Woes

Depending on the festival’s location, you might be so lucky as to be graced with rain. But these angel’s tears are both a curse and a blessing. Sure, they cool you off for a short time, but the aftermath is not worth it.

Now, not only does everyone smell like musk and patchouli, they also smell like a wet dog too. Also, if your shoes do not lace up, be prepared to lose one in the unfathomable depths of a newly created bog.

16. What is That Smell

It might come as a surprise to you, but when you cram tens of thousands of people into a small enough area and deprive them of showers for half a week or more, they start to get a little bit ripe. Granted, you are not one to talk, because you stink right along with them.

The good news is that since you all stink, it can be kind of difficult to notice–until you all pack together for one of the bands that is. Then it becomes immediately apparent that everyone needs to shower for like a really long time. You will never be clean again.

17. Porta John Apocalypse

Thankfully the funk from the crowd will somewhat dampen the effect of stench wafting from rows of porta johns. However, that does nothing to alleviate the smell when you actually use one. To make matters worse, it seems like a national pastime for people to see how much crap they can get anywhere except for the toilet.

As an added insult, you will have to wait forever just to get inside one of these buckets of disease. Depending on the festival, you might just see people slip into the trees, emerging 10 minutes later with a suspiciously satisfied and relieved look on their face.

18. He was Such a Nice, Quiet Man

You are bound to run into the errant jerk here and there, and there is no accounting for what people high on “life” are liable to do. But for the most part, people are surprisingly nice. If someone injuries themselves or has a medical condition, people will swarm to offer whatever aid they can.

Also, if you find yourself in need of directions or recommendations, most of the festival-goers are eager to provide whatever assistance they can. Heck, if you can often just strike up a conversation with a total stranger. Look, now you have made a new friend.

19. Social activism

Nice people are also often concerned about problems in the world at large too. That is no exception for festivals where tents and booths supporting everything from saving the whales to saving the children to Black Lives Matter dot the festival grounds in search of volunteers, petition signatures, and donations.

Even better, if you are not interested, the people working the booths are pretty cool about it. They will not try and guilt you into participation like someone standing outside of a grocery store.

20. Save a Spot for Me

You have finally made it through the gates into the festival grounds proper. Passed by the food stands, drink stands, souvenir stands, and more. Your favorite band is playing in a couple of hours and, you want to make sure you are right in the front row for a mind-blowing experience.

That is cool and all, but if you want to get that spot, you are going to have to show up to the stage as early as you can. This means waiting through half a dozen bands you probably have never heard of. The question is: how devoted are you?

21. Bands According to Plan

Maybe you decided that being in the front row is not worth the sacrifice–no matter who is playing. Those bands have stacks of amps and speaker to pour their audio gold out to the edge of the crowd. Besides, there are just too many acts to pick one and stick with it.

Unfortunately, there just is not enough time to see everyone. You are either going to miss someone you really wanted to see or have to keep leaving halfway through a set to catch part of another act. In our opinion, it is better to catch the second half of the sets. That is when they usually go all out anyway.

22. Crap Shoot Food

There are always a couple stalls where someone who really knows what they are doing is cooking a delicacy that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Of course, those places usually run out of food after opening in the first couple hours. From there, the drop in quality is pretty steep. Actually, it is a nosedive off of a sheer 100-foot cliff.

Outside of the people who actually take pride in their food, the options are bleak. Carnival food stalls look these booths with a smug sense of pride. At least now you know why every porta john is absolutely annihilated.

23. Water, Water, Everywhere, and not a Drop to Drink

One of the most important tips for attending music festivals is to stay hydrated. Usually, you can see signs and warnings posted all over the place to warn you of this. Unfortunately, profiteers are aware of this as well and see no problem jacking up the price of a bottle of water.

With Uber introducing “surge pricing” into the common economic lexicon, you will regularly see stalls sell water between 5 to 7 bucks at night only to jack it up to $10 or more in the hot, noonday sun.

24. More Than Just Music

Yeah, it is called a “music festival,” but most festivals have way more than just music there. The hottest stand-up comedians regularly make appearances. Some festivals even have areas that show movies or host video games.

Even outside of the festival grounds proper, there are plenty of forms of entertainment. Whether it is a festival sponsored art project or just something cool that a group of people planned to collaborate on impromptu, there are a wealth of options available.

25. Dude, Chill

You know that guy in high school who got way too into the local bands. Every time he went to a show, he would be the only person in attendance trying to start a mosh pit or trying to get people to lift him up so he could crowd surf.

Well, you are in luck, because that guy absolutely loves music festivals. In fact, all of those guys love music festivals, and they all decided to go to the same one. Now you have to worry about someone who is just “really feeling the vibe, man” plowing into you every 10 yards as you just try to go to the bathroom.

26. Children of the Corn

Children at restaurants, movie theaters, or plane flights can make for a miserable experience. Children at a music festival where grown adults are out of their minds on drugs, half-naked, and acting like complete idiots is just weird.

You really have to wonder how this is not considered some kind of child abuse. We get it parents, you want your kid to know the wonder of music festivals. The problem is, they cannot even truly appreciate it, because they are still blissfully ignorant of the “real world.” Now you have made it awkward.

27. Sleep is for the Weak

The headliner just finished their set, and it was spectacular. Now it is time to go back to the tent and catch some much needed zzz’s before a big day tomorrow right? Wrong. If you leave now, you will miss all of the late night acts, including the silent disco.

Even if you are done with the acts, there are still late night parties as far as the eye can see, each of them reveling long through the night. Even if you try to get some sleep, the noise will keep you up. May as well just join the fun, we say.

28. Worth It

At the end of the festival, when everyone is packing up, and the grounds are thoroughly trashed, you will take a moment to reflect on the experience. Sure, there was plenty not to like about the week: the weather, the smell, the food, but in the end, you would not trade it for the world.

Nowhere else can you have an experience like the one you just had, and you will remember it for the rest of your life. Who knows, maybe you got hooked. Now it is time to start saving, plan to be better prepared, and get ready to do it again next year.

Start the discussion at talk.hearthemusicplay.com

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