Your Guide to Summer Music Festival Etiquette

Summertime is here! If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of people who flood to American metropolises or set up in rural hippy villages, there are a few ground rules that you should follow. These rules will help you enjoy your concert experience at Sasquatch!, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, or another big celebration.

Getting Around
– One criminal oversight, especially from out-of-towners, is what your plan is to get to and from the festival from your lodging. Go ahead and plan on keeping your car parked at the hotel and either look for bike routes to the festival or find out the distance and time it will take to use public transportation. Music festivals cause Uber and Lyft to hire scores of additional drivers, so I would recommend going for one of these ride share companies (also check for promotional codes for free or reduced fares!).

Dress Code – I am not one to tell you how to dress, but there are blatant faux pas that are committed every time. Not only should you not wear high heels, but also don’t wear flimsy flip-flops – especially if you’re going to be stumbling around (more on that later). Going barefoot is a terrible idea, just don’t do it. Clothing should be light and quick drying, and hats and/or sunglasses are a good idea. In some circles wearing a shirt sporting the band you’re going to see (unless it’s “vintage”) or wearing the current year’s music festival t-shirt are no-no’s. Other than that – there’s no rules, man! Time to get out that obnoxious “FREE HUGS” shirt and start creepin’!

What to Bring – Free water is available at all music festivals. Take advantage of one of the only free resources you will find and bring a water bottle. SUNSCREEN, not just for pasty people, but also all of you tan folks – nobody is invincible and it will quickly ruin your week. A small mat or blanket is also great for taking a breather in between shows. If the weather looks dicey, bring a rain jacket or poncho – no umbrellas! Go ahead and invest in a portable phone charger to make sure you can find your friends at the end of the day or call an Uber.

Watching the Show – This is the MOST IMPORTANT rule: Concerts are for watching music. It’s that simple. If you have your back to the band in order to talk to your friend during the entire show, everyone hates you. Another very important rule – your placement in the crowd is first come, first served. Height is a non-factor. If you’re a 6’3” person, like me, who has been waiting by the stage for two hours in pouring rain for The Replacements, anyone shorter who queues up behind him or her does not earn the right to push their way in front or complain about being unable to see. In direct support of shorter attendees, if you are queued up for a show and anyone, especially a taller person, pushes and stands directly in front of you – smack them in the back of the head ask them politely to move.

Alcohol & Drugs – Many see music festivals as a prime opportunity to indulge in adult beverages, cigarettes, and illegal drugs; indeed it is an attractive environment for such behavior. However, it is incredibly important to be mindful of your sober festival companions and, most importantly, don’t become a distraction or impediment to people who are listening to the music. Those enjoying alcohol during the event ($$$) be sure to “pack out” your empties from the crowd and for the love of God, don’t be a lunatic and distract from the concert. Similarly, cigarette smokers please try to smoke away from the packed crowds by the stage and be sure to pack out those butts. Those who enjoy marijuana, try and smoke before the music begins and be sure to blow smoke directly upward. If you’re blowing smoke in a stranger’s face next to you the entire time, be polite and offer them a hit. There is a time and place for mushrooms, acid, and other recreational drugs; I leave it up to your good judgement but will urge that if it is your first time, you might want to hold off for a calmer venue.

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Personal Space – It’s going to get more cramped the closer it gets to the front of the stage, regardless of the artist or genre. If you’re a free spirit who likes to twirl around and dance with your friend during your favorite song, you might want to stay far away from the stage crowd. Mosh pits are 100% determined by the genre of music being played. If it’s not hardcore punk or metal – don’t mosh (dedicated to the douchnozzles that started a pit during Minus the Bear of all bands). When it comes to singing, it’s usually not that big of a deal due to the volume of the band on stage. However, if you can see that the people in front of you are getting annoyed or if you’re perpetually off-key, pipe down. Lastly, the general rule is that if someone wants to leave a crowd, they should be helped out as quickly and courteously as possible (in case of dehydration). This rule does not work of those wanting to muscle their way forward, so be prepared to be met with resistance. Oh yeah, and don’t crowdsurf. Ever.

Friends – Try to rely on texting during the event, especially when the concert is going on… Nobody likes the person yelling on their phone, facing the crowd and waving their hands furiously. Try and stay organized by planning a schedule beforehand, having a rally point on the festival grounds, and don’t be overzealous about sticking together. One main rule is don’t squeeze through the crowd in the middle of a set just to look for or meet a friend.

Photography – Taking a few quick photos with a camera or your phone is perfectly acceptable. Go ahead and get that ‘gram! Please don’t take a ton of pictures or try and capture every moment. It’s an experience, so put away your phone as much as possible. It is completely unacceptable to record a video during the concert. Nobody wants to be looking around your GoPro on a “selfie stick” during the concert, and they certainly don’t want to stumble across your terrible live recording on YouTube later on.