Music festivals are an adults fairy land. A day at a music festival is one filled with good music, peaceful vibes, optimism, and happiness. (Even if it rains!) You are never too old for live music. We have careers and can afford the travel and tickets (kinda). The people watching at a festival is unmatched. The energy is boundless. You can be sweaty and gross but the people you’re bopping around with all have the same love of music that you have. Common ground. Peace, love, and rock’n roll. Fresh air. Festival days can be among the best days of your life. Your only job is to relax, have fun, and avoid heat stroke. That’s a job I can handle. I immediately go into “festival mode” and end up high-fiving strangers in the street. Utter glee.
However, my husband and I choose our festivals carefully. Or at least plan our strategy with some intention. Neither of us wants to end up crushed under a pack of wild teenagers. (In 2000 at Roskilde Festival, nine people died and twenty-six were injured when Pearl Jam fans rushed the stage.) Take into consideration the cost of the ticket, type of music, relative age of people in festival marketing photos. These are all considerations to let you know if it’s for you or not. As for strategies, if the crowd is on the mellow side, we will go up close and get a great vantage point. If it’s a rowdy crowd of metal heads, we’d probably chose to sit on a blanket further in the back and avoid the push (depends on the day and our moods). Stay comfortable and relaxed but also stretch your comfort zone a bit. You may be surprised with how much fun you have when caught up in the energy at the front.
Here are my tried and tested tips for enjoying a music festival.
Know the Rules.
Read festivals do’s and don’ts or FAQs. Some festivals allow chairs, others don’t. Some allow umbrellas, others- no way. You need to know what to expect and what you can bring. Most festivals have an app. Download before you leave. This will have set times, maps, important information, and food lists.
Check your wallet before you leave.
Don’t leave home without your tickets, cash, credit card, and ID. It is also a good idea to both download and print the music line up. Most festivals are now paper free. They are also known for spotty cell phone service. Be prepared.
Know where you came from.
Write down where you parked. If you take public transportation, carefully pay attention on the walk into the festival so that you know how to get back to your stop. (Also note where the restrooms, aka porta-potties, are located on your walk in.)
I haven’t camped at an outdoor event since Grateful Dead/Kansas City in ’87. If you do chose to camp at a festival, make sure you set your tent up while its still light and locate the restrooms. You will be thankful that you did when its dark.
Identify a FM spot (find me)
As soon as you get there, locate your FM spot (Find Me). This may come in handy if your group gets separated and cell phones die. And, while we are talking about cell phones dying, write down your friends phone numbers and keep them with you in case you have to borrow a strangers phone.
Stay hydrated, eat, wear sunblock, and a hat!
Many festivals allow unopened bottles of water. Most allow an empty, non-glass water bottle to be carried in. Find out where the fountains are to fill them. Drink lemonade, grab a mango smoothie, find the iced tea stand. Stay hydrated. I bring Emergen-C with me and add it to my water bottle. It’s an effervescent, all-natural drink packet with loads of vitamin C & B and electrolytes. (This is not sponsored.)
A good general rule for hydration is to take your body weight and divide by two. This is how many ounces you should aim to drink. And don’t forget to eat. Long lines tend to move fast at festivals. Don’t be afraid of them. But if you want to avoid lines eat right away when you get there and at off-regular meal times (2-3 & 7-8).
Wear a hat. And no, Coachella flower crowns are not a ‘hat’. Use sunscreen and reapply. I’ve been to festivals where I’ve had to wear my rain poncho and then a couple hours later, slather on sunblock, and still ending up with a light sunburn.
The life you save may be your own. Heatstroke is a serious medical condition that requires immediate medical intervention. It is the result of high temperatures usually combined with dehydration. Symptoms may include: fainting, fever, nausea/vomiting, seizures, confusion or disorientation, throbbing headache, dizziness, muscle weakness, lack of sweating, cramps, rapid heartbeat or breathing. If you have any of these symptoms, call 911 and send someone to find the EMT tent immediately.
Use a light backpack or fanny pack (I hear they are back in style. A travesty. But convienient.) Keep in mind, it will be on your back ALL day. Please check FAQ to find out what size backpack or purse is allowed. Many have size restrictions.
Wet wipes and/or hand sanitizer, some toilet paper (porta potties will be ALL out at the end of the day when you need it most), rain poncho (always), rain boots (if forecast calls for rain as you are probably standing in a dirt field), plastic zip lock bag for your phone (in case of rain), sunscreen, hat, few band aides (blisters more than cuts), SPF lip balm, hair tie, Advil/Tylenol, Tums, SUNGLASSES, solar phone charger if you have one and care if your phone dies, and dry clothes in the car (if you’ve driven) to change into on the way home or to the hotel. If you want to get fancy, I’ve seen couples/families with walkie talkies.
The most important thing to bring is an open mind and a great attitude. One of my favorite festivals days was pouring rain all morning then turned out absolutely fabulous. I’m not made of sugar, I don’t melt in the rain. And mud washes off.