Oh how I love the Edmonton Folk Fest! It is so well organized, so well attended – great artists. And well – I mean you spend the day (or days) outside in the summer watching incredible music, losing yourself in the crowd, or making new friends, reconnecting with old ones. What’s not to love?! (OK maybe the mosquitos, mud, and port-a-potties, but whatevs…)
This year was no different (though there was some sound issues with one of the stages – I don’t know if they under-estimated the number of people that would show for this particular workshop or what but I was halfway up the crowd and we could not hear anything).
I normally only go for one day (usually the Saturday) but this year Hozier was playing on Thursday, and Blue Rodeo, Ani DiFranco, Bruce Cockburn, and sooo many others on Saturday. How can you not go for all this!
Hozier on Thursday was amazing. (I promise, I have photos for more than just Hozier… keep scrolling!) So amazing – and though we were off to the side of the stage to start, eventually a number of people (including my friend) cleared out when a thunderstorm blew in (more on this below) so I ended up with a decent spot where I could see through my camera and the crowd 😛 Such a great concert. That voice!
Ani DiFranco, legendary. That’s all I’m gonna say.
Ani DiFranco and Bruce Cockburn together…
Legen – wait for it…
And Blue Rodeo… well they were about the size of ants from where we sat (the very very top of the hill). But the sound was incredible and when it looked like the show was over without them singing two of my favorite songs I was a bit devastated, but then they walked back on for an encore, with Try and Lost Together. Happy dance and apologies to my friends and everyone around me for singing Try at the top of my lungs. Such a gorgeous song!
Life Lessons and Tips For Surviving Music Festivals
- Be patient. Festivals, and really anything where thousands of people gather for events, have their own pace and it is usually slow. People dawdle from stage to stage, from food truck to bathroom, etc. Everything has a line and you are gonna have to wait in them… But it’s ok. Because everyone is chill and waiting with you and chances are you will run into that co-worker or neighbour you haven’t seen forever – and you will have the time to catch up!
- The weather rules us all. You might have to wait for things and slow your pace, but the weather waits for no one. This year, Edmonton has been having an unusually wet summer, cold, rainy, and humid, mixed with the ever-present afternoon thunderstorms. So sure enough, Thursday night, after holding out all evening, the lightning begins in the distance as Hozier’s set approaches– the last show of the night. And we are all pleading – please please just hold back until the show is finished.
But no. The sky opens up, the rain pours, the thunder and lightning move over top of us, and three songs into the set, Hozier says they’ve been asked to stop to let the storm move past.
The sound people are on it though – they play various songs that fit the mood, like Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be Alright, and stormy songs, like Thunderstruck just before Hozier comes back on stage to finish the set.
In previous years, storms have come in so fast and strong that the big ass tv monitors have blown over, dangling by their plugins.
This night, as its the last set, past 10 pm, you must decide – do you wait out the storm, or do you leave? Many left. For Hozier, I stay.
And it’s not always the storms. I’ve seen an audience member faint in the middle of a set due to heat stroke. The medics were called over and everything… (The person was ok.) I got a sun burn this week even though the skies were gray and cloudy for 99% of the time…
- People are kind. Strangers take care of each other at festivals – got a little extra space on your tarp and see someone sitting on the grass – offer them the spot. Having trouble navigating your baby buggy, wheelchair or other equipment through the mud, electrical cords, terrain? People will stop and help. Can’t find a spot? Squish in and make new friends… It’s a wonderful sense of community and humanity.
- Buy the chair. And bring the chair. I hate carrying stuff around. Heavy stuff, big stuff, awkward stuff. I hate it. I avoid carrying things if I can. Especially all day, hot days, rainy days. It’s just annoying. So the first year I went to folk fest I brought almost nothing. Maybe a hoodie for the nighttime, and some cash, ID, and credit card and probably that’s it. Definitely I had no chair or anything to lay back on. And mannnn, did I hurt. My back was killing me in minutes.
The next year I bought one of the things that is essentially a chair back attached to a floor mat. And that helped. A lot. It made a huge difference. But I still hurt soon into the day. I just figured it was part of the festival lifestyle, the pain you pay for a day or three outdoors listening to live music – of course it’s not going to be as comfortable as your couch, or proper patio furniture. So I used that mat thing for a few years.
This year in the months leading up to Folk Fest, I’ve been having very painful back/hip issues, and I wondered how folk fest was going to go – getting up and sitting down, not having proper back support, etc. But it’s music, so I brought my little mat thing and prepared to endure some pain.
The Festival was selling the low chairs on Thursday and my friend bought one as soon as she saw them. We went to our tarp, she spread out the chair, sat in it, and practically moaned at the comfort. She let me try the chair and Oh My God! It WAS amazing! The difference in comfort was instant and yes, I could tell sitting in this would make a huge difference over the night and all of Saturday. So I ran back to the merch tent and bought one as well!
I thought I would be annoyed with carrying it around all day – its big, awkward, and heavy… But it wasn’t that bad at all. The carry bag had two straps so you can wear it like a back pack.
It was amazing, and saved my back, energy, and level of grumpiness by the end of the day. I’m telling you – Get the chair! Get a good chair.
- Bring the weather stuff. If you are staying for the full day, prepare for the full day. If your festival is anywhere where the temperature or weather fluctuates, bring the stuff. Raingear, sunhats, sunglasses, blankets, warm jackets, etc. See above for why…
Depending on how your festival is organized you may be able to drop some of your stuff off at your main spot so you don’t have to carry everything all day. The Edmonton Folk Fest has a main stage where they have an afternoon show around 2pm and then the evening shows from 6pm to 11pm or midnight. For the rest of the time there are multiple stages throughout the park that you go back and forth to the performances that interest you. So, people set up their tarps/blankets on the main stage hill as soon as they arrive to claim their space and then leave stuff on that space that isn’t needed throughout the day. Just take your chair and anything you might need quickly (rain-gear). Trust me, it’s worth the comfort to bring all this stuff, especially when the night gets colder.
- Bring the other stuff. Bring bug spray, sunscreen, hand wipes, antibacterial stuff. It will make your day so much more comfortable. Thousands of people touched that… just saying…
Bring a water bottle that you can refill. Edmonton Folk Fest has a water refilling station so you do not have to buy bottled water. Saves money and the environment!
- Bring the other other stuff. These aren’t necessary but depending on your interests, bring a book, your camera, extra batteries, ear plugs – especially for your kids.
- Above all else, enjoy yourself. Sing along like no one is listening. Dance like no one is watching (Although they are, possibly thousands are watching you – because the dancing fest-goers usually gather around the front side of the stage and sometimes, they are as good or as entertaining as the act on stage :D)
And there you go. I cannot wait for next year! I will definitely be bringing my chair!
What are your tips for surviving music festivals? What must you bring/do?