How To Festival: Basics For Beginners

As we prepare to head back to our old Kentucky home for Forecastle (we may even be flying through the air as you read this), we’re trying to contain our excitement at seeing favorite bands, old and new. But festival-ing is serious business, and it’s best to have a plan of attack to truly get the most out of your experience. And so we present: How To Festival – Basics for Beginners.

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Part I – Travel: Getting to and from the festival venue is key. Forecastle is pretty chill, as festivals go, and it’s not a requirement to camp out (though there is space for that if you like). We like being able to sleep in the comfort of our adolescent bedrooms after a day sweating it out in the sun. But whether you’re camping out or arriving anew each day, how you’re getting there is important. Assuming you’ve got initial travel covered (from your home to the festival city), you need to secure transportation from the place you’re sleeping to the place you’re soaking up the sunshine and the tunes.

If you’re headed to a Bonnaroo-style festival, make sure your get there early enough to place your tent in a prime area. Or if you’re like us and prefer a roof over your head in the evenings, we recommend staying someplace within walking distance of the festival, or securing a designated driver. Safety first! We managed to secure Zelda’s little brother as our chauffeur for the weekend (thanks, broseph!).

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Part II – Weather Preparedness: Zelda texted me on Monday, “It’s supposed to rain all weekend.” Devastating news, yes, but will it stop us? NEVER! This is just another factor we have to take into account for our festival plan. Before you leave your abode, check the forecast and see what you’re up against.

If it looks like rain, pack a poncho or a rain jacket; don’t be the douchebag with the umbrella blocking the view for the people in the back (you don’t want to have to carry  an umbrella around all weekend anyway). Rain or shine, it’s definitely summer, so even if it’s overcast WEAR SUNSCREEN. This is life advice for festivals and general outdoor events: Skin cancer is a real and serious concern, and sunburns will mar all your happy festival memories when you realize you can’t move your shoulders without pain and your eyelids are peeling.

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Part III – Gear Up: Be selective with the stuff you bring. It’s important to be prepared, but you’re going to be mobile for most of the weekend, so the less stuff you need to carry around, the better. Top five things you should have on hand? Water bottle, rain jacket, sunscreen, money, and phone (bonus points for a back-up charger).

It’s also important to dress for function and fashion. I know you want to embrace that sundress life, but don’t underestimate the importance of pockets. And we can’t over-emphasize the importance of your shoe choice. Again, we all want to to look as cute as possible, but your feet won’t thank you for breaking in your new strappy sandals over those three days. This also applies to that comfy pair of flip flops that you love so much. You’ll thank me when the toe thong doesn’t pull through the sole, leaving you shoeless during the last headliner as the rain starts to pour. If you’re not a tennis shoes/sneakers person, may I suggest you embrace the sport sandal lifestyle. My Chacos have lasted me ten years, and they’re still going strong.

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Part IV – Scope it Out: Make a plan. Decide which bands are priorities for you, and which ones you can skip. Plan in downtime to peruse the vendors and rehydrate and eat. When you arrive, get the lay of the land. LOCATE THE RESTROOMS along with the food concourse, each stage, and ways to sneak into the VIP area and use their fancy bathrooms… A lot of festivals have apps where you can create your own line-up and make sure you get to see everyone you desire.

And as corny as it sounds, pick a designated meeting point. That way, if people get lost or you go your separate ways before the end of the day, everyone can meet up when you’re getting ready to leave.  On a related point, you should also have a contingency plan. If for some reason (severe weather, electronic malfunction, etc.) the festival is suspended, know where you’re going to meet and what you’re going to do during that time. Pick a restaurant, bar, or some sort of indoor venue where you can ride out the storm (literal or metaphorical).

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Part V – Forget Everything I Said: Okay, not all of it. But half the fun of the festival life is going with the flow, following your whims and the whims of the weather and the people around you. Dance in the rain. Run barefoot in the dirt and mud. Be a cliché (you know you want to). Enjoy yourself, and don’t stress out about it. It’s meant to be fun, so have fun….but seriously please wear sunscreen.

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