What I Learned From My First Festival Experience

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One thing that you should know about my boyfriend, The Secret Agent is that he has more zest for life than many men half his age. If there’s a concert, art show, festival, opening or anything note worthy happening, he wants to be there to experience it. I partly attribute this to the years he spent living in New York City. His willingness to try new things and embark on adventures pushes me to do the same – one of the many reasons I like him so much.

With that said, as the months have passed (fun, adventure & music filled months…) I’ve learned that The Secret Agent and I have very different personalities. He is very much an extrovert who gets his energy from being out and about with other people; whereas I fall somewhere in between extrovert and introvert. I love being the life of the party, however when the party is over I’m more than happy to retreat back to my “mole hole” (the nickname I have for the bedroom/office that constitutes Skinny Dip HQ) for some quiet R&R (cue: books, blankets and podcasts.)

Now flashback to the night he and I met, when over drinks he brought up the Squamish Valley Music Festival. SVMF is a huge festival that takes place in the mountains, about a 40 minute drive from Whistler, BC. The Secret Agent has attended for the past few years. I’ve never been to a music festival. I love live music however, (thanks to multiple viewings of the Woodstock movie with my Mom over the years) I’ve always viewed music festivals as crowded, drug and mud-filled events with questionable toilet situations. I also don’t camp – at all – making me both an anomaly on the West Coast and (I presumed) ill prepared for a music festival.

However, as The Secret Agent told me about all of the acts he’d seen over the years, I could hear the excitement in his voice. Maybe I could enjoy a music festival? I mean, it’s now or never right?!

As I inch closer to my mid-thirties I’ve become way more aware of how we, as humans shape our own stories. Some of my proudest and most enjoyable moments over the past three years have come about when I’ve pushed myself outside of my comfort zone and challenged long held beliefs about myself. Can’t work out in the morning? Yeah, I was wrong about that. Can’t have a full-time freelancing biz and write a book? Wrong. Will never enjoy the music of Drake? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Although I knew these things about myself, when The Secret Agent purchased us two tickets to the festival and the weekend grew closer, I became anxious. Would the crowds and overall intensity of the festival be too much for me? What would I wear? Would everyone think I was an old lady if I didn’t show up to this thing in frayed daisy dukes and a crocheted vest? I mean, what is the deal with crocheted vests? OH MY GOD WHAT WILL THE BATHROOM SITUATION BE LIKE?

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Although the bathroom situation left a lot to be desired, that whole “music festivals aren’t my thing” refrain that’s been part of my story for the past 34 years – yeah, I was wrong about that too. I had a really awesome weekend. I heard so much amazing music in such a short time that it was completely surreal (Sam Smith, Gorgon City, Drake, Schoolboy Q, Alabama Shakes & A$AP Rocky were faves.) The Secret Agent even made a Joe the Intern t-shirt that he could wear while we enjoyed the festival & the gorgeous scenery in Squamish.

(Joe says, “I’m not too clear on what goes on in people’s bathing suit areas, but I like seeing my face on a t-shirt. I wish I had a t-shirt”)

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I also learned a few things from losing my festival experience, so here they are:

1. You have to let the music festival take you where it takes you – Similar to my philosophy on how to do Vegas, in order to have a good time at a music festival you just have to give in to the energy of the whole thing. In other words, you start having fun as soon as you stop worrying about that damn crocheted vest.

2. Wet Wipes are your friend – I’m so glad that I came armed with tons of anti-bacterial wipes and hand sanitizer…. because I needed it. Those porta-potties get really gross by the end of the day. For some reason they seemed to get extra disgusting on the day that Mumford and Sons headlined and I never figured out why. Come prepared, my friends!

3. You will have a new found appreciation for indoor plumbing of all kinds. Never will a shower and a real toilet seem so incredibly wonderful as they do after a full day festival-ing. Even the bathroom at Subway will seem luxurious in comparison.

SVMF 3(There’s lots to see and do at SVMF, so sometimes we had to split up to catch it all. Here’s Hammer taking in the very rainy A$AP Rocky show while Joe watches Hot Chip. Joe says, “Considering Hot Chip are from London, this was not what I was expecting. Where are the singing potatoes? The newspaper wrapping? THE GIANT DEEP FRYER?! These red laser lights though…“)

4. There will be lots of delicious food at your musical festival. That doesn’t mean you have to eat all of it. If you’re gluten and dairy intolerant, don’t decide to binge on mini-doughnuts and poutine every night. Just don’t. I learned this the hard way. Instead, stick to the stuff that you know is OK (like that really awesome Jerk Chicken food truck you discovered and those chocolate dipped strawberries on a stick that you’re still thinking about.)

