It’s festival season here in the UK – that time of the year where tens of thousands of rock and metal fans are due to spend a number of weekends congregating in fields, erecting tents, drinking copiously, and amassing before huge stages to witness some of the finest acts ply their neck-wrecking trade. With the Download festival just about to kick off from June the 10th to the 12th, and Sonisphere (July 8th-July 12th) and Bloodstock (August 12th-August 14th) following hot on its heels, we at OneMetal thought that we’d share our expertise for all those planning to brave England’s uncertain weather in order to arm you with the information we think you’ll need to get the best out of the largest musical events in the summer festival calender. So, without further ado, here is OneMetal’s Festival Survival Guide.
Preparation is the key to any successful getaway, and to get the best out of any festival, there are a number of things you’ll need to bring along with you in order to ensure that you’re fully prepared to enjoy your time to the fullest.
A tent: Okay, we may be stating the obvious somewhat here, but it’s pretty important to ensure that you’re going to have adequate shelter during the night-time periods between enthusiastically headbanging along with the heaving crowds in front of each festival’s line-up – that is, unless you’re okay with the idea of sleeping on the bare grass of a festival camping area and risking having a confused metalhead on a brain-mangling cocktail of illicit substances urinating into your open mouth after having confused it for a novelty toilet.
The main thing you have to remember about purchasing a tent is you can pretty much guarantee that the actual capacity of a tent is always around 50% of that advertised on the packaging – there’s no way in hell that you’re actually going to fit two fully-grown humans with the full complement of limbs comfortably into a two-man tent, unless one of you intends to hollow out the other and wear them like a fleshy sleeping bag – and while it’s true that the festival environment tends to have a pretty forgiving, libertarian attitude, emerging from your tent trailing the steaming viscera of your camping companion is still likely to garner you some unwanted attention from festival security – not to mention that you’ll have to carry everything back home yourself if you try this approach. So, make sure that you buy big.
While we in the United Kingdom are quite rightfully unused to extended periods of even vaguely clement weather, large festivals are cannily organised to fall within the three months of the year where it’s even vaguely likely that the sun’s golden rays are set to caress the areas that you’re going to spend the next three or so days searching desperately for a toilet that doesn’t closely resemble a Lovecraftian vision of pure misery and despair. So, for that reason, it’s always a good idea to ensure that you take along some form of protection from the unforgiving assault of UV radiation, lest you return home post-festival resembling something that has spent the last 72 hours trapped in an oven, screaming at the mere whisper of cloth against your reddened, peeling skin.
Speaking personally, I prefer to avoid festival toilets as much as possible during my time at any of these events – as anyone who’s attended a festival knows, in general, even those attendees whose personal hygiene borders on Howard Hughes-esque levels of fastidiousness tends to devolve into a stinking, degenerate animal state approximately twenty minutes after erecting their tent. Festival toilets tend to reflect this tendency by rapidly descending into a state of eye-watering horror little seen outside of Trainspotting’s notorious ‘worst toilet in Scotland’ scene. You’ll be immensely lucky to find one that doesn’t resemble the aftermath of a septic tank explosion, much less one that actually provides its own supply of arse-wiping material – so, a roll or two of your own supply of toilet paper will come in very handy should you be forced to take refuge in one of these horrific filth-cubes.
On a similar note, it’s pretty hard to maintain a decent level of personal hygiene and cleanliness when you’re camped in a field with 60,000 whooping, hollering, booze-addled metalheads – especially when the combination of stampeding herds of New Rock-clad rockers and the incessant beating of a merciless solar entity have conspired to turn the arena grounds into a cracked, whirling dust-storm. So, to prevent yourself from resembling a lost explorer stumbling towards shade from out of the Gobi desert, Anti-bacterial or baby wipes are a great way of removing excess dirt from your personage, as well as keeping your skin moderately moisturised.
A light source: A torch can be a godsend in the middle of an inky-black night when the call of nature arrives and you have to shuffle yourself out of your sleeping bag and locate your clothing so that you don’t go trundling semi-consciously to the toilets wearing a mis-matched assemblage of your camping companions’ clothing – however, if you don’t fancy stocking up on batteries, a package of glow sticks can make a cheap, colourful alternative.
Drugs: No, not those kinds of drugs, you patchouli-scented hippy, you – I’m talking about some essential medicinary pharmaceuticals here. As mentioned previously, arena grounds can be dusty, pollen-infused atmospheres, so those suffering from hay fever would do well to stock up on anti-histamines so they’re not witnessing their favourite acts through a haze of tears and sneezing incessantly on the backs of those unfortunate enough to be standing before you.
