I’ve come to find in my experience that there are usually two kinds of music festival-goers. The first kind is the person who loves music. The second kind of person is someone who likes to go for the spectacle… and to get as messed up as possible.
At the New Orleans Jazzfest, mainly what I saw were the former. People who loved music.
My first music festival experience, the Carling Festival in Leeds, England… most of the people were like this:
My friend Irene and I had been traveling in Scotland and stopped in Leeds for what sounded like the most amazing line-up of all time. And don’t get me wrong, we had fun. We had more fun than you should be allowed to have… but there was a different vibe.
Music festivals are set up so that you can’t see everyone you want to see. During some point there is going to be a time where two bands you love are playing at the same time and you have to choose. It seemed like the English kids got around this by crowding into a tent, fighting their way up front and then bailing on the band as soon as they played their hit radio song… to run over to another tent to hear that band’s radio hit. I remember being baffled as an area packed with people would become bare… just me and my friend and a few other people… and the band still very much playing on.
I kind of felt bad for the bands.
But on the upside of the Carling Fest… we got to sing Blur songs (one of me and Irene’s fave bands ever) on a pleasant English evening along with thousands of people, all of whom knew the words. It was an experience that you wouldn’t be able to have over here… because not that many people like Blur and they’d never be able to headline a U.S. festival. That’s the best part about music festivals… the unpredictable amazing and unique experiences.
There are also things about the English festivals that make me not want to go back. People had a penchant for filling up what seemed like hundreds of water bottles and throwing them around the crowd… like we’d do with beach balls in the U.S., or glow-sticks/necklaces at a Phish show. And you never really knew what was in those water bottles.
I also remember that weekend, there were a lot of trash fires. The kids would gather up the trash (Carling cups, water bottles, paper food plates etc…) and would make mini campfires in the middle of the main stage area. Security would put them out… but then more would just pop up. It was kinda crazy… Americans would freak out about that kind of thing. It was definitely kind of lawless… a weekend of anarchy.
After that I went to Bonnaroo for a few years… but I’m not sure that I ever had that much fun. I think I would trick myself into thinking that I was having fun because I’m not much of a camper. Every year got worse. It’s like a marathon… it really sucks while you’re doing it, it’s really hard… but at the end, looking back… it’s very rewarding. You think to yourself… I just saw Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against the Machine in ONE weekend. I am awesome.
My friend Irene at Lollapalooza (and an awesome band known as the Raconteurs).
But the time you spend baking in the sun all day… the time you spend fighting crowds… the time you spend looking for friends who combined mushrooms with MDMA the night before and have seen no sign of them for hours… the time you spend waiting for some diva rapper (Kanye… I’m looking at you) to come out on stage… makes you wonder if it’s all worth it. And of course, as you look back… hell yeah it was worth it.
You do it so you can witness moments that would never happen anywhere else or at any other time. The unique moments. Like the time I saw Bonnaroo’s 1 a.m. superjam set starring John Paul Jones, Questlove and Ben Harper. They played Led Zepellin tunes into the night. I could have died and went heaven.
Or for the times that you get to sing along with your friends to your favorite Radiohead songs (like that one year at Lollapalooza, with fireworks over the Chicago skyline)… tear up as you watch Thom York perform "Fake Plastic Trees" … "If I could be who you wanted, if I could be who you wanted… all the time".
To someone who loves music, to someone who loves a band that much… you’d stand a little heat to be able to have that moment. There is nothing, absolutely nothing like the energy of a main stage crowd listening to songs that people grew up loving, thousands singing in unison under the stars. To a music nerd… it can be a religious experience.
But as I get older… and the more attached I get to hot showers and comfortable beds, just the mere thought of something like Bonnaroo makes me exhausted. It makes me ask myself… do I really want to do it again?
The answer is… only if I have a proper bed to sleep in at the end of the night. And only if that bed isn’t very far… or at the end of some kind of crazy public transportation.
So, Jazzfest was perfect.
It was more than perfect, it was downright pleasant. My dude and I just rode our bikes into Bayou St. John, met up with some friends and enjoyed some tunes.
And the thing that I noticed about Jazzfest straight away was that this was a gathering of music fans… and not just people who liked to get as messed up as possible for a weekend.
And the food was amazeballs. We had some crawfish enchiladas that were out of this world. You want to know the way to a dude’s heart in New Orleans? That would be crawfish enchiladas. I’m not sure that I’ve seen my dude more enthralled with a plate of food.
And yeah, it was hot. But you push through it. It’s just something that you do for the music if you love it enough. You get sunburnt. You pay 5 dollars for a beer… all so that you can sing along to "Reptillia" by The Strokes with your friends.
Here are some Jazzfest highlights:
This was my first Jazzfest so maybe I was the only one amused by this? "No street vending" signs directly across from people selling lemonade, beers and jello shots?
My fave sign. Jazzfest parking, $297,000. Comes with a free house.
The thing I hate most about music festivals. Port O Potties. I think I’ve developed an irrational fear of them since watching Jackass. This is why I don’t drink much beer at festivals… I hate using these things. Dudes get drunk and don’t care where they aim. The sun beats down. I’m gagging just thinking about it.
Me and my dude watching Mystikal. And I never thought I’d string those words together in a sentence. Again, it’s the unique moments 😉
"Strummin’ da bass".
Notice the difference?
What were some of your Jazzfest highlights? or music festival moments of unique awesomeness?
Read more from Annie at anniedeladolce.com.