Summer in the northern hemisphere is far from over, and the summer season in the southern hemisphere is coming quicker than most people care to imagine. Two of the Metal as Fuck contributors, columnist Nephente, and photographer Ateacina, tell us how to survive a brutal metal summer festivals season, providing checklists and top tips.
Between them, here is a sample of the festivals that Neph and Ateacina visit, or have visited - the festival calendar tends to change year on year for them:
Hultsfred (Swe), Sweden Rock Festival (Swe), Roskilde (Den), Metal Town (Swe), Wacken Open Air (Ger), Peace & Love (Swe,) Arvikafestivalen (Swe), Summer Breeze (Ger), Rock Hard (Ger), Bang Your Head (Ger), Up From The Ground (Ger, which doesn't take place anymore), Tuska (Fin), Rockarea (Ger), Summernights (AT), Dynamo (NL - doesn't take place any more), Mera Luna (Ger), Rockmania (Ger), Summerblast (Ger), Inferno (Nor), Spinefeast (Fin), Metal Therapy (Fra - doesn't take place any more), Last Night On Earth (Ger), Ultima Ratio (Ger), and Winternoise (Ger).
To say that these guys are veterans of the festivals scene is somewhat of an understatement.
Nephente and Ateacina have prepared a checklist to make sure that you will survive your tour through the summer festivals.
Before you go
- It might sound stupid, but: get your tickets in time. Otherwise you'll just complain afterwards, when all your friends got a ticket, and you didn't. Buying it via Ebay might work, but I wouldn't rely on it: keep in mind that they could be fake (this happens more often, than some ppl think)
- Get your clothes sorted out early. Pack enough to enable you to change the most vital stuff like socks and underwear. Usually the feeling of a couple of new socks when drenched in mud can feel like being reborn!
- Pack at least one pair of good boots, those will be your best friends if it becomes rainy and muddy. Try to not pack too much stuff since sometimes you will have to walk quite a bit from your transportation to the camping site so make sure you can carry all you need yourself.
- A good sleeping bag and a sleeping pad makes the nights easier!
Sort out accommodation details
check whether there's camping at the festival or whether you have to look for some other accomodation (Tuska in Finland, Metaltown in Sweden for example don't have any!)
If you're camping, try your tent out
Make sure to try the tent before you go! As Ateacina says: 'One year a friend brought a biiiig tent but when we set it, we discovered he had forgotten the inner tent but brought some curtains. So that festival earned me pneumonia since I had myself forgotten the sleeping pad so I was basicaly sleeping on the ground since the zip of my sleeping bag was broken. Such things makes you prepare a bit better the next year. So avoid that, take my word for it: make sure the tent is ok, your bag is ok and that your pad is packed. It is so worth the effort.' She also writes: 'The last few years me and my friends bring a caravan since it makes it possible to store more stuff and also a rather powerful sound gear so we can let the camp hear some proper metal but my first decade of festivals I slept in tents (or outdoors when I couldn't find my way home).'
Nephente agrees: 'Check your tent, else you'll have a nice surprise, when it starts raining and you start to recognize some nice holes. Is it in a good condition, waterproof and all that stuff, and remember to have everything with you, that you need to put it up! (otherwise friendly tent neighbours come in handy!'
Make sure you know how to get there
Whether you're travelling by plane, train, car, bus... make sure you sort this out early too. If you're driving, also make sure your car's all right. As Ateacina says, 'there's nothing more annoying than having a puncture on the way to the festival or when not being able to leave the festival on the last day - apart from the fact that it might get really, really expensive. And you don't want to spend all your nice festival money on a car?!'
Try to bring food and alcohol with you
- buy enough food, water, alcohol...whatever you need before you go. It's always cheaper than buying everything at the festival itself (at least as long as you're allowed to bring your own stuff, which normally works at the camping sites)
- as mentioned before: try to bring as much as possible with you or go shopping in the nearest village to the festival.
- Don't rely on the festivals food, the selection of food might not be as good as you expected it to be, so have enough own stuff with you. Else...be prepared to spend tons of money on food and drinking. Especially at big festivals! Plus the quality is pretty often not the best. As for vegetarians.. bring your own food as well, just to be on the safe side, though the vegetarian food situation is getting better at the bigger festivals.
