Firefly hit me like a typhoon of awesome music and over-stimulation. I knew the music would be kickass, and was excited to see what environment the Firefly crew had in store for festival-goers, but before stepping through security and having my badge scanned, I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.
In its third year running, Firefly is making a name for itself as the East Coast Coachella, with the Foo Fighters, OutKast, and Jack Johnson as this year’s headliners. And while I’ve never attended any festivals on the West Coast, I imagine Firefly is as close as it gets if you can’t make it to Bonnaroo (and who really wants to drive to Tennessee anyway?). Not only is the venue close to a ton of things (like Wawa, Philly, the beach, and plenty of Delaware liquor stores), it’s one of the closest 4-day festivals to us living in the North East, which is a nice alternative for those of us who have dreamt about Bonnaroo and Coachella, but could never afford the time or travel they require.
Needless to say I was pretty stoked when I found out I would be attending. Still, after studying the informative Firefly site, and scoping out several listicles across the web, I still had no idea what to expect outside of the lineup. The only thing I knew before crossing the bridge of Rt. 1 in Delaware with a drunken mob was that I was going to be taken for a ride.
Most of the Firefly 2014 ride was an incredible learning experience that I can’t wait to experience again and perfect next year. But the most important thing I learned was that planning is really a waste of time, and realistically, the best way to prepare for a festival is to go into it with a carefree attitude and be open to anything that comes your way.
But here are a few cool things I wish I had considered before going this year:
Pack a cooler with excess frozen water (and a few other choice bevvys if you know what I mean).
This may seem like a “duh” tip, but I honestly hadn’t prepared for the lax open container laws or how easy it was to travel in and out of the festival, totally missing the opportunity to get a proper buzz on. Plus, by leaving drinks in your car or campsite, this assures that you don’t get slammed with overpriced drinks on festival grounds (like $15 for filling a Camel Back with hose-water), and that you get a bit of exercise to burn off those alcoholic calories. Of course, managing how much you drink before entering is ultimately decided by which scenario you deem worse: using a port-a-potty or getting dehydrated, because even the VIP parking was not-so very important.
Leave your phone in your car.
I carried mine around to take photos for What Weekly, and found I was nervous that I’d drop it in a pile of dust and garbage. Do you really need it to take all those selfies? No. Stop distracting yourself from what’s in front of you and let technology go (unless of course you participated in the awesome Polaroid project Firefly had this year to print attendants photos to shake during OutKast’s “Hey Ya!”).
Throw away your trash.
Trash cans exist for a reason and as invasive as festivals already are, it was disgusting to see how many ignorant people just tossed their Bud Light cans to the ground (shame on you for both littering and drinking bad beer!). The Woodlands is a beautiful venue, there’s no reason it should be a landfill when you leave.
Pay attention to your surroundings.
Firefly was full of incredibly beautiful light fixtures and subtle projection mapping that I’m sure a lot of people missed out on simply by not looking up (I nearly missed it). Did you know there was a hammock hangout? A charging station? Cool places for photo ops? Did you see all of those volunteers picking up your trash and not even thank them?
You also never know when you’ll bump into a festival artist who is probably just as lost as you are.
Zombies are real and they’re in the form of festival-goers in bikini tops, high waisted short-shorts, and multi-colored wife-beaters.
Watch Jurassic Park before you hit up your festival, and focus on the scene where the flock of gallimimus flee from the T. rex. Study their movements and remember how a flock moves when you’re trying to cross a swarm of migrating festival-goers; remember that in order to get through the crowd you have to go with it a bit, or hide behind a conveniently placed fallen tree.
Or just go with the flow, there’s probably a reason a swarm of people are all moving in one direction. Try not to worry about the possibility/probability of a stampede.
Bring a Handkerchief.
Or an extra article of clothing to cover your mouth if the venue has an excess amount of dirt. If you are inhaling enough dust to turn your snot black and you’re having trouble singing along to Beck’s cover of “Billy Jean,” imagine what that atmosphere is doing to your lungs. Hydrate and protect yourself before inhaling a sandstorm of dirt, pot smoke, nicotine and copious blends of body odor.
Take high-fives seriously.
Even if you think it’s silly. Ignoring a high five could ruin someone’s day, and is it really that hard to just stare at their elbow and give ‘em one up top? Make it count. The same mentality should be applied to crowd surfing/ers (unless of course they’re rude and kicking you in the head).
Be it a hit, space, knowledge, or respect. Sharing is important, but mostly, being respectful to those around you and their experience is crucial for the overall aura of the event. Don’t be that asshole who smokes a bowl around the three children in attendance (yes, we know their parents are crazy for bringing them, but your ignorance is even crazier). Everyone is there to have a good time, don’t sour it by being selfish or miserable.
Be decisive, or a free-bird, just pick one.
Don’t push other people out of the way like you deserve to be there more than anyone else. I found that loosely choosing a schedule for the day helped me determine where I needed to be without getting in anyone else’s way. Or don’t pick a schedule and float, but if you plan to dip out of the Portugal. the Man show to catch the Arctic Monkeys, be kind and considerate on your way out of the crowd. With that many people around, an elbow to the ribs (even if accidental) could start something pretty nasty. A lot of personal space rules are abandoned at festivals, but there’s no need to make that violation even more terrible. Remember that start times are scattered for a reason and you can generally catch parts of each set, so all that fumbling through the crowd isn’t really necessary.
Don’t even try to understand the cardboard cutouts of random faces/objects.
Why are they there? What is the point? Is that a cat? Jareth the Goblin King? Uncle Jesse? Bob Saget? Some random girl’s face? Is that even an internet meme? Instead, ask yourself one question: does it really matter?
Be smart about your smuggling
If you’re going to sneak stuff in, be creative and smart. Don’t hold up the line by refusing to comply with festival security. If you were trying to sneak in a bag of Oreos and you get caught, just hand them over. If your joint gets confiscated because hiding it in your pack of American Spirits didn’t suffice, keep moving and be happy security didn’t report you and cause you more trouble. Those people have had to deal with inconsiderate drunks all day long. Be thankful that security is as lax as it is, and be on your merry way.
Let go; dance, dance, and dance some more.
Even if you don’t like Cage the Elephant’s, “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” get off your ass and dance. Don’t be that hipster standing in a group full of people jamming with a scowl on your face because you “only came to see Andre 3000 in his overalls.” Nobody wants to dance next to that, people want to punch that. Even if you don’t know the artist or their music, if you can dig it, dance, if you can’t, walk away. That’s the perk of a festival, there’s generally something else to see at another stage.
Say yes to seeing the Foo Fighters, even if you don’t know the lyrics to “Learn to Fly.” Go. See anyone you can. Everyone you can. Feel the beat drop to A-Trak even if you’ve never listened to “Tuna Melt” before. Go watch Childish Gambino even if you’re still sour that Donald Glover left Community. Find something new.
How much did you spend on that ticket? Open your eyes to everything around you, and experience as much as possible.
I’ve never subscribed to the “YOLO” mentality, but after attending Firefly I finally get it. You do only live once, and each festival only happens once in its respective year. Don’t let it pass you by. Live it up, and shake it like a Polaroid picture.
Get the low-down on more festivals here.