As I sit here in the newsroom trying to recover from watching Circa Survive’s Coachella set via live stream, I am taken back to the sweet smell of dust and sunshine that permeates music festivals, and I cannot wait to experience it again this summer.
Every music enthusiast needs to experience a music festival at least once. It’s a religious experience, like going to Mecca or the Vatican or meeting the Pope or something like that.
Sure, you could just go to concerts. But seeing your favorite artist perform a festival set is unlike any concert experience you’ll ever get.
First of all, most artists will bring their A-game to a festival, especially the bigger ones.
Last year, I was slightly freaking out over a schedule conflict with Jack White and Skrillex at Bonnaroo, so I looked up Jack’s set lists to see how he had been structuring his stuff so I could decide when I definitely needed to be present during his set. I noticed the absence of a few songs I definitely wanted to hear from him and got ready to be disappointed about not hearing my favorites.
And what did he do? Emerged from fog-machine stuff into the blue light of the stage playing the familiar, grimy lick that opens Icky Thump, one of the songs I had expected to go without.
Let’s just say I didn’t miss any more of that set, and it completely overstepped my expectations, which were pretty high in the first place, because, duh, it’s Jack White.
This would never have happened at a tour concert. In fact, I set-checked a bunch of artists I saw last year, and not one of them matched up. Artists go out of their way to do this kind of stuff at festivals because they know this is where the superfans are, and you can’t get this experience anywhere else.
The best kind of surprise, though, is when you’re watching Disclosure do a set and suddenly Sam Smith strolls out on stage to perform “Latch.” Or Nas comes out with the Beastie Boys. Or Ben Folds comes out during Sir Elton John’s set. Or Haim playing with, like, half of the artists at this year’s Coachella (and they weren’t even billed).
Festivals are the perfect setup for surprise performances. Put all those artists in one place and it’s just a recipe for greatness. You know they get together and say “Hey, you know what would blow everyone’s mind?” and boom, history is made.
Having downtime between artists you know allows for some walking around, following your ears, and discovering artists you never knew about. The best way to go about this is to just ask anyone in the campsites or literally anyone else at the festival what they plan to see that day, and typically if asked, they will talk up something that’s their favorite. That’s how I discovered Purity Ring, and now I can’t imagine my music collection without them.
Of course if the unique musical experience isn’t reason enough, there’s always the fact that it is a great package deal. One festival is the only concert you need for a whole year. For the price of good seats at a Paul McCartney concert, you could see Paul, Snoop Dogg, Hozier, and about twenty other artists. If it’s a camping festival, factor in the fact that you won’t have to rent a hotel room and you’re getting that bang for your buck for sure.
And then there’s the atmosphere. Imagine someone you could talk to about music with for hours. Now imagine that about 79,999 more times (for a big festival of course). The cool thing about festival people is that you automatically know you have something in common, so there’s really no reason to not meet new people.
So if you say you’re a music fan and you haven’t experienced a festival, put it on your bucket list, because you’ll fall that much more in love with it and probably find some new reasons to justify your infatuation along the way.
Megan Osborne can be contacted at [email protected]