It’s also a good idea to take along some painkillers, in order to combat the inevitable hangovers arising from the inevitable abuse of alcohol that characterises the festival experience. My personal tip is this; I’ve found that a very effective hangover cure consists of rapidly downing two Nurofen followed by two shotgunned cans of Red Bull. Give it an hour and a half, and you’ll be right as rain.
Earplugs: The festival experience can be a pretty exhausting one, seeing as you largely spend your time on your feet, exposed to the elements, tromping from one stage to another while jostling with the gathered crowds – and these factors quickly can quickly combine to reduce one to a wheezing, fatigued mess after a day or two. Of course, if you manage to get a decent night’s sleep in between each day of the festivities, you’ll probably be okay. Unfortunately, the possibility of getting some shut-eye can be greatly affected by the boisterous shenanigans of the more nocturnal festival-goers. If you really want to get your head down unmolested by the output of boom-boxes, ham-handed acoustic singalongs and incessant yells of “SLAAAAYYYYEEEEEERRRR!”, then it definitely doesn’t hurt to block out the campsite cacophony with some pairs of disposable earplugs. Just remember to take them out before going to see any bands.
Festival Dos and Don’ts
There isn’t really a set of codified ethical or behavioural guidelines for festivals – they’re largely self-regulating places, typified by wild abandon and the sort of bacchanalian excesses that would make Caligula blanche. However, there are a few basic rules that, if followed, should ensure that your festival experience is both healthy and enjoyable.
Do: Plan your time effectively. Upon your arrival at a festival, it should be fairly cheap and easy to procure a festival laminate, which usually consists of a map of the festival’s layout (complete with marked food vendors, toilets, meeting areas, stage plans and other useful information) and, most importantly, set times for the bands’ performances. Judicious use of the laminate set-times can enable you to timetable exactly when you’re going to be (a) doing irreperable damage to your neck muscles before your preferred bands, (b) shopping for merchandise and memorabilia, and (c) propping up one of the festival’s bars between sets.
Don’t: Overdo it. A pretty common error for festival virgins is to immediately begin throwing as much alcohol down your neck as humanly possible the second your feet touch the soil of the campsite – and then to find yourself lying in a pool of your own vomit for the next eight hours, managing to miss all of the bands you ostensibly spent your hard-earned cash to come and see, only to awake with naught but a crippling hangover and a creeping sense of regret. Pace yourself well, and you can combine near-constant (yet still functional) drunkenness with the experiences to be garnered from communally rocking out with 60,000 like-minded individuals.
Do: Explore other attractions. Band performances aren’t the only events going on – most festivals these days incorporate other events, like comedy tents, fairgrounds, Rock Band karaokes, even such esoteric pleasures as hilariously rowdy football competitions, Viking battle re-enactments, Capoeira displays and many other weird and wonderful distractions. Keep your eyes open, check your laminates, and go exploring – you’re bound to find something interesting to occupy your time besides the group of mushroom-addled hippies swaying hypnotically outside the Legal Highs tent.
Don’t: Make a nuisance of yourself. The dual influences of copious amounts of booze and the generally anarchic atmosphere of festivals make it easy to submit to your more destructive, asshole-ish urges – but festivals should be places where shared interests and a communal spirit should triumph. So, for instace; no pissing on people’s tents. It doesn’t matter how badly you need to empty your bladder or how far away the toilets are, there’s no excuse. Also, should you find yourself in the middle of an open-air plastic bottle fight while in front of the main stage waiting for a band for a band to come on, don’t half-fill the bottle with gravel or piss before joining in – that just makes you a raving cock-knocker, and fully deserving of a vigourous physical re-education by your fellow festival-goers. And while this should really go without saying; guys, don’t attempt to cop a feel of female crowd-surfers – it’s creepy, it’s wrong, and it’s upsetting and off-putting.
This article could go on for some time, but I’ll wrap it up with some closing thoughts. I personally have been attending festivals for ten years, and have thoroughly enjoyed myself at every one I’ve been to – and a large part of that has been a result of the wonderful feeling of inclusiveness brought on by being part of an enormous gathering of colourful, entertaining, and welcoming individuals with common interests. One of my favourite things to do at festivals is simply to load up a backpack full of beer and just go wandering about the campsites, chatting to folks I’ve never met before and sharing drinks, stories and experiences. It’s amazing who you can meet and the times that can be had simply by being open-minded, friendly and courteous, and hopefully this guide will help you lot to make the most out of this year’s festival season. Be safe, have a great time, and we at OneMetal will see you in the crowd.