5. You will come in contact with bare ass-cheeks. This can’t be avoided. Women don’t wear a lot of clothes to music festivals: fact. While getting ready to watch the A$AP Rocky show, I noticed a really attractive young woman wearing the bathing suit I’d just purchased from American Apparel and a pair of white sneakers. That’s it. The swimsuit shows a substantial amount of ass (this was another “it’s now or never!” purchase) and the crowd was tightly packed. As the crowd began to move to the music, my swimsuit twin’s semi-bare ass cheeks began to repeatedly slap my arm, which was clutching onto my cross body bag for dear life. No matter where I shifted my body I somehow came in contact with her butt cheeks. This is why Wet Wipes are your friend.

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(“For a safe festival experience, don’t Drake and Drive.” – Hammer.)

6. I can step out of my comfort zone and everything will be OK. (Except for those washrooms. Those will never be OK but you just have to roll with it.) About five years ago, I wrote about going on a roller coaster for the first time. My first festival experience felt very similar.

The thing that I was afraid of and thought was so beyond my comfort zone (going to a huge, boisterous festival in the mountains), really wasn’t. It was more a matter of letting go of that fear. I also learned when it comes to experiences like this, you just have to do things your way. I wore clothes that I feel comfortable in (cute flats & a collection of boho-ish trapeze dresses) and did the whole weekend sober (because day drinking makes me feel gross).

I learned that I actually love music festivals, but I will never be the drunk, half-naked girl in the fringed bikini, crowd surfing to Drake (and I am totally OK with that.)

The Secret Agent and I capped off our epic weekend by driving down to Seattle to see D’Angelo play – a concert that was nothing short of amazing & rivals Prince as one of the best performances I’ve ever seen.

I enjoyed myself so much that I’m already researching other festivals I can go to. So far I have my eyes on Voodoo Fest 2016 in NOLA. Who’s in?!

Oh how things change.

Have you ever been to a festival? What did you think?

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  • Um, this sounds amazing, actually. I’ve never been to a music festival & have never really wanted to, but I like the idea of making your own experience – that you don’t have to be the girl on mushrooms wearing fringed boots & licking people’s faces, or whatever – but that you have to accept that other people’s experiences will totally overlap with yours (like the girl with the butt cheeks). perhaps I want to try a music festival…?! Oh, & I LOVE THAT SHIRT SO MUCH. Did anyone ask him?!

    • skinny_dip

      You should definitely go to one at least once. If I can do it, you can do it! It’s funny, I was so worried that I would seem out of place, but once I was there I realized how silly that was. Yes, there were tons of mushroom + fringed boots people, but there were also lots of people like me just doing things their own way (there were 80,000 people there that weekend so it’s impossible that everyone is just one type of person!) I also noticed that the crowd was different based on who was headlining that day. The Drake & A$AP Rocky Crowd was different than the Mumford & Sons crowd. Anyway, I highly recommend trying a festival at least once just to see all the music. Even though I was nervous, I went in with an open mind which I think really, really helped.

      Re: shirt – Thank you! We actually did get a couple of comments…but not as many as you’d expect?! There were several drunk guys who came up to him and were like “I LIKE SEX TOO.” Um, yeah!

  • Glad you had fun! Your festival outfit was on point! I hadn’t been to a festival in forever, when a couple of years ago a girlfriend suddenly had a spare ticket to a great one. I felt old and out of touch, worrying about the crocheted vest/butt cheeks situation, but it was amazing! I found that being a little older and wiser I had more fun and I was more prepared (despite my nickname)! I am still on the look out for the next great festival (travel and other commitments have sadly got in the way since). One thing I can never get over is that smell – how EVERYTHING smells like grass (the stuff you walk on) and GRASS (the other stuff) haha.

    • skinny_dip

      Thank you! I agree – I’m glad that I went to this festival older, wiser and prepared with lots of hand wipes, water and proper clothing (No dehydration or post festival illnesses for this girl!) Also you’re totally right about both kinds of grass, ha. I’m pretty sure I got a contact high on several occasions 😉