Music festival season is here. And this year, good groupies, we are vowing to do festivals smarter. So far my blogging pal Claire of Eat Well. Party Hard. has shared her tips for eating smarter at festivals, and last week I shared my six must-haves in my festival beauty bag. Have tips of your own on either of those? Head to the posts and share them in the comments!
This week, let’s talk about how to attack that monstrous festival schedule and how you can make the most of your festival experience this summer when it comes to the music.
Step number one to doing a festival right and making sure you see every last band you want to see…is to accept that’s never going to happen. Let’s level: most festivals have 100+ bands that play over a span of roughly 24 hours (12 hours per day for a 2 day fest). Were each band to play a set on just one stage, they would have just under 15 minutes to play their hit, their slow song and that one really obscure one you hope to the musical gods they add in, plus a handful of others – and that doesn’t take into account set up, break down and last minute sound checks.
I know music festivals are a bit more spread out than that, but trade off set up and break down times for running from stage to stage and the reality is…you’re never going to see it all. The sooner you accept you won’t see the entire set of every band you love, the happier your music festival experience will be. (Trust me on this.)
2. Plan & prioritize
This is where I get a little Danny Tanner on my friends: in the days before a festival, I print out the schedule and highlight every band I want to see. Hello insta-road map to festival day! It might sound super nerdy, but it ensures I have a guide to every band I want to see prior to the festival – ie, I don’t have to rely on a grabbing a guide (or sucking up precious phone battery!) once I get there.
Then I go back through the list and star all the priority bands – these are my very favorites who I haven’t seen in awhile, the buzz bands I don’t want to miss, the newly discovered bands I’ve heard good things about. Ditch the bands you aren’t as passionate about or the ones that tour relentlessly – either they aren’t worth it or you’ll see them again soon. Now when I have to make a choice, I know which band is my priority and hopefully waste less time standing there, agonizing over who to pick.
Finally I fold it up, stick it in my bag and make sure to throw in a pen so my friends can mark on the schedule what bands are their “must sees”. This little bit of pre-festival work makes the day go a little smoother since I already know who I want to see.
3. Be an early bird
Get to the festival early to see the bands that kick off the day – even if you don’t know any of them. Historically, these are some of my favorite sets. You can plop down in the grass in front of the stage and stake out a spot for the day, or just plop down with a great view to enjoy some live music in a mellow, casual setting. And the early sets are usually a ton of local or smaller bands who are about to hit it big. How cool is it going to be in six or eight months when you can remember seeing them in such a small scale setting? (Well, as small scale as a festival can get…)
4. Split the difference
Have two or even three must-see bands all on the schedule at the same time? My best advice is to split the difference. Spend 15 minutes seeing one band, then run to check out the other during the rest of their time slot. Yeah, you chance not hearing that one song you really want to hear and ensure you won’t see a full set – but full sets aren’t what festivals are all about. They’re about seeing as many bands and having as many live music experiences as possible. Split the difference and see more bands.
5. Go rogue!
Much like I suggested in my SXSW survival guide, sometimes you just have to go rogue. Forget the schedule and follow the music. It’s really that simple.
What are your tips for making the most of your music festival experience?
How to eat smarter at music festivals
How to do beauty smarter at music festivals
How to dress smarter at music festivals
How to travel smarter to music festivals