Navigate music festival culture for most fulfilling concert experience


Sun in the sky, wind in your flower crown and tapestry below you while music surrounds you on all sides— you’re at a music festival. Where style, art and, of course, music intersect is where festivals take shape.

Formerly associated with the historic hippie culture of the 60s and 70s, music festivals have transitioned into urban take-overs in major cities around the world — going from Upstate New York’s Woodstock headlined by Hendrix to Manhattan’s Gov. Ball hosting Chance the Rapper. However, nothing has been lost from the uniqueness and excitement of what makes the best of a multi-day, music-fueled spectacle.

With another season of music festivals already underway, there’s no excuse not to be prepared to experience everything your festival of choice has to offer this time around.

What to Wear and Bring

When getting dressed for the day, comfort will be key: For most of the day you’ll be bouncing between being on your feet in the middle of a packed crowd and finding a shady place on the grass to watch an artist from afar, so you’ll need something equally as versatile as stylish.

Crop tops, shorts and floral dresses are obvious go-tos, but for a truly unique look try making something yourself. A trip to your local Goodwill in synthesis with a good pair of scissors can help you create the perfect T-shirt or DIY shorts for the occasion.

I’ve always been a huge fan of bringing disposable cameras to festivals. Five dollars at Rite Aid and you have it — a low-stress, unique way to document your day. And while waiting to develop the film can seem tedious, not knowing how photos came out can actually be a plus because it means you spend less time scrutinizing the pictures and more time enjoying the experience.

Most music festivals have water refill stations, so bring an empty bottle with you so you can stay hydrated without paying for it there. To carry everything else you might need — portable chargers, granola bars, picnic blankets, etc., I usually like to take a small backpack instead of a purse. It’s easier to carry and harder to forget when you’re running around.

During the Day

Planning ahead is key to getting the most out of your music festival experience. Since a lot of major festivals post set times a few weeks before the event, now is your chance to start making an action plan. Figure out the bands that are highest up on your list and look up where and when they are playing. This way, if there is any overlap between bands, you can mentally prepare yourself to sprint between stages. (At this point, you may also want to start practicing your crowd-dodging skills, so you can get from point A to point B with minimal injury). It is important to save every last drop of phone battery for photos and social media, so I would recommend printing out a physical copy of the set list.

Before you become lost in the music and atmosphere of the festival, make sure you have a plan for if you actually do get lost. Music festivals can be tight packed and difficult to navigate, so coordinate a meeting place for your friends near the entrance. Last but not least, grab an extra battery for your camera. You won’t want to miss this.

Living in the Moment

At the advent of festivals — which have been traced as far back as events the Stonehenge in England— there was nothing more you could take away from the experience beyond your good memories and vibes. Today, a fully immersive experience in the artistry, music and culture can easily be clouded by what you collect from festivals through phones, cameras, selfie-sticks and the need to live tweet or snap every moment of the experience.

Those tools are great advancements that make for great nostalgia months later, or even just the next morning, but for the best experience be selective about what moments you choose to capture.

A never-before-performed song during Lorde’s set or your favorite track by Childish Gambino is definitely worth looking through a lens for a few seconds, as well as pictures with your friends to share later. Otherwise stay true to the hippie-influenced, live-in-the-moment vibes of festival culture, and live in the moment.


Brittany Gibson

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