Going to a music festival is the ultimate act of insanity. One of your favorite artists will be there – the one you’ve never seen live – so you do it once again expecting a different result from what you will inevitably get.
You have your backpack stocked with a poncho, lightweight hoodie, flare gun, caution tape, and none of the prohibited items whatsoever. And as quick as you can say Uber, pour a roadie, and put on your boots, you buzz off to join in the infestation of an unsuspecting city park.
You’re part of the swarm. Or a disease. People are a disease that’s spreading all around you, while you hold a beer in one hand and a Torchy’s taco in the other. But it’s okay because you’re going to see Beck. You’re going to see Beck! That’s why you’re in a better mood than you have been in months, and you’ve got to make your way through the crowd and worship at the feet of your favorite headliner.
The throng pulses toward the big black altar, and Beck or Eddie Vedder or Andre 3000 will impart holy sacrament to the masses. Everyone must get to the big black altar. And there is no getting to it.
Unless you’re the type who likes to self-induce claustrophobia, attempting to get a good look at the artist you came to see is futile. And just when you resign yourself to way over stage left by the porto potties, at least one of your friends has vanished and texting is delayed, at best, because the city park is now a city.
Worse than that is when, after years of anticipation, the show is underwhelming. Or maybe it’s just that you’re distracted because you don’t know how you’ll find your friends again and get home. And there you are in a crowd by yourself. The least they could do is stick with you since you gave them the passes. It is your birthday after all, and one is the loneliest number. People suck, and you’re surrounded by drunk, gyrating assholes you don’t even know.
And then your favorite song swells, and the crowd roars. You are lost in the music and lights, and how you get home doesn’t matter. It will work out. You are connected. Is this…happiness?
Music makes everything better, and for better or worse, festivals present a chance to experience and celebrate it. Festivals connect us as the assholes we truly are. You have to have the bitter to appreciate the sweet, and on a deeper level, festivals are a practice in how to be in the moment, if nothing else.
That’s one of the great things about ACL – you get a chance to do it all over again the very next weekend, so you don’t have to wait a year to do it better. No separating from your group. Your phone will be fully charged. You will admit that a little EDM is pretty fun. And for the love of Beck and all that is holy, you will get it right this time.