So you’re over the age of 30 and you have decided to go to a festival. The obvious question here is, “For God’s sakes, why???” Why do you want to pack yourself in with the masses, why do you want to wait in long lines for the simplest of human pleasures, why don’t you just go see the artists at individual shows instead of watching them play abbreviated sets while you stand in a dust- or mud-filled hellhole with 21-year-olds wearing gauzy white “shirts” and high-waisted mom jeans stumbling into you and screaming every time “the beat drops?”
If you answered, “I go to all the festivals every year because they’re awesome!!!” I would just really like for you to sit down and think about your life choices and maybe also donate some of your energy to the needy (like me). I’m not saying festivals aren’t awesome, but they aren’t so uniquely different that you need to go over and over. Lots of bands. Sweaty people. Got it.
As you can tell, it’s possible I’m a little jaded. But when you start to become ancient (circa age 28), festivals start to get a little depressing because the youths make you feel fucking old. But it’s absolutely worth braving if 1) There are artists that you aren’t sure you’ll be able to see another way (such as Broods trekking all the way from New Zealand for Austin City Limits) 2) You are somehow going for very cheap or free 3) All your friends are going and you will get FOMO 4) There are amazing bands playing and you want to fucking go.
Go! By all means! You will have an amazing time! But keep in mind you will probably need to do festivals a little differently. As a past survivor of ACL and EDC, and someone who partied through all 10 days of #SXSW this year even at my advanced age, let me give you some advice on how to survive festivals when you’re ancient.
#1 ***********WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES***********
The most important part of your festival outfit when you are ancient is choosing shoes that do not make you pray for the sweet release of death. They should be flat, or boots with a small heel. Let me repeat this again in case it is somehow confusing: DO. NOT. WEAR. HEELS. I don’t care how great they make your legs look, I don’t care how many hours you’ve worn them and it was “totally fine,” I don’t care if you want your shoes to double as a weapon if some bro in a tank top spills his beer on you one more time. Wear the most comfortable, supportive, squishy grandma shoes you own. Please reference this picture of me from ACL last year:
Did I look ridiculous? Absolutely. Did I feel cool? Literally not in any way. But was I able to dance through all 12 hours of festival that day? HELL YES I WAS.
Look, when you get older, your body will punish you for disobeying it. I would much rather have worn my cute sandals, but they would be far less cute in my hands as I simper home barefoot, in pain, and unable to wear anything other than house slippers the next day. (Plus with sandals people can smash your toes and you always run into the “what just touched my skin” quandary). If you wear the wrong shoes, your feet will hurt, your legs will hurt, your back will hurt, and some things might happen to your butt that I really don’t want to go into. All of these will interfere with powering through multiple days of a festival. Just accept that comfort is king now—you’re too old to look cool anyway.
#2 USE YOUR ADULT SALARY TO GET ACCOMMODATIONS WITH REAL SHOWERS
I know that some of the appeal of festivals is getting to “interact with the community” and finding like-minded people to swap bracelets, share energy, and pass a joint with around a bonfire while you all talk about big ideas and authentic connection. If it means waiting in line for a shower, fuck that shit. You are an adult human. You should not be showering in a place that requires flip flops to avoid whatever is on the shower floor. You should not have to share a bathroom with hundreds of other people. Pay the money, get a house, wash the sludge and pheromones from your body before you lie down on a real bed.
#3 DON’T PUT TOO MUCH BULLSHIT IN YOUR BODY
Not that it’s attractive at any age, but being “that drunk person” is especially sad/creepy when you are old. You’ve been drinking for about a decade, you should have figured out your tolerance by now. It’s a waste of money, first of all because beers are like $8 each, but also because hangovers are incapacitating once you’re over 30 and you’re risking a day of the festival. Again, it’s a three-day marathon, and you shouldn’t be doing anything that jeopardizes your ability to get out of bed in the morning.
When you hit up the food stands, do not go for that giant turkey leg or all the fried things. I mean, don’t get me wrong, you’re at a giant party, have SOME of the fried things if you wish, but as you have probably noticed by now, your body functions better when powered by actual food. Try to eat something moderately healthy before you head out for a day of festivaling (with like, protein to keep your energy up? And vegetables maybe? IDK).
Related: Drink lots of water. Yes, the port-a-potties are gross, but it will help keep the hangover at bay and keep your face from being quite so shriveled that your crow’s feet show.
#4 PUT ON SOME G-D SUNSCREEN
I know you’ve heard this a million times before (it was probably on the “Helpful Tips!” sheet that came with your tickets, along with “Wear bug spray!”, “Leave valuables at home!” and “Please refrain from copulating during shows!”), but at your age you have probably started to see the effects of when you were an idiotic 17 year-old who thought Banana Boat SPF 8 Tanning Oil did anything other than accelerate the transformation of your skin to spotted, wrinkly leather. Depending on the festival, you probably won’t be able to bring your bottle in to reapply, so slather on at least SPF 50 and use whatever secret space you previously hid your flask in to smuggle sunscreen because YES, WE’RE OLD NOW.
#5 SIT YOUR ASS DOWN
Your legs have been carrying your ass around for decades. Even if you are a marathon runner, even if you are wearing the world’s most comfortable shoes, even if you are hydrating and electrolye-ting and macro-ing and morphine-ing—your legs are going to need a break from all the dancing. It’s not possible to see all of the bands anyway, so pick a time where you feel meh about your options, find a shaded spot with minimal trash/mysterious liquids, and take a load off, even if you don’t feel tired yet. The pain is coming, trust me.
(PS If you are the kind of adult who has adulting figured out to the extent that you can buy VIP passes to a festival—do that, if for no other reason than more places to sit. And take me with you.)
#6 IF YOU BUY SOMETHING LIKE THIS, YOU ARE AN IDIOT
I get that as an adult you have the money to buy things instead of “crafting,” but there are just some things you should not attempt. I don’t even know what’s cool anymore, but a $58 stick with ribbon on it is not worth it.
Also do not: get on someone’s shoulders, bring a flag that will block the view of everyone behind you, take more than two videos of a band playing (does anyone even watch those ever again???), be involved in a “mosh pit:” a relic of the turn of the millennium that is somehow making its way back into modern culture, perhaps to weed out the idiots in Darwinian fashion.
#7 TAKE THE NEXT DAY OFF OF WORK
I personally don’t do this, both because I have basically no PTO and because I am a FUCKING WARRIOR, but my friends swear by it. Since you are 30, you probably have some kind of actual adult job that requires using your brain during the day (I don’t but, you know, I assume other people do). No matter how conservative you were at the festival, your brain is going to be kinda fried and you probably shouldn’t be using to make decisions other than, “Will my body be in more pain on my bed or on my couch?” If you work at the kind of dick company that won’t let you take “sick days” for festival exhaustion, take the day following day off to recuperate so you won’t get actually fall ill (after aforementioned 10 days of SXSW, I came down with strep).
You are over the age of 30. You are running out of fucks to give. Do not let one of them be caring about what you look like while you’re enjoying some music. If you are not causing problems for other people, then hell yeah, enjoy your damn self! Sure, at the end of the day you’ll be in pain but if you followed the advice I’ve laid out, you’ll should be able to rock your way through the whole festival.