February 1, 2011

25 Tips on Making An Enjoyable Festival Experience

Are you a music festival newbie? Not quite sure how to fully prepare yourself? Enclosed below are some helpful hints, taking from both myself as well as others. I trekked the Austin City Limits festival in Austin in '06 so these tips aren't exclusive to Coachella, but they translate pretty well considering TX in mid-September is just as hot to bear as SoCal in mid-April. A lot of this information was gathered around the net from Coachella heads.

1. Comfy shoes - Should go without saying, but don't wear anything on your feet that are going to have you hating life in a few hours or more. Note to all hipsters...leave your Chucks at home. Your feet will be on fire before you even get to the second band's set on Friday. Ladies...be smart, it's not a fashion show.

2. Cash - Nearly everything you are going to want to purchase inside is going to require the green stuff. Merch tables, concessions stands, most don't take ATM so be prepared to bring some cash with you.

3. Know that you won't see everyone you wanted to see - At ACL I missed Iron&Wine because I chose Kings of Leon, G-Love & Special Sauce instead of Muse, and Ray LaMontagne instead of Sparklehorse. You are not going to be able to see all the acts you wish to, hopefully you aren't unlucky enough that your two favorites are going head-to-head at the same time. Nobody gets through three days seeing every act they wished, just got to live with it.

4. Protection - Both of the UV kind and the baby-preventing kind. It's going to be hot as fuck out there, it is the desert, so be aware. Also, you might have an opportunity to get down, but even if its not you, make sure you carry something in case your unprepared friend is looking to score. Once you're stuck inside you're going to have a hard time finding any.

5. This may be the most important one...Never text "Where are you" - If you've ever been to a high volume sporting event like a college football game or something similar, you would know that your cell service hardly works in a timely manner and that often your shit doesn't go through. Texting "Where are you" or something along those lines will just lead to confusion as they may be answering you at a time different than when you are asking. Make sure when you are trying to meet up you set strict times. Don't say something without a time stamp like "Meet in 20 minutes" because its unlikely they will receive the text when you intend them to. Say things like "Meet at Sahara Tent at 8:30", that way there is little room for confusion.

6. Water - Goes without saying, you are in a desert. Should never run unnecessarily low on this.

7. Buy the merchandise you want early on - The later in the night things get the more stuff disappears. I'll always kick myself for not picking up this cool ACL-themed Ben Harper shirt I saw early in the day Sunday that was all gone when I tried picking it up after grabbing a bite to eat.

8. Expect lots of traffic to and from the festival grounds. Patience is a virtue.

9. Keep track of your digital camera - If you're not lucky enough to be one of those peeps with a phone that has more megapixels than most people's cameras, you're probably going to hafta roll a little more old school. Here's a good way to hopefully get it back to you if you lose it.

10. If you bring a backpack, lock it up - You don't want someone picking through your stuff, grab a simple small lock for your bag to keep it somewhat safe.

11. Leave yourself enough time to get from one side of festival to the other - Its a big fucking field.

12. Carry a schedule on you at all times - Don't rely on finding one once you're stranded, although they should be around somewhere. Put one in your pocket and forget about it until you need it.

13. Pre-plan an idea of what acts you want to see - Once the schedule is release, figure out a sort-of schedule you'd like to see. If you're rolling with friends, figure out if you are going to split up or if you are going to try and stick together through the whole time. If splitting up, figure out who wants to see the same stuff and pair up. If sticking together, majority rules. Ultimately, its about you and having a good time with friends. The having a good time with friends doesn't necessarily have to exist simultaneously with catching all your favorite acts as you will have plenty of time before and after to get hammered with your buddies.

14. Plan your tent signings - I'm not a big proprietor of waiting in a long line to get something signed by one of my favorite musicians, most especially while live music is in the process of occurring. But if its just someone you can't miss and you want them to sign your "oh so special vinyl unreleased LP of theirs", make sure you plan on getting there early. Also don't be disappointed as some get cancelled and musicians tend to disappear from there rather quickly.

15. Save the large amount of drinking until after - If you can help it, don't get hammered at noon becuase the sun will kill you and drain you. You don't want to be falling apart when the main acts are making it up there. You can binge drink all you want at night because most of your favorite acts won't be going on at noon the next day.

16. Choose the right clothing - light colored stuff during the day, long sleeved at night.

17. Move around and experience as much as you can - There will be lulls in the action. At certain times of each day at ACL there were stretches where there was no one I was interested in. I either picked one at random based on proximity or coolest sounding name. It also gives you an opportunity to walk around and check out some of the other cool things going down.

18. Stay away from the beer gardens - Extremely over-priced, boring, you'll miss some good tunes. Come prepared. Just don't bring bottles, bring plastics, cans.

19. Sleep! - Don't rely on just a few hours to get you through the whole day. Being in large crowds is painfully tiring.

20. Hats / sunglasses - Burned scalps are no fun and neither is the glare of the sun blocking you from seeing anything.

21. Wear something interesting - Its a good conversation point if youre not traveling with a large group of people to wear something interesting. The weather probably makes it not a good idea for an It's Always Sunny Green Man full body nylon, but it would get you a lot of props.

22. Eat a big breakfast - It's important you don't get hungry because who wants to grab a bite to eat when you don't have a lot of time to make it to your next destination. Might have to drop a deuce but it beats the alternative of waiting in line for a bite.

23. Experiment and check some stuff out you normally wouldn't - This is the opportunity to expand your musical vernacular. If you're big on indie rock, check out at least one or two acts from a different genre just to say you got the full experience. Plus, different acts bring different crowds and this way you won't be meeting the same type of people all the time.

24. Give bands a chance but move on if they're just not doing it for you - I was recommended a couple bands before I got to ACL and I ended up sitting through a whole set or two of complete rubbish. I felt like I was missing something. You know what I was missing? A better act on another stage.

25. Arrive in a good mood - This is going to be a great weekend but you gotta make sure you arrive with a positive attitude. If you're making a long drive, play some Coachella-centric tunes on the way there. Get in the spirit of things, its something you won't forget for the rest of your life.

Hope this helps all of you looking for some good tips. April cannot come soon enough.

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