It’s summer in New Zealand. New Years celebrations are mere days away, which will soon be followed by regional anniversary days and Waitangi Day. And those holidays come on top of any time off many of us have around the Christmas/New Year period.
Just as the warm summer evenings usher in a time of barbecues and backyard cricket, they also signal the start of festival season.
It has been a fickle time for promoters in recent years. Many festivals I cut my teeth on sadly no longer exist, such as Parachute at Mystery Creek, and Big Day Out. This year saw the cancellation of Westfest (due to the cancellation of the Australian festival Soundwave which it had piggybacked off) and the McLaren Falls/Echo festival. There will be no Auckland City Limits next year either.
All is not lost however, with staples such as Rhythm and Vines/Alps, Laneway, WOMAD, Homegrown, Raggamuffin, Splore, and some new entries like Bay Dreams and One Love offering a variety of genres and locations to appeal to all tastes.
So to help you to have the best festival experience possible, here are some tips for surviving festivals.
Your poor ears get enough of a hard time as it is. Wearing earplugs is a super easy way to protect them, and believe it or not, actually makes the music sound better. It does this by cutting out the higher frequencies that cause hearing damage. Ok, so some of the foam plugs won’t make things sound optimal, but take my word for it when I say that I never go to a live music gig without my earplugs. I use these and they are well worth the money. Go for the attenuating type for best sound quality that still protects. They’ll be more comfortable than foam plugs after a full day’s use too.
It’s summer. It’s hot. Being packed into a venue with hundreds of other sweaty concertgoers makes it even hotter. Do yourself a favour and have plenty of water throughout the day. And increase that amount if you’re having alcohol as well. Because you’re going to be kicking yourself later if you spent $150 on that ticket just to hang out in the paramedics tent for most of the day.
Be prepared for the weather.
I got sunburnt so badly at Big Day Out 2011 that I was still peeling a few weeks later. But the weather changed halfway throughout the day and got cold and damp. Suddenly everyone in singlets couldn’t cope and the crowd noticeably thinned well before many of the headliners played.
If you’re attending a fest with any outdoor stages I recommend buying a $2 rain poncho. It’s cheap and small enough to fit in your pocket, so no harm done if you don’t need it. But you’ll be glad you have it if the weather starts to turn.
It’s more likely to be a scorcher over the summer months, so slip, slop, slap and wrap to avoid looking like a beetroot for the following week. And as tempting as it is to take your nicest gear, think about taking a hat and some sunnies that you won’t miss so much if they get lost in the mosh pit.
On that note, jandals may be great for summer, but don’t protect your toes from getting trampled on by the people dancing near you!
Figure Out Your Schedule
The worst thing about festivals is that often the best bands clash. Have a look at the timetable beforehand to plan which stages you need to be at and when. Sometimes this means deciding between watching a full set of one band, or catching half sets for two bands.
Bear in mind that often stages have limited capacity, so get there early if there is an act that you are desperate to see.
Take some cash.
Many festivals won’t let you take your own food or drink in, even if it’s just water in a clear, sealed bottle. Once you’re inside they’ll charge you the earth for food and drink because you have no other option. My advice is buy the biggest bottle possible at the start of the day and keep refilling it at a tap.
And take cash. It can be faster and more reliable than eftpos.
Have a contingency plan
I once lost my mate at Big Day Out. We were both at Rise Against’s set to start with. He decided to leave early to secure a good spot to see Muse later on, while I stayed on. The crowd was so wild that I swear I was sideways for most of the set. After the band had finished I reached into my pocket to text my friend, only to find that I had lost my phone. Luckily I had his home phone number written on a card along with other emergencies contacts that I kept in my wallet. After some panicked moments of stressing I managed to find a phone I could use and rang his mum, who in turn messaged him to meet me at an appointed spot.
What I learnt from that situation was that it pays to establish a meet up point at the start of the day, so that you can find your friends if you get separated. It also pays to carry some spare cash and have a list of emergency phone numbers with you.
Charge your phone.
So you can contact friends. But also keep it in your pocket when you don’t need it. You came to watch bands play live, not through a screen.
Avoid The Queues
This tip depends upon how desperate you are for overpriced beer. I tend not to drink alcohol at most gigs, so am happy to line up for an under-18 wristband if it’s an option, or chose not to line up for the extra over-18 band if that is required. I don’t find it embarrassing and it usually means that I get to watch an extra hour of music, compared to those who deciding to spend their time queuing for a wristband (not to mention the additional time queuing up for drinks!)
Another way to miss the queues is by showing up late, but that means you will miss the acts playing at the start of the day.
Have fun! Check out a band you haven’t heard of before! Get your boogie on! Soak it all in!
[on an unrelated note, the gif above of the crazy frog bro looks so much like I did when I was a kid. It’s uncanny!]
Here’s a link to a cool web comic by Toby Morris which sums up this last point well.
Is there anything we forgot? Feel free to comment below and offer your own tips!