The 6 Phases of a Music Festival

Photos by: Don Idio (unless otherwise specified)

For anyone who’s ever seen 21 Jump Street with the iconic “Phase 1: The Giggs”, that’s what we’re getting into today. This time, festival edition. After a couple of years attending camping music festivals, in particular, I’ve picked up on some patterns of the weekend getaways. While every music festival is different in their own authentic ways, I believe at its core the experiences we receive are the same. I’m positive many can agree with the fact that some of their favorite life memories occurred at a music festival or music event.

There’s a certain type of energy that manifests in a crowd filled with thousands of other music lovers. When the collective energy of the crowd combines with the powerful, vibrational frequencies of the music and love put out by the performers, something special occurs. It brings a unique experience into existence for all individuals involved. As cliche as it sounds, this is something you can’t really explain, but just need to experience for yourself.

Phase 1: The party don’t start til we set up camp 

(Yes, I write to the beat of Ke$ha)

After waiting in the car check line for who knows how many hours, the squad hops out ready to put in work. By now, we have the art of setting up camp down to a science. Everyone knows their job. Four people on canopy tents. Two people setting up sleeping tents. Two people on hanging tapestries, and hey did anyone grab the trash bags and recyclable bags to hang from the canopy tent? There’s no better feeling than finally having camp set up with a large common area ready to host attendees. After a days work it’s only right to bring out the wine bag and make friends with your neighbors.

Phase 2: Campground Sets

The festival gates may have not opened yet, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to party. It’s a matter of fact you will walk by at least one campground set during your weekend at a festival. Especially on the first night when there’s nothing to do, there’s bound to be someone setting up CDJs ready to throw down. 

Phase 3: Kid in a Candy Store

As noon rolls around everyone becomes jittery with excitement and anticipation of the festival gates opening. You and the squad try to make mental notes of totems and flag to remember on the walk home. But there’s a high possibility those will most likely will be forgotten. If it’s a summer festival you may already be dripping in sweat from the walk, but you’re keeping your eyes on the prize!

Walking up to the entrance and seeing the swarm of beautiful humans with just as much excitement as you really sets the tone for the day. If you’re returning to the festival you get to admire all of the new infrastructures and see some of your old favorites. Familiar feelings flood back from years past and you are filled with such gratitude and appreciation. These feelings come from the opportunity to continue return to a place you can call home with some of the greatest friends.

Phase 4: Late Night Weirdness

During the day you experience chill vibes catching a few sets you want to see. In between sets, you try out different food vendors with endless options for meat lovers and vegan eaters. If you’re like me you probably snuck in a nap during a set in the outskirts of the crowd. The daytime is for exploring the grounds, engaging in all the fun activities and workshops, and of course photo shoots.

As soon as the sun sets is when the pace of everything picks up. All of a sudden you are running back and forth between stages trying to catch the end of one set and the beginning of another. No matter how thoroughly you thought you planned out your schedule, you’re still bound to miss sets you were sure you’d have time to make. In the midst of wandering between stages, you get the opportunity to hear and see some pretty funny things. Again, if you’re like me, you find yourself hearing pieces of other groups conversations. Let me just say, festival kids are some of the funniest people in the game.

Between the funny jokes, quirky actions, skipping from stages trying to make the beat of the last song with wub sounds, and twirling into silent disco to belt some throwback songs with the squad, you’ll never be bored late night at camping festivals. To top it off, if you’re lucky enough to be at a festival with an all-night stage you get the honor to experience wonky bass music through the sunrise. Hopefully, at the end of it all, you remember your way back to camp.

Phase 5: It’s a Marathon, Not a Race. Take a breath and drink some water.

They say time flies when you’re having fun and that’s the truth. I prefer four-day camping festivals, but boy you better be ready to make it through with enough energy for the drive home. By now, your feet are probably starting to feel the pain and blisters are forming from all the walking. But that still doesn’t stop you from another 20,000 steps that day. There’s also a chance you have had granola bars for 6 meals so far.

Let’s not forget, it wouldn’t be a summer festival without a rainstorm that creates a pool out of your perfectly crafted outdoor living room. Hopefully, you brought your boots for all the mud! By day three of the festival, the squad is moving a little slower in the mornings. There’s also a chance you missed the 3PM set you wanted to see. The second half of festivals is always my favorite time to wander through campsites to see what self-love activities I can find. If you’ve ever stumbled into a sound meditation in the woods you know what I’m talking about. Day three of a festival is a pivotal time to focus on hydration and wellness.

Phase 6: Take This Feeling and Bring it Home with you

Photo by: Amanda Cosenza

Every story has it’s ending, sometimes. The reflection phase is probably my favorite and usually hits for me late night during a headliner set. Some of my most beautiful experiences in life is looking around awestruck at all my friends and beautiful humans living purely in the moment. There’s something so freeing about being in a crowd with music that fills every cell of your being, singing your favorite song at the top of your lungs with hands high in the sky. Purple and blue lasers create smoke clouds and confetti is blasted into the night sky. You watch in amazement as it slowly floats through the air and to the ground with people jumping around wearing smiles that spread ear to ear.

Sometimes the beauty of living in the moment is so overwhelming it brings tears to your eyes. Thinking about how right now, at that moment, you are experiencing some of your favorite memories in life which you will always remember. A feeling of pure freedom rushes over your body and overfills you with love and gratitude. So much so that it expands from you and extends to others around you, creating a bubble of pure love and joy. There is nothing that beats that feeling. I like to imagine bottling up those energetic feelings, tucking them away in my pocket to take home with me and spread to others. When the festival depression starts to kick in, I always like to think of the bits of magic I’ve stored away from moments I’ll remember for a lifetime. Those feelings will resonate in my soul forever, I’m sure of it. 

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