Don't forget water
- Lots of water and by 'lots' I mean lots! You'll need water for cooking, washing, and of course drinking. Don't live on alcohol only.
- Make sure you keep a bottle to refill when you stumble upon a tap. Also fill it before you leave the area, a bottle of water can be a great friend when waking up in a hot tent or a caravan.
The list of essentials is long, but as Ateacina says, 'the less you suffer from discomforts, the more you can focus on the music and the party!'.
- Good shoes! It's no fun having feet that hurt after the first day and, no, it doesn't matter whether those shoes look fancy, trendy or whatever. Comfort is essential.
- Enough socks and underwear
- A first aid kit, sun cream, mosquito repellent, condoms (in case you get lucky!)
- Enough cigarettes (if you smoke), enough alcohol (if you drink)
- Driver's license
- Tent, sleeping pad
- Think about whether you need medicine, or if you are allergic to anything. Make sure to have all the stuff with you, some information sheet about problems etc.
- Torch, knife, lighter (yes, even for the non-smokers), tin-opener, a water container to get some water at the campground, toilet paper can never be wrong, since I wouldn't rely on having some at the mobile toilets
- Hygiene articles of any kind... including your toothbrush - whatever you normally need as well, take it along! Remember you're three days or more in the middle of nowhere, maybe without a shower and you at least don't want to feel completely dirty.
- Cellphone and if possible a spare battery - you'll always need it...either for seaching your friends, seaching other people at the camp/festival ground, in case of an emergency etc.
- If you're under 18 (or whatever the rules in the festival might be), check beforehand whether you need some signed paper from your parents to be granted access to the festival; in case you need some person over 18 to acompany you, make sure, there really is someone with you
- Earplugs!!! For two reasons: once of course during the gigs. It's absolutely no fun having problems with your ears afterwards, just because you thought it isn't that loud. 'It doesn't sound that good anymore, plugs are annoying!' - are absolutely no good arguments. If you're attending gigs on a regular basis, invest a bit more money and get good ones (around 20-30 Euro). Second reason: if you want to get at least some sleep and don't want to try falling asleep, while your tent neighbours are still partying...earplugs help. And no, attending a gig and showing off that you'll stand in front of speakers, no matter how loud it is, is not metal, it's stupid.
- Your common sense and behaviour - just because it's a festival, it doesn't mean you can behave like a total asshole or neaderthal! (well even though some still seem to think it's totally true and uber cool to do so) nobody wants to have annoying camp neighbours
Things to leave at home
- Wine in bottles, beer in bottles... anything fragile is really a bad idea. Ateacina says: 'I had a very rough year back in the day when I had one bottle of wine and then tripped and smashed my other nine on the asphalt. Spending an entire festival drinking wine trying to avoid bits of glass isn't exactly splendid. So awoid glass containers.
- Avoid bringing anything precious to you since things tend to get lost and theft is unfortunately not so uncommon. So leave your best camera and your most expensive sunglasses at home. At least if you intend on partying hard! Leave everything you won't need at home - if something gets stolen...well...
- Bad mood
- 'Friends' that always get you into trouble
- Drugs - the festival might end before it has started, since the police are controlling, well or the end can be very 'unfunny', when they catch you afterwards
- A big hangover when driving back, make sure the driver is sober!
- A big mirror reflex when not having a photopass - most probably you won't be able to take it with your and then you have to leave it in the car = not good
- Any dangerous goods and things, whatever that might be. If you check a festival page, you'll surely find some section on the page, that tells you what you should not bring along
- Animals! Come on, I've already seen people bringing their dogs with them. it's no fun, neither for the dog, nor for anyone else. Leave them at home. Luckily it's forbidden at most festivals anyways.
- Same goes for (really small) children... use your common sense!
- Any doubtful political attitude, that's something that no festival needs (well, no one in general. Lots of German festivals therefore have a really strict 'No Nazi' attitude. People with forbidden bandshirts, won't be able to enter the festival (Party.San for example, as far as I've read)
- Glass bottles or anything that might break - what started as 'glass-free' at very few festivals a few years ago (especially in Germany) has become pretty common at nearly all of them. So make sure to refill bottles into plastic ones etc. (You surely don't want to leave your bottle of vodka or whatever at the entrance.)
