Now that music-festival season is upon us, it's time once again to be inundated with countless magazine and blog stories with advice on how best to survive and enjoy your festival experience.
It's almost always the same article, each with a list of ridiculously obvious things to do or bring, such as sunscreen, cash, water or your tickets. This is usually followed by long-winded passages about why the obvious things you need to do or bring, obviously, need doing or bringing. Some even go so far as to tell you to "have fun," which is like advising a pilot to "avoid mountains."
For all my perusing, I was unable to find one article that focused on truly useful, un-obvious information—the kind of article written by and for real festivalgoers in the real world. As someone who has attended, managed and worked on hundreds of festivals, I feel qualified to do this for you.
Real-World Music Festival Survival Tips
Do or bring the obvious crap (obviously): I'm not going to list all these items. If you don't already know to bring your tickets and drinking water, I suggest you avoid the big-daddy music festivals and start small. May I recommend attending your neighbor's band rehearsal to watch them play "Uptown Funk" over and over?
Bring petroleum jelly: Vaseline will prevent chaffing from a certain downtown funk you acquire after plodding across expansive festival grounds in hot weather. Some people use baby powder, but this is a mistake. When first applied, baby powder emits a puff of white chalk every time you take a step, after which it becomes moist and gritty and scrapes across your rash like wet sandpaper. Petroleum jelly is better because it forms a protective layer between your rubbing parts. It's best to apply before a rash forms, but it works great afterward as well, reducing pain and preventing it from worsening. As someone who spends a lot of time running between stages with a swampy undercarriage, Vaseline has been a godsend.
Wear an appropriate concert tee: Jesus, man, are you an animal? Never wear the shirt of a band that's performing at the festival. Better to wear the shirts of musicians that influenced the bands you intend to see. For instance, if Fishbone is one of your must-see groups, then watch them in a Bad Brains tee. If you're going to see Faith Hill, then bust out a Tammy Wynette shirt. Likewise, if Maroon 5 is your thing, then wear a shirt with a mound of horseshit on it.
Bring a clipboard or walkie-talkie: At some point you will need to crash the backstage area of one of your rock idols to either A) meet that idol; or, B) create a terrible ruckus and run away cackling. Naturally, you must do a quick recon to discern how best to sneak in, and there's almost always a way. One of my favorite methods is to rush toward the backstage entrance waving a clipboard and barking orders into a radio as if something major is going down. When you have the guard's attention, blurt out, "There's been a breach! Take me to Questlove!"
Bring appropriate drugs: It's important to choose the appropriate drugs for the festival you are attending. Trust me, you do not want to go flitting around the Hank Jr. beer garden on an ecstasy junket. For quick reference, bring E or K to the EDM event. Bring weed and/or coke to a rock festival. Hippie/jam-band festivals are best negotiated on weed, mushrooms and/or acid. Moonshine and Marlboros will do you well at the outlaw country jamboree. No need to bring anything to the Christian-rock revival, since you've already consumed the drugs in their Kool-aid. However, bring the entire medicine cabinet to Burning Man.
Get lost!: Nearly all the festival tips I read agreed that getting separated from your friends is one of the worst things you can let happen. KillingtheBreeze.com declared: "Don't EVER Leave Your Group, No Matter What Losing your friends in a giant crowd of strangers can be terrifying."
First, if being alone in a crowd of strangers terrifies you, instead of Coachella perhaps you should go lawn bowling with your grandparents.
Second, let's be honest. Your friends are annoying. You've got your pal Geoffrihad who wants to see Leftover Salmon go 87 minutes before uttering a single vocal. Todd is at the point of intoxication where he punches your kidneys and giggles every time Snoop makes a reference to getting high. Jilly, the dub-step diehard, wants to drag the entire group to the front of the Skrillex stage in order to have a close and unobstructed view of—a guy fiddling with knobs behind a turntable. And Lila, the self-proclaimed international hippie chick and holistic priestess, wants you to go with her to the Blood, Sweat and Humidity tent because Eddie Vedder and Nasfita Djo Bizzy von Bumblebelt are scheduled to perform a two-hour didgeri-duel.
Lastly, where's your sense of adventure? Get lost! Go roaming. Explore things by yourself for a change. If you get scared, just go to the information booth and tell them you can't find your mommy.
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Edwin Decker blogs at www.edwindecker.com. Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.
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