How To Enjoy Your First Music Festival
The time is upon us. As summer approaches, so does a plethora of outdoor music festivals. Funk Parade, The Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival, and Sweetlife have already passed, but, as I write this, Maryland Deathfest and Delfest are both getting ready to kick off. The long list of shows stretches into June, July, and August, offering plenty of choices for fans of live music.
If you've already cut your teeth on a few of these before, then you know how to conduct yourself and have fun at these events. Fledgling festival goers often ask me, however, how they are supposed to enjoy themselves properly their first time around. I'd contend that there's no one way to go about it, but I can share a few tips I've picked up over the years that may come in handy.
Stop Making Excuses
There are probably dozens of excuses you've made to justify not going to a festival before. Some of them are legitimate (maybe you really have been "too busy" the past few years to attend), but I'm willing to bet that a good number are just fabricated. If the only things holding you back are vague worries, you'll have to put most of those aside if you want to finally get out there and have a good time. Something unexpected could happen, sure, but you won't starve to death, you won't be swallowed up by the massive crowds, and you won't melt away if it happens to rain a bit.
Listen To Music You Love
Don't let your friends drag you along to see artists you're not interested in for your first outing. It will likely kill the experience and ruin your opinion of festivals for a long time to come. Make sure you investigate the lineup carefully in advance, because there's a good chance your favorite band won't be playing until you listen to four or five bands you've never heard of before. If it's a genre of music that you like, however, you won't have to worry about any of that killing your good vibes, and you might discover some new acts that you'll want to follow in the future.
Dress For The Occasion
I mentioned it might rain a little, right? In truth, it might rain a lot, so make sure you prepare yourself accordingly. Yes, you'll want to fit in with a genre-appropriate outfit (if that's your style), but you don't need to throw common sense out the window to do it. Pack some boots, bring your poncho, and keep your eyes on the weather forecast before you head out.
Take Some Friends
Having a companion (or two) will do wonders for your confidence and ability to have fun. You'll have someone watching your back, someone to lean on when you're unsure of what to do next, and, most importantly, someone to provide you with solid advice and suggestions. They might prompt you to go see an act you're unfamiliar with, or take a much-needed break from the festivities to replenish your strength. At the very least, they can hold onto your bag while you scour the grounds looking for the restroom.
Put Down Your Smartphone
Don't be that person watching the performances on your phone. You came to see live music, so watch the acts with your own two eyes. You'll have plenty of stories to tell after the fact, and you don't need to record everything on your phone to affirm that they happened. A quick snapshot here and there is fine, but pay attention to what's going on around you without your technological filter and you'll find yourself noticing a lot more. And keep the selfies to a minimum. If you're enjoying the festival the right way, chances are you don't look nearly as good as you think you do.
This is especially applicable if you're attending a multi-day festival. If you want to go the distance, you'll need to avoid expending all your energy at once. Don't imbibe too much, don't take any strange drugs you're not accustomed to, and, in general, just don't overdo it. Your level of enjoyment will plummet significantly if you have to spend the majority of the festival passed out from exhaustion or looking for your lost valuables because you got too high and forgot where you left them.
Expect The Unexpected
It's entirely possible that the band you spent all that time waiting for doesn't put on the best show. Alternatively, a set might start late, or the facilities might not be exactly what you had in mind. Don't let it ruin your enjoyment. Yes, you spent good money to get out there and see awesome live performances. If you get hung up when things don't go exactly as planned, though, you run the risk of completely wasting your hard-earned dollars because you're too busy being a sourpuss to go with the flow.
The majority of these suggestions might seem like common sense—because they are. You might be surprised, though, at how many first timers neglect them—either through ignorance or excitement. In general, if you engage in copious amounts of pre-festival preparation, follow the spirit of this advice, and don't act like a curmudgeon, you should be able to have a great time. Wherever you decide to go for your first music festival, I wish you nothing but success, and hope you'll emerge with the desire to head back out and tackle another.