The Essential Music Festival Guide
Thinking about going to a music festival? Well, here’s your complete Music Festival Guide.
Is it your first time?! (How exciting!) Have you been to one or two before, and you’ve caught the bug? (No, not chiggers. It’s just an expression.) Maybe you’re a seasoned pro, and you just stumbled upon this music festival guide while searching for your next adventure.
Whatever the circumstance that brought you to this complete music festival guide, you are here now!
We’re about to teach you everything you need, and provide all of the tools necessary to ensure that your next music festival experience, be it your first or your 100th, is the best possible music festival it can be!
So, this isn’t just a music festival guide listing all of the festivals out there (although we’ll get you there) or just a list of what to pack when you go (but we’ll help you with that as well), it is a gateway. A gateway to finding your fest self and letting it shine!
Ready to GoNuts? Let’s get this show on the road!
In a rush? Slow down and smell the daisies!
Ok, we get it. You can jump to each section of the music festival guide here if you know just what you’re looking for.
Our motto is Be Your Fest Self.
What does that mean, exactly?
We look at music festivals as all-encompassing experiences: the music, the culture and the adventure. Music festivals are not just an excuse to get drunk in a tent. (although that may be a side effect) Music festivals can be life changing events that are embedded in our memories forever.
When we truly embrace the music festival experience and give in to the moment, we are able to find and embrace our fest self. Unfortunately, our fest self sometimes is suppressed in the “real world,” but more often than not, when we find our fest self, we realize it is a better representation of our true self than that “real world” version!
Planning Your Next Music Festival
Blah, blah, boring, right? Nah, planning is just another part of the adventure!
Like most things in life, the planning stages of a music festival, if done properly, will lead to a much better overall music festival experience.
Remember the 6-Ps? Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance! Yeah, that applies to the music festival guide, too!
Planning music festivals can be an exciting task. Often times we are sitting indoors on a cold, snowy day, visions of flip-flops and sundresses dancing through our heads while we anxiously anticipate the adventures awaiting us!
We’ve divided the music festival planning into 3 stages to help you use this music festival guide:
(Use the links to jump to a section)
Find a Music Festival
Whether you plan on attending one music festival or a hundred, the first step is always the same. As music festivals become more and more popular, there can be an overwhelming amount of choices in just about every geographical area. What a great problem (and a reason to have a music festival guide to help) !
Luckily, there are a number of resources available to help you sort through all of the festivals available to you. We usually start here:
Festy GoNuts is “the ultimate resource for enhancing your music festival experience.” One of those resources, of course, is a complete list of upcoming music festivals. The Events Page of Festy GoNuts will set you on the right path, with links to order tickets, and current festival news and updates.
JamBase has been the online authority on live music since 1998. Their extensive lists of live music happenings and ticket information are an invaluable tool for lovers of live music, and their dedication to music festivals is no different. The widely encompassing music festival list will surely help any festy-goer plan their season!
Relix is a magazine and website focusing on live music. It was originally founded as a fanzine for the Grateful Dead, but has evolved to be an authority on all types of live music. The music festival listings on relix.com are extensive, featuring lineups, ticket info and maps of festival locations.
Music Festival Wizard – Formerly known as Music Festival Junkies, Music Festival Wizard has one of the most extensive music festival listings on the web! Aside from providing news, reviews and photos from music festivals around the world, they also have a handy music festival map to help you plan your next party geographically!
Ok, that was a lot of info. There are literally hundreds of music festivals out there. This is good. We can’t go to all of them. (We can try, though!) So, we need to find a way to narrow down the selection.
We first narrow down the list geographically, which you may have already done while searching through the sites above. Once we get down to a manageable selection of possible music festivals to attend, then we really start diving into them.
Chances are there is more than one festival available during the time you are looking and within the area you are willing to travel.
Again, this is a good problem to have. The days of going to a music festival solely because it is the only one available within 200 miles are over. We are blessed to live in the era of the music festival (and music festival guide!), so let’s really hone in on the details and pick the perfect fest for you!
The best way to accomplish this is by reading reviews of previous festivals.
