The formation of “the group” is the aspect of music festival attendance that newcomers tend to negate as important. They decide early on that seeing “x” artist will make their life complete, regardless of who tags along. On the other hand, festival returnees tend to obsess over what company they bring. After all, returnees now know that if they don’t have enough people to wake the entire campsite every night at 2AM and keep things interesting when the third-day exhaustion sets in, the experience might not be worth their time.
My experience as a frequenter of shows and the stories I have heard from festival-loving friends allow me to confirm that company can make or break one’s experience. So to aid in the efforts of your planning (assuming you are a planner like myself), I will provide a brief description of the kind of people that helped make my experience. Some of them may surprise you, but I guarantee that you will not regret including them. Consider this your informal protocol for festival group-forming.
1. The Merrymaker.
The Merrymaker has put you over the edge countless times in the past, and not in a good way. It is likely that she has ruined one or more of the functions you were attending or hosting simply because she is that over-the-top. For The Merrymaker, every function that she attends must somehow become a party, including (but not limited to): first dates, engagement parties, funeral receptions, family reunions, etc. The Merrymaker is the type to become overly wound up about nearly everything. She will always drink too much if drinking is involved; she will get sick. If fun was had in one way or another, she will never regret it.
Bring The Merrymaker. She might not have a place at most functions, and you definitely wouldn’t dare invite her to your wedding someday. But she has a place at your campsite. When you are being lame and napping in the car to Explosions in the Sky because you “are just so exhausted and it’s day three and it’s raining,” she will force you to take shots of tequila and dance on top of your campsite neighbor’s jeep. “Don’t worry, Crazy,” she’ll sing, “I got their permission.” She will pump up the group when the group is fading quickly. Her unadulterated enthusiasm will rub off on you and you will appreciate it.
2. The Coordinator.
The Coordinator discovered music festivals somewhere in between being irritatingly proper and learning what it means to have real fun. He cannot physically survive without his planner, but when and if nothing else is scheduled in his lifeline of a book, he is always down for a good time. His “work hard play hard” lifestyle is well balanced on both ends. He comes off as a bit bossy, but when he is in charge, every task on the group’s list will undoubtedly be accomplished. He is never boring, but he is always on top of it (whatever “it” may be). He is trustworthy and painfully methodical.
Bring The Coordinator. He will help keep the campsite neat and organized, and will delegate small cleaning tasks to maintain his standard of order. He has a useful type of organization intelligence that the group will benefit from and appreciate. If the group separates, The Coordinator will somehow always reunite them and the night will end in thankful hugs of joy for his efforts. He will remind you to dress for the weather. His efforts and delegation, however fussy they may seem in the moment, will inevitably maximize the amount of time available for debauchery and fun.
3. The Flashy One.
The Flashy One has an obscure sense of style that she loves to overstate at affairs like festivals. Her wardrobe is so far from trendy that people generally assume it must be beyond their comprehension. In reality, this colorful individual is just a frequenter of the local second-hand shop with an eye for the extraordinary. She will sport a metallic bodysuit and a peculiar hat that you would never even imagine putting near your head, and she will (somehow) look cool doing it.
Bring The Flashy One. Just when you think you have no sense of music festival style, she will share her wardrobe with you and you will instantly feel cooler for the rest of the day. She will bring a lifetime supply of body paint, strange jewelry and trinkets, as well as a surplus of glitter. She will help formulate your slick alter ego that you only get to personify once or twice a year. She will give you the confidence to push to the front of the crowd during your favorite songs and jump on stage if you’re invited.
4. The D-Bag
The D-Bag isn’t unfriendly, but it would not make sense to call him nice. He loves being in large groups of people who understand his atypical sense of humor, and he will almost never say “no” if asked to accompany someone for a fun activity of any kind. His charm comes from a likeable callousness that makes you miss his presence when he’s gone. Having him around in bland situations adds a glaze of otherwise impossible amusement. He will drink immeasurable amounts of booze and engage the group in seeking new shenanigans. He is hilarious because he possesses unabashed awareness of his d-baggery, and he wears it like a badge of honor as he pours whiskey into his morning coffee.
Bring The D-Bag. At 8AM of the morning when you are supremely fatigued, sore, and sick of eating peanut-butter-jelly-tortillas, he will still find a way to make you laugh. In addition, his laid-back approach to the festival scene will make him an easy companion. He isn’t worried about missing something he originally intended to see. (He isn’t worried about anything.) He will agree to wait in long lines with you so that you can spend way too much money on mediocre festival food (as long as you share some of it with him), and he will go jump around with you at “that one band” while the rest of your group sees Macklemore instead.
5. The Fanatic
The Fanatic knows too much about everyone who is playing at this music festival. She knows that she knows too much, and she likes that she knows too much. She refused to buy a ticket until the lineup was released; the list of participating musicians is the only essential incentive for her attendance at this event. The Fanatic is not a “fangirl” or a know-it-all (although those people exist as well and I do not recommend inviting them); she simply loves and appreciates music on a higher level than you are capable of understanding. You may dislike admitting that, but it’s true.
Bring The Fanatic. She will take beautiful photos because she is artsy like that, and she will shower your Facebook in the edited versions of your favorites. If you choose to spend an extended period of time with her at the music festival, you will see exponentially more music than you would see if you were with anyone else. She will not care about delaying entrance to the venue so that she can drink more or look better or eat meals that require preparation. She will fill her fanny-pack with a surplus of healthy energizing snacks, schedule her time perfectly as not to miss anything important, and you will learn from her.
In my opinion, if you have specific friends or acquaintances that came to mind when reading this, you should absolutely invite them. If you are lucky enough to find one of each, your carefully-formed alliance will be capable of seeing as much wonderful live music as possible, making lifelong campsite memories, and surviving any obstacles that get in your way of a good time. Happy Festivaling!