Even Better Surviving All Good

The All Good Music and Arts Festival has a long tradition of bringing the best vibes, music, and art to Marvin’s Mountaintop in Masontown, West Virginia. After surviving All Good 2011 I can personally say that this year was no exception. The lineup was amazing! I mean Beats Antique, Toubab Krewe, Moe., Dark Star, Primus, Furthur, Zach Deputy, Yonder, I could go on and on and still not list all of the ridiculously talented and fun musicians we had the pleasure of listening to all weekend. It was a nonstop musical treat to the ears and I feel so lucky to have been a part of the 15-year tradition that All Good has become.

With this beautiful festival also comes a few challenges, so in addition to flittering on about how crazy good the music was, I also have some tips and advice for you on surviving All Good.  With a little planning and preparation this festival can become your new favorite and your next summer “can’t miss”.

Speaking of the line to get in, the earlier the better.  The line going up the mountain can get really long and it can take quite a while to get in.  Take the time to stop for gas before getting into this line, as the hills are steep and the wait is long so you do not want to run out of gas on the way up.  For example, we arrived in the line of cars at about 1:30 on Thursday afternoon and it took about 1 1/2 hours to get to the security checkpoint.  After that, it was about another 20 minutes to drive through all the people on Shakedown and through to where we actually parked and set up camp.  The primitive camping at All Good is first come first serve (with the exception of family and sober campsites) so the sooner you get in the better your spot. If possible, leave yourself enough time to set up camp before the sun goes down to save yourself some headaches.  The grounds are huge and there are lots of good spots to camp.  Since we areLet’s start from the beginning.  If you purchased an Even Better VIP ticket this year, the wristbands were to be picked up at a Hotel close to the festival grounds.  This eliminated some of those long lines and pools of people crowding around the Will Call and ticketing booths.  This did, however, create a bit of a cluster-f*ck at the hotel thanks to some genius who decided to abscond with a whole bag of VIP wristbands.  This is tens of thousands of dollars in value so needless to say the kid did not get away with this bold yet asshole move.  He was of course found, the wristbands returned and is now facing criminal charges which far outway the monetary value of the wristbands.  Crime doesn’t pay!  Not only was his festival weekend ruined, and possibly the next ten years of his life, but it also created a super long wait for people in line to get their wristbands.  After finding and returning said wristbands the 200 some odd people in line then had to fill out witness reports.  Since this was a crazy fluke I think it is safe to say that this line will be much smaller next year if they continue to use this Hotel method.  A good rule of thumb is to always get there earlier than you think you should to make sure you get your tickets squared away and get in the line to get in as soon as possible to avoid a lengthy wait.

talking mountains here some of the sites are rather hilly and steep so you can not park your car directly next to your tent.  I know this is a bummer but it is a safety concern and needs to be abided by.  If you have the room I suggest packing your supplies into something with wheels (like a wagon or pushcart) to make the unloading of supplies a little easier.  Many people do not have to deal with this issue but if you do it’s nice to be prepared.

Since the grounds are huge one of the nice amenities at All Good this year was the Festy Cabs.  These are little golf cart type cars that pick you up and take you where you need to go.  They cost about $3 a person (plus tips for good karma) and can save your legs a little throughout the weekend.  Those hills get really tiring after like day 2 so if you can afford the extra scratch it’s a nice option.  The only problem with the “cabs” is that there are not very many of them and it is sort of hard to find one with room who is going where you want to go.  There is a “cab stand” of sorts at the end of shakedown but you mostly have to rely on the right place right time method for getting a ride so don’t rely too heavily on these.  If you have a VIP pass they provide free cabs with higher frequency.  There is more of a stable cab stand which makes more stops, however, during high traffic times of the day, there may still be a wait.  Either way, pack the right shoes for walking and be ready to do a lot of it.

Most of the campsites (besides VIP) are a bit of a walk to the venue.  There is one main entrance into the venue so sometimes a small line may form but it is not usually too terribly long.  Security will lightly check you for weapons and such but are not too invasive.  It is fine to bring in camel packs and water bottles.  The pamphlet given out upon entrance says only one sealed bottle per person, however, this did not seem to be a hard and fast rule as I believe staying hydrated is more important than counting bottles.

The best part of All Good is that the stages and venue are super easy to navigate.  It has one large area with two stages, so getting lost and wandering around is damn near impossible.  There are no overlapping shows, which rocks because you will not have to worry about having to pick which shows to see.  As soon as one band ends the next begins on the other stage so you can hang out in basically the same spot if you wish and see everything you want.  Because of this too it is a good idea to pack a day pack and plan to be in it for the long haul once you leave your campsite.  Packing extra water, snacks, sunscreen, and anything else you may need will save you having to make the long trek back to camp and miss some shows.  ATM’s and water refill stations are available for use inside the venue as well, and vendors are available right inside if you want to take a little break and grab some food or beers.  There is also a grassroots stage which is closer to the campgrounds.  Over the weekend this featured some cool mashups and special shows.  This is worth stopping by and checking out because you may get to see something that is once in a lifetime, like Keller Williams and Toubab Krewe doing a set together, which was one of my favorite grassroots performances of the weekend.

