[The Audiofiles] Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Festival: 42 Tips and Tricks for Festival Season

It’s all happening.

 Bright, blue skies filtering down unadulterated California sunshine while blissful vibes and beautiful souls abound in every direction.  Yeah, okay – so Spring is set to start in two weeks, but that’s not why there’s a bouncy in our steps and a twinkle in our eyes; Music Festival Season is coming in hot, with an eclectic menagerie of musicians for each and every type of fan out there.  Everywhere I go, the excited murmur of music festival lineups lingers in the air like a sultry perfume; living in Los Angeles, you almost have to go out of your way to not know these things.

At this point in my life, I’d more or less consider myself a Music Festival Veteran, or at the very least a PhD candidate.  It’s not that I’ve been doing this my whole life, but the last decade of my life has definitely been overrun by the delicious drops, salacious synths and booming basslines of EDM.  We didn’t walk up hill in snow both ways or anything, but back in my day – EDC was a one day festival at San Bernadino’s NOS Event Center and GoVentures was still promoting festivals, HARD didn’t exist yet and Create was known was Vanguard. Fast forward to present day and I’ve easily amassed over 50 festivals under my belt. From HARD 13 and How Sweet It Is to Monster Massive and Fresh Events, there’s a long list of single festivals of the good old days that I’ve loved and we’ve lost – but they’ve paved the way for the multitudes of multi-day camping festivals that I’ve grown to know and love over the last few years.  The way this year is headed, I’ll probably be making it to at least one festival a month until Summer’s over – which means I’ll be getting my fair share of booty shaking and friend making up and down the West Coast.  Starting with Serenity Gathering and Desert Hearts in San Diego then Lightning in a Bottle coming up at the end of May, and who knows where Summer will take me!

Attending an overnight festival is vastly different from attending a single day Rave, so word to the wise – be prepared; which is why I’m here to help!  If anything’s in competition for what I love the most, music and creating lists would definitely be up there. So I’ve developed a foolproof list for Music N00bs and Festival Vets alike to peruse at their pleasure.   There are a few pieces of advice that I want to impart on you before you get into the actual list – because these takeaways are just as important!

Leave your comfort zone at home, festivals are for personal exploration; emotional, mental and physical transformation. So, let yourself be moved by the incredible art, the conscious community and the music and know that spontaneous expression of human emotion – from laughter to tears – is perfectly normal and natural. Be smart. Don’t take candy from strangers and acknowledge your limits and levels of inebriation; your friends certainly didn’t pay for a ticket so they could spend their night taking care of you, and vice versa. Ladies, ladies, ladies – leave the heavy makeup at home! Yes, makeup is awesome – trust me, I know – but your fresh face is your best face and these are the places that your beauty emanates from your spine through your soul.  And don’t be afraid of a little solo musical journey; by in large, those are always the most fruitful.

There’s certain things that are a bit obvious and inevitable, so I’ve left those out.  Hopefully that’s made room for you to have a few ‘A-ha!’ moments while you peruse this list with your Festival Fam. Any friend who’s gone to at least one multi day festival will be able to warn you about the traffic to and from the festival – so a full tank of gas, some snacks, water and awesome tunes for the ride are a must.  No matter where you go, you’ll need your ticket, a form of photo identification and some cash; and whatever you do – Don’t Panic.

1) Pick one headliner a day that you have to see, and let the rest play itself out.  The festival is a journey, relax and enjoy the ride.
2) Make a totem so your crew is easy to spot in the crowd
3) Pick a meeting spot and time each day in case you get separated from your group
4) Say Excuse Me, Thank You and Hello – they go a long way! Be AWESOME – and remember, PLUR used to exist – we can bring it back..
5) Bring pens and paper in case you want to get a little creative one night after the music goes down, or you want to exchange numbers and your cell phone is dead
6) A Renegade Sound System: Speakers, Wires and the dope beats.
7) Ziploc bags to keep your stuff dry, that Woogie likes to spray!
8) Flashlights that can easily go around your wrist and extra batteries just in case; late night porta potty trips just got a whole lot easier
9) Lighters.  I have a general rule that if you don’t want to light at least something, even just a candle or incense, we shouldn’t be friends – and people at festivals are always losing theirs.  Actually, you might want to bring a few.
10) Buy Festival and Vendor Merchandise on Day 1 Before it sells out
11) Fanny Pack or small backpack that you don’t mind carrying all day – and make sure your load is as light as your mood
12) A watch – you don’t need to charge your watch and you can be king for the day when everyone wants to know what time it is and their phones are dead.
13) Cash on hand – the ATM will run out, and not everyone takes credit card; plus, you can even barter with cash. Oh, and beer can be like $13…. #whompwhomp
14) Toys – they’re not just for kids, you know! Water toys like squirt guns are a great distraction when it’s hot during the day and flow toys are great for downtime and nighttime; just make sure you have enough room to go with your flow!
15) Bubbles. Everyone loves bubbles.
16) Take enough time off work – your coworkers have children and plan week long family vacations, don’t feel weird taking an extra day off at the beginning and end of your trip so you can get there early and get back to the office with enough sleep.  

