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A Concert and Music Festival Survival Guide

I love concerts and live music. I have connected much of my personal spirituality to music since the days of sitting in my Memaw’s kitchen and listening to her sing hymns as she cooked. So in a sense, concerts and music festivals are my church, and I’ve had more what you might call transcendent experiences at concerts than I’ve had at a traditional house of worship. This weekend was no exception as I went with my best friend to the “Gentleman of the Road” festival in St. Augustine, FL, which is organized by the band Mumford and Sons and features a rotating list of musical acts that play in different cities. Now, I know that for many, Mumford and Sons is the living embodiment of this gif…

The visual equivalent to Mumford and Sons

I get it, I do, but I’ve had a weakness for bands with banjos since my junior year college roommates got me into bluegrass. Also, they provided me with comfort and sanity while living through my first holiday season overseas. Plus, the “Gentleman of the Road” festival featured about half a dozen acts I wanted to see, including Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Thao and the Get Down Stay Down and fun. All in all, the weekend was a blast and included some truly awesome displays of musicianship from some of the acts and some not-so-great moments from our fellow festival-goers (and the couple of less than stellar acts we saw.) This lead the bestie and I to reflect on some issues we’ve experienced in our concert-going experiences. So, with that conversation in mind, I give you a not very exhaustive and highly subjective guide to enjoying a concert or music festival.

Drinking is fun, but make sure you don’t become THAT drunken asshole. Also, hydrate.

I love drinking. It’s one of my favorite things, but one of the most common scenarios that has led to less than stellar experiences has involved someone who needed one more beer. This person, in my experience, is usually a guy, but sometimes, the girl standing next to me keeps letting her friends and everyone else know her current state of intoxication. More often than not, the drunk person is simply annoying and nothing more, and if it’s general admission, I simply find another spot to stand or ask the person to please keep it down so I can enjoy the music I paid good money to see. However, there have been times when the issue is a guy  who is intoxicated and bigger than me. There’s a couple of ways to handle this, since even a sober guy can get belligerent. If you’re like me and don’t care about the feelings of drunken assholes, you can tell them to fuck off and let everyone around know what an asshole they are; however, if you’re not comfortable with that for whatever reason, there are a couple of things you can do. If it’s general admission, band together with those around you to maneuver the perpetrator away from your area. You can also move, which is a pain in the ass if you’ve had a spot staked out (more on that later). If it’s assigned seating, I have no issue getting a security person involved since 9 times out of 10, the people around you hate this guy too.

Speaking of drinking, day drinking at outdoor festivals is a favorite activity, but make sure you’re also drinking enough water. This was especially an issue this weekend where the temperature on Saturday was 92F. It sucks to not enjoy the headlining acts because you feel sick from dehydration or you’ve had to go to the medical tent for heat exhaustion.

If at a festival or general admission show, stake out a spot early.

This is especially relevant for my bestie and main concert buddy. Whereas I am 5’9″ – ish and can generally see from any vantage point in a venue, the bestie is all of 5’4″ and can’t see past anyone 5’6″ and above. So we get a spot early and stay there. The advantages of getting there early also include scoping out if anyone around us will be a problem and adjusting accordingly. Of course, there is a special place in hell for people who try and horn in just as the concert is starting, especially men who are 6’2″ and stand right in front of me and my friends. Again, I tell them to move on and have been known to link arms with fellow concertgoers to prevent people from pushing their way through. I was always red rover champion.

At a festival, make friends with those around you (if they are amiable).

They can be your best allies against rude assholes and generally enhance the experience. Also, they can save your spot for the inevitable bathroom runs, water, beer and merchandise purchasing.

There is no such thing as a nice porta-potty.

Hand sanitizer and tissues are a must have.

Enjoy the music.

The main reason to go to any concert is to enjoy the music of the bands you love. Despite some annoyances this weekend, I left the festival after Mumford and Sons set with a huge smile on my face. They are incredible live. So was Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, who gave me a such a high on Friday night (or that could have been the amount of herbal refreshments being smoked around me, who knows). The band fun had to cancel due to medical issues which was disappointing at first, but the fact that John Fogerty acted as a replacement with Mumford and Sons as his back-up band more than made up for it (easily one of my top concert moments ever). I now have about a half a dozen bands who are on permanent rotation, including the Vaccines, Those Darlins, and Half Moon Run. Now, my friend and I just have to plan for Coachella next year.

Tell me about some of your great or awful concert experiences.

By Stephens

Florida girl, would-be world traveler and semi-permanent expat. Her main strategy of life is to throw out the nets and hope something useful comes back, but many times it's just an old shoe. She also really, really hates winter and people who are consistently late.

8 replies on “A Concert and Music Festival Survival Guide”

They backed FOGERTY???

I was at the Pittsburgh Mumford show- Bears Den (who are AMAZING OMG) and the Vaccines opened, and then during the Mumford show they came on stage to all play the Beatles “Come Together” together and it was AMAZING. (There are videos of this on youtube!)

My mom was all fan girly about everyone it was adorable, but the drinks were like $14/can and um… nope. not worth it, WTF was the venue thinking…

One of my great festival experiences was also one of my first. After a day of work I was curious about Scissor Sisters. So I sat down at the edge of the tent.

Everyone passing by made comments like ‘Oh come on, you have to DANCE when they start’ and I was like ‘Nah, too tired’.

Five minutes in I was jumping around and everything because the entire tent just lit up with energy and fun. Dancing with strangers and all that, awesomest of awesome.

I love that whole vibe that you get from live shows. When my son comes home from one, especially Warped, I grill him for every detail so I can live vicariously.

When I was in my 20s, I had free tickets to see Ziggy Marley. I didn’t have anyone to go with me but one of my bosses did ask me to give his nephew, a minor, a ride. With him being a minor, we ended up in separate areas so basically I was completely by myself. It was an outdoor show, on what was usually a sand volleyball court. Next thing you know, it’s raining. So there I am, dancing barefoot in the sand and rain with a bunch of strangers to some kickass reggae music. Still one of my most memorable shows (and I’ve seen Pink Floyd!)

If you’re going to a show where there will be a mosh pit, it’s important to figure out where it will be and whether or not you want to be in it. No one likes that guy trying to mosh from the back corner OR the person who stands in the pit and complains about getting bumped.

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