Here's Everyone You Should Take to a Festival with You
The photographer, the blagger, the tired boy with a car – these, my friends, are your #squad.
Photo: Jake Lewis
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
Look at yourself: you are one of three types of festival-goer, according to your age range:
14–19: It is your first ever festival and you are green and earnestly excited for it, oh the bands you’ll see, oh the sights, you’re going to keep this wristband forever and ever, oh! Perhaps you will have intercourse with a stranger in the hot rank heat of a tent! Oh! Perhaps you will fall into the mud and be featured on the news. Maybe! You’ll! Meet! Zane! Lowe!
19–29: Been there, done that, know exactly which food carts are worth fucking queuing up for and which aren’t, only things you’ve packed are three cases of beer, some ecstasy and a change of underwear
29+: You’re one of those weird haunting old lads who always used to scare you at festivals when you were young – 'I hope I never grow a long, lank, grey ponytail and drive to Glastonbury in a camper van I bought especially for the purpose,' you used to think, didn’t you – but here you are, wearing unflattering knitted hooded cardigans and smoking medium-expensive weed, and remembering bands who have long ago since broken up
So those are the options. You're going to a festival and you’re going as one of the people above. It is crucial to recognise you cannot do this alone, and that you need a "squad". A successful festival is not just you, ketamine and glitter paint, slumping in a deck chair, trying to have an important opinion about Muse. It's about getting a whole gang together – each with vital, specialised roles – and coming together as a group. Think about Leeds Festival 2K18 as the Bellagio and the Mirage and the MGM Grand on fight night, and think of you and your mates as George Clooney and all the other ones, and think of this rough Ocean’s Eleven analogy as something that works. Think about it like that.
Here are all the people you need to take to a festival with you:
SOMEONE WHO IS REALLY BORING AND ORGANISED AND REALLY OVERDOES IT ON PACKING A SUPPLY OF ENERGY BARS
Nobody honestly wants to invite this person – they actually read the festival programme, and attend on-site activities, and genuinely get excited for the silent disco – but very truly none of you would get to the gates of the place without them, so they are given a free ride to attend and mate around with you and sort everything out for the weekend.
Think about it: do you – you – really want to be the one at 9AM on ticket day, tapping online with a debit card and buying four festival tickets up front? Do you – you – really want to be responsible for getting a train to the nearest city, and then a shuttle bus from there? Did you remember to pack sunscreen, or are you depending on them to do it for you? Exactly. Eat one of the 90 Trek bars they bought with them, have a little sit in their immaculately clean and tidy tent, try not to throw up after having loads of Strongbow for breakfast. Shh. Shh. Mummy is here. Festival Mummy is here.
LAD WHO ACTUALLY HAS THE NUTS TO SMUGGLE A LARGE QUANTITY OF DRUGS IN
You want drugs, don’t you? You’re at a festival and you want drugs. You booked five entire days off work to be here. You are in the middle of a field with spotty 4G reception and a rapidly dying phone battery. You are, by extension, as far from civilisation as you are ever likely to be. You want to be high for this.
Sadly, you’re too much of a nervous breakdown to ever smuggle drugs into a festival – you fear the bored volunteer stewards in day-glo jackets, with their disposable gloves and their slowly running a single finger round the inside of your bag zip; you imagine Alsatian dogs straining at their chains as they bark at you; "OI!" a security guard is saying, as Kendrick Lamar stops mid-headline to glare all his stage lights at you, "OI! THIS KID HAS A VERY SMALL AMOUNT OF WEED ON HIM!" and they beat you with batons until you cry, and admit everything, and the police bring helicopters down to arrest you, and for some reason they stopped off to get your mum first, so she’s in the helicopter just shaking her head at you, sadly, what have you become – so what you need is some bulletproof confident kid who doesn’t mind shoving a couple of grams up his bum (or, honestly, just in a trainer or something) so you can get high all weekend. Put him on the list.
THAT ONE PERSON WHO IS ALWAYS REALLY VIBEY AT 4 AM
Worst part of a festival isn’t existing on nothing more than a multipack of crisps for three days, or that greasy uncomfortable feeling of uncleanness, or the rancid, rancid long drops, or anything like that. No: sadly, it’s when fatigue starts to pick off your party pals a mere three hours into a big night out. "I've only eaten NikNaks since Thursday!" they say, weak pathetic cowards that they are. "I barely have the energy to do a horrid runny shit!" And from the ashes of your potentially ruined evening, a champion appears: 4AM and they are wearing sunglasses and not exactly speaking cohesively, but not exactly not making sense, and they are the catalyst to you getting a second wind – they sniff out a tent having an afterparty, they find a late-night disco not on the programme, they are drawn like a moth to a load of high people dancing silently around a stone circle.
