Photo taken by Hunter Frederick
By Hunter Frederick
This past weekend, on Randall’s Island in good ol’ New York City, thousands of oddly dressed and questionably sober people attended the ninth iteration of the Electric Zoo electronic music festival. Since its 2009 debut, the festival has been spanning the Labor Day weekend and features many of the hottest names from the various facets of electronic music. This festival was my third EZOO, as it is affectionately known, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, as I do every year. It is a good way to get one last party in before school really starts to kick your teeth in (I am behind already *cries*). Anyway, seeing as how the battle-worn grounds of Randall’s Island have become somewhat familiar to me, I feel enabled to write this list of things you should do if you find yourself at EZOO, or any music festival.
1. Read the rules and policies beforehand
Yeah, call me a nerd if you want, but I never get held up at check in because I have something I am not supposed to have. Even though I would like to bring my own bottle of water, a snack, a pack of gum or some Tic-Tacs, I know from reading the FAQs that was not going to fly. I understand why; I do not necessarily agree with it, but I understand why.
2. Stay hydrated
Please, please, please. Stay hydrated. With all the dancing and running around, to sweating and getting constantly pushed in crowds, festivals take a huge toll on your body. Not everyone can handle this, but staying hydrated is at least a step in the right direction. Water is also usually the cheapest drink on the menu, and if you are lucky (and the organizers are not lunatics), your festival will have free water refill stations.
3. Know your limits
Like I said before: festivals really take a toll on your body. You are likely going to be on your feet the entire time, sweating and contending with crowds while trying to get your groove on. Add to this the temptation of alcohol and some less-than-legal substances, and you are really putting your body in a bind. What you do is your decision, but know your limits. You might feel like the king of the world after four shots of warm whiskey and dancing for six hours straight at the main stage, but you are going to be pissed when you cannot get out of bed the next day.
4. Dress comfortably
This is an absolute must. From head to toe, dress comfortably. I brought two pairs of shoes home in preparation for EZOO: two pairs of Vans-style shoes, low-cut and hi-tops. Having now been through the festival, I regret this decision. Let me make it perfectly clear; these shoes did not lend themselves to standing on the LIRR into Manhattan, taking 3 subways to get to 125th Street, waiting for a bus and then riding that bus over the Triboro, waiting in a check-in line, then finally getting in and dancing for seven hours, only to have to walk back over that same bridge and back to the 125th Street station to start the trip back home. TL:DR – please wear athletic shoes.
5. Be prepared
This is the other half of the previous tip - be prepared. Make sure you bring your phone charger and an external battery pack, especially if you go alone. And you can wear whatever you want to these things, but please be prepared for all weather situations. Folks in nothing but Stan Smiths and a set of Calvin Klein underwear I am looking at you. No disrespect though; I don’t know how you do it. Be sure to at least bring a poncho or something. It rained on Saturday, and I saw two people get whisked away to receive medical attention due to what I assume were weather related health complications. I also saw someone buy a poncho for like $60 from someone who happened to have two. So be smart, come prepared, and let the drinks menu be the reason you go broke (seriously, $11 for a Mike’s Hard Lemonade??).
6. Secure your valuables
An unfortunate but necessary statement. During the finale on Sunday night, three separate times, I overheard people around me freaking out because their phones had disappeared from their pockets. There are scumbags, true salt-of-the-earth low lives, who go to these things and steal phones and wallets en masse. These people are the worst and I have plenty of nasty things to say about them, but to stay on topic, just make sure your stuff is secure. Put your phone or wallet in the front pocket of whatever you are wearing or at least somewhere where someone cannot snatch it without you noticing. Put everything else your backpack or purse, and then, secure that too. I personally use carabiners; they do not lock, but the hold the zippers to the straps of my drawstring bag, and no one is getting around that without me noticing.
This should really say: Dance, if you want to. Some people are not dancers, and they do not feel hung up about it. However, I think a fair portion of people fall into the category I found myself in this past weekend: we want to dance, but we feel that we can not do it good enough. Maybe it is leftover fear from grade school, where two left feet at the school dance would lead to ridicule and weeks of shame.
However, it truly does not matter at a festival. I usually fly solo at these things, meaning that I could literally do ironically bad Dad dances, and no one would ever be able to hold it over me. In the end, just do what you are comfortable with. I started with your classic two-step on Friday, got my arms involved by Saturday and was a certified RugCutter™ by Sunday. Break the cycle, and boogie like no one is watching. Because no one is.
8. Be open to new things
This more of a recommendation than a thing that you absolutely must do. However, I do make a non-binding guarantee that if you stay open to new experiences at music festivals, you will leave at the end of the day liking something new. Allow me to illustrate: there were 5 stages at EZOO, two stages with elaborate designs and sets, then two tents, and then one little rinky-dink stage off at the far end of the festival grounds, which was basically just a glorified plywood box. This little thing never had maybe more than 30 people at it, and I had never heard of anyone who was scheduled to perform there over all three days. But let me tell you, after being told to “3-2-1-JUMP!” has started to get on your nerves, nothing hit the spot like the grooves they had going on at the rinky-dink stage.
I said this to my friend I was with at the time, and I stand by it: “I would go to The Club™ every weekend if it was as chill and groovy as this.” So next time you are at a festival, check out a style of music you have not listened to before, talk to new people and even dance with a stranger if you feel like it.
Have fun and rave responsibly!