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5 Things I Learned From My First Music Festival

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Conn Coll chapter.

I attended the Sound on Sound music festival at Seaside Park in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the weekend of September 30 and October 1, 2023. As soon as we heard that Hozier and Mt. Joy were both performing on Sunday, my mom and I RAN to scoop up one-day passes for the event. Along with these two music acts, who have dominated my Spotify listening for the past year, the headliners of the day included Alanis Morissette, creator of the greatest angry-girl album of all time, and John Mayer, who played a magical homecoming set. He was born in the very same town where all of these insanely talented performers had gathered to make “Sweet Music” on this glorious weekend. 

The day was, in fact, one of the greatest days of my life. Everything went off pretty much without a hitch—a feat I am grateful for considering the abundant complaints and concerns that arose out of the 2022 Sound on Sound festival. All aspects of the event were very well organized, from the thorough and fast entrance security check to the large signage marking the vast amount of food and merch tents, as well as a well-placed designated “Lost and Found” section (with all unclaimed items still listed on the event website afterward), flushable toilets, and a revolving stage that allowed 10-minute turnovers between sets. Every single attendee I interacted with was kind and respectful, and even Governor Ned Lamont made an appearance before the final act, praising the work of the town of Bridgeport and all of the people whose contributions made this vibrant event such a success. 

The performers were absolutely spectacular. Especially Hozier. Man, I love Hozier. Stay tuned for a full concert review to be published next week.

Reflecting on the day as a whole, there were several things my mom and I did perfectly right and several things I wish we had known before our first foray into the world of music festivals. Here are five things that I learned and wish to impart on music festival newbies:

1. Do Your Research… On Social Media

Although official websites and reputable news sources are important when it comes to preparing for an event like a music festival, there is nothing more valuable than the online posts of other attendees, whether they’re from last year or before you arrive at the event. You’ll see a range of helpful comments from parking tips to favorite food options and, of course, many, many complaints.

For example, during Sound on Sound, information about a weather delay on Saturday was available on the festival website and covered by several local news outlets, but a search through Instagram and X posts revealed just how muddy the ground was, which impacted my shoe choice for Sunday. I was also able to learn that the crowd had great vibes, the festival was much more successful than the previous year, the entrance gate was quite far from premium parking, and that people really liked the lobster rolls. Although the total number of posts may have been limited due to the fact that there was absolutely no cell service on the grounds (totally not ideal), I was still able to gather helpful information that bettered my experience overall and went above and beyond what the event website detailed. 

2. Wear the Right Shoes — Rain Boots are the Way to Go

Despite the organizers’ valiant attempts to cover muddy spots with mulch, the rain leading up to Saturday left the grassy grounds sticky and gross. Thankfully, when deciding on my shoe choice in the morning, I went with a pair of short black rain boots just in case. It was the best decision I made all day. 

Other people weren’t so lucky. I saw several pairs of beautiful white cowgirl boots turn brown after their wearers braved the mosh pit closer to the stage and one girl who bravely made her way back to her car in socks. Some spots were, frankly, disgusting, and I sank right into the earth… next to the empty bottles and cans that littered the ground.

Additionally, I walked over 15,000 steps that day. I cannot stress enough how important it is to choose the right shoes, no matter the venue—ones that are comfortable and can get a bit messy. 

3. Bring Both Chairs and a Blanket

If you can manage to carry it all, I would recommend bringing both chairs (make sure you check the policy ahead of time) and a blanket to the festival, especially if you are unfamiliar with the venue. At Sound on Sound, my mom and I assumed that the ground would be wet and mushy, so we elected to only bring in our new Ozark Trail Camping chairs from Walmart for comfortable sitting. Upon entering the festival, we quickly discovered that the designated “chair” areas were very far back from the stage, and although we ended up finding a good spot for our home base, we wished we had brought a blanket to take advantage of some other viewing areas. 

We were right, though. The ground was quite disgusting. But we saw an absolutely brilliant trick to combat this issue: bringing a shower curtain to sit on. That way, you are guaranteed to get an excellent spot, and your butt won’t get soaked.

In any case, it is good to have options, and bringing both chairs and a blanket ensures maximum flexibility in deciding where to sit. 

4. Whatever You Do, Do Not Forget Hand Sanitizer and Tissues

Music festivals are notorious for having bad bathroom situations and, although Sound on Sound had some nicer, flushable, portable toilets available (the toilet bowl glowed in some of them), there was still potential for uncomfortable situations.

For starters, my mom and I always make sure we bring tissues with us to big events like this, just in case we end up in a bathroom without toilet paper… which I can confirm definitely happened to me. I was incredibly thankful for the stash in my clear backpack (a smart purchase made a week in advance). 

However, we forgot one crucial item: hand sanitizer. Although there were portable sinks available outside of the porta-potty palaces that were set up, they never work as well as you want them to. Also, they were leaking, creating the biggest mud puddle I’ve ever seen and making it almost impossible to wash hands without compromising your shoes. We braved it, but we joined the chorus of concertgoers saying, “Man, we should have brought hand sanitizer.” 

5. It’s Just as Fun Being in the Back as it is Being Up Close

Trust me, we tried both. 

For the Mt. Joy set, my mom and I braved the crowd, standing shoulder to shoulder with the mass of millennial fans in hopes of getting the best view of the band and their psychedelic visuals. It was an absolute blast being a part of the mob of people singing along to songs like “Astrovan” and “Silver Lining” and creating that amazing shared group experience. However, I like to dance, and the squished conditions of the front-of-stage area, where I was constantly getting shoved into squishy mud, were not very conducive to waving my arms in the air. 

We watched the rest of the performers from our chairs a bit farther back, and I am happy to report that it was just as fun as being up close, especially because the stage was elevated and absolutely massive. There, I could dance all I wanted, sing my heart out, and still capture some pretty sick photos and videos. I mean, look at this shot of Hozier:

Hozier at Sound on Sound 2023

I am happy to report that my first music festival experience was a resounding success, both because I had the time of my life and because I am that much more prepared for the next one. Enjoy your future festival festivities!

Lara is a senior at Connecticut College, where she is pursuing a double major in environmental studies and economics with a minor in dance. Her interests include choreography, sustainability, the performing arts, and conservation.