You watch the sun rise blearily together and realise you’ve had the greatest night of your life. Then you fuck them off to get five hours of fitful sleep before getting a hangover bacon sandwich and a cup of tea, then see them the next day clatteringly high and still wearing the same clothes as the night before, and they look you in the eyes and can’t quite remember who you are. Just leave them here, in this field. They’ll find their way home somehow.
SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T MIND QUEUING FOR THE GREATER GOOD OF THE GROUP
I treat festivals a little like I imagine Drake treats life: I am there, as the central figure of all the fun, exclusively To Have A Good Time. Everyone around me serves as my "hype team", taking on more administrative tasks so that I can focus on getting really fucking headache-y beer drunk by 3PM. Just like Drake has photographers and fixers and someone to book Nobu for him and buy marble lamps, what I am saying is that someone should set my tent up, and someone should make sure I am fed. Someone needs to tell me when the good musicians are performing and escort me there accordingly. In the centre, like the soft-boiled yolk of an egg, there’s me: cheerily grinning, mentally collapsing a touch, floppy like a sleeping dog is, joy beyond comprehension. What I am saying is: I'm not fucking queuing for 20 minutes and trying to carry four pints back to where the rest of us are. Some other fucker can do it. Invite them.
It is possible to go to festivals using public transport, yes, but it’s also shite, and I won’t hear a single argument otherwise. On the way there it’s just loads of braying lads in Hawaiian shirts drinking tins on the train. On the way back everyone is knackered and mud-covered and you’re all crammed into the same carriage, desperately trying to escape your own hedonism, crashing into each other with gigantic backpacks. No. For a nice time, what you need is someone with a driving license, a car with a decent-sized boot, someone who doesn’t mind spending half their Day Three driving offsite to do a massive Tesco run, and someone who can keep it together enough to manoeuvre out of a muddy traffic-gridlocked field car park on the worst bit of a comedown. "I'll pitch in for petrol money, mate," you lie to them. "Honestly. Send me your bank details. We’ll all pitch in won’t we?" No. Come on.
SOMEONE WHO JUST INCESSANTLY TAKES PHOTOS
The only good photos of you anyone ever takes are: i. unposed candids when you’re roaring pissed; and ii. that one photo of you that you get in a dress or a suit when you go to a friend's summer wedding, before you get too stuck into the table wine. Every other photo of you is horrible. So you may as well take that one friend of yours who brings a camera everywhere with them to document every moment of your fun, because be real: that’s the only way you’re getting out of this year with any fresh photos to put on your Tinder profile, isn’t it? Isn't it. Swipes are drying a bit, aren’t they? They are.
TALL STRONG BOY WHO CAN HOIST YOU ONTO HIS SHOULDERS
You would think bringing a Tall Strong Boy as part of your festival group is only going to be beneficial for those girls in cutoffs who wants to sit slightly above the crowd at Lovebox and always get pissy when people throw empty cider glasses at their head, but actually having a Tall Strong Boy in your inventory is useful because there's always a slightly dark, ominous edge at festivals – yes, yes: a lot of it is just people in flower crowns telling you ecstasy is important, but there’s also a sort of lawless Old West vibe to proceedings, and sometimes it really just feels like the whole place will go up on fire – and if and when stuff does kick off, you want a Tall Strong Boy you can hide behind while he fights off harder people than you. (N.B. He is quite often your ex’s disgustingly trim new boyfriend, though, so be prepared for that. Like, you'll want to hate him, but then you’ll have a really MDMA-y 3AM chat and reluctantly have to admit that, not only is he sound as fuck, but you really were an arsehole to her, weren’t you; come on mate, examine your behaviour.)
ANYONE WHO DOESN’T MAKE YOU WAIT FIVE HOURS FOR THEM TO GET READY FROM A FUCKING OFF-SITE AIRBNB
Unless you're literally performing on the main stage, you should attend a festival from a tent, either some two-man thing that you leave in a field after you are done with it, or some horrible group-sized 16-berth mansion thing that is someone else’s job to take down when everything is over. Anyone who plans a festival "look" – anything involving straighteners, for example, or elaborate face paint, or a perfectly-lit golden hour photoshoot – needs to be far, far away from your "this T-shirt is clean enough, now let's get wrecked" festival aesthetic.
