Some valuable lessons I learned from my first music festival

Well, I did it — I laid down the hard-earned cash from my first post-college, full-time job for passes to this year’s Governor’s Ball. At the ripe old age of 22, I experienced my first music festival with friends by my side and and phone in hand, where I shamelessly captioned all our photos with Good vibes, peace sign emoji. I can’t say I left Randall’s Island disappointed.

While some aspects of this New York celebration of music and freedom were predictable (generally youthful festivalgoers and awesome food vendors galore), there were some things that, well, took me aback during the event (a surprising lack of flower crowns to be seen). In honor of the continued success and glory of this summer’s festival season, here are a few things I learned at my first music festival.

You should pack a few essential toiletries — not your whole makeup arsenal.

In retrospect, all I needed that day was probably sunblock (of which I brought none — even those like me blessed with great amounts of melatonin should be wary of the sun’s unforgiving power), chapstick, and facial cleansing wipes.

Instead, I tried to completely channel Stevie Nicks circa 1975 with blown-out waves, sultry eyes and a high-maintenance matte, dramatically red lipstick. So, don’t get me wrong — this was a good look. Just not for the sweat (from the sun) and tears (from seeing Lana del Rey in person) that came with enduring the rest of this festival.

Needless to say, even my mascara didn’t survive past Tame Impala’s set around midday.

Speaking of essentials — water, water, water!

Talk about dehydration from sun and alcohol and those free Sriracha chips they give you as you enter the front gates. We only managed to bring in one bottle of cold water, which of course didn’t stay cold for long. Most festivals will have water bottle refilling stations, and Gov Ball was no exception. Take breaks when you need to between flocking to your favorite bands and rehydrate in the shade.

And, no, rehydrating with beer in lieu of H2O won’t really do it.

Flower crowns are a thing.

Despite an actual flower crown booth amidst the other vendors on the island, fellow festivalgoers seemed to favor other accessories such as wide-brim hats and ’70s-reminiscent shades over the ubiquitous crown. I also noticed homemade flower crowns, their petals drying out gorgeously beneath the sun as the day carried on.

Either way, that flower crown booth was cute but their crowns were not-super-cheap. The DIY route seemed a great alternative if you want to avoid paying additional fees for your festival style. Whatever you choose to rock, do it with confidence!

Speaking of not-super-cheap — food, food, food!

But that ramen burger was so worth it, right? Well, hey, can’t say I was (too) surprised. This was still New York on top of the fact that this was still a music festival, and we paid around eight dollars for a bite-sized portion of food at a certain vendor. Still, we were starving and any price is right when you need to refuel to enjoy more summer vibes.

Plan ahead and bring a little extra cash. After ordering, we were able to take pictures next to Drake’s (cardboard cutout) face in front of the cutest Filipino food stand, which was priceless. Ladies love Jimmy Brooks!

Get to the stages of the bands you want to see early, or else (suffer the wrath of the Lana fandom)

Seriously, waiting for Lana to headline was no joke. I’m pretty petite myself, but I was afraid of my best friend who is even smaller than me getting crushed beneath other die-hard Lana fans who were fighting for prime audience spots.

We should have gotten to the stage two hours (or more!) before she came on if we wanted a spot where we could both see her and see her safely (as in, without getting trampled). Planning out which bands you want to see and at what times is just as important as planning out your outfit, who would’ve thought?!

Take pictures!

In addition to my phone I brought my Instax mini Polaroid camera, which wasn’t too bad to carry around in my small cross body purse considering its size. It was nice to have instant memories of this festival with friends.

I would also suggest to be totally lame and take pictures in front of all the usual things, a.k.a. the big ferris wheel at Coachella. In our case, it was the GOVERNOR’S BALL sign on Randall’s Island. How else will you remember where you were? And worse yet, how else will you prove to others you were there?! Just kidding.

(Which brings me to my next thing-I’ve-learned…)

Don’t be so busy on the ‘gram that you forget to actually enjoy the music and sunshine with friends and fellow festival-goers.

We could barely see Queen Lana despite how close we were to the stage because of the phones held up in front of our faces (and all around us) during her whole performance. It seemed that people were too obsessed with capturing the moment instead of actually enjoying the moment.

Okay, there are already articles discussing the evil of social media and its influence on youth culture, etcetera etcetera. But the idea that — seemingly so — the majority of young music fans cared more about documenting the experience than, well, experiencing the experience made me feel sick when I thought about it critically later, alone in my room, of course. And in the moment at the festival, it was nothing short of annoying!

Still, we saw past (literally and figuratively) the smartphones in the air and found room to put our hands up to enjoy the music. A music festival is like life, isn’t it? It is what you make it! And with this first festival experience now behind me, I’ve resolved that I can’t wait until my next one.

(Image via iStock)

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