Last Saturday, my friends and I went to Shamrockfest 2011. It is, as you might guess, a giant festival celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. In that vein, there is an Irish village, food tents, four stages with bands, and lots and lots of beer trucks. The bands are usually a mix of cover bands and Irish bands, and this year’s were pretty awesome. I saw Lost in Paris (a cover band that was ok, but lamely put on a recording of Dave Matthew’s Band instead of actually singing Ants Go Marching), the Pubcrawlers (very high energy), Barleyjuice (good Irish band with an incredibly talented fiddle player), Scythian (fantastic job – lots of instruments, lots of enthusiasm!) and Dropkick Murphys (which most people know and love, even if you think you don’t you have probably heard the following song “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” from The Departed..).
As I wandered and observed the crowd, I realized that although this was not my first rodeo, others either had very little experience at festivals or were a little dense and hadn’t quite got it all figured out.
Festivals require some preparation. Yes, it’s all about experiencing the music with friends and drinks and yes, festivals have been associated with a certain freedom and do-what-the-fuck-you-want spirit that grew out of a free love and drug culture; however, you still need to think about two basic things – that is, unless you are going to re-create Woodstock or something, then disregard everything I’m saying. First, the clothing. When you go to spring or fall festivals, you should dress in layers. This way you can take things off (light jackets or scarves) when you get warm and put them on when you are cold. Usually flat boots or some sort of cushioned flat (chucks, sperrys, Toms, etc) are the best, followed by comfy flip flops if it’s warm enough. Generally, four-inch heels are considered to be a really dumb idea. Along with that, skanky little skirts, thigh highs and see through tops are pretty dumb as well. You aren’t comfortable in that and let’s face it, it’s NOT warm enough to be dressed in skimpy clothes. Additionally, you look horrible…seriously.
Second thing to consider – arrival time. When you look at a festival schedule decide which bands you really care about. If your top choices are toward the end, then maybe show up a little later. Basically, you need to decide how long you can sustain your drinking, standing and wandering while staving off your hunger, because you are going to want to save your money for beer and not the over-priced festival food. Trust me, tons of people end up too tired, too drunk or too hungry to last to the last band, which is usually the headliner.
Another consideration with arrival is to factor in time to stop at an ATM machine somewhere else other than the show. One of three things will happen if you don’t: (1) there won’t be any ATMs and you will either have to mooch relentless all day or you will get no food or beers, (2) there will be colossal ATM lines, or (3) the “helpful” worker outside of the festival will tell you that two ATMs by the gates with the large trail of your fellow unprepared dummies streaming from it are the only two ATMs available. So, you will have no choice but to wait while your friends take in the drinks and music inside. Then the second you walk in, you will be confronted by what seems to be an endless wall of ATMs laughing at you and your stupidity. Clearly, this is not from personal experience….and thanks a lot to the worker who did this…very funny sir.
Now, once you are at the festival…
Know how to be drunk in public. You wouldn’t think this would be such a hard skill to hone, but for some it must be. I love being outside, listening to music and getting a little toasted just as much as the next person; however, there is no need for puking on strangers, having angry drunk fights or finding it acceptable to form a circle of friends around the “pickle in the middle” that is peeing in daylight right next to the beer tents – NOT COOL.
Understand a mosh pit. Mosh pit might seem cool and might look rock and roll but seriously, I would only do it if i was high out of my mind and thought I was flying closer to the friendly purple koala in the sky that wants me to follow him. People get very seriously hurt crowd surfing or even just trying to get a closer look at the band. This past festival had one particularly nasty example – a guy completely obliterated his ankle crowd surfing (was probably dropped) and his ankle was shattered, bloody and floppy…three things that I don’t want my ankle ever described as. Basically, don’t do it unless you know what you are getting yourself into.
Despite my few “rules” on festival survival, a festival truly is about enjoying friends, music, the outdoors and beer (in no particular order). So, really just have fun and who cares what you are doing. If you want to do a silly Irish jig – knock yourself out. I guarantee that most peole do not care what you are doing. If they do, so you give them a laugh. And, it’s a festival so there is undoubtedly someone somewhere doing something much more ridiculous looking than whatever weird dance move you’re trying out. In sum – get out there and bust a move, cut a rug, get low, shake your moneymaker, or whatever it is you do.
Oh, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day!