Think about the weather
- check the weather forecast - though various festivals have clearly shown, that you can't really rely on that (huge, huge thunderstorm at Bang Your Head Festival in 2005 for example, nobody had expected something that big: huge parts of the camp and festival site had been destroyed!). Try to find a forecast that also states the expected temperature at night since it can sometimes be surprisingly cold.
- Simple rule: if you bring a rain jacket it will not rain, if you forget it, it will pour... so a rain jacket can be good ;) It is some sort of Murphy's Law that applies to most festivals
- Enough clothes to change can never be wrong. It's pretty important for those travelling by train/plane and can't carry that much stuff. You'd rather put in more clothes and leave other stuff, buy food at the festival town
- If you're a photographer, some rain protection for the camera
Ateacina says, 'This is tricky, some people seem to survive an entire festival on almost nothing at all. I personally try to bring at least enough in cash to give me two meals a day and enough beer to not worry about the weather. But make sure to bring cash, some festivals have ATMs in the area but the ques are often looooong. Make sure to also have some smart way to store your cash on you. Never leave cash anywhere like in your tent. Things get stolen and money is just to make it way to easy for people with too-long fingers.'
Neph agrees. 'It depends on what you're planning to buy. In case you prepare your own food, this saves you a lot of money, BUT then there are those 'evil' merchandise stands.... you'll easily spent all the money you've just saved on shirts and stuff. When you're not allowed to bring drinks to the festival area itself, be prepared to spend quite an amount of money on drinks. Not drinking enough really destroys you at festivals. In general it's better to have a decent amount of money with you. Because you always have to remember, that if there's some cash mashine near or on the festival ground, you'll surely have lots of people standing in line to withdraw some money. On the other hand, it's better not to have too much with you - you won't spend too much and there's always the danger of losing your money or even getting something stolen. So as always, use your common sense, you should roughly know how much you might need and set your limits.'
How to survive multiple festivals over several months
Neph says, 'I would say all you will have to think about is planning and not forgetting that you might need some rest in between a festival and work, but I seldom see this as a problem, it is just planning that is required and that includes money since a festival can become a bit more expensive than first expected since beer is tasty, the clothes they sell looks nice and the food can be tasty. So make sure to have a budget or you might be low on cash quicker than you might expect!'
Ateacina says, 'For me personally, my first rule is, don't go crazy with drinking. This totally destroys you. When photographing it's out of question anyways, drinking and working doesn't work too well together. Maybe not catch every after-show party, or don't party till early morning if you don't want to feel like a zombie the next day. Whenever possible, take notes or even start writing short notes on your laptop (in case you got it with you), Save pics, sort them out. Get some kind of decent workflow to be able to get things sorted pretty fast once you come home. I have some kind of checklist of what to take with me at every festival from camera stuff to daily needed things. So at least this preparation part is no big deal. Organise everything as early as possible: it makes everything much more relaxed than having to deal with problems last minute besides your normal job/university whatever. For non-press people, basically the same: don't go too crazy'.
Traveling around the world is usually not a problem. If you are going to a very exotic place get copy of a Lonely Planet guide. It can be useful. The festivals themselves are usually similar regardless of country they are in,so if you have attended as festival at home you will see that most things are the same regardless where you go. Pay a visit to the website of the festival, usually you can find answers to most things there!
- In case you need foreign currency, get at least some in advance and check out as soon as possible, where you can get more money and IF there's a cash machine at all near the festival ground
- Remember, other country = other culture. Be prepared for other behaviour of people in whatsoever way (for example, I was quite amazed to see 'crowdsurfing forbidden' signs everywhere at Dynamo in the Netherlands, it's also not common in Sweden, Finland, Norway.... quite strange, when being used to tons of crowdsurfers come crashing in at a festival like Wacken. Mind you, reactions of the security guys can be quite rough, when you go crowdsurfing nevertheless!.
- The legal drinking age might be different from your home country, make sure you won't get into trouble, when you're young. Or drinking in public in general.
