So you’re brave enough to go to a festival alone. You bought the weekend ticket and you simply can’t wait – that great weekend of infinite music is approaching. Congratulations! Have a bunch of tips from someone who’s been there and will share their opinion on what to take and how to plan your time.
So everybody besides you already agreed that you have no friends (the truth is, your friends are not into the same type of music or are spending holidays somewhere else, but do cool kids care about facts?!). And you’ve decided to purchase that weekend ticket and indulge in the stream of your favourite music. Supported by Morrissey, murmuring “And when you want to live, how do you start? Where do you go? Who do you need to know?”, or going for a modern inquiry with Foster the People’s “ARE YOU WHAT YOU WANT TO BE?!”, you type something quite relatable into Google. Maybe “what to take to a festival”. Or “festival essentials”.
You are in the right place, however, this guide aims to be rather unusual – as I believe that not many people actually go to festivals alone. I’ve been there and I’m going to take you through the entire procedure quite painlessly, if you don’t count the slightly hungover headache and smashed toes if you don’t take my shoe advice.
Going to a festival on your own looks like quite a scary experience. It gets even tougher when it’s your first one. For me, it was both of those at once – I did Reading 2014 on my own. And oh man, it was worth it! Seeing Queens of the Stone Age, Paramore, Arctic Monkeys, blink-182, Papa Roach, Foster the People, Enter Shikari, Tonight Alive, the Hives and many, many more was the best experience of my life so far. Looking back, I’d done some things differently – and here are the conclusions that I managed to sort out in my head.
Let’s start with the preparations. Get yourself a pop-up tent and a sleeping bag. Nights tend to get cold, so I’d advise taking a blanket. A travel pillow would make things easier for you in the morning as well, so invest in that. A thermal mug might come in handy as well.
For the clothes, everything that can be layered is perfectly fine. I ended up with three pairs of shorts, some tees, one crocheted something which looked quite nice on top of the white slouchy vest, a jumpsuit, a pair of jeans, a waterproof jacket, a cardigan, a lot of socks, several pairs of underwear and my favourite piece of clothing aka The Rolling Stones hoodie. Good shoes are a must – personally, I’d recommend something that will effectively protect your toes. Sandals are awesome, but leave them for the campfire/dancing evening. You might want to pack sunglasses, though.
In terms of make-up, I wouldn’t be the best looking Reading fest attendee no matter what I’d have done, so I decided to go for the minimalistic solution. A mascara, a pencil eyeliner and a lipgloss were just enough. Besides all the obvious essentials, as a towel, a deodorant, liquid soap and dry shampoo, I got myself an enormously big pack of wet wipes and a dry-on antiseptic gel. I’ve had also a paracetamol pack and a set of small plasters in my bag, but I guess this is obvious for everybody.
Don’t rely only on your mobile phone. It’s better not to take a smartphone, but a combination of a camera and a basic brick phone you’ve found in the attic. Smartphones have the tendency to discharge quite quickly because of the overload of apps you’ve downloaded, and the rates for charging your mobile are rather ridiculous on the site, so this is simply the most economic solution. A watch is a necessity – I forgot about mine and had to charge my phone only for the purpose of checking the time for switching stages.
Before you leave, tidy your room and sort your groceries out. It actually does help when you are still recovering from the post-festival syndrome later. You come home after a long travel. You run to your beloved shower and go to a bed without piles of clothes on it. You still have cereal in your cupboard and yoghurt in your fridge. It doesn’t seem like an exciting vision, but trust me – it helped me out on my Monday-after comedown.
You’re in the town where the event takes place. It might be a good idea to go to a supermarket and equip yourself with some canned food and booze. After the second day you’re gonna be tired of your endless baked beans and tuna with bread, but hopefully, you’ll make better nutrition choices than me. You might want to grab a plate of chips for 3 quid anyway, somewhere in between one gig and the other. Top tip – look for the Polish staff. We always feed people better. Obviously, it turned out to be true in my case – the nice ladies treated me to a generous heap of chips with double ketchup and mayo. (Bless people who understand condiment needs!)
