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The Ultimate Survival Guide for Music Festival Newbies

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at IU chapter.

So, you want to be a festival go-er, eh? We can hardly blame you. We, at Her Campus IU, know fests – like Lolla and Bonnaroo – are summertime essentials and they’re comin’ up quick. And, we’re here to rally together the biggest, badass group of bandwagoners this year’s festival series has ever seen. We want to make you newbies into everyday wookies, or the dirty dread heads who spend most of their time at music festivals. We’re your welcome party, and this is your invitation to officially lose your wookie wannabe v-card like a pro.

Fashion:The effortless ensemble is the look you’re going for. Hell, it’s the look everyone’s going for. Paradoxically, the trend tends to be the most difficult to actually pull off. Surprisingly, a whole lot of thinking and countless armoire ransacking goes into a wookie wardrobe in order for it to appear as natural as Stevie Nicks’ brassiere – or lack there of – on a chilly summer’s eve. Yes, that carefree; however (bold, underline), avoid confusing “carefree” with “hippie.” We know, we know. We just exemplified a braless Stevie Nicks, but neither Nicks nor her 1998 Woodstock-ed past can limit modern music festival culture to circle shades and fringe. In fact, there are only three style staples to dress by this season.

First, a print or a pattern – or two – will color and complement the already diverse dimension created and layered by fellow festival attendees, various vendors and the music, itself. You’ll basically blend without being bland, which is exactly what every newbie wants to be – just another face in the crowd. Next, comfortable closed-toed soles are essential to any outfit. Even stably sneakered feet will be sore for a handful of days post-daylong dancing and stage-hopping. Finally, you’ll look damn near naked without some kind of hat or hair accessory. Be it a neon sweatband or, and we hate to admit this, a fedora, headgear is as absolutely essential. This fashion foundation should be the only structure supporting your festival garb. The rest should be thrown together as frivolously and excitedly as an 8-year-old’s mindset on mix-match day. Tip: Eeny meeny miny moe is a strongly suggested technique in styling the average control freak.

Supplies:You’ll need more than the ground score lost-and-found to survive a full-fledged festival. After you’ve splurged your savings on an admission ticket, you’ll be ruthlessly scraping for change for the following five must-haves:

  • Benign is the new black, so wear sunscreen.
  • We know every first-time festival posse has a “we’re the kids your parents warned you about” swag about them, but if there’s anything to resist rebelling, it’s hydration. If it were feasible via double dog, we’d dare you to implement your own irrigation system right smack dab in the middle of your camping site. And you’ll not only be helping yourself with an Aquafina stock pile, but you’ll also be sparing everyone else around you from crowd surfing another fainted fool to the EMT tent. It would be philanthropic of you, really.
  • No family sized bottle of Lubriderm will save you, or your inner thighs, from the consequential chafing that’s inevitable at any outdoor fest without a poncho. Weather happens; pack a ponch.
  • Mary J munchies or not, granola bars are the holy grail of festival food. A pre-packaged menu is certainly incomparable to the turkey legs and ice cream available, but no one’s actually all about putting their money where their mouth is.
  • A week’s worth of toilet paper. You will end up sharing squares because, well, you’re just that kind of gal. And, as any battle-scarred boozer knows, what begins as an anal retentive (see what we did there?) paper preservation quickly turns into increasingly hasty handfuls of Charmin Ultra. Less is more, folks, until you’re plastered. 

Safety:We’re your mentors at HCIU – like that cool, storytelling relative who’s remembered wisdom will get you out of a pinch when you need it most – which is why we’ve exhausted all efforts of refraining from finger shaking rants and instead resorted to simply stating: don’t do drugs, kids – or at least in careful moderation. And the same applies to alcohol. Festivals are experiences worth remembering, but more importantly, surviving. Though gateway drugs and a solid buzz can enhance any attendee’s personal dance party, high temperatures and festival longevity are factors well worth weighing into your well-being. And no, Instagram is neither a logical nor dependable replacement for your consciousness.

Music:And finally, the real reason you’ve sacrificed five paychecks and a full weekend of hygienic habits – music. Although recent reviews have pop culturally prioritized fashion fads, hotel amenities and celebratory appearances, HCIU wants to bring festival focus back to the harmonic heart of its culture. Call us old school, but the lineup is a lifeline while everything else is just background noise. Festival survival ultimately depends on a balanced beat, which takes research, planning and practice. Each year you’ll highlight more bands on the roster and pencil in a beyond strategic stage schedule in order to create a perfectly personalized soundtrack.

If this is your first festival, you’re not going to do it right. You probably won’t ever get it right, to be honest. Nobody has and nobody will, which makes every festival you attend better than the last, but never good enough to settle before the next. Wookies are shameless and greedy for everything festival-related in the best kind of way, and you will be too.

Kelsey is a junior at Indiana University where she is majoring in journalism and concentrating in informatics. She began her Her Campus experience as a contributing writer in Fall 2012. Kelsey was incredibly excited to begin her new role on the HCIU team as co-campus correspondent last fall. When she's not studying or writing, Kelsey enjoys a sipping a strong cup o' joe, reviving thrift store wardrobes and drooling over Netflix eye candy.