With the always-awesome Westword Music Showcase kicking up dust in the Golden Triangle this weekend, and our own 10th annual Underground Music Showcase just over a month away, it looks like it’s officially that time of year again.
That’s not to mention everything from titans like Telluride Bluegrass Festival and the megalithic Mile High Music Festival to the Collegiate Peaks Music Festival, the Sunnyside Music Festival and your neighbor’s backyard music festival.
Nothing says summer like the great bands, good people, sun, fresh air and hula hoops that make our state a treat for music lovers. But there can be a downside too.
I’ll be honest. I’m not much of a music festival guy — at least, not when it involves camping, bare feet or sun-battered parking lots. But that’s one of the reasons we — or, at least, I — am so lucky to be in Denver. Urban festivals like Westword’s this weekend and the UMS next month make it possible to wake up in your own bed, roll out of it into the midst of some remarkable live music (fully shod, of course), and collapse back into it at the end of the day (sans shoes, if you choose).
But that doesn’t mean these urban festivals aren’t without their perils. With about 100 bands playing Westword’s event and more than 300(!) playing the UMS, the whole experience can be a tad overwhelming. Sunburn, dehydration, public drunkenness, the vapors, skinned knees and missing your favorite band are just some of the known side effects of these phenomenal summer music festivals.
Here are three simple tips to make sure you get the most enjoyment (and least infections) out of the festival(s) of your choice in 2010.
1. Do your homework.
Get your hands on the festival schedule ahead of time and study it. Which bands do you really want to see? Which bands have you never heard of? Check out Steal This Track or good ol’ MySpace to hear tracks from local bands that pique your interest.
Even if you think you can, don’t wing it. Otherwise, you might end up stuck in a steaming-hot rug store (and no, that’s not a euphemism), listening to sad bastards when you really wanted more metal. Trust me. I’ve been there.
2. Organize your expedition.
Venturing out into an urban music festival is a bit like embarking on a jungle expedition — fewer hyenas or tigers, but probably just as many cougars. You wouldn’t dream of setting off into the jungle without a plan, so don’t hit the Golden Triangle or South Broadway without one either. Schedules for these events are usually organized by venue, which is great if you plan to stay in one place.
On the other hand, if you want to make sure you catch the hip-hop act on one stage, then the punk act on another and a DJ on yet another, you might have to wrestle with the schedule a bit.
My trick? Copy the schedule into Microsoft Excel (yep, I’m really that nerdy), put the set times down the side, the venues across the top and fill the bands into the corresponding cells. That way, I can look across a row and see all the acts playing at 2:30 and make an informed decision. Better yet, if I want to hop from one stage to another mid-set, I can see exactly who’s playing where without having to scan the whole schedule for each venue.
For an example of what I’m talking about, feel free to use the schedule I created for this weekend’s festival. And don’t say I never gave you anything.
3. Be prepared.
OK, I realize that the previous tips were about being prepared too, but this one is about the basics. If you’re going to be near water, bring insect repellent. Bring water with you, if it’s allowed. Put on sunscreen before you leave the house and bring more with you. Wear a hat. Charge up your cellphone so you can track down your friends for burrito breaks. Bactine is a wonder on both sunburn and road rash. And speaking of injuries, the best way to avoid them is to stay in control. During one UMS, I had to tend to a friend’s scrapes after she decided to do the worm in front of the Goodwill on South Broadway. Not recommended.
I hope these simple tips make your summer music festival experience even better. Read them again. Print them out and stuff them in your Trapper Keeper. Steal my little schedule idea. Oh, and if you’ve got any great survival tips of your own, throw them in the comments section. Reverb and its readers would love to benefit from your accidents and experience.
And get out there and soak up some great local music. I’ll see you there.
Eryc Eyl is a veteran music journalist, critic and Colorado native who has been neck-deep in local music for many years. Check out Steal This Track every Tuesday for local music you can HEAR, and the Mile High Makeout every Friday. Against his mother’s advice, Eryc has also been known to tweet.