If seeing all those Coachella photos last month gave you FOMO and tempted you to move West, take a chill pill. The weather on the East Coast is now warm and music al fresco is back. These days, instead of a single concert under a sunny or starlit sky, people are flocking to music festivals like Governor’s Ball and Great South Bay Music Festival. The multi-day, multi-stage outdoor affairs may seem more daunting than running a marathon for first-timers, but it’s a worthy item for your summer bucket list if you learn how to navigate one. To give you some music festival tips, I called arguably Long Island’s ultimate expert, Jim Faith, who founded Great South Bay Music Festival 10 years ago.
The early bird gets the spot. “I’ve been to a lot of festivals and there’s a lot of walking to get to the site,” Faith said. Festival gates tend to open 30 minutes to an hour prior to the first bands, but if you’re more interested in seeing the headliners Faith still recommends trying to arrive in the first few hours of the event. In the days or weeks before the festival, scout out the area to see what other lots are close by and see what will be open and closed during the festival by using the website or printed concert guide. If you have zero patience in the parking lot, consider looking into VIP passes, which almost always come with a reserved spot near the festivities.
“If I’m going to another state or another festival, I like to see what’s going on locally,” Faith said. “I think it can enhance your own experience, just being away a little bit and enjoying your own mini-vacation.” Call the local Chamber of Commerce, or check out sites like Yelp to learn how to eat, drink and play like a local.
Many festivals offer special rates at hotels, like Great South Bay Music Festival is doing with Hampton Inn this year, for festival-goers. Again, booking early is key. “Rooms will go pretty fast. I would book as soon as you buy your ticket,” Faith advised. If going to a festival is a spontaneous decision, the Chamber of Commerce can point you in the right direction or you can see what’s available on Airbnb.
What Comes, What Stays Home
It’s a music festival. You’re going to be there (and outside) for a while. Faith recommends bringing sunscreen, a hat, bug spray, a lawn chair or blanket and comfy shoes. Some festivals, like Great South Bay, have a variety of terrains like sand and grass. Pack a sweatshirt for when the sun goes down and temps dip. Leave coolers, outside food and drink and anything that might be considered a weapon at home. The festival’s website will usually have a full list of what gear you can bring.
Most festivals do not allow outside food and beverage, but don’t worry, your stomach won’t be growling. “The food is pretty diverse and there’s a little bit of everything for everyone,” Faith said. Some of Great South Bay Music Festival’s biggest non-musical hits are grilled cheese, smoothies, gourmet meatballs, handmade pretzels and ice creams.
Where to watch
Music festivals tend to be open-lawn affairs, not fixed stadium seating, but of course spots are limited as the crowds build. “If you’re the kind of person who wants to sit on the lawn, get there early and secure your spot,” Faith suggested. Just stake your ground, lay out your blanket and chill. The open atmosphere tends to promote dancing and stage diving. If that’s not your scene, don’t rain on anyone else’s parade. Just move back or skip the acts meant to draw the Millennials and high school kids.