Hitting Festivals Solo: a Definitive Guide
With festival season a few months away, lineup announcement, and tickets delivered, it's time we tackle the big question: should you hit up festival solo this time around? Some like to call it "maturdating" nowadays, but it's not just being alone, let me break it down for you:
There’s a laundry list of stereotypes you can typically find at a music festival, but they are notorious for three things: bringing people together, providing an escape from our everyday realities, and letting our inner child run wild and free. Lucky for us in BC, there’s no shortage of both renowned and smaller music festivals for us to explore all throughout the summer months.
After attending my very first Shambhala back in 2013, someone I had connected with told me about how he has gone to music festivals completely on his own, making friends along the way by volunteering or just setting up camp and winging it. While he explained how rewarding it is, doing a festival on my own seemed like a very long-term goal at the time. Now, having finally taken the plunge a few months ago for Dirtybird Campout and again this year for Holy Ship , I completely understand what he meant - and I encourage you to do the same as you plan out this next season.
It’s not for every type of character, but if you:
1) crave adventure and the unknown, 2) are independent, and 3) are comfortable meeting new people with little help, here’s why you should definitely consider your first solo music festival (with a few tips for doing it right).
1. The challenge of being alone is both terrifying and exciting
When completely on your own, your innate need to make new connections will push you harder than ever to make friends, making sure you leave the festival knowing more people than when you entered. The world becomes your oyster, and you can almost pick and choose who you want to connect with, or leave it to fate and see who will stumble into your life. It’s a fun personal test on your judgement of character and your ice-breaker skills. When I braved Dirtybird Campout on my own, I made sure to start the conversation with festival goers on the shuttle bus heading down to the festival so I wouldn’t be getting off the shuttle alone when I got there. The people I befriended on that shuttle have become lifelong friends of mine.
2. You have no one to babysit or coordinate with
The problem with going with big groups, and sometimes even small ones, is the undeniable fact that someone will need some babysitting - someone will get too messy, lose their phone, have a bad night, whatever it is. Many of us know how all too well how it feels to take care of a friend who’s had 5 drinks too many while you can hear your favourite artist rocking their set in the background. And with groups, you might miss out on music or activities you really want to check out that your friends aren’t into. Therein lies the beauty of being detached from your group of friends - there’s none of that holding you back. If you are typically the lead coordinator of your groups, the one organizing nights out, guest lists, and pre-parties, this will be the very first benefit you’ll find from riding solo and giving yourself a break from it all.
3. Networking is much easier
The #1 benefit I found from braving music festivals on my own was how I pushed myself to go out of my way and meet people I would have never met, had I been tied to my group of friends and what they felt like doing. Ditching the group mentality, I set off and made connections based on my strongest connection to people, which was music. As a DJ and producer, I met local DJs from Vegas, Boston, San Diego, New York, all over the world whom I bonded with instantly. Keeping in touch with these friends after the festival, one even hooked me up with a gig in Vegas, an experience which hands-down would not have happened otherwise. If you’re a DJ, producer, dancer, artist or anyone with a special bond to festivals, I highly recommend trying it out on your own to see exactly how many like-minded individuals you can meet on the very same wavelength.
4. You walk away more independent
If your solo trips are anything as close to successful as mine, I can’t explain the pride you’ll feel walking away from a festival with hundreds of new friends and knowing you gave yourself the very best experience you could have. Eating alone in public becomes a walk in the park knowing you set foot into a festival with thousands of people, not knowing a single person when you first walked in those gates.
Now, there are still a few things to keep in mind before you try this out:
1. Know that you’re ready
You’ve got to have the right character, thick skin, and a positive mindset before taking a trip by yourself. It’s not for everyone, so be sure you’re confident in yourself before you try this out. My best advice for knowing if you’re ready is to go to a music festival with friends and take a day, or even an afternoon to go off by yourself and see how it feels. After trying this at my first Shambhala, that’s when I knew I was up for it.
2. Choose your festival wisely
I’d recommend starting with a smaller festival close to home rather than diving head first into a massive one far away. The crowd and its size and quality really matters. I’ve had both great and mixed experiences for reasons based on the size of the crowd and the community and culture surrounding the festival. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend a mega-scale event like Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC), hosting on average 130,000 people, as your first solo trip, if only due to it’s sheer size to navigate. Whatever show you do choose, be sure to do your research before you go and call upon the wisdom of those who have gone before you. Knowing the artists that are performing and the typical audience that they’ll attract can definitely help in your decision as well.
3. Be extra careful on your own
When you’re on your own, it’s all up to you to take extra care of yourself, your belongings, and your personal state. Stay sober enough, have a buddy when you make a good new friend, and just be more careful in general. It’s also good to know at least one other person who will be at the festival should you need to reach out for any reason.
Have a backup buddy.
4. Always update your friends and family
Be sure to stay in constant contact with home to let them know that you’re A-Okay, loving life and in your own capable hands.
Do you think you could brave a music festival riding solo this summer? Why, or why not? Which one would you choose? Tell us in the comments!