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First music fest? Here's how to survive Governors Ball (or any other festival)

Governors Ball 2022 might be wrapped up, but if you're planning on going next year, or to any other festival, these tips will help you survive. – Photo by Courtesy of Mickey Pierre-Louis

If you’ve never been to a festival before, the idea of it can be a little overwhelming. Even though I wasn’t traveling across the country and entering unknown territory to go rub elbows with California influencers at Coachella, the idea of going to the Governors Ball was still intimidating.

Though blessed with the privilege of a media pass and tickets I didn’t have to pay for, the idea that I might sink time and effort into going to a festival and not enjoy it was nerve-wracking. I’m not big on crowds, I’m not big at standing for long periods of time and most importantly, I’m not big on 17-dollar personal pizzas and cocktails I’d have to take a mortgage to afford. 

But if every high schooler from northern New Jersey, New York and Connecticut can make the pilgrimage to Governors Ball every year and return next year dismayed that they still can’t buy alcohol and ready to get sunburnt to a crisp (they promise it'll turn into a tan) then I, a college student and technical fully grown woman, can do it too. 

But if you’re not like me and aren’t ready to (oh so bravely) dive into a festival without intense preparation, here are some tips to help you navigate. 

Don’t be afraid to splurge on comfort

And no, I don’t mean on the aforementioned make-you-broke cocktails, though they’re pretty excellent. But even if you live in the area, don’t be afraid to get a hotel for the night after your day or days at the festival, and if you can afford it, VIP might be worth it. 

While I wasn’t a VIP ticketholder, as someone with a media band, I did get access to an area adjacent to VIP where I was able to sit in the shade, rest my feet and stay hydrated. Walking around, especially at Governors Ball — which is now on asphalt —  is going to kill your body, no matter how comfortable your walking shoes are. 

I’m nowhere near the pinnacle of fitness, so take this with a grain of salt, but my prediction is you’ll want a place to relax and the ability to leave the festival and take a quick train or Uber to a nice comfortable bed at the end of the night instead of having to worry about commuting home. Especially if you did get those drinks. 

Be hydrated and stay cool 

But regardless of if you want that extra layer of comfort, you’ll need to be comfortable during the festival. I know that Shein bodysuit is going to look great in your Instagram photos, but when you’re four water bottles deep and have been dancing around for an hour, it’s not going to do you any favors in the porta-potties. Light, breathable clothing will help you in the June heat and give you room to dance at any set.

Nor will your Dr. Martens in the heat, even if you’re trying to impress the indie bands performing. Sneakers or otherwise comfortable shoes are a must, as is a reusable water bottle if your festival allows it (Governors Ball does, and they have free refillable water bottle stations) or enough money to spend on the water they sell at the festival. 

Remember to slather on sunscreen too, and if you’re super sensitive to the sun’s rays, a cute hat and a pair of shades will also help you a ton. 

Try new things 

I’m definitely one of those people who like to stay firmly in my comfort zone, and Governors Ball pushed me out of it, both in terms of my musical horizons and my general ability to enjoy something loud and overwhelming for more than 20 minutes before wanting to retreat.

But it was a good thing! Even if you don’t think of yourself as a festival person, there’s a lot you can enjoy at Governors Ball. 

Even if you just dip your toes in and go for one day, there’s a bunch of different stuff available to see. There’s different installations and a whole variety of different food — not to mention plenty of free stuff from brands like M&Ms, Coca Cola and Dunkin’ Donuts. I’m as skeptical of brand marketing as the next girl, but I’m willing to look away the second I’m offered free M&Ms, especially when other festival treats are so expensive.  

Trying new music is definitely number one. But it can be tempting to just walk around or take a break in between sets of your faves, and while allowing yourself cool down time is very important, don’t be afraid to listen to someone new. You might just find a new favorite!

Be prepared

Preparation is one of the most important things about going to a festival. And that’s not just making sure you have your tickets! Read the bag regulations — and in 2022, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) regulations — before you go, and make sure you and what you’re carrying fit the requirements. 

A portable charger is a must to keep connected, as is sunscreen and your ID, either your phone with touch-to-pay equipped or Governors Ball’s own tap-to-pay function with their wrist bands. This year the festival was cashless, so if you’re planning on spending any money on merchandise or food and drinks past the festival gates, have that in check before you go or first thing once you get there. 

Download the Governors Ball app for set and weather updates and to know which stages your favorite artists are playing on, and if you’re using public transportation to leave Governors Ball, be sure to have the MTA app to help you plan your route home. Uber and Lyft are also both must-haves if you’re staying more than walking distance from your train or subway stop. 

Enjoy yourself 

It’s a cheesy final tip, but it’s worth it nonetheless. When you go to a music festival, the primary goal should always be to listen to good music and have a good time. 

Everyone else is there to have a good time too! Random people will invite you to dance, so do it like no one’s watching. The food is great, so eat what you want. As long as you let loose, reapply sunscreen if you remember and focus on the songs, you’re basically guaranteed to have a good time. Even if your feet hurt so badly you can barely stand. 


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