By Sarah and Glenn
Earlier this year the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival took the music world by storm, filling not just one but two weekends with all the best in hip hop, rock and post-jazz. In a few weeks Bonnaroo’s yearly festival will kill at least one young alternative as it unofficially marks the start of “summer festival” season. From Sasquatch to Lollapalooza to Promise Keepers Oklahoma City, music lovers will flock to certain places and watch bands play their hit radio singles. This week we discuss whether risking a marijuana overdose or sexual assault at one of these festivals is worth the chance of catching Counting Crows play a 10+ minute version of “A Murder of One” or a hologram of Dennis Wilson appearing with the Beach Boys and accusing Mike Love of his murder. Now rush the stage with us and let’s trample other festival goers to death.
Glenn: I love music festivals. Though I have only been to Coachella I have dreamed of attending Lollapalooza or even the month-long Phish festival in upstate Vermont. They are a fantastic place to do drugs and meet people. There is a famous video on the internet of a young woman, presumably on ecstasy, humping a tree and having a fight with it during recent Ultra Music Festival in Miami. That could be any of us at any festival (though the more EDM and MDMA the better). Also, where else could you see a lineup that included Pulp, Rage Against the Machine, the Arcade Fire, Nate Dogg, Warren G and the surviving members of the Bee Gees? Music festivals give us all the bands we love and a few we hate over the course of several days. Who would be against that?
Sarah: I would be against that. Musical Festivals are terrific places for seizures, infections and losing stuff. Everyone is so hyper on drugs and gummi-flavored vodka that anyone who is sober literally has free reign over everyone’s valuables. Did you know your chance of losing/destroying your iPhone increases by 4,000% when you enter a summer music festival? Congratulations. You just paid $200 to flush a $500 device down the sewer. (That’s a $700 net loss.) It’s also so super sweaty. Anyone who goes to summer music festivals is NEVER allowed to complain about a crowded subway car or people who breathe too close to their face. Good gosh, now that I’m really thinking about it, I can’t image how many germs and bacteria find their way into body crevices at these summer festivals. YUCK! Sweaty, gyrating teenagers, sucking face and exchanging saliva -- thousands of cases of mono could be avoided if people just watched these grunge bands on DVD.
I went to the North Coast Music Festival two summers ago and a girl tried to impress me by hoola-hooping then showing me her friendship bracelets. If I wanted to see that I’d go to Claire’s Boutique in Ridgedale Mall on a Saturday morning.
Glenn Sarah, that “girl” was me. I was trying to earn the approval of older, cooler women with friendship bracelets much like I am trying to earn the approval of older, cooler women by advocating for summer festivals with cooling stations (for those suffering from menopause).
It does take a lot of money to attend the festivals and I’ve lost every cell phone I’ve ever owned at one, but it also takes a lot of money to shop at Ridgedale Mall. You might easily spend $300 on a Saturday afternoon there with your friends, while I can spend that same amount on a full weekend pass to see bands that would otherwise separately cost me over $10,000. Festivals are outdoors and hot and sweaty, but so is visiting a Panther preserve in South Florida. But the festivals, like the preserves, bring enjoyment to people’s lives and protect us from extinction. Instead of killing me, let me attend Lollapalooza and watch another endangered animal: Grizzly Bear.
Sarah: Extinction? More like Ex-STINK-tion. Get it? You may not if you attend these festivals because the loud music and drugs have probably damaged your brain. That, or it has been fried by the stench of rotting youth. The final formative years for a human’s brain are late teens to early 20s. Instead of destroying these final stages, young people seek out enjoyment at summer music festivals and slowly chip away at the beauty that is their mind. They should be out working! Getting internships! Inching the US forward and beyond China and the USSR!!!
However, Glenn brings up the valid point that I could easily spend $300 on a Saturday at Ridgedale. Likely on two pairs of jeans at Abercrombie or a slutty rhinestoned prom dress at Cache. Now I’m thinking about high school... middle school... how I spent tons of money on tickets to two ‘N Sync concerts and a Backstreet Boys show at the Target Center. I spent an afternoon making a poster that said “YOU’RE tearin’ up MY heart Justin!” instead of finishing my social studies homework. They made me throw it out when I got there. But it was worth it. Sigh. Music is so worth it.
Glenn: Music can be worth it, but not always. I did have a great time at Coachella, but I just as easily could have been trampled to death during the Turtles tribute or overdose during a War on Drugs set. At least one person dies every year at Bonnaroo and I will not lie here and make the claim that sacrificing your life to see Wilco perform Less Than You Think is noble. It is not.
Sure, you might spend $300 at the mall every Saturday but the memories, clothes and novelty penises you get from Spencer’s will last you just as long as watching the new buzz band perform at the smallest stage. The nice thing about the mall is all socioeconomic groups are welcome to patronize; I cannot say the same about festivals. Working class people might check your tickets at the entrance (and let you sneak knives in with a well placed bribe) but you won’t find them inside rocking out to Foster the People. For those of us who walk around wearing white/middle class guilt like a pear of Pumped Up Kicks, a summer music festival is one of the worst places for our increasingly social consciousness. Perhaps this year we should all stay away from Lollapalooza and donate to the United Way instead.
Sarah: While donating to United Way does feel good, an even better and more cathartic sensation is getting lost in the primal beat of Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi. Dancing to music to escape that white/middle class guilt and get in touch with one’s humanity is worth every penny. Especially if you’re doing it in a tank top and face paint. The beauty of all working class people - and CEOs - is that there is SOMEthing they do that is inappropriate for the workplace. On my morning commute I watch other well-groomed office workers herd to their desks wearing black suit jackets and crisp collared shirts. I wonder, “What’s your wild side like? Did you buy a Lollapalooza 3-day pass? Do you have an acid tab waiting on your nightstand for that special summer festival you attend once a year to forget your job and remember your youth?” I hope to gosh these people have something that they do that lets them escape the mundane routine of sleep-work-tv-sleep. Summer Festivals are magical events where we get down, dirty, and primal. And I bet the ticket takers get free day passes or t-shirts or something. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to see if hoola-hoops are on sale at Target.