A guide to music festivals

Camping is always recommended when it is available, as long as you mark your campsite.  (Photo by Jess Spence)

Camping is always recommended when it is available, as long as you mark your campsite. (Photo by Jess Spence)

When summer season approaches, all of my attention is directed toward music festivals. Anticipating the performances, saving up some money and planning with friends all starts to pick up again once Coachella sets the precedent with their legendary line-up. This year brought the reunion of Outkast, along with the bluesy rock of the Arctic Monkeys, odd musings from The Flaming Lips and DJ sets from Pretty Lights and Dislcosure. While all festivals hold the possibility of a memorable experience, things can go wrong. It’s best to choose the festival you’ll enjoy the most and take the time to plan a little beforehand. Trust me, having a first aid kit and toilet paper won’t make you a loser but rather the dependable friend who has their act rogether. Don’t make rookie mistakes this year and take the time to plan your trip.

What to Bring

  • Top priorities? Sunscreen and staying hydrated. I’d suggest a Camelbakc. Borrow one from a friend or make the investment; you won’t regret it.
  • Lanterns and flashlights. Campsites are dark.
  • Blankets. Afternoon naps are key to survival.
  • Rain gear, especially boots.
  • Cash. ATMs are expensive to use.
  • Toilet paper. Public restrooms at music festivals are bad, really bad.
  • Snacks, if the festival allows them.

What to Know

  • Biggest problem at music festivals? Losing your friends. Always arrange a place to meet up in case it happens (or carry a totem pole).
  • Option to camp? Do it, camping is part of the experience.
  • Mark your place. Bring some type of flag to identify your campsite; it’ll get lost in the sea of tents.
  • Your phone is going to die and the charging stations are never available. Bring a backup battery.

Shaky Knees May 9th – 11th
Atlanta, Georgia

Even though this will only be Shaky Knees’ second year, they’ve created a promising line-up of indie rock artists. Fans will be filling the streets of the new location in Atlantic Station, a plaza near midtown, to see The National, Modest Mouse, Alabama Shakes, Edward Sharpe, Violent Femmes, Local Natives, Cage the Elephant, Portugal The Man, Dawes and many more. The festival is great for anyone not looking to travel too far from Charleston (Atlanta is about 5 hours west), and is a slightly less expensive option, with general admission tickets starting at $170 (or single days for $85 a piece). You can save more money by splitting the cost of lodging with a group of friends.

The music begins at 12:30 p.m. every day of the weekend and instead of being surrounded by barren fields, you’ll be in heart of downtown.

Transportation? I’d recommend leaving your car at the hotel or parking at a MARTA station outside the city. MARTA is the city’s shuttle and will help you avoid the traffic if you were to drive straight to the festival. Remember the late night shows!

Hangout Festival May 16th – 18th
Gulf Shores, Alabama

Essentially an upgraded boardwalk carnival, Hangout features live music on the beach and a plaza with a Ferris wheel. If you’re a fan of The Killers, Outkast, The Black Keys, Pretty Lights, Capital Cities, Jack Johnson, Wiz Khalifa, The Flaming Lips, as well as surf and sand, this is a perfect choice. Tickets start at $230, then an additional $50 for the shuttle (which I recommend if you’re not within biking or walking distance). Gather a group of friends, rent a house near the beach for a week and remember to buy a separate ticket for the kick-off show on Thursday night.

Electric Daisy Festival May 24 – 25
Metlife Stadium in New York City

The finale of the Electric Daisy hurrah actually occurs in Las Vegas, but the tickets have already sold out, even without a line-up listed. So Insomniac Events decided to establish festivals all across the globe to lead up to it and for those who prefer house music, this is my best summer festival suggestion. The line-up includes Tiesto, Araabmuzik, Calvin Harris, Afrojack, Bassnectar and Boys Noize, just to name a few. With tickets starting at $240, the two day festival occurs in a stadium across the river from Upper Manhattan. I’d suggest booking a hotel room also out of the downtown bustle to cut costs but if price isn’t an issue, look into their VIP option. For anyone over 21, the $375 upgrade includes access to exclusive viewing decks and a separate entrance to get into the festival faster.

It can be hard to find your friends in the crowd, so be sure to plan a meeting place and bring a backup battery for your cell phone. (Photo by Jess Spence)

It can be hard to find your friends in the crowd, so be sure to plan a meeting place and bring a backup battery for your cell phone. (Photo by Jess Spence)

Bonnaroo June 12 – 15
Manchester, Tennessee

Twelve years in the making, Bonnaroo is one of the biggest and best music festivals in the United States. An estimated 80,000 become Bonnaroovians for four days in the summer, emerging themselves in a new community with less rules, more fun and always-good music. This year’s line-up includes Jack White, Vampire Weekend, Lionel Richie, Phoenix, Skrillex, Arctic Monkeys, Frank Ocean, Kanye West, Elton John, The Flaming Lips, Damon Albarn from blur, Wiz Khalifa, Cake, James Blake, CHVRCHES and many more artists. General Admission tickets are $285 and if you’re planning to drive an RV to the site, there is an additional $225 parking pass.

Sasquatch! May 23 – 25
The Gorge in Quincy, Washington

Just three hours from Seattle, Sasquatch! is offering two weekends at the Gorge Amphitheatre, voted for the past fourteen years as the best outdoor music venue by Pollstar. Including four other stages, attendees get to camp in the mountainsides of Washington State during Memorial Day week and enjoy artists such as Outkast, The National, Foster the People, Kid Cudi, Portugal the Man, Tyler the Creator and M.I.A. If traveling across the coast isn’t an issue, the festival is totally worth the $325 price tag. Something else to consider, if you’re driving, is the $165 upgrade to park your vehicle in the Premier camping section, which has free shower facilities and a shuttle service to the Amphitheatre.

 Governor’s Ball June 6 – 8
Randall’s Island, New York City

Only on its fourth year running, the Governor’s Ball has offered some of the best summer festival line-ups and 2014 is no different. The headliners are Outkast, Jack White, Vampire Weekend and The Strokes but other notable artists include Skrillex, Phoenix, Disclosure, TV on the Radio, James Blake, Empire of the Sun and Grimes. They covered the summer must-sees as well as artists who won’t make an appearance anywhere else. With three-day passes starting at $250, this is definitely top choice for the East Coast. I’d suggest also investing in the Ferry or Shuttle transportation options for $50 to $60 to make your weekend run smoothly. Since this isn’t a camping friendly event, the other expense to consider is a place to stay but remember the farther away from downtown, the cheaper.

 Firefly June 19 – 22
Dover, Delaware

Nestled in the 154 acres of The Woodlands of Dover International Speedway, Firefly has arranged for Outkast, Jack Johnson and The Foo Fighters to headline their third annual festival. Including artists such as Beck, The Lumineers, Young the Giant, Arctic Monkeys, Local Natives, Cage the Elephant and Imagine Dragons, the four-day festival will only cost around $280 and the gas money to travel up the coast. With seven stages and shade from the surrounding forest, this is a great option for those looking to get lost in the festival experience.

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Freshman at the College of Charleston, studying Arts Management and International Business. In the past nineteen years, I've fallen in love with live music and yoga, art and rainy days, tattoos, hot coffee, surfing, running, reading and writing.


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