A few weekends ago, I had the opportunity to attend one of the best music festivals out there: Music Midtown in Atlanta. But despite how awesome the festival itself was, mistakes were made. Many mistakes. So in honor of my many (many) mistakes, I’ve decided to compile a list of tips to follow when attending a music festival. The tips come from stories I’ve been told, some general knowledge, and a lot of personal experiences from a multitude of festivals that I have attended. They are designed to help you avoid some of my mistakes and to help you enhance your festival experience to the greatest it can be. I am, by no means, an expert in this topic, but I do hope that some of these tips are valuable to you.
Part I: Preperation
Unfortunately, the worst part about attending a music festival is what comes in the weeks before arriving. You’ve bought your tickets (or in most festivals, your wristbands). You’ve marked up all of your calendars. You’re excitement after purchasing is through the roof. But, there is a lot of stress involved in this crucial time period before festival gates open.
Know how you’re getting there. It seems like the most basic tip, but figuring out whether a car, a bus, a plane is the best means of travel isn’t always as easy as it sounds. And, if you are not driving yourself, book your tickets far in advance to guarantee a spot and for the best deal. Most times (and this is especially true for college and high school students), people have to return right after the closing act because they have shit to do the next morning. Make sure you’ve had enough sleep if you’re driving. Make sure you catch your flight or bus, even if it means leaving early to beat the crowd. Make sure you have a way to get home safe.
Confirm that your living arrangements are all sorted out. I cannot stress this enough. Check. Double check. Triple Check. Sometimes you may arrive to the city that you’re attending and find out that you do not have a place to stay *cough couch*. This tip mostly applies to those who are trying to find a cheap place using cites like Airbnb, FlipKey, or HomeAway. See if you know anyone who might have a place for you to stay in whatever location you are going to. You’d be surprised to see how many friends or family members may know someone who has an extra room for a night. Like with a bus or a plane ticket, the earlier you book your place, the better.
Figure out what to pack. A general rule that I try to follow is to pack light. Especially if you’re going to carry around your bags, even the smallest bags can become a burden to hold after a while so it’s best to keep it as compact as you can. With that said, you also have to make sure that you have everything you need. Generally, you’ll have the 7-day forecast for your city plenty of time before the festival begins. Plan accordingly. Bring a sweater. Bring a raincoat (trust me, it is not fun to be stuck in the pouring rain, even if your favorite artist is up on stage). Even bring a change of shoes if necessary.
Keep your ticket in a safe place. You will generally receive your tickets in the mail about two weeks before the festival. Don’t lose them. Make sure you have them set to leave the night before you leave, not the day of. Also, if you get a wristband, do not let the excitement force you to try it on. It sounds like an idiotic thing to do, but it happens. The wristbands are designed to not come off. You’ll either have to cut off the band and order a new one (which will most likely be an extra fee) or you’ll have to wear it for two weeks. Don’t be that guy.
It’s definitely worth it to invest in a portable charger for festivals. A lot of them will have charging stations, but chances are that they are either expensive or taken. Unless you know that you aren’t going to use your phone often, do not depend on your friend’s portable charger either. I recommend that everyone has their own.
If you plan on saving some memories from the weekend, clear up some storage on your phone. One of the worst concert feelings is having a message pop up that says “Storage Full” while in the middle of recording one of your favorite songs. Move pictures to your laptop and delete some apps that you won’t need for the weekend. You can always re-download them later.
Part II: Lights, Music, Action
The time has come. People have boarded their plans, reclined in their bus seats, or opened their driver’s side doors. There is only a matter of hours before weeks, sometimes months of preparation is payed off.
Again, don’t leave your tickets/wristband at home. Usually you can go to Will Call and get a new one if it’s really an emergency, but it’s truly a long and arduous process. A smaller detail that is usually ignored by most people is that there is a correct arm to put the wristband on. They tell you this for a reason, because the scanner for your wristband is going to be on that side. Please follow it. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s still annoying to reach over to your opposite side to scan your band.
Be wary of what is and isn’t allowed into the festival. Most of the time it should be posted on the website of the festival. There are a few basic things that we all know aren’t allowed in, but that won’t stop people from trying to sneak them in anyway. If you are one of those people, just be careful. Don’t let it ruin the whole festival if you get caught. You know who you are. Regardless, even smaller items like umbrellas or selfie sticks may be prohibited. Believe me when I say that you don’t want to be that person hiding their shit in the bushes because they can’t take it into the festival.
Make sure you have enough cash. This is important for two reasons. One is that some vendors will not take cards. But the other is that frankly, food vendors at festivals are ridiculously overpriced. Sadly, most rules will state that you cannot bring any outside food or drink into the festival, so you’ll have to deal with it. Don’t try to save money and skip your meals for the day. Being outside constantly will drain you of your energy and you’ll end up feeling like crap. Stay fed. Stay hydrated.
Be mindful of the people around you. Everyone is there to have a good time. Don’t ruin it by constantly bumping into people or by being rude. All of you are there for a great experience. Plus, festival-goers are some of the most interesting people you’ll meet. Some people have travelled a thousand miles to be there. Some people have followed their favorite bands across the country. Everyone has an interesting story to tell. If you have down time between concerts (which you will), converse with strangers. It helps the time pass.
Don’t be one of those people who sits on someone’s shoulders for half of the concert. Being tall is something that’s unavoidable, but purposely making yourself tall is not okay. There is literally someone behind you who now cannot see. Granted, it can be really fun to see everything, but just don’t stay up there for the whole time. Besides the fact that you are probably killing (the person’s legs), it’s just a common curtesy.
Accept that you probably will not get to see everyone that you planned to see, and that you will probably see some artists that you had no intent on seeing. A lot of performances will overlap as far as scheduling, so you’ll have to prioritize. You can try to plan your schedule as much as you want, but it almost always will change in some way. Don’t let this bring you down. Most of the time, if you have a good enough crowd every artist will be enjoyable. Feed off of their energy.
Part III: PCSD
It happens to everyone at one point. You hear those words from the final act: “Goodnight [insert city name here]!” Now comes the wave of hundreds of thousands of people headed towards the exits.
As mentioned before, plan ahead. Think about the thousands of people that will be at the festival, and how all of them will be leaving at the same time. It’s not going to be easy to catch a ride home. All of the taxis and Ubers will probably be taken. All of the crosswalks will take forever. If there is somewhere you need to be at a certain time, you may have no choice but to leave early to beat the rush.
Let it be known that you had a great time at the festival, and yes I’m sure your hundreds of Twitter and Instagram followers are very interested to know how amazing everything was, and how the band’s drummer touched your hand for 0.2 seconds, and how you’ll never be able to top the memories, but let’s be real for a second. No one wants to see the whole festival on their feed. To some, it’s a slap in the face if they couldn’t attend, and it’s just plain annoying for those who couldn’t give any less of a fuck. It can be so tempting to post every video that you took on social media, and believe me I am guilty of this temptation as well, but there is a point where enough is enough. Keep your postings to a minimum. Maybe throw in a little #tbt in a few weeks, but please, control yourselves.