Vibes. An interesting concept without a doubt.

You can’t see them, smell them, touch them or hear them. But you can feel them.

They’re in the atmosphere permeating through everything and leaving behind a subtle sense of elation. When you find yourself in a place with good vibes, it’s a feeling that can’t be replicated through material items or processed intoxicants.

This is why they are so vital to the success of a festival. Vibes aren’t determined by a lineup or a venue. If a festival gets the vibes right, it essentially means they got everything right. After all, the number of factors that effect them involve every single aspect of the festival. The artists, the location, the weather, the people who attend, their individual attitudes, the list goes on forever.

Now before I go any further, there’s something you need to remember. There is not a single topic more subjective than vibes.

No one can tell you what good vibes are supposed to feel like. No one can tell you that one place has good vibes and another doesn’t. Judgments such as those are left entirely to individual, and I am an individual just like you. Everything I say from here on could read like a mystery novel written in Egyptian hieroglyphics. All that means is my interpretation of good vibes doesn’t overlap with yours which is completely fine.

It’s also important to remember that no two festivals are identical either. As such, no two festivals have the same vibe; good or bad. To juxtapose a festival against another in this regard is futile. If a festival had bad vibes when you went that one year it’s because the endless amount of variables which come together to form the vibes didn’t work for you. It’s certainly not because it’s a bad festival or some other festival is better.

There is one defining factor that can be related to vibes regardless of individual interpretation. Vibes are what make you want to come back next year.

As I stated before, nothing concrete about a festival determines the vibes. A lineup is just a group of artists the promoter had enough money to book. A venue is a just a space big enough to accommodate everything necessary to make a festival.

If you want, you could see pretty much all of those artists another time. Plus barely anyone who goes to a festival will go back to the venue for any other reason. Yet, people will return to these festivals year after year, and often times people will refer to them as “home” or other flattering epithets. This is a result of the vibes.

The first time around someone might go to a festival solely to see artists on the lineup. The second time around, that same person doesn’t want to just see the artists. They want to see them at that particular festival.

Sure, it‘s possible to see all of the artists on a lineup some other time, but when they’re at a festival they’re reading into the vibes the same as any other person there. This in turn will effect their performances (this is especially true of DJ sets). This could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on who you ask, but no one can deny the effect itself.

A venue might just be a large patch of grass or a piece of desert, but when they are properly decorated and lined with all different types of vendors, art, food, and music, it’s like they become something else entirely. There are plenty of events with similar offerings in their venues like carnivals, county fairs, etc, but those don’t have nearly the same kind of community based around them. That’s because of the vibes.

If anything those concrete elements are strategically chosen by the people who put on the festival in an attempt to define the vibes. The festival market is constantly changing, and if a festival is to survive it has to change as well. Promoters can’t offer the same lineup or the same art installations every year, but they can work to make sure they present the festival in such a way that maintains the vibe that has developed overtime. If they’re able to do this year after year, then it’s probably a pretty good festival overall.

Based on this idea, smaller communities have formed within the festival scene. Many people today will tell you that they think larger festivals have lost some of their cultural value, causing them to attend smaller gatherings. Many people today will also tell you that there’s little point in attending a festival if you’re not excited about the lineup or a slew of VIP amenities. Both of these are very common points of view, and the people who share them flock to the same festivals because they are searching for the same vibe.

That’s why festival communities are inherently strong. It’s not like school where you happen to be in the same class as someone. Festivals are attended entirely by choice, and when you meet someone there it means something about the festival attracted both people involved. If that something was a single artist on the lineup, it would be more likely that such a connection would happen at a concert for that artist. If such a connection happens at a festival, it’s because of the vibes.

For the people who are newer to the festival scene, the concept of “vibes” may seem illusive. There is no tangible way to measure or describe them. In truth, the vibes of an event are comparable to the butterfly effect. One person offering someone a drink of water when they need it could lead to someone else doing something nice and that trend could literally reverberate through the entire festival. Unfortunately, the same is also true if some chose not to lend a hand when they could have. Thinking about it on a broad scale can be overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to focus on the most fundamental aspect of vibes: subjectivity.

Festivals are always marketed as a place where people express who they are. So if you’re not sure what to make of the vibes, just think about how comfortable you are being yourself, and remember that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks; including me.

Your vibe attracts your tribe, so embrace your vibe.