SOMEONE WHO CAN SWEET TALK THEIR WAY PAST SECURITY
My own unique and most cherished memory with festival security is when a guy who had half the teeth stomped out of his head threatened to beat the everliving shit out of me at Leeds once for "being cheeky", so perhaps I am not personally the ideal candidate for this role, but: it's always useful to have someone charming who can get a couple of you past a couple of metal gates, or through into a separate wristband area, or backstage or somewhere, and you all know someone who is charming enough to do this, don’t you, if you think about it. It's just not going to be you, and it sure as shit isn’t going to be me.
The one thing you don’t want to be in the league table of Festival Sesh Goblins is #1. You want to oscillate in some quiet space between having too much fun (e.g. those lads who somehow manage to key so much ket in one weekend that a St John’s Ambulance kid has to fit them with a colostomy bag forever) and having too little fun (someone who decides to literally have a sober night on Friday "so I can appreciate Kings of Leon more").
You want to be Burnley, really: not Man City, not West Brom, but Burnley, quietly raving but not so much that anyone has to medically worry about you. This is where inviting a Big Mess along as a deflector comes in handy: when you do one gram, they manage two; for every can of lager you pick up off the floor between tents on the way to the main stage, they’ve stacked up four. You need someone who’s always, constantly, takes it a little bit too far, just to act as a sound waffle for your own bacchanalian descent. At a festival once, a girl I knew managed to break her leg, and that really worked a treat to disguise what a dangerous amount of whisky I had consumed that day. Invite a Big Mess along and let their dad come collect them on Sunday night. They are crucial to your health.
PERSON WHO GOES AND HAS A REALLY GOOD TIME, AND YEAH THEY HAVE TO QUEUE UP FOR AN HOUR-AND-A-HALF FOR THE ONLY ATM ON SITE AND WITHDRAW £200 MORE THAN THEY HAD BUDGETED TO SPEND ("NO MUM, PLEASE IT'S— NO, I'M HAVING THE TIME OF MY LIFE, IT’S JUST. CAN YOU JUST SEND THE MONEY PLEASE, MUM, I'LL FIGURE IT OUT WITH YOU WHEN I'M NOT! IN! A FUCKING! FIELD! YOU! BITCH!") AND YEAH, THEY REALLY OVERDO IT ON THE FRIDAY NIGHT AND EVERYONE HAS TO RALLY ROUND THEM ON SATURDAY MORNING AND GET THEM LUCOZADES AND USE THE LAST DISPOSABLE BBQ JUST TO ROAST THEM TWO SAUSAGES TO GO INTO A SANDWICH WITH THE LAST OF THE BREAD, AND YEAH THEY ARE TRYING INEXPLICABLY NOT ONLY TO SING BUT TO RAP? ALONG? TO THE HEADLINE ACT? RUINING THE ENTIRE SHOW FOR EVERYONE AROUND THEM IN A TWO-METRE RADIUS? AND YEAH, THEY SOMEHOW MANAGE TO GET RIPPED OFF FOR £20 FOR A DUD PILL AND HAS TO HAVE A LITTLE PEP TALK FROM EVERYONE AT 1AM WHEN THEY GET A BIT TEARY ABOUT IT, AND YEAH, YEAH: NET PROFIT/LOSS, FOR THE FIVE-DAY FESTIVAL THEIR PRESENCE THERE IS ACTIVELY DETRIMENTAL TO THE GROUP, AND THEIR EXTENSIVE STORYING OF THE WHOLE THING HAS MANAGED TO LOSE THEM 100 ENTIRE INSTAGRAM FOLLOWERS, AND WHEN THEY GET BACK ALL THEIR MATES ARE MAD AT THEM BECAUSE ALL THEY TALK ABOUT IS THE FESTIVAL AND WHAT A GOOD TIME THEY HAD AT A FESTIVAL, AND HOW NEXT YEAR THEY SHOULD COME WITH THEM, TO THE FESTIVAL, NO WE SHOULD ALL GO, IT’S REALLY FUN, AT THE FESTIVAL, AND FUNDAMENTALLY DEEP DOWN IT WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER FOR THEIR BANK BALANCE AND THEIR BRAIN AND EVERY INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIP THEY HAVE EVER HAD FOR THEM NOT TO GO TO THE FESTIVAL, BUT THEY WENT I SUPPOSE AND THEY HAD A NICE TIME, GOOD 4 THEM