I should’ve written this post a long time ago. In fact, I'd been meaning to write this piece since summer 2016 but sometimes we receive an idea without being fully prepared to materialize it as we should. It happens.
I could say I’ve had my fair share of music festival experiences. It's not like I’m throwing in the towel anytime soon but I’ve traveled near and far to partake in them and I’ve also had the opportunity to experience them as a local. 2017 has been the first year where I’ve only attended one music festival for a day since I started attending these when I was 21. This has been due to various reasons, one of them being the subtle shift I’ve noticed in music festival culture due to the unimpeded commercialization of these events.
Whether in Puerto Rico, the US, or Europe, music festivals allow for culture to be redefined in the sense of unifying and breaking down social barriers. Chaos, drug abuse, and all negativity aside, these festivals provide the space for people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, religions, political views, and walks of life to come together and experience the music, the art, and the beauty of self-expression in community.
Unfortunately, social media has shown me a different side to music festivals. A side where people in attendance seem to be way more interested in the “scene” rather than enjoying the music and immersing themselves in the festival’s overall uplifting experience. It’s a pity. At the end of the day, to each his own but before festival season comes to an end (there’s still a ton to look forward to) I’d love to share a few thoughts on why I fell in love with music festivals in the first place and my honest take on what I’ve witnessed regarding present day music festival culture.
Find, Love, and Cultivate Your Festival Family
Call them your fest fam, your tribe, your crew, or whatever you wish to call them, these people share a very unique and special bond with you. At music festivals, you’ll notice how you’re all in sync with each other, vibrating on the same frequency. Curiously enough, sometimes you’ll all even feel like taking bathroom, food/hydration, and breathing breaks around the same time. Indeed, there will be moments where the crew will separate to explore, venture, or galavant around the festival grounds, but you’ll always find yourselves gravitating back towards each other no matter what.
These individuals will become your pack, you’ll look after each other, make sure everyone is doing alright and the love you share for one another will heighten the experience you share with them from day to night.
Make New Festival Friends
Funny enough, I’ve always felt like a magnet for strangers to come talk to me at music festivals. I chatted about this with a friend at Panorama this year and we both agreed, it must be the fairy vibes I emit once I put my glitter on and start dancing freely. Hah! But seriously, I love when this happens. In real life, there have been times I’ve found it really hard to feel comfortable with people I’ve just met. I have gotten much better at this but I know I still need some practice. Now, at music festivals, I’m one little social butterfly! Maybe it’s the music, maybe it’s the sunlight, maybe it’s the positive energy all around me but making friends at music festivals is one of my favorite things about attending!
I’ve honestly met some of the most interesting individuals in these occasions and I’ve also been able to help a few who have approached me and have not been going through the best of times. Both instances have been incredibly rewarding.
Be open to meeting new people, to making new festival friends outside of your crew. You can learn so much from them and their stories and maybe they’ll even end up joining you and your fest fam for the rest of the ride!
Be Open to New Music
Similar to my advice with making new friends, open your ears and all of your senses to the experience of brand new music. Give yourself the opportunity to discover new acts, genres, styles, and beats. I highly suggest going through the festival’s lineup beforehand and making a playlist of every act who’ll be performing. You might be surprised and find someone who’s music resonates with you and you’d love to catch them live!
A number of people I know only go to these events for the headlining acts. No judging! Hell, I went to Gov Ball last year just for The Killers and Miike Snow. But if you’re going to pay whatever it is you’re paying to attend the festival, and if you’re already there, why not make the best of it? Why not expose yourself to something new and different? Truth be told, a great number of the artists I love I’ve discovered like this, organically, spontaneously, and surprisingly.
Wear What You Feel, but Be Authentic
If you want to wear zebra leggings and orange nipple pasties to your next music festival, be my guest! I’m all about the funky fresh festival attire. But please, whatever you end up wearing, be authentic about it!
Coachella is a great example of a festival turned fashion show/costume/wardrobe/popularity contest. Again, if this is who you really are, dress, look, decorate your body, and do whatever it is which pleases you! I am the biggest advocate of employing one’s fashion and personal style as a mean of creative self-expression and authenticity and you all know I get pretty creative with my outfits. But for crying out loud, don’t be one of those who goes to Free People to shop for the perfect festival outfit to look ‘cool’, fit in, be part of the whole ‘scene’, pretend you’re something you're not bs.
Style pro tip: Whatever it is you’re wearing, make sure you feel comfortable, happy, and good about it. Also, keep in mind you’re going to sweat. A lot.
Don’t Do It for the 'Gram
Piggybacking on this one, don’t do it for the 'gram. Just don’t. If I could tell you about the number of conversations I’ve been part of where people have actually bragged about going to a music festival for the photographic content. It just fires me up. Seriously, what’s the point?
To anyone who’s ever gone or who knows of someone who’s gone to a music festival for the sake of going, taking a selfie, and proving they were there, please stop and reevaluate your priorities. It’s sad but to a certain extent, taking part of certain music festivals has become somewhat of a social status mark. And can we talk about the Fyre Festival fiasco? What a joke. Built around the idea of being the most Instagram worthy music festival to ever take place on this planet. Pfft.
Yes, I go to festivals and I take pics. Yes, I go to festivals and I also take Instagram Stories. But you know what? These superficial acts are not even close to the reason why I go to them. I go to music festivals for the pure, sheer, and genuine love I have for music, for the experience of watching some of my favorite bands and DJs perform live, witnessing them in action, taking in the energy of the community of music and art lovers all around me; I go to festivals to let go, to take in, to reset, to recharge, to love and to share the love, to dance, to be free, to laugh, to enjoy myself, and to share this with everyone and anyone who’s on my same wavelength.
Live in the Moment
Take pictures, make and keep those memories, but try your best to live in the moment and fully immerse yourself in the festival experience. My best advice? Take your pics and videos sporadically, leave them on your phone, and post them later. If the urge is too bad, post them when you’re in line for the porta potties. But for the rest, drop your phone and dance, love, laugh, explore the festival grounds, and allow yourself to be a kid again!
Acceptance, Unity, and Letting Go
Here, everyone will be doing their own thing. Respect this. Festivals are judgment free zones. Live and let live. Everyone else is too happy and excited in their own little worlds to be bothered. These are our little escapes, our little moments to get in touch with the magic which surrounds us. Embrace the opportunity.
Lastly, let go of whatever negativity may be bringing you down and simply live in the now. You’ve stepped into a state of wonder where people join in community to share their love of and experience music. Any unnecessary sh*t should be left outside of this space. Come open, feel everything, and when the bass drops - feel your heart flutter even more.