The Ins and Outs, Ups and Downs of Music Festivals

by Maureen McDermott

Summer is a season of many things: sunburns, True Blood, skinny-dipping, and of course, music festivals. Large amounts of artists and fans come together for hours upon hours of music and expression. These festivals are some of the most unforgettable experiences of the summer. But with great fun comes great responsibility. There are plenty of risks at summer festivals, but follow these simple tips to make sure that every festival you attend is memorable for the right reasons:

1. Stay aware

Large groups of people demand your full attention, and music festivals are some of the largest, most energy-filled events held today. Imagine the mosh pit of the last show you went to, multiplied. A lot. Watch where you’re going, and make sure to avoid anyone who looks unstable or threatening. Much like how you hold yourself in the city, walk with confidence and purpose to avoid attracting unwanted attention from those who aren’t adding to the fun atmosphere.

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Photo by C. Taylor Crothers

2. Plan ahead.

You’re going to have a good time no matter what, but going to a festival with no sense of its layout or schedule can leave you feeling lost. You don’t need a minute-by-minute itinerary, but a simple map of the festival area can help. If there are multiple stages, take a look at set lists to find out where your favorite acts are playing and when. This will ensure that you won’t miss a set for the bathroom. One of today’s seminal festivals, Lollapalooza, lets attendees log on to customize their weekend plans online. Even if you can’t get to Chicago, it’s worth creating an account to listen to artist playlists and find new favorites.

3. Dress and pack appropriately.

Every festival is unique, so prepare as such. Is the festival outside or in a covered area? Is there any chance of rain? Are outside beverages or food allowed? Check these details out online, and find the most effective and hassle-free way to pack everything you’ll need throughout the day. “All-day” means just that; you may not be allowed to leave the festival or be near a convenience store to pick up necessities, so plan for the long haul. Here’s a bare-bones checklist to start off:
1. Comfortable shoes for lots of walking and standing
2. Sunscreen, sunglasses, or a hat
3. Plenty of water, no matter how many other liquids you plan on consuming
4. A camera with an extra battery and memory card
5. A jacket or shirt for poor weather

4. Know your party.

There should be some form of communication between everyone you’re going to the festival with. This could be a cell phone, but not all event areas have reception. In that case, track down some walkie-talkies, but if all else fails, find your meeting spot. This should be a central location at the event that you and your friends can return to if you’re separated. When you first arrive, establish your meeting spot and agree to meet there when it’s time to leave. Even if you’re attending with one other person and don’t plan on separating, worst-case scenarios can be avoided by finding this location. It should go without saying, but try not to forget anyone at the end of the day.
These tips make for four quick and easy ways to get the most out of your ticket and your day. Pitchfork Music has compiled a fairly comprehensive list of summer festivals.  Searching online is a great way to find shows near you, but keep your eyes and ears open for smaller, local fests in your area. They may lack the star power of larger shows, but local festivals are a great opportunity to discover new artists and genres. Oh, and don’t forget your souvenir T-shirt!

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