With sunny skies and warm weather upon us, what better to do than to schlep a lawn chair and cooler to a giant grassy field with thousands of other music lovers and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells (yes, smells) that meld to create the music festival experience?
Over the years I have tried my hand at a variety of music festivals including Newport Folk Festival and New Orleans Jazz Festival, along with some smaller day-long festivals like The Warp Tour, Lilith Fair, Family Values, and Lalapalooza. One of the first things you learn as a newbie festival goer is that there is a calculated method to a fan’s madness. Seasoned festival attendees plan well in advance and have each day’s “must see” line-up mapped out to maximize the number of bands they will hear. First timers may see this and begin to scribble out band names, stage names, and set times on the back their ticket stubs, which at the least will ensure that they see the bands they’ve heard of. I fall somewhere in the middle. I typically do just enough research on the line-up to know the main bands I NEED to see, and try to brush up on some of the not so well-known bands, so as not to miss out on the festival “gems”. This helps me determine if it will be worth my time to haul my stuff to and from different stages (note: the less “stuff” you bring in the more freedom you have).
I haven’t been much of a repeater when it comes to music festivals because I revel in the variety and enjoy seeing how different festivals organizers make the “magic” happen. I love the emotional thrill of a new experience that is centered around music, but has so much more to offer as well. For example, the food village at the New Orleans Jazz Festival overloaded my olfactory and gustatory senses and kept me salivating between sets. I think I took in more food than I did music! Sure, The Newport Folk Festival stacks their line-ups with the music industry’s most respected and talented artists, but the festival also offers a gorgeous harbor backdrop sprinkled with tall white sails and surrounded by mansions atop lush hills. The festival itself takes place at a historic landmark, Fort Adams, so attendees can basically take in a history lesson by exploring bastions and barracks of the old fort while music floats on in the background.
While the music draws the people in through the festival gates, the people themselves make the experience. Often times, when I am not completely engaged in watching the band, I sit and watch the fans and their reactions to the music and overall experience. While I enjoy capturing the band’s energy on stage, photographing a fan’s anticipation leading up to or pure joy and ecstasy during a performance is just as satisfying. Over the last few years I have taken pictures of musicians and fan and everything in between. Here are some of my favorites:
There are festivals of all genres popping up in every state, all centered around the theme of community and music. Check out the festivals near you for an amazing experience of the senses.