For six years and counting, I have attended the Wanee Music Festival with my father and ten of his long-time companions and fellow music-loving friends. While the tradition has resumed after over thirty years of friendship for them, my induction to the crew came to wait until I was at least eighteen years old. My situation is unique, having grown up around the definitive treats of rock and roll since I was very young; though hanging at a music festival with your dad and his friends on their one weekend out of the year dedicated to their escape from “real life” is definitely a right one must earn. And from them, I have learned.
There are three levels of music festival attendees: the first-timer, who quietly keeps anxious thoughts to themselves as the weekend turns them into reckless riots of thanks and praise; the seasoned professional, who has since learned from their mistakes and plans according to the go of the flow; and the master, who after years of experience, knows the “when” and the “how” to every little situation.
Festival wisdom is like an acquired taste, you don’t always want to do what you know you have to do in order to get the job done. These are things I’ve learned from my dad and his friends, who after a weekend of using up all the water resorted to half-empty beer cans to brush their teeth and spit out the toothpaste in the morning. The same guys who have found themselves standing in porta potties holding two brews for the better half of an hour with their ears pressed against the cracks, just to hear the music while it’s torrentially pouring outside. These, my friends, are legends…the kind every young person should learn from.
I wish I could tell you everything, but I won’t. Beyond the superfluous life-hacks are the insurmountable life lessons. I take it upon my duty as a young writer, now well versed in the festival lives of 50+ year-old grown men, to pass on the ten reasons you should continue going to music festivals when you grow up. I supplement these thanks with an ode of gratitude.
10. Like all concert-goers, you, too, deserve the right to escape reality for a few days.
Everyone has responsibilities at home. One of the best things about music festivals is that none of those responsibilities matter while you’re there. No one is thinking about paying bills, or scheduling doctors appointments, or what to get their boss for the holidays when they are surrounded by thousands of like-minded individuals gallivanting in the midst of a musical dream. The most important thing to remember is that whatever responsibilities are left at home will still be there upon return, so your time can only best be spent when used as an opportunity to rest the mind and enjoy yourself thoroughly. Then, bring your kids.
9. Upgrading to VIP is totally justifiable. Hell, it’s recommended.
Ditch the tent. If you’ve made a living for yourself and you are planning to attend a music festival, do it right. Do it big. Whether in an RV, a bus, or a hotel, you can finally afford to get a good night’s rest. Sleep is of the most important methods of survival when dedicating multiple days to music and arts in an uncivilized campground. So ball out like you’ve always wanted to; do what you have to do to ensure a comfortable sleep. Chances are your wallet won’t feel it as much as the 20-something-year-olds who’s budgeting exists to satisfy the weekend experience.
8. It’s healthy to unleash your inner-child.
“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” The statement speaks for itself, as a memory of my glowstick crown-wearing adult friend skips up to the pizza stand for last call at 3AM, knowing full-well that there are still hours of fun to be had before the sunrise greets the sheets and another epic adventure ensues. Campfire hangs, befriending strangers, going against the whims of normalcy– these are all part of the experiences that make a music festival so special. It’s about what happens after the music stops that resonates a sense of familiarity, as we re-engage with humanity on a level outside of reality.
7. You can never have enough new experiences.
The universe is here for us to try new things, and share those experiences with others. Traditions like “The Acoustic Ambush,” where we gather between two golf carts and slowly peruse the campgrounds with guitars, amps, percussion instruments, and the chords of our vocals, will forever welcome new experiences that are sometimes meant to be chosen over the scheduled acts themselves. We meander through tents until we catch the attention of fellow campers, entertain them for 3/4 of a song, then slowly continue on, leaving them with nothing but a faint memory of sing-a-long songs. It is the art of the impromptu jam, the freestyle lyrics, and the directionless paths that color our memories with the unique feathers that keep us coming back each year. Remember us?
Proof, found on random Facebook page:
6. The 70’s were awesome, but there’s some really great music now too.
Music is a tradition that gets passed on. Each style is a re-presentation of some previous form of another. While the older music listeners remain faithful to their record store finds, the avid millennial festival-goer is a book of knowledge when it comes to past and present music trends. The best is when those two worlds collide, like when Susan Tedeschi, Eric Krasno, and the Tedeschi Trucks horn section joined Break Science on the Mushroom Stage two years ago, or when jamtronica bands like Conspirator redefine Jimi Hendrix tunes at 2AM before crowds of un-experienced listeners. Music is awesome, and is meant to be shared.
5. Music festivals are a great way to bring families together.
Despite what one might remember from Woodstock, music festivals are family-oriented gatherings fueled by passion and togetherness for all ages. The community comes together bearing life’s most valuable moral codes: be nice to everyone, and they will be nice to you; smile to the world, and the world will smile back; money only gets you what life can’t on it’s own; it’s not an experience if you can’t bring someone along; make friends with strangers, and the good vibes will ripple back. Teach your children young, show them the way of life, love, and endless laughter!
4. Adults who attend music festivals give youth hope in their own future.
There’s nothing better than seeing a 55-year-old man shotgun a beer at 8AM. On top of that, they have an authentic relationship with music that keeps them attending concerts for all these years. They understand things differently than young people do, because the stories from the last 50+ years of music history is part of their childhood memories, and they bear wisdom of it’s weight in the contemporary moment. Beyond that, they show incredible wits of expertise in their unparalleled abilities to withstand a weekend of music without waking up on the wrong side of the bed. These legends are heroes, worthy of endless praise.
3. Adults, too, might learn something from the youth.
There’s a lot of new music out there, and the players are just as monumentally important to know about as the pioneers. “Where’d the chick on drums go?,” one asks me while watching Dumpstaphunk, remembering Nikki Glaspie from previous years. Only a my-timer can respond happily to inform that she is touring with her new band The Nth Power, and follow it up with a link to their new CD. In addition to our knowledge of contemporary music, we might have a few tricks up our sleeves on how to survive the weekend too: like how to make a warm beer cold in under 5 minutes using just a paper towel, some water, and a cooler.
2. Old-timers, more than anyone else in the crowd, deserve to see the music- as they’ve been supporters since the very beginning.
Seniority is real, just ask any Deadhead or Phish Phan. While newcomers are more than encouraged to join in on the fun, those who have been there since the warehouse days are worthy of the best seats in the house. Like the musicians, the fans, too, have grown into themselves as products of the musical times that have led them there. Respect.
1. The weekend experience will revitalize you for an entire year.
Muscles may ache for days after the weekend, but the memories will keep you sane as you return to “real life,” giving everyone something to look forward to for twelve, or less, months to come. It’s weekends like these, where friends come together and bond over the unique shared experience of a music festival, picking right back up wherever they last left off, that life is really about– no matter the age.
[Photos by Jeremy Driesen]