Are Out-of-Town Festivals Worth the Hassle?
Music festivals have been around for decades, and they're only becoming more popular. Each year, millions of fans fly around the world to attend more than 270 fests of various genres in the United States alone. They aren't a cheap experience, either: between festival tickets, travel, hotels and basics like food and water, you end up dropping anywhere from $500 to $1000, and beyond (ahem: This might be a good time to check out our list of 11 Ways to Attend a Music Festival on a Budget.)
Benjamin Leatherman Seasoned festival-goers at McDowell Mountain.
Which raises one inevitable question: is it really worth going to festivals out of town?
The act of actually getting to a festival out of the Phoenix area can be a love/hate relationship... or at least it is for me. (Please, PR friends--don't revoke my press applications! You can't see this, but I'm batting eyelashes that aren't nearly as convincing after a peace-treaty whiskey shot.)
I'm always intensely excited prior to the festival, as well as afterward, when I'm writing up a storm with all the notes I took. The end result usually consists of the luscious sound of the music, the bands that killed and the ones that disappointed, and the body count of people passed out--still holding glinting aluminum beers in one hand with devil horns up on the other--throughout the day.
You know, a typical review.
But when I'm actually at the festival, on my feet for 12 hours and running from stage to stage to stage in hopes of grabbing a great spot to see the next band... somewhere between hours nine and 11, I start to wear out. Somewhere between the hot sun or pouring rain (because that's just always how it goes), I get grouchy. And somewhere between the gourmet cupcake vendor and the heroin junkies, I snap.
As a music journalist, I'm sure I'll get a lot of crap for saying these things. But you know you've all felt it at one point: You're sick of sweaty hillbillies stumbling against you in the crowd, only to use you had a human wall, smearing booze-laden sweat across your side. You're hot or cold, sick of the $8 waters and funnel cakes and terrible tattoos staring you in the face. And as much as you're enjoying the music, at some point the thought crosses your mind: "I can't wait to get home and out of these crowds." Sometimes the crowd is well controlled, but with multiple bands on multiple stages, with alcohol and some non-legal elements thrown in, it can often be overpowering.
But people do love music festivals, and traveling far for one can make you appreciate it that much more. I mean, it's true I feel waaaay less prepared for a full day of music at say, the Phoenix Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival than I do at Bonnaroo.
Take, for example, a young woman I met at Rock on the Range. She was 23-years-old, had flown to Columbus, Ohio from Miami, Florida, and spent the bulk of about six paychecks to get there.
"It's humid. It's expensive. And it's crowded," she said slowly, sipping a lukewarm Bud Light. "But I love the energy. And being able to see like, 50 bands in three days? I can pretty much save money on all those concerts I'd go to at home, paying for individual tickets."