Summer is officially the music festival season. There are the big ones: Bonaroo, Lalapalooza, Outside Lands, etc. And then there are the smaller, more local festivals (we have quite a few here in the LA area – Pasadena, Echo Park, Sunset Junction, Eagle Rock – and those are just the ones that I’ve been lucky enough to attend).
Believe it or not, three years ago I attended my very first music festival. And while knowing how much I enjoy going to concerts, that might come as a shock to you, trust me when I say, if I had my way, I could have gone on happily never having been to a music festival.
My husband, on the other hand, loves music festivals of all shapes and sizes and has attended many. In fact, it’s not uncommon for him to attend a handful during any given year.
Which of course means, eventually I was going to have to attend one. There was just no getting out of it.
Lucky for me, my first festival – Austin City Limits – was a great experience (you can read more about it here). And since then, I’ve gone on to attend – and even enjoy – a few others. In fact, this past spring, I headed out to Stagecoach. Which I promptly decided that I would never do again…the heat, the dirt, the heat, the hike, the dirt, and yes, the triple-digit heat. It was WAY too much.
Next month, I’ll be heading back to Austin to for another round of Austin City Limits. This time around, I expect the experience to be even better. One: I’m interested in more of the bands that will be playing. Two: I know how things work since I’ve done it before. And three: I’ll be better prepared as I’ve since been to a few music festivals now.
Here’s my suggestion on what to bring if you’re attending a music festival…be it small or large.
- A backpack – it makes the whole experience so much easier since you’ll have everything at your fingertips.
- Comfortable shoes – this is the time to worry about being fashionable. Comfort matters. And take it from my personal experience (something I learned long, long ago), nothing ruins your day like blisters, bruises or painful feet.
- Sunscreen – slather it on. Then slather it on a couple more times throughout the day. You will sweat and you will douse yourself in water to cool off, so I suggest going with the “sport” versions. And those sprays make for super simple application.
- A hat – hipster, cowboy, baseball, garden, hiking…I don’t care what kind of hat. Just wear something that will cover your eyes from the glaring sun. The larger the brim, the better.
- A refillable water bottle – most festivals won’t let you in with a full bottle or even a sealed bottle these days. But they will let you bring in your empty or your refillable bottles. And if they’re good at what they do and they care about their people, they’ll encourage you to bring in those bottles and have plenty of filling stations available (I’m looking at you Stagecoach – no idea why you didn’t tell people to bring bottles and why you didn’t have more filling stations…especially in that heat).
- A towel – I’d actually go so far as to suggest TWO towels…one for sitting on (during Stagecoach it protected us from the itchy hay bales and during ACL it reserved our space for the final shows each night) and one for wiping down or dousing in water and wearing around your neck. Trust me, things get hot out there.
- Toilet paper or tissue – you will be using porta-potties. Making sure you have your own paper on hand makes the experience a bit more tolerable.
- Hand sanitizer – you’re going to be there for hours. You’re going to be using porta-potties (see above). You’re going to be sitting on the ground or wiping off your sweat. You’re going to be eating. You’ll be glad you brought a small tube with you.
- Lip balm – though this might just be me. But it gets hot out there. And sunscreen on the lips isn’t a look that works for me. Then again, I’m a bit addicted, so I always make sure to have some handy.
- A lightweight jacket or sweater – you’ll have been in the sun, sweating, dancing, baking for hours. Once that sun goes down, things get quite cool. Having a little something that you can put on helps.
- A flashlight – most of these music festivals are in big parks. And once the shows are over, and you’ve left the stage area, it’s dark. And the walk back to you car (or bike, or the bus line) is even darker. Having even a small flashlight helps.
- Phone charger – or back up power. Most festivals have charging stations, some require that you have your own cord. Others, have the hookups there for you. Either way, it’s worth having handy.
- Bandaids – you never know when you might get that blister or scrape. Can’t hurt to have some on hand, right?
If you’re a female, I’d also suggest that you wear dresses or skirts. Those porta-potties are much easier to use (and to balance) when you can hold your close up and away instead of having to pull things down and away. Just a thought.
If you’re part of a group, you might also want to have something that sets you apart from the rest of the hundreds of thousands of people. Think tall flags, things with lights, etc. It really does make it easier to find your people…especially if drinking has been involved.
This list is by no means perfect. But it should get you through in comfort…until you can create a supply list that works better for your needs.
If you see me at ACL – merrily reliving my youth along with Depeche and the Cure, feel free to say Hi.