Here are some of our favorite music festival review resources:
The crew at Live for Live Music is always hard at work bringing you all of the up-to-date info about the latest live music happenings. As a “media, marketing and production company”, L4LM is able to get the inside scoop. They also have compiled a very extensive list of upcoming festivals that have already released their lineups.
The Lot Scene promises to be “Up to no good for the good of all”, and we sure are glad they make this sacrifice for live music lovers everywhere! Their live music reviews and photos will make you feel like you were right there on the rail along side them. The festival recaps are sure to make you kick yourself for missing out, and start planning to not make the same mistake next time around!
Festy GoNuts is “the ultimate resource for enhancing your music festival experience.” The Festy Team are compiling detailed reviews of all of the music festivals and shows they are attending. The reviews from Festy GoNuts don’t just focus on the shows, but encompass the entire experience of the music festival.
You’ve poured through the available music festivals. You’ve read the reviews from previous years’ festivals. You are ready to take the plunge and jump to…
Get tickets to a music festival!
This is a big, and very exciting step in the music festival guide. Committing to a music festival, possibly many months before it will occur, can seem a little scary! What if your plans change? What if another festival is announced that you would rather attend? What if a solar flare wipes out the world’s power grid and we are reduced to a Mad Max-ish post-apocalyptic nightmare?
Fortunately for you, Festy GoNuts has already tackled this topic:
We explore all of the major factors you should consider when deciding to pick up tickets for a music festival, including:
• Ticket Tier pricing • Festival Attendance • Ticket resale potential
Ok, so you’re ready to get those tickets now?!
You’ve done your homework, and you are ready to commit to a festival.
But what if it’s already sold out? Or what if you’re girlfriend/boyfriend/roommate/mother just found out how much you are about to drop on this little festy and said “No Way!”?
Theses both would appear to be deal breakers, but fortunately you found this Music Festival Guide!
Which brings us to…
Alternate Music Festival Ticket Sources
What? Thought you just clicked on the “Buy Tickets” button on the festival website? Well, sure, that’s one way…
“CashorTrade.org is the world’s first, fair trade marketplace where fans ethically buy, sell, and trade tickets for face value.” This site is a must for anyone looking to buy or sell a ticket to a show or festival. Keeping tickets at face value cuts out the scalpers and gets back to what’s important – fans helping fans.
Blackspy Marketing connects artists and music venues with the fans who are willing to help promote them. By joining a Blackspy Street Team, you can help get the word out about a festival or show you want to attend by hanging signs, handing out posters or promoting online. In exchange you may earn passes to the event and other cool perks! (backstage?…)
Volunteer at a Music Festival
Many, if not most, music festivals have a volunteer program. It’s a win-win situation: the festival gets some free help, and the volunteers usually receive tickets to the festival!
Typical volunteer shifts involve working an entrance gate, picking up trash or helping to park cars. Most festivals require several shifts throughout the festival, so you should expect to miss some music. Many festivals are flexible about volunteers switching shifts, so you can try to arrange not to miss your favorite artist. You also may be able to work shifts before the festival starts, cutting some of the festival time you need to devote to working!
Look at the music festival’s website for a “Volunteer” section.
There are also outside organizations that offer volunteer opportunities at music festivals and shows.
HeadCount is an organization promoting voter registration among young people at music festivals and concerts. They rely heavily on a network of volunteers, and are always looking for new recruits. Volunteering with HeadCount may provide an opportunity to gain entrance to a show or festival, and it’s for a good cause!
Clean Vibes provides recycling and composting services, as well as educational programs to music festivals and other events. From CleanVibes.com: “Our mission is to actively encourage and promote recycling, composting and proper waste disposal. We hope to educate and inspire a new generation of responsible stewards.” They offer a volunteer program in exchange for event tickets.
All right! You’ve picked out your music festival, and you’ve gotten the tickets! WhoooHooooo!
Now on to the fun stuff:
Music Festival Guide: Planning Your Music Festival Schedule!
Most music festivals these days have at least several stages of various sizes with performances happening all day, night and early morn! This, of course, means that you can’t see everything. Unless you are cloned. But why would you send all of your clones to the same music festival, when your clone army could be out enjoying music festivals all over the world? We digress…
Having to pick and choose which shows you are going to see and which you opt out of can be a tough decision, but we look at this as a good problem. Without all of the amazing live music available to us, we wouldn’t face this issue!