You are in the campsite, there’s a wristband on your arm and you happily made your way into your lovely tent. Well done! You might want to make a note on the map that you took to know where exactly your tent is located, and you might want to mark it somehow not to lose it in the dark. And yes, a dash of a fluorescent paint seems like a bit extreme solution, but who’s gonna stop da riches?! Well, who?!
Now set everything up and have a look at the programme. You might have decided who you want to see and you printed a clashfinder out, but take some time before the first morning to read some descriptions. That was how I discovered several bands that I might have wanted to see among the ones that I had already known. This is another brilliant thing about going alone – you can be quite egoistic and decide to listen to music you actually like instead of striking a gold medium in desperate attempts to split the line-up to satisfy everyone around. And this is how I discovered Sweethead, which consists of Queens of the Stone Age’s guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen and charming Serrina Sims (so, in a way, I got the double QotSA gig in one day!), or the Vendettas, who were pretty appealing to my mod-hippie-sixties-admiring soul. And that’s just the beginning of the list! If somebody accuses you that you’re not the real fan, because you’re not shouting out all the lyrics that you know anyway and you just got astonished by the fact that you’re actually in this place at this very moment – look at them from the heights of your maturity. Meh. You know what to do. Dance like crazy even if you can’t, jump around and enjoy yourself in every antisocial way! Moreover, talk to people. Even if you made a choice to come here alone for the sake of the greatest music, you might make some friends while waiting for the next great gig that evening.
Try some new things. Go to the concert of the artist that performs the genre that you can barely stand – even if you will be in the tent for three minutes or so. That’s how you broaden your knowledge, after all. Moreover, get into some insane rock-and-rollish sweaty riot, especially if you have never dared to do it before. This is the brand-new experience, and you should be collecting them all in your little diary.
If you’re like me and you could barely sleep from all the excitement – use showers in the very early morning, when all the other human beings are still sleeping. That enables you to do some lovely night walks around as well, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the (possibly) clear sky full of stars (so Coldplay-like, oh my!).
Another quick reminder – don’t forget to eat and hydrate yourself. You’ll end up moving around for more than 12 hours and it is going to be intense for most of the time, so remember what your mummy/nutritionist/biology teacher said. Drink a lot, but make your drinks varied. (Author’s note – don’t mix the most of your diet Coke with vodka at the very beginning. Leave some pure drink for the purpose of replacing what you had perspired.)
And my personal request, I cannot accentuate it stronger – for fuck’s sake! Don’t smoke in the crowd, especially just before the last gig in front of the main stage… Smoke anywhere else. Smoke in your freaking tent, if you wanna get fully nicotine-infused, like a wicked scented pendant in a car. Please, don’t make others breathe in those freaking fumes when the amount of air is limited already. Just don’t. I wouldn’t (and I smoke like a steam train), your mom wouldn’t, so don’t. Really.
And do you think that it gets lonely in your tent at night, especially because there’s no music player which would keep you company as usual? Bad news: it does. On the other hand, there are so many things planned besides the gigs – so look for the events that you could go to – a cinema, a disco, all that sounds fine and saves you an empty night.
Oh, and if you were lucky to come there early enough – look around. Have your eyes wide open. Do some sightseeing and at least pretend to be cultured. Reading had pretty architecture and a lovely park in the middle of the roundabout, for instance, and it’s a pity I didn’t get the time to see more.
If you’re still wondering – it’s definitely worth it. You’ll listen to some pretty legendary bands live. Some of them will convince you that they are your cup of tea indeed and you should take a massive sip when you get the access to your music player again. You’ll come back home with a handful of new favourites and some new discoveries that will make your usual playlist richer. It will get you hooked and that’ s the least that can happen.
And think prospectively, dear! Who knows – maybe in years you’ll be able to tell your grandchildren: “Well, when I was your age, I went to such and such festival on my own to see the most amazing line-up that summer”? Who wouldn’t like to have such a grandparent?!