By Veronica Chavez
Additional Contributors: Michele Bacigalupo, Samantha Spoto, Jess Goulart
Festivals are fabulous. You get to enjoy the outdoors, try new foods, immerse yourself in a sea of eclectic individuals, and of course, listen to live music.
While attending a music festival may seem like a simple enough endeavor, there are several important steps you can take to make the experience run even smoother. BTR staffers share some of the most helpful tricks we’ve learned from our own festival expeditions.
Join the Team
I’ve volunteered at Bonnaroo twice and can safely say that getting involved was one of the best decisions ever. First off most of the jobs they offer are awesome. I worked the beer tent one day where I sipped on craft brews and put wrist bands on people for a couple of hours. The rest of the time I worked parking, which I know sounds kind of boring, but I actually spent my shifts bonding with a 50-year-old Deadhead so, what more can you really ask for?
To sweeten the deal even more: the Bonnaroo team lets people sign up and work with friends, reimburses them for their tickets (as long as they complete all their shifts), makes sure not to schedule work when their favorite bands play, and even tosses in a few free meal coins.
Attending a festival is much more grueling than photographs reveal. The air is hot and sticky, the terrain isn’t always easy to walk on, and the water lines can get outrageously long.
However, there are a few steps you can do to make sure you never get dangerously dehydrated or overheated–two discomforts that can sneak up on you pretty quickly, especially if you’re indulging in alcohol. For one: bring lots and lots of water bottles. There have been countless times that I’ve seen people wait on the water line for 20 minutes just to refill one bottle. If you want to get fancy, buy a water bottle that also has a misting nozzle. The feature is great for cooling yourself off without having to dump water over your head–a poor decision for when you later get thirsty. Also, shooting some cooling mist into a crowd will make people love you–like genuine love.
Another handy trick I learned from a friend is to bring along a few bandanas. Drench them in water and tie them around your neck and wrists and you will stay cool for at least two hours. Bandanas are also essential for the unavoidable dust bowl that engulfs the campsite around the second or third day.
Instead of relying on festival amenities for all of your needs, invest in a few portable items. Most portable chargers are cheap and enable you to charge your phone without giving up your the spot in the crowd you worked so hard for. Portable hammocks are also great since literally all you need is two trees that are relatively close to one another.
Anticipate Bad Weather
I’d advise festivalgoers to prepare for all possible weather conditions. It’s not fun to be caught in a rainstorm without a poncho and an extra pair of shoes will save your life if one pair gets soaked. Also, nights can be colder than you’d expect. Days on the campsite may be scorching, but the night breezes will likely make you shiver no matter how much beer you down. Bring light layers of clothing and get crafty–tapestries work well as shawls to keep warm (they can also be used as blankets to sit on when you get tired from dancing at shows). You can also bring some hand warmers.
Bring Your Own Food
In my experience, it’s best to stock up on food and beer at a grocery store before driving into the campgrounds. Pack a cooler so you don’t have to rely on buying all your nourishment from the overpriced vendors and beverage stands. Sometimes stores in the towns closest to the event anticipate the influx of festivalgoers so they offer deals on snacks.
Prepare Your Immune System
When attending festivals, especially multiple day events, I advise you to take Vitamin C. You are going to be in extremely close quarters with hundreds or thousands of people. It is especially easy for you to get sick in these situations. The last thing you want is to miss out on the festivities because you’ve caught “the sickness” from someone else.
If you have some flexibility with money, pack a light suitcase. You will be able to purchase band merchandise while at the festival, and these garments can serve as your attire over the course of the few days. Also, bring as little as possible to the actual concerts you watch. With all the movement going on in the crowd, it is extremely easy to drop and lose your ID or cell phone. If you feel the need to take several items with you to the event, keep them secure in a small bag or purse.
Stock up on Toiletries
I have two words for you: baby wipes. Those little guys are magic, both for their restorative properties and their currency status. I myself exchanged a cup full of ice in the middle of a desert festival for one baby wipe. To this day, I swear, that trade saved my life. Extra toilet paper, tissues, and hand sanitizer are also super useful since amenities in the port-a-potties will inevitably run out.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. When I went to Electric Picnic in Ireland one of my favorite guilt bands, The Killers, played the final night of the four-day festival. I didn’t pace myself, and by the time their show rolled around I had not one shred of energy left to carry myself to the stage. I ended up listening to the set from inside my tent, swaddled by my sleeping bag.