7 Ways to Expand Your Horizons in the Festival World

Article by: Evan Sakrison

Wed October 24, 2018 | 12:00 PM

As humans, we are creatures of routine. They’re designed to provide structure in our daily lives; think of it as mapping out your existence. However, routines are also made to be broken, and we owe it to ourselves to break our routines every now and then to avoid stagnation. Hell, even the things you love can grow stale after repeated exposure: your job, your exercise routine, your significant other and even your festival experience.

When it comes to festivals, your typical routine may look a little something like this: you see the lineup poster, you either praise or complain about said lineup, you buy a ticket anyway, you put on your wristband, you slog through a long security line, you scan the festival grounds, you pay $10 for nachos, you post up for an artist you’ve already seen six times, you conk out in a tent, you do it all over again for another day or two and then you go home.

Instead, you should switch things up and expand your horizons with the following tips:

1. Check Out An Artist You’ve Never Heard Before

Montreal Jazz Festival 2018 Adrian Spinelli   25Photo by: Adrian Spinelli

While an obvious suggestion, some people just don’t have the energy to sit through an unfamiliar artist’s set. After all, you probably bought your ticket in the first place because of a particular artist(s) in the lineup. The cool thing about festivals is that they’re a hotbed for discovery; all you have to do is park it, listen and hope you don’t hate it. Although you’ll likely gravitate towards an act that falls under your preferred genre, I challenge you to pick something far outside your comfort zone.

This accomplishes two things: 1) You learn about new sounds and styles; 2) You learn about what other people in the world love, even if you don’t care for it. Let’s say you’re a devoted metal-head or an old rock and roll soul who just can’t fathom music without heavy guitars, blaring drums and harsh vocals. Mosey on over to an electronic, hip-hop, country, reggae or pop show and just observe at first. Maybe there’s an element or two you can appreciate, or maybe you’ll dig the whole package. Hear it from me, a stubborn metal-head who fell in love with Bishop Briggs and her music at a small music festival in San Antonio, Texas, which then lead to my discovery of Barns Courtney under the “Fans Also Like” tab on Spotify. You just never know!

2. Go Solo

Electric Love Festival 2018 Klemen Stular    1 Of 8 (6)Photo by: Klemen Stular for Electric Love Festival

Your friends can make or break a night out on the town, but festival squads can make any festival experience stand out. However, I’m a firm believer in rolling solo every once in a while because it forces you to use what you know and go with the flow. You don’t have to worry about keeping tabs on anyone nor are you a slave to rigidly planned schedules – it’s all you all the time. Of course, you’ll eventually have to interact with another human, but chances are they’re a fellow solo traveler, too, and there’s nothing more exciting than striking up an unexpected friendship in unfamiliar territory.

3. Go to a Festival That Isn't a Music Festival

Hero La Tomatina CourtesyPhoto by: La Tomatina

Music festivals dominate the entertainment landscape, which should come as no surprise thanks to music’s uncanny ability to connect people from all walks of life. Just like how you should check out an artist you’ve never heard before, you should also make an effort to attend a different kind of festival. From traditional food and wine festivals to gut-busting comedy festivals and bizarre spectacles like El Colacho, aka “the baby jumping festival,” there are countless types of festivals out in the world to explore. It will likely have live music anyway, but it’s more of a sideshow than it is the main attraction.

4. Wear a Costume

Tomorrowland 2018 Weekend Two Courtesy Of    1 Of 16 (14)Photo by: Tomorrowland

When it comes to fashion, forget whatever’s considered trendy or socially acceptable. Festivals offer the unique opportunity to express yourself however you see fit, even if that means rocking your civilian clothes. However, you should go all out on your next festival adventure with the most fabulous, outlandish costume you can put together. Take it a step further and create an alter ego to compliment your outfit. Think of it as a piece of theatre, and you’re the star of the show.

5. Interact With Locals

Meadows In The Mountains 2018 Aron Klein    1 Of 16 (6)Photo by: Aron Klein

Whether it’s the next town over or halfway around the world, it’s the colorful cast of characters who breathe life into any festival experience. At a good festival, the locals are warm, welcoming and willing to share their knowledge on what makes their town special. They can clue you in on the best places to eat, drink, play and be awesome so you don’t have to waste time reading Yelp! reviews. It also saves you time from walking around aimlessly and being indecisive about where to go. You may exchange numbers, or you may carry on your merry way and never see them again, but they'll undoubtedly make a positive, lasting impression regardless.

6. Participate in a New Activity

Wanderlust Festival Squaw Valley 2015 Ali Kaukas Dance YogaPhoto by: Ali Kaukas for Wanderlust Festival

Let’s face it: half of almost any festival experience is spent walking around. Traversing the festival grounds can be an entertaining odyssey, but most times you’re too busy muscling through seas of people to catch the next set or looking for a vacant portapotty. If you take the time to slow down and look around, you’ll discover a world of activities for you to participate in depending on the festival. Stretch it all out in an energizing yoga class, go on a guided nature hike, boogie down at a silent disco party, join an impromptu jam session, get crafty in an arts and crafts circle or visit a vendor booth to learn how you can volunteer for a charitable cause.

7. Create a Festival Bucket List

Clusterfest 2018 Courtesy Of    1 Of 47 (30)Photo by: Clusterfest

Not a list of festivals you plan to attend in your lifetime, but a list of ideas that will motivate you to seize the moment and have the best damn time of your life. For example, you could elect to crowd surf or jump off the stage during an artist’s set. Or you could snap a selfie with a random celebrity in the background. What about making friends with at least five new people, each from a different city, state or foreign country? As long as you keep your feet moving and don’t hurt anybody in the process, this is the ultimate way to create an unforgettable festival experience.