Recently I attended Boston Calling music festival. I normally don't go out of my way to go to music festivals but Boston Calling this year had 13 bands that I wanted to see and who were not going to be in my area live on their own. So, even knowing that I wouldn't see true full sets, I ponied up at went for 2 of the 3 days. Boston Calling was very organized, the spectators well behaved, excellent food and beverage options at reasonable pricing. All the acts started as scheduled and ended with enough time to venture to other acts (most of the time). It was exhausting (in a good way) and I'm glad I went and I will do it again.That said there were some observations I had about the festival scene. We've all seen the photos and videos of the major festivals and I am including that with my personal experience.
My biggest surprise was the number of families I saw. I think it's fantastic that parents will bring kids to see a diverse array of live music, even if it isn't in their normal listening circle. What made it even better was seeing many parents and their kids being mutual fans of the artists. Enjoying the performances and moving to it (though a few daughters appeared they would have been happier if dad wasn't moving so much). The one trend I'm not a fan of is the number of babies I saw. Sure they had the noise cancelling headphones but with the heat, noise, possible idiot move that could harm them... I just don't see it a smart move. As a parent of 3 I can't imagine really enjoying a music festival caring and worrying about a baby.
It was enlightening to see the number of fans there to see the more obscure, less known artists. I always worry when I go see a band like Tauk that only a handful will be there to witness them but to my surprise most all acts pulled in hundreds of fans minimally. Kudos to those who actually branch away from the mainstream and learn about new artists.
Now my biggest observation, which I contradict myself a bit, is that there is a contingency who attend who really could care less about the music. Over the last 20+ years the festival has shifted from the music to being a money maker. Who can argue with marketing to the masses making a few bucks and cashing in on our capitalistic system. I get it, but this attracts a clientele different from the music lover and instead tickets are bought by the scene lover.
How many times have you seen photos from Coachella by the social elite showcasing their outfits and how much fun they are having. As an avid music fan, when I go to see an artist/band and more people are concerned with getting the best Instagram selfie of them and their friends again to show how much fun they are having... they are missing the act and in my and other fans' way. I have no issue with documenting. I do it. I take a quick shot to have and share then my phone goes back into my pocket. These folks don't just hang in the back either, they have to be front and center (again to show how much they are engaged and a part of the scene) with phones held high obstructing views. Why video a complete song or set? Guaranteed it will not be of high quality or watched much in the future.
Proposal. There are VIP areas (which is where I purchase my tickets to) for those of us beyond the moshing and being squashed age. Why not have a "no phone zone" or specific areas for those who feel the need to have at it non stop to social media it to the max.
The music festival could relegate music as a secondary reason to attend. I hope not. Festivals do serve a purpose of introducing smaller, newer acts to fans of big name artists which expand their listening base. The party atmosphere is fine, just keep the focus on the music. Minor grievance- if you are one checking out a new act and become disinterested, please go to the back or leave the viewing area. Nothing sucks more than you talking through an act I want to see. I solemnly vow to never ruin an act on you.
I beseech you all to continue to attend music festivals but try to keep the music the reason you are there and partake in the other stuff to fill gaps between acts- not the other way around. You'll enjoy it more and so will I.