For many people, a music festival is a rite of passage. Just you, your mates, some drinks, and complete freedom for the weekend – possibly for the first time in your life – and obviously some music. My nearest festival is the infamous Leeds Fest. Naturally, my Snapchat and Instagram feed is inundated with posts like “Who’s at Fest?” or “Any Saturday tix for sale?” in the last week of August. For many, the motivation to go to Leeds Fest is less about the music and more about the experience itself; stories of camp fights, fires, and poorly timed mosh pits are exactly what 16-year-olds yearn for after GCSE results day.
I went to Leeds Fest in 2022 with the intention of seeing three of my favourite bands: Fontaines DC, Wolf Alice, and Arctic Monkeys. Having attended many festivals with my family over the years, I thought I’d know what to expect. However, Leeds Fest was like no other experience I’d had before. The general audience, mainly intoxicated teenagers, most attending their first-ever festival, were going WILD at their first taste of freedom. So, if you are planning on going to Leeds Fest (and I’m sure this is true for Reading as well) be prepared to feel old. Unfortunately, the horror stories are true: from relentless football chants and outrageous toilet facilities to drink spiking and crushing crowds. So keep your wits about you and keep your friends close. Despite this, it is still possible to have a great time. My sister and I, who only stayed for the day, and all my friends who attended for the entire weekend, embraced the carnage and had the best time.
Top festival tips:
- Plan your day – It’s vital that you know your way around the festival. You don’t want to be paying hundreds of pounds only to miss your favourite artist just because you didn’t know where to go. Make sure you know when and where they are performing. Plus, leave time for food, water, and toilets. This doesn’t apply as much for smaller festivals but it’s still important to know your way around.
- Be open to listen to new music – Although it’s important to have a schedule, don’t worry about following it too closely. Personally, I knew I wanted to see three bands at Leeds, but during the rest of the day I looked for new artists. At bigger festivals, such as Glastonbury, it’s almost impossible to see everyone and everything, so welcome different plans and new music.
- Being at the front isn’t everything – Yes, the videos from right at the front look great, and the fleeting chance that Alex Turner will throw a guitar pick at you seems too good to miss, but the atmosphere of a music festival can be felt from anywhere in the crowd. As I said earlier, closer doesn’t always mean better and waiting for hours on end in the hot sun with little to no water or food is a recipe for disaster.
- Stay hydrated – My sister and I, after being stuck in the crowd for about 4 hours with only one bottle of water, got very thirsty, very quickly. Between acts, people in the crowd would type “water” into Snapchat, in the hopes that people from the front would take mercy on us. We, like many others, were unsuccessful in getting some of this coveted water, so GET SOME WATER BEFOREHAND.
- Don’t hang about – This is especially important if you are only staying for the day because the lines entering and leaving Leeds Fest are criminal. To get around this, I would recommend moving to the outskirts of the crowd for an easier exit route. I left the festival just after 11pm and got home before midnight, but a lot of my friends who also live in Bradford took hours longer to get home, despite leaving just 20 minutes after me.
So, if you are considering going to a music festival next year, my suggestion would be to go for it! Whether it is your first festival or your 100th, you will always find yourself having a good time. Even a notably “disastrous” festival experience can create some of the best and funniest memories to look back on. For me, music is a very important part of my life and so the opportunity to experience it live, and share that moment with so many other people, is a feeling that cannot be replicated.
Illustration: Zahra Haroon