EditorialMusic Festivals

What Is A Side Quest?

It’s day two of the festival and the afternoon has been a good one. I had nowhere to be and no responsibilities weighing me down. I lost my friends a few hours ago and made little effort to find them again.

Without the burden of keeping everyone together, I wandered the outskirts between stages, letting anything that sounded good be my guide. I escaped the dense chaos of the crowd and headed to the art installations.

On my way, I stumbled upon a couple getting married in the house of matrimony, ordained by drag queens as strangers cheered them on. I let the atmosphere choose my next moves as I admired the beauty of the festival around me and laughed at the ridiculous conversations of people passing me by. I made some friends whose names I don’t remember but whose impressions will stay with me forever.

I’ve been to this festival before, I know it like the back of my hand, yet somehow I’ve discovered new corners I’ve never experienced before.

It’s time to snap back to reality and meet my friends. As I’m integrating myself back into the dynamic buzz of the festival, I’m stopped dead in my tracks. Plucking me from my course is a honey-sweet nostalgic sound reaching out and pulling me in.

Rüfüs Du Sol is a group I’ve never heard of before but instantly I want more. Without anyone trekking behind me, I make my way to the rail as if pulled by an invisible string.

Just as I’m reaching the front rows, a stranger offers me a better view atop their shoulders and I let the music take over. I knew that moment would stick with me forever so I put my phone away, closed my eyes, and surrendered to the music.

As the show is coming to a close I hug my new friends goodbye and in a euphoric stupor, I make my way back to my group. I know the rest of the night won’t be the same but there’s something comforting in knowing I’ll cherish this memory forever.

And that’s the story of my first side quest.

Image courtesy of Electric Forest Facebook

Since then, I’ve prioritized experiences like those at festivals over jam-packed schedules with sets every minute. Someone on Reddit described it best, “ditching your group to find other people and do random spontaneous shit” as the definition of a side quest. But side quests are really any adventure you embark on to escape the mainstream of a festival.

Side quests have no guidelines. They can be for a couple of minutes or a few hours and you can do them alone or with a friend. They provide an opportunity to escape reality and immerse in the magic of the festival.

Event organizers spend years planning festivals and scouting talents in the music and arts realms to present you with a wonderland of twists at every corner. It just takes some confidence and curiosity to seek out these adventures.

Some festivals provide an elevated ambiance for side quests and meticulously plant curiosities within their themes. Electric Forest, for example, is famous for integrating attendees into its magic.

Deep inside the Forest lies the Ocular Organ where Porter Robinson, Jason Leech, Big Gigantic, and LP Giobbi have all performed secret, intimate sets for attendees to stumble upon. Roaming around the woods are Forest actors who will give you the passwords to secret speakeasies if you take the opportunity to interact with them and play their games.

Old-time rotary phones are constantly ringing from inside gigantic trees within the Forest. Some have other festival attendees on the line, others have headliners waiting to chat with fans. Infamous pins can be own in a game of Frick Frack Blackjack that allow access to exclusive surprise sets throughout the weekend. Not to mention Electric Forest ravers lean into the magic of the forest with costumes, performances and art to indulge in and trinkets to trade.

Surprises lie in the most unsuspecting places at festivals like Electric Forest and you just need to be willing to step out of your comfort zone to bask in the rewards, both materialistic and not. Many find the rewards of a good adventure to be more than enough.

Image courtesy of Electric Forest Facebook

Enticing in nature, side quests encourage you to choose your own path and decide which thrills to indulge in, which is why they’re often enjoyed alone. Liberation from needing to be somewhere or follow the influences of a crowd is a long-loved feeling that side-quests provide.

They allow attendees to tap into their creative sides and create an adventure they can call their own. Making new friends and only carrying the responsibility of having fun is what draws hundreds into the side quest gang every festival.

A successful side quest requires you to be up for anything and prepared for everything. Cop a festival map and orient yourself to your surroundings, then let your heart guide you.

Being alone at a festival requires a heightened awareness of yourself and responsibility to others. Drinking water, eating snacks and looking out for others will make for a safe, fun adventure. Your headspace will be a huge contributing factor to the outcome of your quest, as well.

Set yourself up for an uplifting experience by centering yourself, opening up your mind and having only positive expectations.

Image courtesy of Electric Forest Facebook

Lastly, keep your group in the loop. Your friends may expect you to just run off, and if you’re that kind of friend, all the power to you. Some friends may be more defensive to the idea of side quests. It’s scary to let your friend go off alone and they probably just want to spend time with you.

Reassure them that you will be back, that you love them and you just want some time to explore the festival alone. Whether you’re a free bird or have the worries of your friends in the back of your mind, make sure to check in with your group whenever possible. Organize a place and time to meet back up and stick to those plans.

It’s easy to get caught up in the allure of your trip and completely disassociate but looking out for each other and following through on promises is the only way we can keep each other safe for years of festivals to come.

The beauty and magic of a festival is in the moments unplanned and experiences not yet discovered. Allow yourself the space to release and let the festival take over.

Featured image courtesy of Electric Forest Facebook.

Written by
Katie Katuscak

Katie is currently working as a travel nurse with a specialty in Pediatric ICU but has a deep passion for electronic music. She's been going to festivals since 2017 and loves the free-spirit energy that comes with festivals. Her favorite artists are Zeds Dead and Subtronics. If you see her at a show, please come say hello!

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