Let’s start with this: the truth is subjective.
I’ve come across several “articles” explaining what to do and what not to do at a music festival. They list steps of how to behave. They tell you what you should and should not be doing. I read them through and gave them a lot of thought – perhaps too much. Those articles are demoralizing.
Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) in late 2013 – that was my first music festival. It was popular and my friends had all been talking about it. It never crossed my mind that I would be entering an entirely new way of life: World-famous performers all gathered in one place for one big weekend. The stages were enormous. The lights and visuals were dazzling. The people were warm and accepting. There was an array of different outfits to take in; ravers seemed to have the most exotic fashion tastes. The place was covered in neon colors, fishnet stockings, some girls almost completely nude with the exception of tiny shorts and nipple pasties. But nobody was gawking. This was normal. I hadn’t experienced anything like it.
It didn’t take long before I was saving my every hard-earned dollar for music festivals. My next festival was Counterpoint in Georgia during the spring of 2014. I went to Sunset Music Festival in Florida just one month later. I attended EDC once again that fall. Next on my list is Bonnaroo in Tennessee during the summer of 2015. Last but certainly not least is the Okeechobee festival in Florida, which I attended during spring break of this year. I cherish the memories I have made at every one of those events. I’m not sure how many of these one must attend to be considered a seasoned festival-goer, but I’ve experienced enough of them to know a thing or two.
Some of you may be reading this and thinking to yourself how cliché it all is. A girl sees some electronic music at a festival and thinks it changed her life – big deal. But that’s exactly what it is. It’s a very big deal. Life is beautiful and exhausting. Whether you’re going to classes every day, working your job, raising your children, or helping your parents at home, you’ve probably got enough weighing you down. That doesn’t even include personal relationships. There are always plenty of those to spur some undesired conflict. Sometimes life can get you down.
There are things expected of us each day. Our family and friends expect particular things from us. Employers have rules and guidelines. Society operates on a basis of cultural norms. The people you’ve never even met have expectations that they expect you to meet. For example, what is your reaction when you’re in a bar and that girl who should have stopped drinking four drinks ago knocks you over? It’s probably anger for most people, because you have certain expectations of other people.
Music festivals are the most amazing way to escape the stress and those annoying expectations. You can call it escapism if you’d like, but there’s nothing better than feeling free for a few days.
This is why the “how to” articles I’ve read are so demoralizing to me. They tell people it’s wrong to sit down and enjoy the music rather than standing. Apparently you have to be dancing and gyrating at all times. It’s wrong to show some serious affection to your significant other. That might gross somebody out. It never occurred to them that your own affections shouldn’t bother them. People are judged for wearing bold, expressive clothing. It’s so not trendy to wear those marijuana leaf pasties with your bikini bottoms. Somebody might see some skin and that’s taboo.
Well, I’m here to remind people that the point of a music festival is to escape the mundane rules and expectations of society. For that one musical weekend, you’re in an entirely new society – one without judgments. Festivals are meant to be liberating, to lower people’s inhibitions, and create an atmosphere of love and acceptance.
I camped at Counterpoint and had a guy in a trench coat approach my tent looking to sell drugs to me. A friendly girl in the tent across from mine wore platform combat boots. I sat on my friend’s shoulders during an Alesso set at EDC. It was one of the most magical moments of my life to see above nearly one hundred thousand people while witnessing the beauty of the stage lights during my favorite songs. I encountered two girls kissing at Bonnaroo. People in the massive crowd around me decided to head-bang and mosh to Deadmau5 and I joined them. Girls hold hands and skip around. Guys play beer pong and flip tables at their campsites. But most importantly, we meet kind-hearted people who change our lives. We form connections with people who understand the importance of these experiences.
I met a group of people at Okeechobee who are from around the world: California, Florida, Minnesota, and Germany. Every waking moment was spent with them that weekend, and those were moments well spent. We looked out for one another. They became a family away from home. I now talk to these people every day and plan to attend a festival with them in Alabama.
These events aren’t about crazy electronic music and drugs. Don’t get me wrong – those things definitely exist. Drugs can become a huge part of the experience. Some of the music can be obnoxious. But the beauty of these events is the variety. I’ve not only seen electronic artists. I’ve seen rap artists, heavy rock, indie, etc. And not everybody is drugged up to have a good time. The unity that exists when great music collides with welcoming people is something I never want to give up. To be carefree in an environment that will accept me is a truly freeing experience. You can’t share any of these special moments in your classes or at your 9-5. That is my truth.
By KATHERINE SINNER / News Editor