The weather on Marvin’s Mountaintop varies from year to year.   Some year’s it gets really cold at night and mild during the days while others have some strong winds and frequent showers.  It is a good idea when packing for All Good to prepare for all weather situations.  If you need advice on rain gear read the Surviving a Rainy Festival post.  The winds can get pretty rowdy on some parts of the mountain so it is beneficial to anchor down your tent with something heavy and use good tent stakes.  Don’t forget to stake down your shade tent really well to keep it from ending up upside down on top of someone’s car.

This year the weather was hot hot hot.  The normal mild temperatures and crazy winds were not as present this year but Mr. Sunshine was just a blazing, so some different preparations were helpful.  Spray misters and fans proved very handy and little pop up shade canopies to sit under on the hill inside the venues saved a lot of people from heat exhaustion and sunburn.  Sunscreen was the most important thing and reapplying it throughout the day is advised.  The spray cans make reapplying easy when you are all dirty and sweaty.  They don’t last very long so I would not solely rely on spray sunscreen all weekend but throwing some in your day pack and misting yourself up throughout the day can make sure you don’t get cooked.

Once the sun went down it did get a little cold at night.  Most nights it was just a little chilly but there were some times when a hoody was necessary.  The best thing I figured out (for girls at least) was to pack some thick leggings in my purse before leaving for the shows when we planned on being out all night.  They can roll up and be really small and you can just pull them out and throw them on under your skirt or shorts once you start to cool off.  Light weight jackets which can fold up small and fit in your purse or backpack are handy also.  This way you don’t have to lug around a heavy coat or sweatshirt all day and you can still be comfortable once the heat is off you.

To keep the heat away from your tent it is a good idea to bring more than one easy up shade tent or extra tarps.  This way you can set one up to sit and lounge under during the day and put one up over your tent to keep the sun off of it.  This keeps your tent from overheating which saves your ice and cooler from getting too hot, and allows you to sleep a little later in the morning without waking up in a sauna.  If you do not have an extra shade tent you can rig up the tarp on cars or whatever is around to shade as much of your tent as possible to keep it cool.  This is where having extra duct tape, ropes, and tarps come in handy.

The bathroom situation was one of the only bad things about the festival this year.  As expected at a big festival, there were far more people than restrooms, which was a pain in the ass.  Not all campsites had a problem, however where we were located there was a small 8 piece porta potty for one entire side of the mountain.  People from about a 10 minute walk each direction had to come to the same spot for a bathroom break.  In the morning I had to wait an average of 40 minutes to get some relief which I think could be drastically improved upon.  Some of my readers have mentioned a “luggable Loo” or other bathroom solution brought from home.  I was at first revolted by the idea of having a bathroom inside a tent, however waiting in line for what seemed like forever only to use an equally gross porta potty made me rethink the idea.  May be worth checking into.  They did at least keep them pretty clean which was appreciated.  The porta pottys inside the venue were set up a little odd as well, there are a bunch of them on one side when you first walk in but not spread out to the other side or back of the venue.  If you are drinking you may want to consider hanging out by the right stage or at the bottom of the hill to avoid frequent long walks to the bathroom.  VIP has it’s own set of bathrooms at the top of the hill near their camping.  These were super nice, air conditioned trailers with real porcelain toilets.  I think it would be worth the cost of a VIP ticket just to sit in the ac and use a real sink and toilet all weekend.

In general All Good 2011 was a well run, well organized event which brought happiness and good vibes to thousands.  Unfortunately, since this is a survival and safety guide I do feel it necessary to include some bad news.  I do not want to dwell on this or scare anyone but it is important bring awareness to a problem which led to a death at the festival.   According to a festival security guard I spoke to, a man was attempting to leave the festival in the early morning hours on Sunday.  It was so early in fact that the steep hilly mountain was covered in dew.  The vehicle came over a hill and spotted a tent set up which he did not see until it was too late.  He attempted to stop but slid on the dew and ran the tent over, injuring 2 campers severely and killing one.  All Good staff and attendees were saddened and horrified at this incident, and it is truly a tragedy which should never be repeated.  The lesson that we can all learn from this, and what I would like to pass on to you is CAUTION at all times when in your car.  Driving at any point throughout the weekend is not advised, however if you do choose to leave early, drive as slow as possible.  At all festivals people tend to sleep or pass out anywhere they feel like it, which could be in a tent or just on the ground.  Some people just sleep right there on the ground with no blankets or visible anything to make them noticed.  Driving in low light or at normal speeds can lead to such a tragedy as this so just look out for yourself and others by taking EVERY precaution to prevent this.  I am so sorry for the friends and family of this person, and I really hope if you get anything from this article it is a sense of responsibility for your fellow man and camping neighbors to look out for each other and make your next festival a safe one.

Now that we have covered all the bases you should be well prepared for your next amazing All Good weekend.  It has made it’s mark as one of the best festivals in the country and I guarantee that once you experience it once you will keep the tradition alive year after year.