|Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings at Free Press Summer Fest 2011|
It’s June, Houston! You know what that means: time for FPSF! (That’d be Free Press Summer Fest, for my non-Houstonian readers.) Yes, a wonderful first summer weekend where big name bands come to town and play at Eleanor Tinsley Park where the sun beats down mercilessly, festival goers wear the grass down to dirty, dusty pulp and general mayhem ensues by 5 p.m. on Saturday.
In other words, it’s a freakin’ BLAST. Right?
If you’re there, I hope you have exactly that – a freakin’ BLAST. Because that’s why we have music festivals. They’re a spectacular assault on the senses – nonstop music and people and food. Each one has a unique life of its own and all of them are downright magical. Where else can you run from stage to stage, seeing all your favorite bands in a single day? No where.
But you won’t catch me out there – or at any other music festival – anytime soon. Here’s why:
|The Eastern Sea at SXSW 2011|
It’s a lot of work on your part to make a festival a happy experience. Festivals are a great place to hang out with your friends. But what happens when Friend 1 and 3 (who are kinda into music) want to see Hip Indie Band #294 play that one hit song they know from the radio and you and Friend 2 (who are really into music) would rather check out Local Band #3 hitting the biggest stage they’ve ever played? In my experience, divide and conquer hasn’t worked well.
Even when it’s just you and another friend, sure…there’s some negotiating. But inevitably someone always ends up missing a band they love for the sake of the group. If it’s happened to you, you know the kind of heartbreak I’m talking about. (If you’re Katie, you really know – I still feel guilty for robbing her of The Eagles at ACL 2010 because I had a horrific headache…)
And forget playing ‘Let’s Make a Deal’ with your friends on who you’re going to see…this year’s crop of summer festivals seem to be jam packed from top of the roster right down to the fine print bottom with bands I’d LOVE to see live.
The problem with that is Rock Star Band #94 plays 10 minutes after American Band #9052 starts…on the stage at the opposite end of the festival. How do you make that choice, Sophie? It’s a lot of work and careful planning to get it all in, and even then…the music fan can never win – it’s a nonstop marathon.
Is there a music festival that happens in the winter? Cause that’s one I’d totally be in to – huddling together in parkas as the snow falls and we rock out to our favorite bands. Seriously – if anyone ever starts the anti-summer festival, I’m in.
And this gripe might be unique to me, but HOW do you guys do it? I need your secrets because I literally wilt in the heat. And I have the stories to prove it: like the only time (one was enough!) I went to Warped Tour and passed out in line to get water. Wearing all black may have contributed, but seriously…I admire those of you who can get out in that heat and withstand it all day. Me? I come home caked in sweat, face bright red and everything burned no matter what I do to prevent it. And all that is always accompanied by a massive dehydration headache. No, thank you.
People watching is nearly as fun as seeing bands at summer festivals – but by 6 p.m. Day 1, I’m done with everyone. Festivals have become such a thing for everyone, not just music fans, that it’s more likely as you’re running from stage to stage, trying to catch every band you want to see…you’ll get stuck at the back behind people who are just camped out in front of that stage because they don’t know anyone and just want to drink and smoke pot the entire time.
And then there’s drunk girl, only to be surpassed by drunk frat boy, tall guy, the PDA couple…every annoying stereotypical fan all congregated in one place, obstructing your enjoyment of the weekend. Again…no, thank you.
|The Orbans at Dia de los Toadies 2011|
Cha-ching. ‘Nough said. I remember after the 2010 FPSF, pre-sale tickets for 2011 just a month later were a mere $15. Yes, you read that correctly – it isn’t a typo. FIFTEEN, ONE FIVE, DOLLARS. I get why they jumped, but dang! do I kick myself for not taking advantage of that while I had the chance.
And it should be said – FPSF is still on the incredibly cheap side of things (when I looked last before it sold out, two-day passes were $75-80) most festivals are easily a few hundred dollars. Coachella will run a good groupie nearly $500 now for both weekends, won’t it? I know it’s a lot of bands…but it just seems crazy to me to spend that much money on an experience that could be really awesome or really awful, depending on all the above factors.
And that doesn’t take into consideration the cost of food/drinks/merch/hotel/etc. once you’re there. (And how decently do bands get paid to play festivals? The one I went to when I lived in Tulsa shut down because the creators couldn’t pay anyone in its final year…) Call me old fashioned, but I think I’d rather throw my cash at a $30-40 ticket and catch you at the House of Blues.
But enough of all my complain’ right? I’m an old woman closing in on 30. I’m probably no longer a music festival’s target audience. I’ve been to plenty of festivals in my 20s: ACL twice, a couple SXSWs, D-Fest in Tulsa, FPSF, Warped Tour, even KRBE’s Earth Day festival when that existed…
I suppose they’ve just lost their charm over the year. The shiny, sparkly facade that screams “greatest weekend of your life!” has eroded so I can see the wires and string beneath. I’m no longer enchanted.
What do you think about music festivals? Love ’em or not your thing either?