Four Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Music Festival Experience
When I traveled to Imagine Music Festival last weekend (you can read my review here), I had a goal. I was going to find the best way to experience a music festival. After interviewing over 100 different attendees, and going on a bit of an adventure of my own, I found my answer, or rather, answers. I found that while there truly is no single thing that can make or break your music festival experience, there are four things you can do to get the most out of your time at a music festival.
When traveling to a music festival, one of the biggest things that will help you enjoy your weekend is being prepared. Whether you are going to a festival and camping, or simply returning each day, being prepared will go a long way.
One of the best things you can bring with you for even just a day or a weekend is a backpack with a bladder for water. There are tons of different brands, so choose one that has enough storage space and can hold a decent amount of water. For instance, I use a Camelbak Octane 18X. While it may be a medium-sized backpack, it can hold about 3L of water. For someone like me, who hates missing the music to go refill my pack, and is usually the one whose friends put things like wallets and keys in my bag, this is perfect. However, some people may want to pack lighter than I do. When I go into a festival, I bring a good amount of stuff with me, because I enjoy being the guy people can ask for stuff like a lighter, a snack, some water, or even something like hand sanitizer. If you don’t want to carry a bunch of things into a festival with you, then by all means get a smaller pack. Packing heavier vs packing lighter both have their own pros and cons (being more prepared vs being more mobile/less weight to carry), but whichever is best for you depends on your personal preferences. Either way can prepare you sufficiently, as long as you pack for your minimum.
When camping at a festival, there are always a few things that are the bare minimum. You’ll need a tent to shield you from the elements, a tarp to go underneath it (to prevent water from getting in your tent), a sleeping bag and pillow, some food for the weekend (buying food at most festivals is can get expensive very quickly), clothes (I always pack a little extra just in case), basic toiletries, water, and baby wipes. Yes, baby wipes. While a lot of festivals have begun offering showering areas, they usually aren’t free, and sometimes won’t have any good water pressure or hot water. This is where baby wipes come in. Sometimes at a festival you just have to ignore the dirt and use baby wipes and water to clean yourself off. Believe me, it is way more common than you’d think. Baby wipes also prove very useful when using the restrooms at festivals. By some act of nature, the porta-potties/restrooms at festivals somehow turn into a warzone on the inside, and the toilet paper will go quick, so having wipes (or your own toilet paper) on you will save you from a very embarassing situation.
Mercer Murphy, of Marietta, GA, describes the best way of being prepared: “pack light, but effectively”. Pack the things you need first, and then if you have some leftover room, bring some other things that can make your trip a little more comfortable. For instance, some people bring extra things such as air mattresses or speakers (some people will even throw their own parties at their campsite), but you need to pack the essential items first. The things you want to bring will usually mean nothing without the things you need to bring. Bring some cool stuff with you, like a portable speaker, or a flagpole/totem (really helps when you get separated from your group or get lost in the campground), but make sure you’ve got the essentials with you.
Go With the Flow
I am telling you now, no matter how much you plan out your festival: which artists you will see, when you’re going to eat, which of your friends you want to meet up with, it’s not all going to go according to plan. You may get separated from your friends, your phone may die, you may not know where you’re at. Things can change in an instant.
One of the biggest fears a lot of people have is being alone in a crowd. I used to have that fear, until I actually was alone in a crowd. I was at Okeechobee this past March, and got separated from my group while snaking through the crowd. I was scared for about thirty seconds, and then simply said “Screw it. I’ll find them later.”. The same thing happened when I went to Shaky Beats, and the same thing happened this past weekend at Imagine. Maybe I have a penchant for getting separated from my group, but each time I’ve still been able to have a blast by myself. Granted, it’s always better to experience things with your friends, the people you care about, but sometimes things won’t always go to plan and you’ll get separated, so just make the most of it.
Festivals are an adventure. Each and every one of them is it’s own new adventure. A lot of festivals embody an attitude that who you are or where you come from doesn’t matter, as well as that you shouldn’t really care about what other people think. Going to a festival, you’re going to meet a lot of different people from a lot of different backgrounds, that live a lot of different lifestyles. That being said, if you go into a festival with a very closed mind, thinking that everything should happen a certain way, you’re in for a big culture shock. People at festivals don’t have a care in the world while they’re at a festival. There will be people doing drugs, there will be naked people, there will be people staying up late into the night, there will be people waking up at the crack of dawn to go to yoga, there will be people trying to do absolutely everything the festival has to offer. Excuse my language but in the words of Dillon Francis, nobody there gives a fuck or shit. That’s just how it is. I’m not saying don’t just throw your morals out the window when you go to a festival, but be prepared for anything. You’re going to see some crazy stuff, and you’re going to experience some crazy stuff at a festival. It’s just the nature of festivals.
One of the easiest things to do, that I’m honestly shocked I have to recommend to do, is being nice to other people attending the festival. People at a music festival are going to be some of the nicest people you will ever meet, because as previously stated, they don’t really care who you are or where you came from, because everyone simply came to enjoy the music. You can make a friend in about thirty seconds at a festival. For instance, some guy at Imagine last weekend dropped his phone in the middle of Above and Beyond (the main headliner), and in less than five seconds there were about twenty of us searching for his phone in the middle of the crowd (we found it). If you run out of water or need a lighter or something like that, and you simply ask, anybody who has it is going to help you out. It’s just a thing people do. Everyone is there just trying to have a good time, so if they can help you have a good time, I guarantee that they will, and you should do the same for them.
There are hundres of examples I could give about when being nice at a festival improved my festival experience, or improved someone else’s, but if I wrote them out this would probably take two hours to read. Everyone you meet at a festival is going to be looking out for you, and you should extend the same courtesy to them. The Golden Rule trumps all at a festival.
If you aren’t having fun, why would you be at a festival? That’s the whole point! If you want to go off on your own adventure, do it! If you want to go see your favorite artist, do it! If you want to see someone you’ve never heard of, do it! If you want to try the food or buy something cool, do it! If you want to stay up until the crack of dawn, do it! If you want to make new friends, do it! There is literally nothing stopping you from doing anything (anything legal) at a music festival. Festivals are a weekend where you’re completely away from the rest of the world, and nothing going on in the outside world matters. The only thing that matters is that you have a good time, so do whatever it is that you want to do to have fun. As I said earlier, your group may want to do something different and that’s OK. For instance, at Okeechobee, when my group got separated, I ended up getting almost to the front to see Flume. They found me in the crowd, but said that they wanted to go to the back, so I said “OK, that’s fine, but I’m staying up here.”, because I wasn’t going to miss one of my favorite artists. I did what I wanted, and while I may not have been with my friends the whole time, I did what I was going to have the most fun doing.
Getting the most out of your festival experience is about you. The weekend of a festival is going to take you on an adventure that you aren’t going to forget and you should have as much fun as possible on that adventure. Have the time of your life, because as soon as you get back to the real world, whether that be work, school, or something else, you’re going to want to live that weekend over and over again. Enjoy the weekend while it lasts. You’re there for a good time, not a long time.