The definitive guide for newbie festivalgoers
t doesn’t matter if it’s your first time or if the wristbands from previous years go all the way up to you elbow. There are certain things that happen at all festivals, whether the music’s reggae or electronic, and as hardened festival goers with years of experience (and of queueing) we bring you our top tips for getting the most out of your experience.
And especially if you’re in the middle of the Black Rock desert in Nevada. Don’t let yourself be mesmerised by the giant sculptures at Burning Man, and remember to stay hydrated. In this temporary city, which appears from 27 August to 4 September, it’s easy to lose track of time while wandering around art installations and ‘mutant vehicles’ (the only ones allowed apart from bicycles). Although it doesn’t describe itself as a festival but as a “community experiment”, Burning Man is one of the most eagerly awaited events of the festival. The sensation of freedom and “radical self-expression” felt by ‘Burners’ has even infected Silicon Valley celebrities, even if there’s no Wi-Fi in the desert.
When we say correct, we mean a mad/fashion/discreet/whatever-you-want style. You don’t have to pack your entire wardrobe into your backpack, but equally don’t wear the same t-shirt for all three days, even if it’s the one with your favourite group on it. Most festivals usually give information about what to wear in the FAQs on their web site. Like Splendour in the Grass (Byron Bay, from 21 to 23 July), held in the middle of the Australian ‘winter’. They advise wearing a hat, sunscreen and welly boots, Glastonbury style. A bit of everything. Because it can’t all be about sun and surf in Australia.
That’s the most important rule, especially since festivals started becoming a) fashion parades, b) fancy dress parties. In Sziget, known as “the Island of Freedom” they apply it to the letter. The festival holds its 24th edition from 9 to 16 August on an island in the river Danube in Budapest. It was voted the best festival in Europe twice because of the great vibes amongst its ‘szitizens’, who even have their own passports.
If you want to avoid controversy, stay well away from ethnic accessories like feather headdresses, heavily criticised at Coachella as “cultural hijacking”. And by the way, forget the flower crowns – it isn’t 2012, you know.
Festivals nowadays are much more than a succession of concerts on a giant stage. Now they include things like art exhibitions, as well as yoga and fitness programmes, like the Zumba and martial arts classes offered at the Rainforest World Music Festival in Malaysia (from 14 to 16 July). At the Rototom Sunsplash (Benicassim, from 12 to 19 August), meanwhile, they bring all the energy of Pachamama to the Spanish coast in a space for personal growth and reconnecting with Mother Earth. There’s also a circus and a family play area, because festivals are also places for kids.
There are many types of festival mates: the one who always wants to be in the front row, the clean one who showers morning and afternoon, the one who always has just what you need, when you need it… The most important thing is that you agree on the groups you want to see and go through the programme together to check the times. At big festivals like Lollapalooza (Chicago, from 3 to 6 August) or FIB (Benicassim, from 13 to 16 July), with headlining acts like Muse, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Arcade Fire, it’s quite normal that the very worst thing happens and your favourite groups clash.