Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Summer Music Festival Survival Tips and Etiquette

You might think that attending a summer concert festival with thousands of other music fans who share your abiding love of a specific band would be enough to make your festival experience enjoyable. You'll doubt that when you hear said band perform their best songs from their best album with the fellow fan while desperately wanting the lines to the porta-potties to just move already.

You might think that several days in the sweltering sun with like-minded music fans would lead to a mystical sense of musical joy and community, and that the person thuggishly shoving his way to the front of the stage won’t step on your head to get a few feet closer to the band.

You’d be wrong.

Simply put, a summer concert festival is Thunderdome, a regular outdoor concert gone gonzo on HGH and the cold, unforgiving Darwinian struggle for survival all rolled into one. With Coachella already in the books and a whole mess of festivals remaining this upcoming summer, a few simple tips are in order to maximize your enjoyment and ensure your survival.

1. Do not be deceived by the "Chill Tent." What looks like an oasis of cold water and available shade from a distance is actually a cruel mirage. Get close enough to the "Chill Tent" and you’ll see what it really is -- a swarming mass of suffering humanity that most closely resembles a Goya painting or a medieval leper colony.

2. You must cheer wildly for the dinosaur act that recently reunited for the festival circuit. Sure the band hasn’t released a decent album in decades. Their waists have gotten wider while the hair has gotten thinner and grayer. Their upcoming album, that’s described as a return to form, will probably stink out loud, but dammit, the band dusted their corpses off for this festival. Applaud.

3. Dress appropriately. The deciding factor for your wardrobe is not the temperature; instead, it’s your favorite musical genre. If you are a Goth Rock fan, and I know the five of you are still out there somewhere, heavy black clothing is required. If you’re an indie rock fan under the age of 30, you must wear a hoody and dark-rimmed glasses. Bonus points if someone mistakes you for Colin Meloy.

4. You are responsible for your pharmaceutical stash. If you get all Han Solo and panic by dropping your goods at the first sign of an Imperial Cruiser, don’t drop them in the lap of the nearest innocent bystander.

5. Ric Flair was your favorite wrestler and that’s cool. The Nature Boy’s a legend, even though his minimalist wrestling attire left nothing to the imagination. Still, use between-song “woos!” sparingly. You don’t need to shout like Flair after every song.

6. You might see people with recording devices. Let them be. They are your friends. Plus, there is nothing worse than an illicit live recording punctuated with “are you recording this? Are you? Really?” during every song.

7. If the natives become restless, the festival starts to deteriorate into an orgy of mayhem and violence, and a random stranger who looks like Beavis asks you to help tip something over or set something aflame, do not accept the offer. Or at least wait for a camera crew before proceeding.

8. Every band has a fan that can only be described as "That Guy." "That Guy" knows the length of every song, can link the band’s latest album to a current political issue, and thinks the band is singing about him in every song. You’ll first meet him buying a beer. Then he’ll be in front of you by what the concert promoters have charitably called the “restrooms.” By this time he’ll consider you his friend, slap you on the back with drunken gusto, and give you a nickname like Johnny One Punch, even though you’re name is Evgeny and you’re from Latvia. Avoid That Guy at all costs.

The final band on the final night is playing the final song. The concert promoters and sponsors are loading their crates of money into vans under cover of darkness. Limbs and legs are strewn over the festival grounds like a Fiona Apple video. You haven’t bathed in 72 hours, your car keys were lost in the Great Unknown, mud and beer have mixed into your clothes to form a potentially fatal epoxy, and your girlfriend’s been backstage for a while and you’re getting suspicious.

But you’re still breathing and have a few musical memories you won’t forget. Survey the carnage and take a deep breath. You survived.

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