Attending a music festival is fantastic. It's like a hipster football game: you throw on your gear (Toms, American Apparel hoodie instead of your favorite player's jersey) and do as much as you possibly can to break the rules of the venue without getting thrown out. I am so jealous of anyone who is going to one for the first time: it's basically like getting dropped off at college when you were 18. If this is your first year going to one, this is me being a protective parent adjusting your coat before I send you to the bus stop… This is generally what I've come to know about going to a music festival.
Bring your alcohol in plastic bottles that are from eco-friendly companies and put them in an unassuming tote bag that also features a nice cheese or sandwich.
What ceases to amaze me is how not difficult it is to bring in copious amounts of alcohol to a music festival. Apparently, the crack squad at the door usually doesn't suspect much/care much about you if you appear to wash your hair 3-5 times a week, aren't wearing tie-dye and bring in an artisan food of some sort. My friends, two years running, have brought in large bottles of alcohol (of course in Nalgene bottles, because anything that's good for the environment is okay), and I stand to reason that they only reason they don't get a hard time is because they also brought in a cheese that no one has ever heard of. It works. Promise.
*Writers Note: I just attended Lollapalooza, and apparently this is not the case there. You don't even have to hide it in Chicago. The rules there seem to be akin to jail, where even though you "can't bring anything in", the guards seem to be pretty loosey goosey on this, as everyone has a shiv and/or drugs (which I know entirely from television and not actually attending jail). At Lollapalooza, you could honestly bring in four bombs and a case of vodka and they wouldn't care. Oddly, though, the minute you bring in aerosol suntan lotion THAT IS IT. OKAY, THAT IS IT.
Smoke Drugs. Just know what you're getting into.
Odds are, if you are going to a concert there is a chance you will do drugs. Odds are that drug is marijuana. If you are doing other drugs at concerts, you probably aren't reading this, because you are a drug addict and are too busy making a to-do list or acquiring drugs somewhere.
Weed is fantastic. It's hilarious, you laugh a lot, music sounds good. But here's the thing:
Music festivals are good for at least one or two awkward run-in's. And do you know what you don't want to be when you have an awkward run in? On drugs.
San Francisco is not a large city. The fact that everyone talks to everyone on the internet every five seconds does not help the matter. And the fact is, a music festival is a very large steel cage match in which all of your obstacles will be placed: your boss, your ex, your other ex, the person you gave the casual "fade-out" to who doesn't quite constitute "ex" status. They are all there. So if you smoke weed? Just remember that it's "drug law" that you will run into these people in the most uncomfortable situation possible. Namely the bathroom line where there is nowhere to go, and everyone is listening to (and judging the quality of) your conversation.
The beach ball thing has gotten out of control.
During any show, it is custom for people to inflate a beach ball and smack it in the air. People at music festivals are like small children and/or cats: we are amused by flying objects and giggle at the idea of smacking it. Lately though, the beach balls are getting smaller, and people are literally going after them like foul balls at a baseball game. You may as well bring a helmet, because "guy on E" is probably going to try to play whack-a-mole with your head. It's funny the first time, but unlike watching a cat go after a string…it gets real old real fast when your head is the string. Spoiler alert: people on drugs have poor accuracy when trying to hit a flying object.
Break the seal wisely.
Music festivals (well, concerts in general) are a tricky peeing playground. It is all rather backwards, but you have no choice: people pay money to go stand in a cattle-like herd of people and challenge themselves to drink more liquid than the human body is capable of retaining. Considering I have the bladder of a small field mouse (which I generally assume to be small, simply due to body mass), this is always a serious anxiety-inducing problem for me: when do I break the seal? Do I really wanna do the "guy who's gotta pee dance/uncomfortable face/abrupt fragment sentence conversation" thing for the rest of my afternoon/evening when I will inevitably have to pee every 14 seconds? Is there any other way? So just know that if you gotta pee a lot, you're either gonna be wildly uncomfortable or you are going to have to stand on the outskirts of every show, giving yourself the easy out. One positive take away here: "Guy who's gotta pee dance" is also what most white guys look like dancing anyway, so…odds are you might get away with that look.
Bring a sweatshirt and expect to have no idea what to do with it for most of the time you are there.
Considering I'm mostly writing this about Outside Lands in San Francisco, it's a foregone conclusion that you will need to bring a jacket or sweatshirt of some sort. As you know, San Francisco's weather is quite similar to a person with bipolar disorder. This means that, throughout the day, the over/under on you taking off and putting back on said outerwear is roughly at about 4,297 times. The thing is, you really have nowhere to put the damn thing if you're not wearing it. As a male, your choices are:
1) Look like a douche and wrap it around your waist. I haven't found a way to make this look cool since it was okay for me to wear sweatpants to school in the third grade.
2) Wrap it around your neck. But you're not on a boat. And you're not a douche, so you can't do that.
3) Hold it awkwardly, which is frustrating because you are now missing an alcoholic beverage hand.
4) Throw it on the ground. I have done this every time I thought I had only had a few beers. And it turns out Drunk Drew forgets that he put his wooby on the ground every time.
5) Wear it. Whenever you do this, it's like God is watching and brings the sun out…like changing lanes on the freeway only to find that the 89 year old Asian woman is going to pull right in front of you as you do (it's okay to be racist if you're Jewish, feel free to make a joke about my nose or something and we'll call it even).
On that note...
A music festival is like Halloween.
You could literally show up wearing a snorkel and Uggs and people wouldn't even flinch. I mean, if you ever wanted to wear some weird shit, now's the time.
I actually got to thinking about this looking around Lollapalooza...it's funny how everyone hates the girl whose Halloween costume is "slutty cop/cat/slut", and then it's always that judgmental girl who hated that slutty girl who ends up dressing all slutty to a music festival and now it's "artsy" or "hip". Look, i'm not complaining...I'm just sayin'.
(Wait, please don't stop dressing slutty, though.)
There are 320,000,000 bands that play every festival.
Let me ruin the surprise for you and let you know that you aren't going to see every one of them. And if you have that one friend who is way too aggressive with their game plan, I'm sorry for you in advance. Please do not bring an excel spreadsheet and a calculator to Disneyland, type a festival goer, we'll get to Space Mountain on time.
You're going to have fun no matter what show you see. So just drink beer and relax. By this time next year, there will be 14,208 new bands that other people haven't heard of yet that you'll get to see and missing "buzz band x" will be a distant memory. Adjust your Ray Bans and smile.
Leaving is terrible. There is no way around this.
You have to think like it's the apocalypse at music festivals when you are leaving: it's essentially just a group of zombies wandering around and any form of transportation is what they are looking for with blood and overpriced beer dripping from their mouths. Music festivals are always in gigantic parks and a grand total of "everyone" wants to attend them. The thing is, there are not teleportation devices yet, so the only way to get home is to walk (turns out this is really far) or to try to take the bus. Guess who else is going to take the bus: everyone at the music festival. It's gonna be a while, so save some of that alcohol that you didn't sneak in to the concert. The good news is, the people watching at this moment is worth the price of admission, so soak it in. Try playing a game like "how many people just came out of that bush" or "how many more miles do you think girl with the face paint and feathered hair makes it before she throws up or cries."
Dance. Everyone looks stupid, so just go with it. Don't pay $300 to stand there and look depressed, Johnny Raincloud.
Stream the whole thing at the link above.