- ID card and stuff like that, check whether it's still valid
Other stuff to think about
- Have some meeting point for you and your friends in case you either get lost or want to meet after having attended different gigs at different stages or something like that. It's always easier (and cheaper on the long run), than having to phone for everyone, trying to shout the 'wheeeeere are you? can't hear you' while another band is playing.
- Even though festivals are normally safe places (well, more or less), be careful when running around alone at night. Make sure to have money at a safe place at night, when sleeping in a tent, know where the next ambulance or whatever is, in case of an emergency etc. Unfortunately the number of thefts has increased at German festivals (no idea what it's like elsewhere, since I haven't camped in foreign countries). Also: preferably don't leave the whole festival surrounding at night, if it's unneccessary. Inside there are always security guys who could help you (a friend of mine once got robbed at a festival, since he left the festival all alone...)
- Getting to know your tent neighbours is also an advantage, since then, there's always someone, who could have an eye on each other's stuff
Top Tips - Ateacina
- Buy the festival program and try to find at least one band you haven't heard each day! That is one of the best things about a festival. The chance to discover new music! The Rookie scene/demo scene is where you should be in case no band you are a fan of is playing.
- Bring a variation of alcohol (if you drink), your favorite beer just doesnt taste the same day three!
- Bring something to sit on, a foldable chair is something that will make hanging out at the tent a lot better. It took me a decade to realise this! You will thank me one day!
- Avoid your high heels if you are a girl, some areas are really muddy and it is hard to maintain a glamorous look when your stilettos get stuck in mud.
- Bring some extra clothing in case it gets really hot, bring some extra clothing in case it gets cold. Most late night concerts can be chilly and a good jacket is worth the effort!
- Bring/get earplugs, not because the music is too loud (it seldom is) but because drunk people in tent/carvans snore and if you are unlucky and come home last it might be a pain to fall asleep.
- Be safe, avoid getting to wasted and make sure to stay in touch with your friends. I can take a long time to regroup if you lose each other at a big festival site.
- Chose a meeting spot in case you lose track of your friends. It can be tricky to use cell phones due to the network being overloaded and if you have decided on a meeting spot it is easy to just send a sms/text message to let people know where you are
- Learn the rules of the festival and try to abide by them. It really sucks to get thrown out for smoking in the wrong place, or failing to listen to the security people. Some festivals have for instance banned crowd surfing and will not be too mild if you break that rule. Some rules suck but it sucks even more to get your festival bracelet cut and having to sit outside the area.
- Memorize the location of your tent and make damn sure you know where it is! I have spent nights looking for my tent since things do really look different at night and being a bit drunk does not help either.
- Enjoy! Festivals are great fun and most problems you might encounter can be sorted out. Never hesitate to ask people for help if you need it, both the festival crew and the visitors tend to be very helpful.
Top Tips - Nephente
- Prepaaaaaaaaare everything beforehand, the earlier everything's clear, the better. It's simply less stressful
- Have fun!
- Be prepared for any kind of weather
- Check the FAQ of a festivalpage (most of them at least have one), to get answers to some questions before - those normally help a lot!
- As long as you have the chance to: go there early enough! Being late and then being stuck in a huge traffic jam is no fun - well maybe for your friends who are sitting in the back of the car and are already drunk when you arrive the festival - no fun for the driver. Oh, and make sure that it's clear, who the driver is, in terms of being sober on the last day when going back!
- If you don't want to be ripped off: get your ticket early and from an official place!
- Don't leave your common sense at home, remember: you're not the only one attending this festival, everybody wants to have fun! (Which includes being nice to the security people - they're only human beings as well and want to make everything as safe as possible.)
- Know your limits with drinking (and everything else, too)! Might sound boring, but well, it's not fun passing out completely. After all you've spent quite a lot of money on the festival ticket and want to see some bands, right?
Additional tips for all the photographers among you:
- Check equipment beforehand
- Have enough batteries with you, same goes for memory cards
- Have a running order with bands marked you definitely want to see
- Have some image storage...image tank etc.
- Take your laptop
- If possible, take a second camera body, there's nothing more annoying than a cam that stops working for no reason and having no possibility to go on shooting
- Remember some rain protection
- Take a good backpack/bag. Remember you'll have to carry it around for a long day or 2-3 looong days and equipment can be become really heavy when you're, for example, shooting from 11 am till somewhere in the night