Last weekend was my first (and last) attempt at festival camping.
I've been to music festivals before, but they were either day-long events or I wussed out and chose to stay at nearby accommodations instead of slumming it on the campgrounds with general pop.
Still, even though I hate camping, I kind of felt like I was missing out on a rite of passage. Most of my friends have camped at festivals and they all had great war stories about late night E-fuelled dance parties and disgusting tent sex. This being the last year of my 20s, I figured it was now or never.
So I headed to WayHome, a three-day festival a couple hours north of Toronto, with a few dudes from work. I was pumped on the lineup—in particular LCD Soundsystem, who were headlining the first night. But even before we arrived, there were red flags. The temperature was slated to be in the mid-30s—literally the hottest weekend of the summer—and in that heat, my colleague, who is the approximate size of a baby giraffe, and I would be sharing a tiny "three man" tent.
As soon as we got to the grounds, I remembered that almost everyone who works at music festivals is a teenager who is just there for the free admission—aka completely useless when it comes to being helpful. We set up the tent and asked one guy to point us in the direction of the stages. He responded by giving us a blank stare. "Where's the music?" we clarified, to which he shook his head and said, "I have no idea. Not gonna lie." I laughed passive aggressively and felt myself brace for a weekend of being annoyed.
Eventually, we got to the right place and seeing as it was hot as balls, I beelined for the drink stand, passing by girls attempting to Snapchat themselves doing cartwheels and one bro who came up right behind me screaming "HIGH FIVE!? HIGH FIVE!?" while en route. I hate everyone here, I thought to myself, followed by, Maybe I'm just a bitch? Both of those statements are in fact true, but I digress.
Once I got to the drink station, I asked for a Perrier water, but when I reached to hand the clerk cash, she shook her head. "We're cash free," she said. "You need to download the app and load money onto your wristband." Awesome. I'm in the middle of a massive field in Oro-Medonte, Ontario, with shit cell service, and my only hope of not passing out from heat exhaustion is downloading a fucking app. Forty minutes later, the app had been downloaded but still wasn't processing my payment. That's when I ran into my friend and he told me I could just go see a "top up station"—there was one a few feet away from me— and use my credit card to put money on my wristband, something I wish the drink lady would have mentioned. All told it took me more than an hour to get a 250-ml can of Perrier that carried an $8 price tag.
Unfortunately for me, I have a tiny bladder and a phobia of portapotties. My dad was OCD about cleanliness growing up. He made us wash our butts every time we went number two and take two showers a day. My mom had to ban him from giving our dog a bath because he would aggressively soap her entire face, giving her this weird recurring eye irritation. Anyway, it wasn't long before I had to go pee, so I headed over to one of the blue boxes of hell. Positioned directly in the sunlight, it was hot and smelly inside, like being in a microwave after someone had warmed up a bowl of shit. I did my business and got out of there as quickly as I could. (I packed a Shenis—a dick-shaped funnel chicks can use to pee—but it was about a foot longer than I expected it to be, resulting in difficulties aiming. I ditched it after I almost pissed on my leg.)
The first show my friend and I ended up watching was Metric. During the last song, there was a nice moment when the entire crowd was singing the chorus to "Breathing Underwater." I couldn't really enjoy it because the bro next to me, clearly rolling out of his mind at 7 PM, kept screaming, "SING ONE MORE!" and accidentally hitting me in the tit.
It was time to get drunk. I hustled back to the car to chug down some of the $50 worth of alcohol I'd purchased. I was in a rush because I wanted to get a good spot to see LCD, so I quickly unscrewed the cap off my two-six of vodka and poured some down my throat. Bad call. It had been baking for hours at that point and was roughly the temperature of freshly brewed cup of coffee, the nastiest coffee you could imagine. Instantly, I puked it back up. Still, I packed a little in a water bottle to take back to the show. Desperate times, you know.
LCD was awesome, so I won't bore you with the details of that. It was the shining moment of the weekend. Because I was wasted, falling asleep that night was pretty easy. But that's where my luck ran out.
I awoke to unbearable heat at 9 AM to discover that I'd gotten my period. Surprise. Being a dumbass, I hadn't packed any tampons, so I had to use the really old one that had been sitting in my backpack, unwrapped and stained with pen ink. I spent an hour charging my phone at the media tent so that I could coordinate meeting up with friends. As it turned out, I wouldn't need to do that anyway because I was too hot to care about anything. It seemed no matter how much water I consumed, I couldn't stay hydrated. I had told myself that unlike every other festival I'd attended, I would actually take advantage of the stacked lineup this time. Instead, I found myself being shaken awake by a security guard who found me passed out on a viewing platform during Third Eye Blind's set.
By the time Arcade Fire came on, I was a bit better, in that I was conscious, but still barely able to stand. The second it was over, I rushed back to my tent to crash. In sharp contrast to the blistering daytime heat, it had suddenly become very cold, which coincided nicely with the fever and flu I felt settling in. No matter what I did, I couldn't get warm, and it didn't help that I was using a lumpy towel as my pillow and stuffed toilet paper as a defacto tampon at this point. My coworker and tent mate, whom I had barely seen all day due to how little I gave a fuck about anything that was going on around me, lumbered into the tent and almost immediately passed out. I remember staring at him angrily—he was blissfully unaware of how miserable I was—sick, cold, dehydrated, and bleeding through my pants.
This is the most uncomfortable night of my life, I thought, then scolded myself for being dramatic. I quickly mentally scanned through all of my memories backpacking through Southeast Asia, taking 24-hour bus rides seated in the aisle. No yeah, this is worse, I concluded.
The next morning I made the long trek to use the "fancy" flush washroom in the media area to freshen up. Haggard af, my coworkers and I rode back home in silence—when the baby giraffe tried to start a singalong to "All My Friends" by LCD, I quickly turned around and snapped "Shut up!"
At home, I threw out my favourite pair of white sweat pants. And with it, any foolish notion that I would ever be able to stomach another music festival.
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