Knowing how to adapt to a changing festival environment is becoming a frequent topic of conversation as the EDM community grows larger than ever. In some ways, this makes the present an exciting time to be in the scene: More people joining the community means more people can connect to the joy that the music and the community culture have to offer. It also means promoters have more opportunities to organize new events as demand grows, and who doesn’t love more raves.
Even so, not everyone is thrilled about the changing landscape. While growth can bring positive change, it’s also often messy, and the music festival scene is not exempt. Glancing at online discussions about the 2022 festival season on forums like Twitter and Reddit reveals that some festival-goers feel the scene “isn’t what it used to be”. With overcrowding being a concern at several popular festivals this summer, It’s undeniable that the festival scene and rave community are experiencing some growing pains. Here are five steps anyone can take to adapt to a changing festival environment.
1. Embrace Imperfection
Frustration is a natural reaction to bumps in the road, and voicing concerns is an important part of fixing problems as they arise. That said, managing one’s expectations and adopting a shift in perspective can ensure that these challenges don’t get in the way of enjoying the experience altogether.
This begins with not getting hung up on perfection. Expecting changes to take place without any messiness often turns out to be unrealistic, and that’s simply due to the fact that music festivals are events run by humans and attended by humans, and humans are imperfect. Sometimes things just go wrong, and festivals have bad years. Offering feedback is an important way to help promoters recognize room for improvement. Nonetheless, no one gets it 100% right all the time.
2. Appreciate Improvements
Idolizing a “golden time” in the past can also get in the way of enjoying the scene’s present and future. Like any part of human culture, the dance music scene is constantly evolving, and expecting the experience to stay frozen in a certain period in time can leave people feeling dissatisfied and unable to appreciate new possibilities. However, it’s always possible to adapt with a new perspective.
The festival experience also improved a lot over recent decades. Modern festival goers can enjoy eye-dazzling stage productions, unprecedented genre variety, earth-shattering sound systems, improved access to food, water and other amenities, as well as improved safety and harm reduction resources. The value that these improvements bring to the festival experience are especially apparent in light of disastrous events of the past like the Woodstock ‘99 festival.
3. Responding With Mindfulness
Responding to uncomfortable situations in the environment with mindfulness can also ensure that all attendees enjoy a better time overall. Harmful behavior like violence, sexual misconduct, harassment, theft or property destruction are unacceptable no matter what the circumstances. The saying “if you see something, say something” is crucial in these scenarios, as it is in any situation in which safety is concerned.
That said, some things can’t always be controlled. Mundane but irritating behavior like excessive pushing or the occasional encounter with a rude person inevitably occurs at large gatherings filled with people in excitable states. Leading by example (saying excuse me when moving through crowds), practicing non-reactivity, and removing oneself from a stressful environment are actions anyone can take to de-escalate a stressful encounter.
Allowing these encounters to overshadow the entire night is also avoidable. Rolling with the punches and redirecting one’s attention are sometimes the best tools one can use to cope with disorder and reconnect to what’s important: Enjoying the music.
4. Choose The Environment
Not all festivals are created equal, and knowing which type of environment one enjoys is also important to getting the most out of an experience. As festival-goers flocked to the dance floors in the summer of 2022, many popular events around the world experienced overcrowding. Additionally, some attendees who are new to the scene come to these festivals looking for a club or college party atmosphere, which doesn’t always mix well with everyone.
While it’s not always possible to control the environment at a festival, choosing a different setting is always an option. One way people yearning for a more relaxed or unique setting can adapt to the chaotic energy sweeping larger festivals is by exploring smaller stages and new artists. Exploring smaller niche festivals like Lightning in a Bottle or Shambhala Music Festival is also a great option for those craving a more wholistic or underground style experience.
5. Look Beyond Online Chatter
As the festival industry and the EDM community become ever more intertwined with social media, it’s also helpful to maintain some perspective on conversations happening online. Digital platforms provide a space for people to express themselves and share their experiences, which has many benefits. Because every story is unique to the individual sharing it, that also means that no one individual’s story can reflect the entire experience as a whole. That means the way people process information shared online has to also adapt in some ways.
It can be easy to latch onto stories that portray the festival experience in a negative light. Even so, focusing only on the negative stories often leads to a distorted perception of the experience as a whole. Taking some time to explore positive stories can help balance the perspective-and even then, there’s no replacing the real thing. After all, the best impression of the festival experience anyone can get is their own.
Images by Rukes Photography