It’s my favorite season—music festival season. And nothing kicks it off quite like Coachella.
Don’t be a hater. Despite being dusty, crowded and insanely expensive, music festivals are one of the great joys of being alive. I reached out to comedian and “festival expert” Nick Youssef for additional insight. Between the two of us we’ve been to more than 50 music festivals, and over the years we’ve seen men do it right and men do it SO WRONG. Don’t be that douche. And if you follow these simple guidelines—you won’t be.
THE BASICS: HOW TO STAY ALIVE & THRIVE
DON’T FORGET YOUR WRISTBAND
Hahahahaha funny, right? WRONG. I’ve seen this amateur hour move more times than I like to recount. You drove all the way there. You’ve got your designer drugs. You’ve even written “COACHELLAPOOL!!!” on the back window of your car. Then you get to the festival grounds and WHOOPS you left your pass on your dresser. You fucking dumbass. I don’t care if you forget EVERYTHING else. Before you walk out the door and make the pilgrimage double-check that at the very least you have all of these:
Cell phone & charger
Festivals are a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t want to be the guy who 45 minutes after the grounds open is surrounded by paramedics. Trust me, I see it all the time.
I know this seems obvious, but one of the best ways to pace yourself is to make sure you’re consuming enough water. I cannot reiterate how important to festival survival this very simple guideline is, and you’ll know a pro when you see one because you’ll notice for every drink he’s having he’s also chugging water. This is ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT if you’re doing drugs. Just hold onto a water bottle or bring a camelback and keep sipping like your life depends on it—because it does.
WATCH OUT FOR EACH OTHER
Make sure your bros are drinking enough water. And your baes. Keep track of each other. I’m such an old-timer at festivals, I always end up becoming like Florence Nightingale, bringing water to girls clearly rolling their faces off, returning lost cell phones to their owners and talking people down from their drug-induced freak-outs.
Speaking of drug-induced freak-outs, no matter what the drug, the worst thing you can do is panic. If your trip is going sideways and your brain starts floating away the BEST thing you can do is look at your feet and remember: YOU ARE HERE. Seriously, that trick has never failed to bring me back into my body when I felt like I might lose my mind. Ride the wave. Breathe into it. Focus on the music and not your thoughts. If you’re seriously concerned you might be having a heart attack, don’t waste time. Find the nearest paramedic or festival worker. You don’t want to overdose. It’s a real buzzkill for everyone—especially you.
Just put it on. Nothing screams “I’M AN AMATEUR” like a painful-looking sunburn. Also: ChapStick. You’ll need ChapStick.
CHARGE YOUR PHONE
You don’t want to be that guy who is at 20 percent by 1 pm. Fully charge your phone. Bring a backup charger, or if you’re an Eagle Scout get yourself one of them fancy solar chargers. Most of these festivals have places to charge these days, but don’t count on it.
HAVE A TOTEM
This is a great way to stick together if you’re with a group in a crowd. Think of a totem as a “friend finder.” It’s a sign or a large object or a balloon or a flag or basically anything visible that you can hold up above the crowd. It’s your bat signal to your tribe. The cool thing about totems is that they then become your symbol over the weekend. Your squad logo. “Oh, you’re the inflatable blue shark people.”
HAVE A PLAN
Your phone will die before the end of the night. Always. Or you’ll lose it when you’re jumping around in the Sahara Tent. My squad always has a meet-up time and place for the end of the night. If you’re really smart you’ll write down some of your friends’ phone numbers and the address of where you’re staying ON PAPER and keep that shit in your pocket just in case you fall in love, get lost or get arrested.
BRING SOME GUM OR MINTS
Between the booze, the weed, the drugs and the cigarettes you can safely bet your breath smells like morning breath at all times of the day. ALL. TIMES. Be prepared.
WARDROBE: DON’T TRY TOO HARD
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Youssef said it best, “You’re not going to get chicks being ironic.” Stay away from body glitter and full body costumes. Just be normal and comfortable. Men trying to make a fashion statement at a festival end up looking like desperate posers.
KNOW WHEN TO PUT THAT SHIRT BACK ON, BUDDY
Or when NOT to take it off at all. Both are strategically important decisions.
