I may not be as experienced of a festivalgoer as some of you reading this, but I did have a fairly busy summer this year. I went to the Okeechobee Music And Arts Festival, Boston Calling, Windy City Smokeout in Chicago, and the Curaçao North Sea Jazz Festival in the Caribbean, and I learned a lot from each fest.
Like anything, though, they were all imperfect, but I’m always looking to optimize, and as festival season comes to an end and I’ve had the time to reflect on my summer fest experience in its entirety, I’ve realized that there is a lot that could be done to make these events even better. So, I’ve come up with a handful of potential improvements, at both the institutional and individual level, that could radically shift the festival experience. Are they all reasonable, or even possible? No. No they are not, but my desires aren’t curbed by the limitations of realistic possibilities. Now, here are a few implementations that could make festivals less annoying, more efficient, and more like something from the year 3000.
Eminem was one of the headliners at Boston Calling this summer, and in order to see him from a decent vantage point, I had to get to the stage at least a couple hours in advance, and then just stand there and wait. Between that and all the walking a festival involves, you get fatigued, so a good old-fashioned sit down would be nice. That’s not always possible or socially acceptable (more on that in a second), but that’s where the wearable chair comes in, which I suppose it is more of a good new-fashioned sit down.
The brace appears to be intuitive to wear and use, and since the chair can support up to 290 pounds, this should be a viable solution even for the heavier among us. The good news is that it only costs about $4,300! The chair’s makers say the product is “meant to be used in an industrial environment such as assembly or production lines,” so if you don’t have four grand to spare, just get an industrial job and borrow one of the company’s wearable chairs for the weekend.
Something that zaps you when you sit down in a festival
If you don’t have a fancy exoskeleton support system, it might be tempting to bend your knees and lower your body until you find yourself sitting on the ground in the middle of a large crowd.
DO NOT DO THIS.
As the sitter, you have to worry about people stepping on you and your belongings as they navigate past you and the inordinate amount of horizontal space you are occupying. You also have to worry about your conscience, which is surely telling you, “Hmm, maybe I’m not being that considerate about my use of this shared, public space.” The people trying to walk around you and pulling hamstrings to avoid stepping on your blanket at the last second are surely thinking the same thing.
Not everybody has the level of empathy and compassion for others necessary to prevent this, so my proposal is a dog shock collar-like system. Maybe you have a sensor attached to your waistband, and when it gets too close to the ground, ZAP. Whatever it takes to stop this sitting madness, even Pavlovian training systems, I’ll support.
Stages that face each other
When at the aforementioned Eminem stage, I was able to spend some of my wait watching Khalid, who was performing on a stage directly next to the Eminem stage. Boston Calling’s setup was pretty great for that reason: You didn’t have to travel far at all between stages. Still, I want to take that idea in a slightly different direction: Instead of having two stages next to each other, have them facing each other.
Two stages set up like goalposts at the ends of a football field would at least be an interesting experiment. In the back of the crowd for a artist? That’s a bummer, but once that performer is done, just turn around and boom, you’re right at the front. This would also make the middle of the crowd a fun place to be, as you would be afforded a solid spot for two different stages without having to relocate for hours on end.
Of course, this leads to different crowd management and navigation problems. I don’t have all the answers, but my most practical idea yet should help:
Express crowd exit lanes
Another idea derived from my Boston Calling experience: I was in the middle of the crowd for The Killers, but I was just in a not-so-great spot, and I just wanted to get out so I could watch them from the giant screen at the back of the field instead. Have you ever tried to get out of a festival crowd during the heat of an exciting performance? It sucks, it’s bad, it’s not fun, and it’s also no good.
Given the amount of people at music festivals, crowd navigation is sadly behind the times. What we ought to do is have blocked off lanes, manned by event security, that people can use during the performance to get out of a bustling crowd. Designate zones on the side of the viewing area where people aren’t allowed to be during the performance, unless they’re trying to leave. Aside from viewing convenience, this could also be useful in the event of an emergency medical situation, or other urgent scenarios like that.
Mandatory hearing protection
Too many aging rock stars are going deaf, and that’s because concerts are loud. I’m just as surprised as you, I know. It makes sense that they’re loud, though: The people in the back need to hear, but that means that people near the front are exposed to medically concerning volume levels. Enforcing mandatory hearing protection would be a challenge, but it should at least be highly encouraged. Distribute the orange foam ones for free near the food vendors or something. Add a couple extra bucks to ticket prices to make up for that cost, that’s fine. Too many people don’t seem to realize this is a problem, and with just one simple extra step, we could have fewer 40-year-old music fans constantly asking “What?” in every conversation.
Shazam but for concerts
Festivals provide a fantastic opportunity to discover new music; Since seeing Tycho at Okeechobee, they’ve become a go-to group for me. In this kind of scenario, wouldn’t it be great to know what your favorite song from the set was called, especially in the case of an instrumental band like Tycho?
Shazam is great for figuring out what that New Radicals song that you hear in the produce aisle is (it’s the timeless banger “You Get What You Give,” by the way), but I posit that there should be a version of this for live shows. This could also be beneficial for artists who are looking to get discovered: During the set, have one of their crew members update the app with the song they’re currently performing, and if somebody in the audience likes the tune, they can go on this app and find out what it’s called, then add it to their Spotify libraries and start a new journey of fandom.
BRB, checking out rent rates for apartments in Silicon Valley.
Telescopic contact lenses
A few of my proposed ideas have addressed the inconveniences of being in a crowd, but sometimes, there’s nothing you can do about the facts: Sometimes, you’re going to be far away from the stage. You won’t be able to see the performers well aside from staring at the screens by the stage (if the stage you’re at even has that option).
That’s just how it is. You could bring binoculars, but have fun holding your arms up for an hour. Don’t worry, though, because the future is coming: Scientists have been working on telescopic contact lenses, which can provide up to three times magnification of your vision. So no more will you be squinting at vague figures from hundreds of feet away: You’ll be fully experiencing honest-to-goodness humans from, perception-wise, much closer! I don’t believe these are available to consumers yet, but I’m game to sign up for whatever experimental clinical trial will allow my to test these awesome ocular options out.
And that’s that. It’s probably too late to put a lot of this into practice this year, but there’s always next festival season. Until then, I look forward to getting out there and seeing all the festivals that have radically changed their formats thanks to my wisdom, and if you’re one of the thousands of decked out cyborgs who followed all of my tips and you see me, come say hi.