You’re going to want your campsite to be pleasing to pre-party at and easy to find when you’re cruising back at the end of the night in pitch black darkness.

17) Light it Up: Lanterns, Faux Candles, Christmas or Holiday lights
18) Tapestries: add some color to the mix and make your campsite pop
19) A Whiteboard + Mailbox for the campsite so friends stopping by can leave messages
20) Inflatable mattresses are awesome, but yoga mats make equally good padding under your sleeping bag
21) Blankets that you don’t mind getting dirty
22) An EZ-Up Tarp – or a few and some folding chairs.
23) Solar Shower: Skip the line for the shower with one of these puppies. Also, shower. PLEASE.

Apparel + Accessories

Check the weather report before you start packing your bags, and if you’re feeling super curious you can always refer to an Almanac to check on the historical weather in the area. You’ll want to be prepared for it all, and no matter what you’ve packed chances are, you’ll only wear about half of it.  I don’t need to tell you that you need to pack your underwear and clothes to wear everyday, but these ideas might not have crossed your mind…

Also: for those of you who don’t know what an almanac is, welcome to life before the internet.

24) A bandanna  to keep your hair out of your eyes, or the dust out of your mouth. I have distinct memories of eating dirt at Coachella…and Lightning in a Bottle.  Bonding experience, sure; easily avoided, definitely.
25) Comfortable shoes that you can walk at least 3 miles a day in.  Yeah. That’s about how much exercise you get at a festival.  You’re welcome.
26) Cheap Sunglasses and a backup pair; leave your favorite gear at home – there’s a chance it’ll get lost or broken; same goes for your jewelry
27) Swimsuit or two. Chances are, it’s going to be hot, hot, hot – and you’re going to want to take some, if not most, of your clothes off – having a swimsuit handy means you’ll be able to soak up the rays in style

Tech Talk

Mobile charging stations are prevalent but cell phone service still wanes. If you can’t live without your phone, installing an app like FireChat could be resourceful – but because I’m on board with leaving your phone on airplane mode while you enjoy the ride.

28) Take Photos of your Info – on your phone, on your digital camera – that way if you lose them, they can be returned to you. And while you’re at it, add a geolocation for your car so you can find it when you’re fear and loathing it back home on day 5.
29) Solar Cell Phone Charger
30) Put your phone on Airplane mode – who are you really going to be calling; all your friends should be with you!
31) Include a Time Stamp and Location in your texts to friends; saying “Where are you, Bro?!” doesn’t help anyone.
32) Jumper Cables.  Not saying that you could get stuck (then again, I had to have my car jumped at Shambhala…) – but you could be Captain Save-a-Tow.

Health and Hygiene

Festivals are beautiful, wonderful places that can make you incredibly dirty and unhygenic.  With a few helpful hints – you, too, can ease into the festival experience without turning into a germaphobe. You should know what toiletries you need when you leave home for a few days, but I’ve got a couple more you might not have accounted for

33) Hand Sanitizer and Toilet Paper. You will be using a port-a-potty.  Come prepared.
34) Makeup setting spray.  This isn’t just for the ladies – though, if you want your makeup to look impeccable all day, it’s kind of amaaazingggg – if you’re using face paint, body paint or glitter, this ensure it sticks through the wet and sweat of the day.  If you can’t get your hands on one, hairspray also does the trick. 
35) Mini First Aid Kit with Medicine in ORIGINAL Bottle.  Make sure to toss in some Allergy Medicine, Muscle Rub, Gold Bond for your feet and Midol. Laugh all you want at the last one, but it’s a pain reliever with a bit of caffeine meaning it’s perfect for hangovers.  Speaking of Midol though, Ladies – well: Be prepared; if anything, a friend will thank you for being prepared.
36) Baby wipes or face wipes to get the sweat and dirt off of your face, and give your body a little wipedown when you need it.
37) Perfume, Incense and Palo Santo. I’ll be the first to admit that after day two of a multiday festival there’s a definite festival smell that rests richly in the air.  Good news is, you can do something about it.
38) Cooler with Pre-Frozen Water Bottles and a refillable, portable jug
39) Hydration Helpers: Himalayan Salt Crystal, Vitamins, Emergencee
40) Eat regularly scheduled meals and save your drinking for when the sun goes down.  Also, no matter how hard you will it – beer is not water.
41) Sunblock is necessary, even if it’s cloudy and you don’t think it is – you’re spending much more time outside than the average bear and it couldn’t hurt to cover up a bit.  For those with fair complexions, sport a hat and keep the top of your head from getting toasty.
42) Don’t forget to bring a towel

 What are your tips, tricks and hints for the upcoming festival season?

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