Summer may be synonymous with beaches and bikinis, but it’s also when music festivals kick into high gear. There’s nothing like enjoying live outdoor music: You can feel the pulsing of the drums, you’re dancing with your friends (and thousands of others) under the stars….
That’s the best-case scenario.
Sometimes festivals can mean getting pushed, bumped and stepped on — as well as having drinks spilled on you and inhaling so much secondhand smoke you get a contact high you didn’t bargain for. Fortunately, there are ways to make music festivals more bearable, so you can enjoy them as you’re meant to. Here are some lessons I’ve learned — the hard way!
1) Wear layers. Years ago, you may have rolled your eyes at this advice, but let the teenagers freeze. We all know better by now. Bring a comfortable backpack or roomy purse ﬁlled with warm layers. (Visit the festival website to check bag-size restrictions first.) That hot sun, no matter how hot, will eventually disappear, often leaving a chilly night in its wake.
Check out Eagle Creek’s packable daypack ($27.50) for lightweight storage that can be folded up and stowed in a purse. And bring a jacket that easily folds up into its own pocket, such as the Dakine women’s breaker jacket ($80) that VIVmag is giving away.
2) Forgo ﬂip-ﬂops. They’re comfortable, but your feet are going to get dirty. Plus, you’ll end up walking more than you’d expect, and with all of that dancing you’ll do (especially when you get that contact high), you’ll want to be wearing comfortable, supportive — and protective — footwear. Also extremely high: the likelihood of someone destroying your flip-flop by stepping on the back, leaving you shoeless. Among any summer post-concert detritus, abandoned, broken flip-flops always remain.
3) Use provided shuttles and public transportation, and park where advised. Bottle Rock, a new music festival held recently in Napa, CA, provided large parking lots miles away from the festival grounds, along with free shuttles. Parking far away may at ﬁrst seem like it might take extra effort and time, but the shuttles had use of closed roads and could speed through post-show traffic. Visit the festival’s website for parking info beforehand, too. Bottle Rock, for example, offered $10 discounts for passes purchased online for reserved spots. Planning ahead could save you a parking and traffic headache later on.
4) Bring an empty water bottle. Drinks (of all kinds) are pricey, but most locations have free public water stations, where you can ﬁll up. Again, check the festival regulations first to see what you’re allowed to bring into the park/venue.
5) Go digital. Most festivals offer downloadable apps that allow you to create an itinerary, so you can plan your moves from stage to stage with ease. Many of the apps provide maps as well as schedules, and Bottle Rock’s even showed you an estimated head count for each show (based on those who’d checked in via the app).
6) Bring cash. Many on-site vendors accept credit cards, but cash seems to be the fastest way to get in and out of line. (Plus, not everyone takes cards and the on-site ATM machines charge extra fees.) Some festivals have tokens or chips; Bottle Rock, for example, had chip stations, where you’d buy $5 chips in one line and exchange them for food and beverages at various tents.
Still game? Check out these festivals:
Electric Daisy Carnival: Las Vegas, through June 25
Summerfest: Milwaukee, June 26–30, July 2–7
Forecastle Festival: Louisville, KY, July 12–14
Pitchfork Music Festival: Chicago, July 19–21
The Capitol Hill Block Party: Seattle, July 26–28
Newport Folk Festival: Newport, RI; July 26–28
Lollapalooza: Chicago, Aug. 2–4
Outside Lands: San Francisco, Aug. 9–11
Budweiser Made in America Festival: Philadelphia, Aug. 31–Sept. 1
Bumbershoot: Seattle, Aug. 31–Sept. 2
Photo credit: Jerome Brunet; cover photo: Emily Radcliffe