Music Festivals 101 – How Not to be “That Guy”
We’re more than halfway through festival season, but there are still some huge-name fests coming up. From Austin City Limits, Lost Lands and Hulaween to Bumbershoot, Desert Daze and Electric Zoo, there’s a lot to be excited about.
Music Festivals are a Phenomenon
Over 32 million people attend a music festival in the United States each year, and that number is steadily rising. According to some statistics I just made up, about 3.57% of that crowd will be made up of assholes. Some people are assholes by nature; we can’t help or change that; this article isn’t for them. Some of us are accidental assholes by being “that guy” or “that girl” who can really put a damper on someone else’s good time.
I’m not innocent; when I was a teenager, I was selfish, stupid and inconsiderate. I hope this article will help some of you new festivalgoers — maybe even some of you veterans — get the most out of your festival without ruining someone else’s good time.
I’m a big fan of totems. They’re a great way to meet new friends, be creative, get a laugh, and help find lost friends. If you have a totem, please make sure it is a decent length pole. It’s not ideal when you’re standing in a crowd and a low-hanging totem is completely blocking the sage. Instead of seeing Sir Paul McCartney commanded the stage at Austin City Limits, you see a Kayne West gay fish totem swinging back and forth. If you make a totem, hold it high or get a long pole. Totems at an EDM show are a different story, wave them bad boys strong and proud.
Like most people, I like to snap a few pictures of a show. Totally normal and understandable. Take the phone out maybe three times per set, keep it out for 30 seconds, put it away. Please do not Snap Chat the entire set. Please do not take 15-minute-long videos with your phone five inches above your head. Most people want to watch the music on stage as it unfolds in real time, not through your phone screen. This rule of thumb changes a bit when you’re at an EDM set/fest. At a festival like Lost Lands, there’s a stage with fire, lasers, smoke and an insane DJ booth being pushed by a million watts of bass. A cell phone screen usually doesn’t take away from this.
I’m not talking about “safe spaces” — we hope every inch of a music festival is a safe space. I’m referring to dancing space mixed with your backpack, camel bak, sombrero, whatever. When a crowd gets tight, you don’t want to be the dude who flips his sombrero onto his back and is constantly poking someone in the face with it. I know this is a unique example, but you get the idea.
Getting a Good View
I’m a camper; when I love an artist, I like to get a great spot for their set. I have waited for 8+ hours before, slowly making my way up closer and closer to the front. There’s always a handful of people who feel they are entitled to the front of the crowd halfway through the set. Even worse, if you just barrel through the crowd like people don’t exist and all that matters is your view. Don’t be that guy.
Know Your Limits
If you are indulging in some extracurricular stuff at a fest, please be smart about it. Too much of anything is bad for you. Be safe, guys. You don’t want to pass out from heat exhaustion and dehydration, disappear from your group for a day, and show back up with a medical bracelet on.
If you’re not into the music and you are more entertained by the conversation with your friends, that’s fine. Don’t form a circle and yell talk to each other during a Jack Johnson set. It’s not the same as talking during a movie, but it’s close. Most people are there to listen to to the band, not about how good Amish Doughnuts are. (P.S. They’re amazing.)
ust don’t litter. We know it’s a lot easier to just drop an empty beer as you run to the next set, but it’s not too hard to toss it in a recycling bin. Also, clean up your campsite before you leave. Don’t let the poor volunteers have to clean up your mess. We’re mostly all adults and here together. Please.
Have Fun, Be Safe, Be Kind
Most people go to music festivals to have an amazing time: to leave the real world behind and dive into a world filled with music, art and amazing people. The uniqueness of the crowds is something that makes music festivals great. I don’t care if you’re a bro, a hippy, a businessman, a wook, a sweaty raver, a teenager, whatever. Just don’t be an asshole.