Musical festivals: expectations vs. reality
The dusty winds of Coachella have blown across thousands of flower crowns, which means music festival season is officially upon us once again.
If you’ve never been to a music festival, we would highly recommend it. There’s nothing else quite like spending multiple days in a row with nothing more to worry about than what stage you are going to drift to next, self-assured in the knowledge that you are about to see anywhere from three to ten famous musicians live in the span of just one weekend.
But be warned. Music festivals are also not what the carefully staged Instagram pictures would have you believe. We want to make sure you know exactly what you can and cannot expect from your music festival experience. Knowledge is power and in this particular instance that knowledge can be used to make sure you don’t walk away from the main stage filled with disappointment.
Below are some of the most common expectations about music festivals, debunked by its reality.
Expectation: Every single festival fashion trend is going to look great and feel great on you.
Off-the-shoulder romper with round sunglass and sandals (day one.) Mirrored metallic top with leather jacket and sky-high slitted dress (day two.) Unitard paired with slogan T-shirt, tiny jean shorts, and a bag with fringe (day three.)
The internet says these things are the festival trends of 2017, and about half of them sound uncomfortable and impractical. Anyone who suggests that you wear sandals to a music festival has clearly never gone to one before (close-toed shoes only). A “mirrored metallic top” sounds like a logistical nightmare and something that will start to burn your skin 30 minutes into standing in direct sunlight. And a unitard? We’d guess 5-percent of the entire population looks good in a unitard.
If you are going to go with a fashion trend, make sure to try it on before festival day and don’t just assess it for looks. Assess it for comfort. You are going to be spending an entire day on your feet, moving around in this outfit. The last thing you want to do is ruin your experience because you feel like you are slowing getting crushed hydraulic press-style from your unitard.
Expectation: You’re going to see every single musical artist you wanted to see.
If you went to a music festival by yourself, this expectation would be a reality.
But you probably went with friends. It’s very likely that you went with a large group of friends. So get ready to make some compromises and sacrifices.
Every single person in your group is going to want to see different artists. This is an unalterable fact, unless of course every single person in the group has the exact same musical tastes. If your group doesn’t like the sound of splitting up into smaller groups, you’ll need to have a chat about what act you prioritize and what act you do not.
We also advise you to have this conversation prior to the day of the festival, if possible. Having it in the moment ups the risk of at least one person feeling very jilted and angry, which ruins the mood for everyone else.
Expectation: You’re going to feel completely great the entire time.
Don’t know if you’ve heard, but music festivals are a mostly standing affair.
That means your back is going to hurt and your feet are going to hurt. Oh, and because music festivals usually happen in the summer, it’s going to be hot. Multiply that heat by two when you are packed into a huge crowd of people.
So you’re sore and sweaty, but let’s not forget all the dust and dirt you’ve surrounded yourself with. If you decided to go with sandals, this will be the moment you look down at your feet and see exactly what this day has brought you.
And if you decided to drink during your festival experience, as most do, be sure you also drink plenty of water. If you take everything above and add in the headache tiredness of an incoming hangover, you may not make it to day two.
Expectation: When you get tired of standing, you’ll just take a seat with your friends, picnic-style.
Finding a place to sit is probably one of the most difficult things to do at music festivals. You can try sitting down in the general area in front of a stage where people are waiting to see the next act, but you also have to be prepared for people to be disgruntled because you are taking up more space than necessary.
You can try to sit in an area that’s not in front of a stage, but that’s probably a walkway. Actually, anywhere that’s not in front of a stage is a walkway. People are walking around everywhere.
If you do end up finding a good spot, you then have a choice to make. Do you actually sit down on the ground, which at this point is just dirt that’s dotted with the patches of grass still too stubborn to die, or do you find something to sit on? Your vision of you and your friends lounging outside predicated on there being some sort of blanket to lay on, but no one wanted to carry around a blanket all day to make that happen.
Expectation: When you get hungry, you’ll just quickly grab a bite to eat.
Unless you get your food at 10 a.m., nothing about this process is going to be quick. All your friends with those cute festival food Instagram posts had to pay dearly for them with hours of their lives wasted standing in line. And lines are everywhere, at every vendor.
This alone may be one of the reasons you don’t get to see every artist that was on your list.
Expectation: You’re going to get a great view of every single artist you see.
Want to be at the very front when you see Lady Gaga? Prepare to commit more than three hours to staking out your spot.
Yup, those people up at the very front had to wait a long time to get to where they are. They committed to missing hours of the festival in order to make sure they had the perfect experience for that one artist. For those with that kind of commitment and passion, we salute you. But most of us paid to see as many people and do as many things as possible, so standing in one spot for hours wasn’t part of the plan.
So instead, you’re way back in the sea of humanity, shifting every once in a while so the head in front of you doesn’t block your view of the lead singer, who’s already about the size of your fingernail.
At one point you may find yourself thinking, “I’d probably have a better view of this entire show if I was just watching on the live stream.” And you know what? You’d be right. But just take a deep, muggy breath and take in the atmosphere, because that’s what you really came for. And at least you can hear them, which is what matters.
Expectation: You’re just gonna groove with the rest of the crowd and everyone is going to be chill.
This is one of the most reasonable expectations on this list, because it’s completely possible. But you are going to be standing amidst a huge crowd of people. Let us remind you that people can often be assholes.
It could be that the person behind you was suddenly inspired to start a mosh pit, and you’re very much not in the throwing-my-body-around-and-ramming-into-people mood. Two extremely tall dudes may decide to cut in and stand directly in front of you, blocking what little view you’d managed to scrape together. It may be that a couple next to you has decided to passionately grind on each other for the entire show. You may get be getting constantly jostled by people who insist on using the small space directly in front of you as a thoroughfare.
It could be something as simple as the girl in front of you running into you every five minutes and brushing your face with her ponytail.
Something is going to jar you out of the good vibes of the music, and that’s when you’ll realize everything is not chill.
Expectation: You’re not going to need to go to the bathroom.
Spoiler alert: You’re going to need to go to the bathroom. Especially if you decided to partake in alcohol. Your bladder is going to need relieving eventually.
Heads up, there are no nice bathroom facilities at music festivals. What they do have are bathroom areas consisting of rows and rows of portable toilets.
If you go at the beginning of the day, they seem survivable. But come 6 p.m., these poor, well-used toilets just baking in the sun smell absolutely terrible. And you have no other choice but to use them.
It’s right about now that you really wish you hadn’t worn a unitard.
Expectation: You’re going to take the most incredible pics in front of incredible art installations.
The only problem with this plan is all of the other people who also want to take the most incredible pics in front of the incredible art installations.
Whatever dream you had of posing dreamily in front of Coachella’s ferris wheel needs to wait until everyone else also achieves that dream. And then when it’s finally your turn, you’ll realize that there’s no way to get a shot of just you and the art you’ve grown attached to. Your future profile picture cannot escape all the other errant festival goers because there are just too many of them. Of you.
Expectation: You and your friends will be hugging and laughing the entire time.
It’s too hot to hug, and you’re too tired to laugh. Your time at the music festival will not look like one long string of happy candid photos.
But that’s also okay. Your music festival experience shouldn’t be crafted for social media anyways. It should be crafted for you. You should wear what you want, see who you want, eat what you want, and take pictures of the things you will want to remember. If this means you are going to spend your time living as one big music festival cliché to see what all the fuss is about, that’s fine. If this means you’re just going to throw on a T-shirt and shorts to see your top three performers, that’s okay too.
Going to a music festival is not going to be perfect, but you have the power to make it a life event that you’ll never regret or forget. Now that you’re armed with reality as well as your expectations, go forth and festival.
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