I love live music, but since I moved further from the Bay Area, I find bands I want to see are harder to come by. So, this year I splurged on tickets to San Francisco’s Outside Lands. I wanted to see some of the bigger bands: Matt & Kim, Vampire Weekend and Phoenix. I also always enjoy seeing the lesser-known bands, too. I like adding new bands to my iTunes list. While I understand that, after a certain age, a lot of people stick to their old favorites, I don’t want to be done discovering new music by the time I’m 40. I’m still young. I’m still excited to hear new stuff. But, at some point, the festival became a different experience than it was before. Maybe I’m getting too old for this. Here’s why:
1. You recognize fewer acts on the lineup each year. Granted, part of what makes music festivals so much fun is discovering new acts. But, it always takes a few recognizable names to draw me in. When I went to Outside Lands a couple years ago, I knew a lot of the names on the list. This year, not so much. I did the usual bit of research on the bands I didn’t know, but that can be a lot of ground to cover in the days leading up to the festival.
2. You don’t even try to sneak in any alcohol. Music festivals are often synonymous with drunken or high festival-goers. Outside Lands is no exception. The first day, I entered off 30th Avenue and the people at the front gate were doing thorough searches of people’s bags. They confiscated full-size bottles of liquor from people. One of my friends had to give up his small bag of whiskey. On the flip side, sometimes you get better at hiding it. As I walked around with my friend later that day, he suggested we take a break by sitting on a log. I sat down. He moved behind me and dug a flask out of the ground.
3. Instead of sneaking in booze, you go to Wine Lands. In past years, I’ve avoided what I then considered to be overpriced alcohol options for old people. Now, sipping a glass of riesling in the shade between sets is something I enjoy.
4. You think about comfort frequently. As we rushed from stage to stage to catch as many acts as possible, I frequently found myself thinking things such as “I wish I had worn more comfortable shoes” and “I wish there were a place to sit down.” Instead, I pushed on and got buried in crowds that included young women wearing headbands and heels. It made me thankful for my sneakers and jeans.
5. You don’t scramble to get close to the stage. A few years ago, I wanted to be as close to the stage as possible. I’d get crammed in with the crowd, with barely any room to move, and I enjoyed it. Now, though, I’d rather stay toward the back and have room to breathe and dance ... and maybe sit down.
6. You leave early to beat the crowds. While I used to stay until the bitter end of each festival I attended, I now cut out early to beat the traffic — and beat the mobs to the gate. This year, I left too late after Phoenix and ended up getting squished in the crowds on the way out. No, that’s not an exaggeration. People crowded to the path and pushed their way out. I was no longer in control of my own movement, but part of a sea of anxious, intoxicated people in their early 20s.
7. Instead of staying out late, you’d rather go to bed. After escaping the crowds Saturday night, I got into bed and slept for 10 hours before heading back Sunday.
8. When you wake up the next day, you’re not entirely sure buying a two-day ticket was such a good idea. I like festivals. I like seeing the lesser-known bands and seeing some more well-known acts. But after Saturday I was pretty beat and not sure I wanted to head back. But, I paid more than $100 for the ticket and didn’t want to let it go to waste. It’s a good thing I didn’t, too, because Sunday was much more fun.
9. You take your time going out to brunch instead of getting to the festival right when the gates open. My friend and I tried a great little breakfast spot called Outerlands on Sunday. The food was great. Not being in a long line to get through the gate to Outside Lands was also great.
10. You scan the crowd looking for people older than you. As long as I continue to go to the festival and see people who are older than me there, I’ll be just fine. This year, for example, I saw a guy with gray hair head-banging to Youth Lagoon, and a couple of people who looked like they were in their 50s and from the Midwest awkward dancing to Matt & Kim. I figure I’ve got another 20 years or so before I’ll be noticeably too old for it. Until then, we’ll see what happens.