Summer is almost over at this point, that sucks. It is about this time of year when you begin to reflect on what you have done over your summer, and what you should have done. You went camping, cool. You should have gone to Vegas. You worked your summer job and made some money, very nice. You should have done a month of hardcore manual labor, and spent the rest of the summer blowing cash. You saw a few 40 year old dad-rockers get together at your local park and play Grateful Dead and Rod Stewart songs, fair enough. You should have gone to a summer festival.
There is a summer festival for everyone. If you are into ecstacy and dubstep, Camp Bisco in upstate NY would have been perfect for you, as would Electric Zoo in Randall’s Island (which takes place September 2nd, so you actually have some time left to grab tickets). At either of these events you can spot thousands of zooted out techno zombies all bouncing in unison to something along the lines of Pretty Lights or Bassnectar, which is certainly a sight everyone should see. If you tend to follow the commercial waves of music but can't afford to see ten separate $75 shows, I would say save your money up for Lollapalooza. The 2011 lineup included bands of such prestige as Foo Fighters, Coldplay, Muse, and My Morning Jacket, and big name rappers like Eminem and Nas. If rap is your genre, there is literally nothing even remotely close to the powerful lineup that Rock the Bells delivers every single year. Just a few names from this year’s current lineup are Lauryn Hill (the Lauryn Hill), Black Star, Nas, Common, members of the Wu Tang Clan, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, MF Doom, Curren$y, Big K.R.I.T., Childish Gambino, and Mac Miller, as well as dozens of other huge names. If you wish to see the best of all worlds, commercial, underground, and avant garde, then Bonnaroo may have been your best pick. The 2011 lineup included a very eclectic mix of artists such as Wiz Khalifa, The Black Keys, Lil Wayne, The Strokes, Bootsy Collins, The Decemberists, Explosions in the Sky, Chiddy Bang, Robert Plant, NOFX, Girl Talk, J Cole, and an intimidating amount of others. Somehow, Coachella manages to incorporate enough pieces of each other festival to appeal to everybody. Perhaps it is the proximity to LA but Coachella seems to be known as the “cool” festival. The previous lineup included acts such as Kanye West and Odd Future, all the way to Chromeo, Cee Lo, Animal Collective, A Trak and more. Coachella seems to employ the most artists that could be found on hypem. LA is known for several things, a few of which include: finding trends before they really hit, celebrities lingering on every corner, great food, laidback vibe, pot. Coachella is a definitely haven for all of these things.
Other than the music, summer festivals have a lot going for them that can’t really be regularly advertised. The energy in the air at the festival of your choice is something of a rare occurrence. Whereas at an intimate club venue, you might be rooted to your spot in the front row, just inches from touching the performer, you don’t often get so lucky at festivals. However, the appeal is much different. You don’t necessarily need to be front row at an outdoor festival, it tends to be more fun to experience the concert or event with the billions of strangers surrounding you. At the intimate club venue you are focused on the performer and how much room you have between you and the intensely sweaty 300-pound drunk fat guy that you know is ready to mosh at any given moment. At the outdoor festival you can choose to be in the moist mosh pit next to your moist neighbor and enjoy the moist show close up, or you can enjoy your space and eat a hot dog. The impact of the show doesn’t always change depending on where you see it from. It truly is something to watch thousands of people captivated by the same performer, everyone’s eyes in the same direction, everyone’s heads nodding in stunning harmony, every person in the crowd experiencing similar emotions. It barely matters if you don’t like the performer, one can be easily swayed when they see the reaction of the other members of the crowd.
Another great thing about summer festivals, if you’re interested, is drugs. I know it sounds stupid and it would be very unrealistic to say that everyone is on drugs at every summer event, but really it is kind of true. Everyone loves drugs. Or rather, the average person in their teens-to-mid-twenties who attends any summer festival, likes drugs. Music and recreational drug use go hand in hand, so it is really no shocker to share a huge spliff with your neighbor before Method Man goes on at Rock the Bells, or dip your finger into some molly before Skrillex goes on at Camp Bisco, or to eat some mushrooms in your tent at Bonnaroo, or to do some speed (or whatever punk rockers do nowadays) at the Warped Tour. The security at these events tends to be much more lenient than a regular club gig (in NYC security will run their hands up every possible nook of your body convinced they will find a bottle of vodka in your crotch). I don’t condone sticking your finger in any bag that someone calls molly, or doing molly whatsoever, but it can be another great experience to pass around a joint and enjoy an artist you didn’t know about. Note: the festivals are just as fun if you are sober, kids.
Thanks to instant gratification via Twitter and iPhones and social media and all that shit, people know things almost before they happen. So if A-Trak is mingling with his fans at Coachella, just a simple tweet will tell you exactly where to go and when in order to chill with him. If there is a contest or a change that the entire crowd should know about, tweeting it will inform more people than announcing it via loudspeaker to the entire crowd. The way that social media and live events have been mixing is fascinating and next year will only bring more opportunities and options from sites like Twitter and Facebook. They get involved with most of the free giveaways and cool exhibits you see scattered around these festivals and will grow more important as time goes on.
Summer Festivals are more than just concerts. You may only like three out of 300 of the performers, you may be pissed off that it is about 200 degrees out, you may be willing to trade five years of your life for ten minutes in an air conditioned room, you may be tired of walking, you may be thirsty, you may be broke, you may be hungover, but you will have a fucking blast. The noise, the stimulation, the stench of sweat and dirt, the overpriced food and beverages, the crazy fans that only seem to be there so they can scream and binge on acid, are all factors that make these festivals so detestable but so alluring. I personally missed out on this year’s batch of festivals and have been kicking myself since June. I plan on working my ass off in the fall and spring so that I can spend 1000 dollars to go to Coachella for one day and I’m certain it will be worth it.
by Ken Glauber