I hate camping; if it’s up to me, I really rather not have anything to do with setting up a tent, inflating some shitty mattress and boiling inside of the greenhouse that your tent will surely become in the middle of summer. Either that or trying to change inside of that satanic asshole that is your tent, while trying to make sure that you don’t get all your stuff completely wet when it just so happens that the festival coincided with the current edition of the Great Flood. I have also developed a deep-seated hatred towards the makers of tents and sleeping bags, who always seem happy to pack their fucking products into the smallest of bags, making it virtually impossible to repackage at the end of the journey.
There’s also the expensive food and drinks, and which force you to pawn off your nuts in order to get a decent meal. Of course, you can bring your own camping stove and cook as many shitty cans of soup and noodles you want. Really, the possibilities are as endless as the diarrhea you’ll probably get from grabbing those uncooked fatty meatballs with the same hand you sort-of-washed a couple of days ago.
As the saying goes, “a fool and his money are easily parted”, and festivals are the right place to make that happen. Why pay 1 dollar for a beer bottle when you can get a kiddie cup of beer for 5? Of course, you won’t even notice, because the festival is probably using tokens instead of money, so that you don’t realize how much you’re paying once you’re inside. Also, there won’t be enough places selling them, so you’ll be stuck waiting in line for such a long time that you’ll just end up going “fuck it!” and buy way more than you needed, just so you can avoid waiting in that fucking line again. Of course, they’re not going to reimburse your unused tokens, and you can bet your ass that next year they’ll make some new version of them, so you can’t use the ones that you have left.
From mankinis to inflatable guitars to pretty much anything under the sun, festivals are full of people carrying completely bizarre crap. Although the question always exists as to whether they brought all of that from home, the organizers of the festivals still make sure that you can get all of that pointless shit there as well; how about a balloon for 10 dollars? Or an unofficial “limited and numbered” bootleg of Metallica for 200? Or how about a dildo? All of this and more can be found at any of the merch stands that adorn the “metal markets” of festivals. Untold amounts of cut-throat merchants are counting on your impulse purchases to make this year memorable; needless to say that you’ll be one happy motherfucker as you realize that it’s the middle of the day, you’re camping very far from there, you’re carrying 5 vinyls, a goat skull and a hilaaaaarious t-shirt of the pope getting fisted by Skeletor… and it’s raining. Enjoy the shows.
If you’re not a fan of sleeping, you’ll love festivals. There’s nothing quite like laying on your tent at night, listening to the screams of every asshole around you, as they decide that yelling “SLAYEEEEEEEEEEER” at 5 am is super funny. Word to the wise: Do not bring a firearm, as the temptation might be too much.
And yet, I love festivals. Sure, I love them more when I don’t have to camp, but they’re still fun enough to justify being there despite the hatred.
There’s something about an environment in which nobody gives a fuck. Perhaps it’s something like Joseph Conrad’s “fascination of the abomination”, a curiosity that makes me want to see exactly what will happen this year, what boundary will be broken, that keeps me interested. Of course, first and foremost it’s about the music; this isn’t a safari (as it would be if I was venturing into the Gathering of the Jugallos) and I wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for the bands, but the experience goes well beyond that of the music.
When it comes to the music, you should know that it doesn’t matter how many bands you want to see, since that number will continue to decrease as the days go by. By the end of the first day any plan you had of checking that sweet underground band that plays the next morning at 11 will quickly go down the toilet. Of course, you’ll be there for the headliners, be it at some of the sauna tents (“hey guys, I know it’s the middle of the summer and all… but how about we make a stage for 5 thousand people and cover it with a very low tent?”) or at the main stages, as well as check some of the big names that make up the lineup, but you’ll spend a big chunk of your time just wandering around.
Despite the inherent social awkwardness that seems to be a common denominator among metalheads (I can easily picture many of the trench-coat wearing losers being stuck in some high school locker) festivals are an incredibly welcoming place. You’ll always meet new people, either waiting for food, or just sheltering from the elements, and will be able to just shoot the shit for days or even develop a friendship that goes beyond the festival. Sure, there are some rotten apples, like the occasional junkie and some assorted hooligans, but most of the people there just want to have fun.
After all I’ve said, I know that it’s hard to believe that I like being in one of those places, but I do. It’s the kind of pilgrimage that you owe it to yourself to make at least once in your life. Heavy metal is a strange brotherhood… an awkward band of brothers (and sisters) of social rejects that, once a year, finds a place to call home. I hope you’ll pay a visit, it’s worth it.
See you at the camping area!…And for God’s sake take a shower, you stink.