Music Festivals from a Pragmatist’s Perspective

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How to do music festivals the chill way.


Ah, music festivals… places where foolish boys and girls dress foolishly to do foolish things and listen to, well, (mostly) foolish music.

In true grandma fashion, that ^^^ is the attitude I have had about music festivals for pretty much my entire life. For various reasons, I never really got into that whole scene during high school and college. The vice-laced culture of the environment pretty much scared the crap out of me as a high school kid, and I was too much of a cheapskate in college (read: #couldntaffordit) to blow tons of cash on two weekends of standing in crowds in loud places listening to less-than-par live performances by crazy-looking musicians.

But as I got older and built tougher skin (and my own source of expendable income), I decided I would go to at least one, just to see what the fuss was about. And you know what? With the right attitude and right group, the experience wasn’t so bad. Sure, there are a bunch of fools roaming around doing stupid things, but hey – if you sit back to people-watch, be present, and learn to appreciate live music, the whole thing can actually be really fun. It’s just a matter of being strategic and flexible going into the experience.

Here are some tips I’ve found to be useful when doing music festivals the chill, good-clean-fun way.

1. Pick a good group of friends who will look out for your well-being and who are on the same pace/rhythm as you.

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The crew has to be a good one who will keep an eye out for you. Photo cred: my dear friend K-Day.

If you’re going to be out in the hot sun all day, pushing your way through crowds of crazy people who may not always be in their right minds, do it with friends who will keep an eye out for you (and do the same for them, too). I was lucky enough to check out this past weekend’s FYF Festival with a group of really fun, good people who valued the time spent together above everything else.

2. Map out a loose wolf-pack plan.

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Did we get lost? F**k no. Did we look awesome? F**k yeah!

Once you find your crew/wolf-pack for the weekend, put together a strategy for where to meet up if you separate, whom to stick with if you venture out, how to find each other if your phone dies, etc. My fantastic FYF group had the ingenious idea of making a large “F***k Yeah!” sign to walk around with in case someone got separated and/or couldn’t text because of a phone with no battery life/reception. Not only did we have a very clear sign to look out for if we got lost, but we also got tons of high-fives from passersby at the festival. F**k yeah!

3. Be flexible and be present.

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Don’t forget to soak in your surroundings and enjoy the other parts of the festival that aren’t just the crowded stages. Photo credit: my lovely friend Jeanne.

It’s easy to get caught up in the sensory overload that is music festivals, but try not to go in with a “do or die” mentality. The reality is, you won’t make it to every single set. You may not even actually SEE artists onstage because there are too many people around. But if you approach the scene with the objective to just soak in every moment and appreciate the privilege you have of being able to even go to a festival, the experience will be a lot more enjoyable. Trust me.

Here are more handy tips for making music festival experiences smart, safe, and fun.

  • Pick good friends.
  • Make sure your phone is charged 100% before going.
  • Invest in a portable phone charger.
  • Be conservative with your phone use. Try to use only for getting in touch with friends or the occasional snap/photo/video. When with friends, keep in airplane mode to save battery life. Make sure you have enough battery life in case you need to call an Uber/Lyft ride home.
  • Don’t drink and drive. (Obviously.)
  • Pack an empty water bottle for the refill stations. Collapsible water bottles work wonders. And HYDRATE!
  • Wear clothing that is comfy and easily distinguishable in crowds. Or bring an awesome sign to walk around with so your people can find you.
  • Check out the local food and craft vendors and get to know what they are about. Their hustle is bound to be an interesting story and worth hearing.
  • Pick must-see music sets as anchor points for meetup times/places if your group separates throughout the day.
  • If you find yourself at a set you wouldn’t normally pick out, keep an open mind. And if you hate the music, people-watching is always an option.
  • Be present. If not now, when?

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