Surviving a Summer Music Festival Tour

Surviving a single music festival can be a challenge. Incessant rage blurs days into a single flashing and vibrating mass of music echoing across the walls of your skull, waking up with a splitting headache to the realization that the night before you spent $150 dollars on $7 beers, chill cheese dogs and glowing trinkets, the burn of your calves from days spent rushing blindly from one stage to the next, the inevitable loss, destruction or damaging of at least one electronic device, the similar fate of your consciousness.  It can be hard. But you can survive almost anything you might put your mind, body, and wallet through in a single festival. There is always the long car ride home, dozing lightly against the window, waiting for your own bed at the end of the road.

Surviving a summer tour, however, is another matter entirely.  It is an art.

If you are a person who enjoys music festivals there is the strong possibility you have considered an extended nationwide, or region-wide, festival tour.   The idea of an entire summer spent with the road rolling past your window, knowing the next 30,000 person party is only a few hundred miles of pavement away, an entire summer spent dancing and celebrating, is an undeniably romantic one.  It is one that planned properly can be among the funnest and most rewarding things a person can do.   Poorly executed however it’s liable to leave you half-crazed and totally broke, begging for burritos outside a Furthur show you can’t afford a ticket to. Planning is crucial.

1. Cars are expensive

If you plan on spending an entire summer driving across the country definitely have the most gas efficient car you can get your hands on, and plan on having as many people as you can fit in it.  With gas at close to $4 a gallon, you’ll be eaten alive by gas costs without enough people.  You should also try to have back up money specifically for potential car repairs if you don’t drive the most reliable car.

Remember that there are often many people at a festival attempting to get to the next one who does not have a ride.  Consider posting a sign by your campsite advertising your next destination.   Odds are you can make a new friend and cut your gas cost.

If you do not have friends to travel with you, you may want to consider calculating if it is even financially feasible to take your car.  As described above it is not hard to find rides at a festival. A technique that has always worked well for me is posting signs advertising where I need to go with my phone number on them.   I was always able to get to the next festival or city I needed to easily and safely. I also met some amazing people and once had as much fun traveling to Bonnaroo, and hanging out for three days in a Walmart parking lot, as I did at Bonnaroo.

Grey Hound and Amtrak are also invaluable ways to get around the country.

2. Don’t carry your valuables.

This is a valuable tip even if you are only going to a single festival.  While it’s tempting to carry your brand new i-phone around with you to shoot video, ultimately better quality video of the same show will surface on YouTube.   As far as actually calling anyone or using your phone to find your friends, the odds are very minimal at best.  Your ID, debit card and phone are best left locked in your car or hidden very cleverly inside your tent.  If you have a few too many bourbons and lose your wallet at Panic replacing your ID and debit card will be very difficult, if not impossible, while you are in the middle of a nationwide tour.  If you do lose something of value check the lost and found religiously; hippies tend to be pretty good about turning phones and IDs in.

3. Have places to stop and rest along the way.

While it is possible to rage directly from one festival to the next for weeks and weeks on end during the summer festival season, it may not necessarily be advisable.  Taking a weekend off between festivals can be an immense help in surviving a summer tour.   Try planning your tour so you have a friendly place to stop and recover for a few nights, or even a week, where you’ll be able to sleep as long as you want and not have the front desk trying to kick you out at 11 am.    This tip may be less crucial if you only plan on going to a couple of festivals, however, if you’re planning an entire summer tour having places to stay in several cities can be helpful as no one can afford an entire summer of motels and hostels, no matter how cheap they are.    Also research state and national parks along your route where you will be able to camp for free or very low cost.

4. You don’t have to see every single show.

When you are only going to a single festival the impulse is often to attend every show you possibly can.  As a result, you’re raging around from noon til four am, and after a few days of that you’re completely and totally exhausted.  When you are going to several however remember that there will be hundreds of more shows coming your way this summer and it isn’t essential to see every single show you can drag yourself to.  Be aware of what bands will be at multiple festivals you’re attending; this will also help you to ensure you don’t miss a good band you won’t have another opportunity to see because you were at Bassnectar, who ’s going to be at the next three festivals.

5. Have a way to make money, you WILL spend all your savings.

Having sufficient savings for your festival run is definitely crucial; a festival run can be an incredibly costly venture. Make sure you have the money to buy ALL your tickets before setting out on the road and of course a sizable chunk of change for gas, food, and the inevitable hoard of trinkets, clothes and posters you are going to want to buy along the way.  However, no matter how much you save the odds are by the end of the run you are going to be down to the very last of what you saved for the trip, if not completely broke.  Having a way to generate income on the road will help you to slow the bleeding, or maybe even make a little money. This tip is an essential part of touring, and one of the main reasons Dead Heads and Phish fans have been able to tour for years without stopping. There are plenty of ways to make money on lot without breaking the law, well at least without selling illegal things. Selling cheap food or drinks is always an easy way to make some extra gas money.

Try not to party too hard between festivals.

Just because you have an entire handle of whiskey and a thirty pack left over after Wakarusa doesn’t mean you have to consume them before you get to Bonnaroo.  While it’s certainly ok to have some fun between your festivals try to keep in mind that between festivals you should be recuperating and storing up energy as much as you possibly can. Coming into a festival with a massive hangover on day one isn’t going to help anyone.