Recently, the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. It was a universal reminder that when humans set their minds to monumental tasks, we find ways to make milestones from the improbable. If we are looking for the next Neil Armstrong in 2019, might we suggest a mission? Which of you has the right stuff to watch every single act performing at a major music festival?
We’re about to enter the late summer and fall, prime time for music fests everywhere, so we are interested in which of you would plant such a flag. Which of you has the discipline and the nerve to painstakingly prepare and execute a plan to leave the groovy ground control of Mumford & Sons to rocket across a muddy field to catch glimpses of Childish Gambino, The Killers, Billie Eilish and Guns N’ Roses as they all perform simultaneously? Do you have what it takes to repeat this mission again and again over an entire music-filled weekend?
The notion of going where no man has gone before (or, have you? If so, please share your story, hero!) came to mind recently while attending a small, independent music fest in Denver. That one was called Compost Heap Fest and it was comprised of 36 acts performing over three days. Seeing a dozen acts staggered back-to-back-to-back on a single stage each day, it seemed like a very do-able feat. We made it two-thirds of the way through our goal but a late Saturday night and a slightly hungover Sunday kept us from seeing the final day’s opening acts. We saw 34 of the 36 acts. Not bad, but not perfect. In keeping with this lunar motif, we reached for the moon but ultimately grabbed a handful of stars.
If you think you have what it takes to see every act on a music festival bill, we support your dream, music voyager. Here’s some advice we think might help you take one giant leap for music-lovin’ mankind:
Matty Fest is a small fest with big name talent
GO SMALL OR GO HOME
The best chance you have to see every act on a music fest comes with keeping the work you have to do to a minimum. You may love Riot Fest, and you might especially love the acts booked for this September’s version, with headliners like Bikini Kill and The Raconteurs. But that three-day event features 90 acts. Consider the paralyzing FOMO and the real fatigue you’d suffer chasing your stated goal at that mega-fest.
Why not something smaller? There’s Punk in Drublic, the craft beer and punk music fest curated by NOFX’s Fat Mike. It has approaching dates in Denver and Sacramento and those bills feature fewer than 10 acts each, with bands like Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and The Bouncing Souls. How about Matty Fest, a music and food fest presented by celebrity chef Matty Matheson? The September 7 event in Toronto, Canada features a manageable 14 acts to behold, plus killer food to keep you nourished for the job. Need more of a challenge? Afropunk Brooklyn has around 50 acts slated for August 24 and 25, including the pride of Houston, The Suffers.
If you want to find a fest with a manageable number of acts you’re interested in, check out musicfestivalwizard.com, which lists hundreds of approaching events across North America and Europe.
LODGE NEAR THE FESTIVAL GROUNDS
Nothing can derail your plans quicker than sitting in your Lyft in a traffic jam trying to get to the festival grounds. Staying near the fest site is critical since you’ll need to be there early, will have to stay late and will be required to repeat that process over two or three days. Most of the major music festivals web pages include links to lodging near the festival sites.
YOU’RE NO TOURIST
Remember why you’re in the amazing city you’ve traveled to: it’s about the music, not the local attractions. If you believe you’ll be sidetracked by visiting the sites in and around Seattle (a high probability, since it’s one of the great American cities) then maybe don’t choose Bumbershoot as your target fest. Electric Zoo and North Coast Music Festival are dance-heavy offerings at the end of this month. But, they’re in New York City and Chicago, respectively. The lure of tourist destinations may take you off track. Pick a fest in a city you already know and love and therefore have no interest in exploring; or, maybe pick an off-the-beaten-path event like the approaching Muddy Roots Music Festival, on a ranch (with free onsite camping!) in Cookeville, Tennessee.
ACL Music Festival’s map is a key resource for fest-goers
MAP IT UP
Whichever music bash you choose, there should be a map online of the festival’s layout. Study this map diligently and far in advance of your trip. Be an expert on where the critical stops are. A good example is the Austin City Limits Music Festival map. The map for the 2019 event – with headliners including Cardi B and The Cure – isn’t posted yet, but last year’s map is still on the web page and it shows the festival entrances and exits, stage layouts, restrooms, medical facilities, food stops and other essentials.
JUST DO IT! (OR DON’T!)
You’ve come this far in your journey, so have fun and don’t let anything keep you from seeing every act – even if only for a moment, a fragment of a song, from afar and in passing en route to another stage. Or, maybe don’t do it after all. A lot can happen at a music festival. Your plan might get diverted by discovering an amazing act and taking in its full set. You could befriend fellow music lovers and follow their path. Like those first space explorers, you get to thrill in the unknown at a music fest. If that means you don’t see every act as planned, no worries. There’s another music festival somewhere else next weekend.
Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.