GOOD (LOSABLE) PAIR OF SUNGLASSES
These are necessary. I say bring two because you will undoubtedly lose one. That being said: don’t spend a lot of money on your sunnys.
WATCH THE HAT SELECTION
Don’t wear a hat you wouldn’t wear to a baseball game. No American Indian headdress or cowboy hats. Unless your authentic Asian conical hat is collapsible, leave it at home. It’s going to be a pain in the ass when the sun goes down, and it will obstruct the view of everyone behind you. There are always exceptions to every rule. I met one of my best friends to this day at Coachella, and it’s because he was rocking a sick crown. He was also smiling.
ETIQUETTE: DON’T BE AN ASSHOLE
Smile. You’re at a festival. You’re lucky. It shouldn’t be stressful. It should be chill as fuck. One year I was at Coachella, and I don’t know what it was, but I was referring to it as “Agro-chella” all weekend because everyone was so aggressive and cranky. It’s all about the peace, love and music, and nothing spreads that faster than a smile.
Don’t record for longer than 30 seconds at a time. Not only are you obstructing views, but be real: what are you really going to do with your shitty, jerky footage of your favorite band? Again Nick Youssef—he’s my go-to on these important issues—has words of wisdom: “If I’m watching 50 percent of a band through your cellphone while you record the show, you’re doing the festival wrong.” Here is a liberating fact for you: In a world where EVERYONE is recording literally everything, all the time, YOU DON’T HAVE TO. There. I just freed you to live life in the moment. You’re welcome.
ACT YOUR AGE
Don’t be super bro with your bros, Bro. Quit the excessive high fives. No more screaming EPIC every time the beat drops. Please limit the fist-bumps to the privacy of your own own home.
MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR NEIGHBORS
If you’re camping, it’s imperative you make friends with your neighbors right away. You’re going to run out of important staples like ice or weed, and these people will be your saviors. Whatever you do, don’t piss them off. Same goes for anyone near you at a set—these people can help you get stuff, from drinks to a slightly better view. Make nice.
DON’T BE PUSHY
One year I was back in the artist’s lounge and a certain celebrity who shall remain nameless nearly mowed my friend down as he was on his oh-so-more-important-way. It might be a fairground of sin and debauchery, but basic rules of decency still apply. Don’t cut lines. Let women go in front of you. Be a mensch.
Also in the camping/Airbnb department—it’s a general unspoken rule to observe a certain amount of quiet from the hours of 4ish-7am. We just heard Guns N’ Roses. We don’t need to hear you and your buddies drunkenly sing “Paradise City” on repeat. STFU.
Always share something. It’s good drug karma. It also makes your neighbors much more inclined to look after your stuff and hook you up with their super dank homemade edibles and Bloody Marys when you’re coming down Sunday morning.
DON’T GET VIOLENT
Nothing kills a festival buzz faster than a fistfight. Seriously, what the hell could you possibly be fighting about? This is the sure sign of an amateur. Chill your roll, bro.
TO MOSH OR NOT TO MOSH…
If you look around and 80 percent of the people around you are women who do not look like they would enjoy moshing with you—don’t start a fucking mosh pit. You’re not close enough to the front.
STOP ANNOUNCING YOU’RE VIP
You’re not. VIP doesn’t mean shit. It just means you have $500 more to spend. That’s it. Real VIP tickets can’t be bought.
HOOKING UP: BE ONE OF THE GOOD GUYS
FIND A PART-TIME LOVER
Unless you’re going with your SO, festivals aren’t really the best place to try to get laid. If you are not staying near each other, it’s a logistical nightmare. So don’t waste your time trying to hook up, just find a date for that night’s headliner. Some of the best make-out sessions of my life have been with men I never saw again. We met at a show around sundown, palled around for a few sets, made out and then we went our separate ways.
BE A GENTLEMAN
If you see anyone out of their minds on drugs or booze, help them find friends, get them water or WHATEVER YOU CAN DO TO HELP. DO IT. If they need medical attention, get it. If they’re not coherent enough to give you any information, take them to the First Aid tent. They are literally everywhere. And if you’re the one who’s a mess, go directly to bed. Alone. Be a good guy and encourage your friends to do the same. If you don’t do anything else all weekend DO THIS.