In a world where you can no longer judge a man by the car he drives (because half the cute ones are now traveling by bike), it’s getting difficult for us to classify each other accordingly. What in the ‘90s we could infer about a person from their car, job and living situation, we now have to jerry-rig from their clothing and hobbies.
The person who used to drive a BMW, has a comfortable 9-to-5 straight of college, and shopped at Armani Exchange may now tote a two-wheeler, be a contract graphic designer, and wear Urban Outfitters head-to-toe. They might also clog up your Newsfeed with their incessant posts regarding the progression of their festival attendance: from ticket purchase, to wristband receipt, to the 3-day live event GoPro feed. Do not be fooled. The activity once associated with hippies being rained on is now about one thing: money. And, there is nothing as appealing as the outward show of money to the bourgeois class.
First things first: the ticket. If you take the total price and divide it by the number of bands/ DJs /acts you’ll be seeing, it might actually be a bargain. In fact, some true party animals make it a point to map out which stages they want to visit at which times, and adhere to a very strict music schedule at the festival. These people really know how to let loose and have fun.
However, if you’re attending a festival that doesn’t sell day passes, the up-front investment in one of these events runs you a few hundred dollars. And, while there are many of us in the 99% who have been to a festival, for most of us in the youthful phase of our lives, that’s a lot to ask. Not to mention, I just used the word “investment” to describe sitting in a field for an entire weekend, doing drugs with strangers.
That initial lump sum is a slippery slope. Similarly to the way die-hard sports fans who are two rent payments behind will buy an authentic jersey, purchasing the ticket is a declarative statement of your interest in a practically useless hobby. It’s what separates the “haves” from the “have-something-better-to-dos”.
Next things next: Transportation. Whether your festival is in a remote location, another country, or in your hometown, the price of the ticket itself won’t include flights, gas, or liberal cab rides. Even looking out at your Coachella campsite, you’ll see hundreds of dollars worth of gear, amenities, and large vehicles that are not at all gas-or-wallet-friendly.
So, once you are at your $300 festival, sleeping in your $200 tent, on your $100-dollar sleeping bag, what exactly is running through your mind? If it isn’t “which of my festival outfits am I going to wear first?”, then you’re a f*cking liar. Going to a festival without at least 3 outfit options per day is like going to a wedding without a date. Or a flask. Or backup white dress in case the bride throws shade.
Although, unlike a wedding, the most heartbreaking facet of festivals is you will pay for your booze. By god, will you pay for it. You will pay for it like a frat boy’s parents pay the dean to cover up a sexual abuse charge: exorbitantly, but successfully.
Each Bud Light I drank at Coachella was $14 (which was the same price settlers paid Native Indians for the island of Manhattan). This financial tidbit doesn’t come from my crystal-clear memory of the event, but rather from my credit card bills. Whether or not I have paid off my layaway beers is something I am not comfortable disclosing, but that’s neither here nor there. If the cheapest beverage at an event is equivalent to twice that of the federal minimum wage, we have ourselves a problem.
The problem isn’t the corporate machine that is consuming what was once probably a relatively pure and joyous occasion, but that these experiences with an exorbitant price tag are being offered to people too young to have them comfortably within their grasps. And just like half the people attending a festival take their flower-crown selfies at the perfect angle to make themselves look somehow composed and free spirited, appearances are not always as they seem.
At the end of the day, you are going to be wasting your phone battery taking photos and trying to reconnect with your separated friends, without enough time to look up at the musicians or enough sobriety to remember you were even there. So instead of calling it a “music festival”, let’s call it what it really is: a money festival.
Note: Yes, I regularly attend and enjoy music festivals of various shapes and sizes.