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Summer music festivals: a survival guide

Sharona Lin 24 November 2019
Festival after dark

Festivals start in the day but run into the night – it pays to pace yourself. Photo: Supplied.

Ah, summer music festivals. The sweat. The beers. The outfits. The gozleme. The perfume. Oh, yeah, and the music.

I love music festivals, and after years of mishaps and adventures, I’ve learned a few lessons I’d like to share.

Travel light

Alright, so you’re packing for the festival. There’s nothing worse than lugging around a bag filled with ‘essentials’ while you’re trying to mosh – except for waiting in the bag check line while your friends saunter on in through the no-bags line, and then waiting to cloak your bag, and then at the end of the night waiting to uncloak your bag …

When it comes down to it, there are only a few things you absolutely need when you go to a festival: your ticket, your ID, your money and your phone. Everything else is expendable.

I’ve managed to whittle down my festival baggage to my phone (containing my ticket and the set times), my ID and EFTPOS card just in case. It does mean I need to make sure my outfits always have pockets, but it’s worth it to me.

The Bacardi Bar and Bacardi El Coco stage

The Bacardi Bar and Bacardi El Coco stage at Spilt Milk: Photo: Charlie Hardy.

Be prepared

Now you’re at the festival, but you’ve got no idea who’s on, your phone has no reception, and you can’t find your friends. Also, you’re thirsty.

While I like playing it fast and loose as much as the next person, there are a few quick and easy things you can do to make your festival experience infinitely easier and better:

  • Check whether the festival takes card or cash or both. I despise having to pay to withdraw cash, so checking whether I need to withdraw cash the day before saves me having to pay a $2.50 charge, and also saves me from my head exploding. You know how it is.
  • Charge your phone before you leave home (duh), and save the PDF of your ticket and a screenshot of the set times. If you’re going to blatantly disregard my “don’t bring a bag” advice (rude), bring a power pack so you can charge your phone; otherwise, leave it on flight mode whenever you can.
  • When you get to the festival, suss out where everything is: bars, free water stations, stages, first aid tent and toilets.
  • Agree on a meetup spot with your friends – you won’t regret it.
Messina at spilt milk

Festivals aren’t always about music and moshing. Photo: Jordan Munns

Stay healthy

Let’s talk alcohol. I don’t know how many people at festivals I’ve seen wasted at 2:00 pm when the headliners play at 11.30 pm. I mean, you do you, I’m not your mum or anything, but you can vomit into the bushes anytime if that’s your thing, but Juice WRLD doesn’t come to Australia every day. Pace yourself, so you don’t miss the acts.

Second, heatstroke is real, folks. You’re drinking, it’s sunny, you’re squashed up to hundreds of other fans, and you don’t want to leave the moshpit because you’re in a prime position to catch your favourite band. Catch some shade, drink some water, wear a hat. Don’t miss the festival because you’ve passed out.

Finally, slip, slop, slap. We all learned how to be SunSmart. Now it’s time to put it to good use. Remember, you need to reapply sunscreen every two hours! Most festivals have free sunscreen, so go nuts.

Hydrating a crowd

Make sure you stay hydrated and slip, slop, slap. Photo: Supplied.

Don’t be a jerk!

Music festivals are fun because of the music but also because of the people. As someone who has gone to a lot of music festivals by myself, I’ve met heaps of great people who have turned a good festival experience into a great one.

But I’ve also seen plenty of jerks around. Here’s some jerk-like behaviour to avoid:

  • Groping someone you don’t know
  • Kissing someone who is clearly not sober enough to consent
  • Being rude/sexist/racist/homophobic/etc to other people.

These are all easy things to avoid doing, but if you can actively be a good person, all the better. If someone looks lost, help them. If you see harassment going down, call it out. If someone falls down in the mosh, help them up. Just be nice!

Having fun at Spilt Milk

Best advice? Stay safe and have fun. Photo: Billy Zammit.

You’re ready

Travel light, be prepared, stay healthy and don’t be a jerk! Congratulations, you’re now ready to survive a summer festival.

CBR DIG dives deep into what makes the music industry work. CBR DIG investigates Canberra’s music community and answers the questions you’ve always wanted to ask about making music in the capital.


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