So, how to plan your music festival schedule?
For starters, listen to some music!
Sure, there are most likely going to be artists on the bill whose songs you all know, word for word and note for note. But what about all of the others? Most festivals have a ton of music, and that usually includes many, many acts that we’ve never even heard! This is a great way to find a new favorite band, or a great opportunity to check out some local musician whose name keeps popping up around town.
There may even be several bands playing that you’ve heard of, maybe you know a song or two, but that’s it. Do yourself a favor and check out their deeper tracks. You may discover that you really like them, aside from just their hit, and find yet another reason to be excited about the festival. Then you won’t just be one of the thousands singing along to their number one tune. Instead, you’ll be one of the cool kids that knows the older stuff too!
Archive.org is the best free-source for live music on the internet. It’s digital library aims to provide “universal access to all knowledge”, and they do a pretty good job. All live music on the Archive is posted with permission from the artists, so you don’t have to worry about stealing. Recently, the Live Music Archive has been powered by eTree, making it easier to navigate on different devices. Not only can you check out the bands you haven’t heard, you can see what they sound like live. (We’re listening to eTree as we write this music festival guide!)
Spotify has solidified itself in the realm of online music sources. Just about every artist imaginable has their work on Spotify available to stream, for free! You can pay to get rid of the commercials and have your music available offline as well. (If you’re a student, make sure you get the 50% off discount!) This is a great way to check out the hits and deeper tracks of all the artists at the upcoming music festival.
Go See Live Music!
There is no better way to prepare for a music festival (aside from reading this music festival guide!) than to get out there and see some music! Check local listings for bands that will be attending the festival. Try something new. You may discover an act that puts on a terrific show and realize you don’t want to miss them when the festival comes around.
Once you’ve done some research, discovered some new artists and checked them out live, you need to plan your music festival schedule.
The most important bit of advice we can offer here is this: try to be realistic!
The temptation is to look at all of the performances on all of the stages, and to try to see as much as possible. And that’s ok. You should see as much as possible! But don’t forget that you do have to eat and rest at some point during the festival. This is something we call Adulting, and it is essential to the music festival experience! (read What is Adulting in our Adulting 101 section)
Here’s a helpful way to go about planning your music festival schedule:
- Print out a schedule from the music festival’s website.
- Highlight the sets that are absolute musts for you to see.
- If there are overlaps in the above, see if any of these performers are doing more than one show throughout the weekend. If so, determine if you can skip one, and in turn see another artist on your wish list.
- Look for breaks! We like to find breaks in the schedule around meal times, and be prepared. If you know ahead of time that you plan on eating between two artist’s performances, you can be ahead of the crowd.
- Fill in the gaps. This goes hand-in-hand with the advice above on listening to music before the festival. If you see a few bands playing in a time slot that you have open, listen to them both so you’ll know which show you’d rather see.
- Look at the music festival map, if available. Try to get an idea of how long it will take you to get from one stage to the next, and back to your campsite. This way you’ll know if you need to cut out of one show a bit early to catch the start of the next.
Most important tip of this music festival guide: Be Flexible!
All the planning in the world won’t matter if you’re dancing your ass off and don’t want to leave to go to another stage!
The music is hugely important, but so is the experience. Don’t miss out on an experience because you are too worried about getting somewhere to see something.
Enjoy the moment!
What Essential Music Festival Guide would be complete without…
Packing for the Music Festival
Packing? Already?! It’s never too soon to start packing!
Well, I wouldn’t put the bananas in the car just yet, but we can certainly start taking inventory and getting our stuff in order.
Packing for a music festival properly can really enhance the experience, just as failing to do so can really come to bite you in the ass.
Nothing should bite you in the ass unless you want it to.
Music Festival Gear
There are a ton of resources available to give you insight into what you should or shouldn’t bring to a music festival. Just Google “Music Festival Packing List” and see what you find! We are working on putting one together for you from the Festy GoNuts point of view as well to include as part of our music festival guide. (Coming Soon!)
As for the actual camping gear, we think the folks at REI have done a great job with their Festival Camping Checklist, and we suggest starting here!
When packing for a music festival, be sure to look into the music festival’s website, and get as much information as you can!
