If you haven’t noticed, music festivals are on the upswing, with more and more music fans attending big festivals each year. Case in point: Despite headliners like Beck and Morrissey, the inaugural Coachella in 1999 played host to only 10,000 curious concert-goers, while more than 100,000 showed up last year (thanks in part to Beyoncé). But, at least since the days of Woodstock, there’s always been an unspoken code among serious festival-goers, and etiquette is a surprisingly big consideration on the fest circuit. While there’s a lot here to remember, always prioritize the biggest do: have fun! Here’s what else you need to know as you’re festin’ it up this summer.
Pace Yourself: Most music festival lineups are set up so that the big headliners play at the end of the day or in the evening, say between 6 and 10 p.m., with smaller acts beginning to hit their stages around noon or 1 p.m. That means that you could have as many as 10 hours to hang out on the festival grounds each day. Pace yourself if you want to see it all and be sure to take it extra slow if you plan to drink.
Keep Track of Your Stuff: People lose track of their stuff constantly at these big events and getting things back can be difficult. Where possible, turn everything into an accessory. Examples: wear your vape on a chain (or, better yet, take one that’s made to be worn); put your sunglasses on a lanyard; clip your keys to your belt loop; get one of those thigh holsters for your phone. Get creative!
Wear the Right Clothes: Nothing will harsh your mellow faster than a particularly annoying blister or a shirt that won’t dry, especially when you’re stuck with the same clothes and shoes all day. Make sure to spend time thinking about and formulating the perfect outfit. Opt for performance or technical fabrics that can help regulate temperature and moisture.
Stay Hydrated: Most likely, the festival will be held in the middle of the summer when it’s sweltering out. There will probably be no air conditioning and the festival will be charging a fortune for a bottle of water, which you’ll crush within 3 minutes max. The good news is that most festivals allow you to bring in (empty) water bottles that you can fill up once inside. Some even allow fest-goers to sport wearable water packs (like CamelBaks), so there’s no excuse not to stay hydrated!
Have a Plan: This one’s extremely important for first-timers. If you want to see a good chunk of the acts on the schedule, don’t wing it. Go into each day with a schedule of your own so you know exactly where to be at what time, so you don’t miss a single show. Make sure to coordinate with your group to make sure everyone sees what they want to see. Don’t get too married to your schedule, though, and allow plans to change if necessary.
Leave No Trace: Have you ever seen photos of what festival grounds look like after the crowds have gone home? Don’t be those people. Treat the grounds like you would treat your own yard. Throw away your trash. Recycle. Don’t leave behind any of the throw-away stuff, like tents or chairs, that you bought for the fest. Strive to leave no trace.
Forget Your Sunscreen: Make sure that you’re extra diligent about applying sunscreen throughout the day, even if it’s cloudy out. Too much sun exposure puts you at risk of the obvious dangers, but it also threatens your immediate ability to have a good time, and nobody wants to be holed up in their tent with sun poisoning all day. Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you head out into the sun and then reapply every two hours.
Accept Anything from Strangers: We’re not trying to recreate any stranger danger hysteria from your childhood, especially since festival-goers are by and large some of the kindest and community-oriented people around. BUT…it’s not a good idea to accept anything suspect from people you don’t know, including unsealed foods, beverages, drugs or alcohol.
Have Your Phone Out the Entire Time: No doubt about it: you’re going to want to capture some of the festival, not only for your social media followers but for yourself to enjoy later. That’s great! Just know when it’s fine to snap pics and when it will be a bother to others. If you’re in a crowd (especially near the front, towards the stage), one or two pics is fine, but don’t keep your phone up in the air the entire show.
Stress if You Don’t See Every Act: Music festival coordinators pack the daily schedules deep (example: this year’s Woodstock 50 fest will feature over 70 acts in a period of three days), and that’s by design. This requires festival-goers to prioritize what they want to see and when. Don’t worry too much if you don’t see every single show at every single stage—most likely, that’s not even possible.
Expect a Plush Experience: While you won’t be heading into Fyre Fest-level deprivation (at least we hope not), you’re also not checking into an all-inclusive, five-star resort in the Caribbean. Music festivals are made to be a bit down-to-earth and bare bones—fresh air, good vibes, being outside—so embrace it! If you’re more into comfort, check out the VIP packages offered by the festival. Those tend to offer a few extra luxuries.
There’s no secret code to being a good music festival attendee. Use common sense in every decision you make, and you’ll have an enjoyable weekend with no hiccups. Spending a bit of time formulating what to wear, what to pack and what to see will help you get the most out of your festival experience. Just remember to soak in every second!