By Jill Adler
The time draws near. The sun radiates, the crowd swells and sounds move outdoors. The summer concert season is nigh. If you’ve never planned, geared up and marched onto a field like an army to battle, you have yet to experience the beast known as the Outdoor Music Festival. Yes, it’s a living, breathing collective that, unless you’re prepared to join, might leave you with the ickies for the rest of your life. Porta-potties, sweaty, sun-pinked bodies, muddy clothes, booze and bong smells with every turn. Sounds unpleasant but a weekend outdoor music festival where you can catch your favorite artist live, you’re surprised by unknown acts and you see so much music for relatively little cost, could take the top place on your most-amazing-time-of-your-life list.
To Make It Happen
Decide well in advance whether you’ll book a hotel or crash at a campground. Hotels are more civilized but if you can handle ‘showering’ with baby wipes and neighbors practically on top of you, you’ll make more lasting friendships and memories under a tent. Start saving up. The green bleeding doesn’t end with the tickets, the lodging, the travel. Expect to pay dearly for carnie food and domestic brews.
For venues that don’t allow outside food, tape snacks to your pant legs or tuck them strategically in your pack or jacket; save your money for bigger meals. Oh and make sure you bring cash. Festival ATM fees are ridiculous and you can’t count on vendors taking plastic.
Fests have waterstations. Bring refillable jugs or hydration bladders so you spend your money on beer instead of water bottles. Remember – one glass of water for every beer if you plan to last all day in the sun.
No matter how great the music is, there will come a time when your ears are done. Pop in plugs for peace as well as protection. If you have little kids or babies go bigger. Pack a pair of gun earmuffs. Seriously. Repeated exposure to 85+ decibels causes hearing loss.
As for the rest of your wardrobe, think layers. It’s cool in the morning, sweltering by noon, cool again at dusk, then you work up a sweat dancing at night among a crowd that just seemed to double with the glow of the moon. Wear technical T-shirts like something from Sports Science (wicks better and dries faster than cotton), cargo shorts, durable shoes, hat, tons of sunscreen, Otterbox your electronics, Wal-Mart rain poncho, sunglasses.
It never hurts to pack a costume and watergun either. Just don’t bring anything you’ll cry over when it gets dirty, lost, broken or stolen. Lastly, pack cough drops. Throats don’t appreciate screaming, cheering, singing your head off and yelling over music for four days. Now get out there and fest!
BEST FEST GEAR
Flipflops are for amateurs. Real festivarians do Chacos. No slippage- the Chaco Unaweep toe and heel wraps secure your foot; no cramping- the firm contoured footbed gives you lasting arch support; no cold- tug on the strap to flatten the toe loop, slip on some thick merino socks and keep your feet warm till the last song. $100, www.chacos.com.
Don’t let those height restrictions keep you from sitting pretty. The lightweight Kelsyus chair has armrests that convert into backpack shoulder straps. There’s even a little place behind the pillow to stash snacks or beverages. The Canopy’s huge so expect to either sit in the back or use it between sets. $40, Big 5, Costco, Amazon, Target, etc.
Wear these steezy shades from the lowlight of dawn or dusk to full exposure. Whatever the lighting, pop in the right shade of lens with the patented magnetic interchange system. $115.
The hours can drag at certain times- especially if you have kids. Bust out the Toss ‘n Catch Foambeez or Zartz Throwing Dartz by Zing or Ringstix if you don’t mind staying to the rear to play. If you don’t mind carrying the extra gear, a kiddie inflatable pool and squirtguns go a long way. $4-13, ToysRUs.com
It’s all about the layers when you’re outside from morning to midnight. Slip on the Loki Fuse with its built-in neck gaiter and mittens so you don’t have to worry about collecting kids’ gear from lost and found at the end of the fest. Plus, he gets to look like a stealth ninja. $75.
BEST FESTS OF THE WEST
Coachella, Indio, Calif.- Rock, hip hop and electronica come together over three days, five stages, and an epic campground. 2011 Headliners include Jimmy Cliff & Tim Armstrong, Mazzy Star, The Black Keys, The Shins, Squeeze, Bon Iver and Florence + the Machine. Mid-April. You missed this one but tickets are already on sale for 2013. Coachella.com
Sasquatch Music Festival, The Gorge near Seattle, Wash.- The premiere rock/alternative indie music fest. Camp out all three days so you don’t miss a beat from up and coming artists. There’s also a comedy tent that morphs into a dance party late at night for you and your 25,000 friends. Don’t miss Pretty Lights, The Roots, Tenacious D, and Beck. Memorial Day Weekend.
Desert Rocks Music Festival, Green River, UT - a 4-day camping event in the red rock desert. Expect socially responsible bands, speakers, DJ’s, performers, venders, artists, workshops, and films that have a positive message. The Wailers, Elephant Revival, Chali 2na and The House of Vibe, Holy Water Buffalo, Scenic Byway and more. 6/7-10/2012.
Groovefest American Music Festival, Cedar City, Utah- A five-day festival dedicated to American music; that’s blues and folk, bluegrass and country, Western, Americana, jazz, and jam. 6/19-24/2012.
Telluride Bluegrass Festival, Telluride, Colo.- Woodstock of the West. Four days of bluegrass-based acoustic music that’s been going strong for nearly 40 years. Peter Rowan, Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer, Tim O’Brien, and Sam Bush are regulars. Kids get their own tent and music at the back and late night concerts at local clubs throughout town rock after the field winds down. 6/21-24/2012.
High Sierra Music Festival, Quincy, Calif.- The eclectic sounds of jazz, newgrass, bluegrass, jam bands, funk, electronica and world music can be heard about 80 miles north of Reno, Nev., There are also workshops, classes, and family-oriented activities. Matisyahu, Built To Spill, Kids These Days, Ben Harper, Galactic, STS, July 5-8, 2012.
Targhee Fest, Alta, Wyo.- Family friendly rock fest framed by the Tetons. Toots and the Maytals, Trigger Hippy featuring: Joan Osborne & Jackie Greene, Drive By Truckers, JJ Grey & Mofro and more are scheduled to perform. 7/13-15/2012.
Northern Rockies Folk Festival Hailey, Idaho- Two-day show jam-packed with local Wood River Valley talent as well as national acts playing everything from rock, folk, and Zydeco to Americana and country. Up-and-coming bands with local ties, and student musicians, get 15-minutes on stage during set changes. 8/3-4/2012.
Outside Lands, Golden Gate Park, Calif.- Launched by the people who created Bonnaroo, this mainstream (think Further, Levon Helm, Social Distortion, Slightly Stoopid), 2-day celebration of music, food, wine and art brings together more than 70,000 people. 8/10-12/2012.
Bumbershoot Arts and Music Festival, Seattle, Wash.- 250 performers at over 20 unique indoor and outdoor venues. There’s music, comedy, film, performing and visual arts, dance, theatre, and events for the kids. Labor Day Weekend.
Austin City Limits, Austin, TX- Book your hotel or campsite early. Austin’s version of Bonnaroo draws crowds around 100,000. This three-day American music event draws artists from the Flaming Lips to the Eagles. Kids under 10 get in free and have their own “Kiddie Limits” event- crafts, sand play, School of Rock workshops, DrumZone and rocker hairdos. Oct. 12-14, 2012.
For a fairly complete list of festivals worldwide, check out MusicFestivalJunkies.com.