Music festivals have long been romanticized, standing throughout history as a bastion of leftist ideology that marries creative freedom and the dream of peace through music. Iconic festivals such as Woodstock or Glastonbury not only confirmed music’s power as one of the purest statements of love in the world, but also identified the separation between “us” and “them,” renegade protestors versus capitalist powers. Never mind that “we” weren’t protesting about anything much more than free love.
Festivals have since become a rite of passage for youth in the same way that going off to college and spring break are also, although with a much more political undertone. Somewhere along the way the message may have been lost, but there is no doubt that festivals bring about a certain type of passion, a desire to stand for what is right and to challenge the status quo. A large part of the festival-goer’s mentality is the “us” versus “them” ideology. Maintaining a youthful state of mind means keeping up with the music and never selling out. Which means never getting old and never getting bored of the festival life. The big flaw in this, however, is that we inevitably do grow old and do grow up. It happens to the best of us and those who are saying it won’t happen to them are only prolonging the outcome.
I can clearly remember scoffing at my older sister years ago when she explained that she didn’t need to be right up in the front row anymore to enjoy a band. In my eyes, the thought of standing at a safe distance further back in the crowd, untouched by the swaying hordes at the front barrier could only equal a subpar musical experience and a lack of respect for the artist playing to the masses. It was a sign that she had lost her rebel touch, a signifier that she was turning away from “us,” and had since become one of “them.” I vowed then and there that this would never be me. My love for the music was too strong to let that happen. I would never grow old.
Fast forward ten years and I found myself asking the big question that every music lover inevitably has to ask themselves: “Have I outgrown music festivals?” The time had come, however, it started off slowly and had unsuspectingly crept up on me. It began with the change from filling up my schedule with as many bands that I loved/had vaguely heard of/wanted to discover (this is where a good name goes far), to only planning for the bands I wanted to see and filling the gaps with food breaks/time spent in drink lines/meeting up with friends. This all became conducive to thoroughly enjoying the festival experience, as being hungry/thirsty/sunburned from trying to pack too much in tires pretty quickly. Soon enough I found myself finding attendance optional altogether, as I weighed up bang for buck, taking into account how many bands I actually wanted to see versus overall cost and effort. The rest as they say is history. Needless to say, when you start cashing in on seeing Disclosure‘s set at Coachella for a good night’s sleep, your time has come.
What is the answer then to this age-old question? Like most things in life, it really depends on the individual. If you find yourself spending more time discussing why neon Ray-Ban rip-offs and American Indian-style accoutrements are so five years ago (because you actually wore them when they were trendy the first time) then it’s probably time to hang in the towel. On the other hand if you’re more than happy to get in the group spirit among your peers, regardless that you’re both wearing the same band’s shirt but from tours that were years apart, then keep on keepin’ on.
The most important thing to remember is that getting too old for a festival is not the same as selling out. Just because you’ve finally clued on to the fact that you don’t have to physically sacrifice yourself to the rock gods every time a festival rolls around, it doesn’t have to mean that you’ve given in to the man either. Let’s be honest, music festivals are now more of a money-making scheme than they are a political statement, making your refusal to attend because of overpriced drinks and inhumane conditions all the more of a stand. I’ve come to terms with growing too old for them and no doubt the day will come when you will, too.
In case you’re not too old for festivals, check out the 10 people you’re sure to run into, prepare for your next musical getaway with our latest Buyer’s Guide and see the rest of our Festival Week features here.