Important questions to answer:
Can you camp with/near your car?
If not, you may want to cut down on the things that you bring. Maybe the waffle iron doesn’t make it on this trip. Also, if the car is going to be a hike from the campground, consider a wagon or wheelbarrow. Think backpack instead of suitcase. Make sure your cooler has wheels! Speaking of..
Can you bring alcohol?
Music festivals all seem to have slightly different policies on this. The most common is that alcohol is allowed in the campground, but not in the stage areas. Some festivals don’t allow any outside alcohol, however, and some allow it everywhere! (Let us know whenever you find one of these fests!). Many music festivals that do allow alcoholic beverages have limitations on glass, so you’ll want to bring cans of beer, and pour your whiskey in a shoe (or a flask!). The point is, if you plan to drink, you better know the rules before you pack the car!
Are campfires/chiminea/cooking stoves allowed?
This is a big one of you plan to cook at all during the festival. All music festivals seem to have different policies on this, so be sure to check into this before you go. You don’t want to lug your giant pig roaster all the way there only to find out you can’t use it.
Music Festival Toys
Toys, in a music festival guide? Duh!
Some of our favorite times at music festivals don’t always involve the music. We love hanging out at the campsite and playing games!
We have an extensive list of the best music festival toys to bring to the next fest.
You don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of new things if you don’t want to. Just grab a frisbee and a hula hoop, and you’ll be good to go!
Music Festival Wardrobe
You’ve got to look your Fest self to feel your Fest self! The wardrobe you bring to the festival can set your mood for the whole weekend.
It’s never too early to start planning your music festival wardrobe.
This is the most important thing we will tell you about your music festival attire:
1. Feel Good.
2. Look Good.
End of story. It doesn’t matter one bit how good you look if you are not comfortable. All of the flashy clothes, capes, fairy wings and cat shirts won’t matter one bit if it’s cold and raining and you wished you had packed jeans, a flannel shirt and a rain poncho.
Be Prepared For All Situations
Pack Layers. Have an amazing outfit that you have to wear on Saturday night? Be sure you can fit a thermal shirt underneath it just in case!
Always prepare for rain. I don’t care what the forecast says. Just expect rain.
Whatever you do, take care of your shoes! Or, more accurately, your feet. I know we all have visions of carefree, barefoot hippie festivals, but the reality is that by Sunday evening you may be wishing you had a fresh pair of socks and your hiking boots.
OK, now that you are comfortable, you need to look good!
Here are are favorite places for scoring great looking, affordable festy attire:
- Festy GoNuts. Seriously. Check out our GoNuts Stuff. You want it.
- Thrift Shops. It’s amazing what people give away!
- Grandma’s closet. No, that’s not the name of a thrift shop (although it could be). Literally, Grandma’s closet. You know she used to be a closet raver. (It was called “Flapping” back then.)
- Etsy. Just search “Music Festival Clothing.” There’s all kinds of cool stuff on there!
- Rage On. Looking for cat shirts? Sparkles? Cats with sparkles? Yeah, they’ve got it.
Music Festival Food Guide
Cook or Buy? There are typically a ton of food options at most festivals, but things can get pricey over the course of the weekend. We usually opt for a combination of both.
Cooking at Music Festivals:
Cooking at music festivals can be an affordable, rewarding, convenient and delicious task.
It can also be a huge pain in the ass.
If you plan on cooking some or all of your meals at a music festival, the best thing you can do is to be prepared ahead of time. (Are you noticing a theme to this Music Festival Guide? Well, if you didn’t value preparation, you probably wouldn’t be here, so hopefully we’re on the same page!)
Want to know how to be as prepared as possible with the best music festival food instruction you could possible imagine? (we’re not overselling this, are we?!)
Then sign up for our newsletter, and we’ll send you the:
Festy GoNuts Guide to Being Prepared With the Best Possible Fest Food (to help you GoNuts and Be Your Fest Self!)
By now, you should have a pretty good grasp on what you should (and shouldn’t – sorry, waffle iron!) bring to the next music festival. We wouldn’t be doing our due diligence as a music festival guide if we didn’t cover all of our bases, however.
So, here is our list of things you forgot to pack for the music festival!