Festivalgoers should prioritize safety at music festivals


By Boswell Hutson

It’s that wonderful time of year again when school is out, humidity starts to grip the midwest, and people from all over the country are flocking from their normal lives as students, or from their spots in the workforce, toward something immensely popular: music festivals. Back in high school, there only seemed to be a few main attractions such as Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza and Coachella. 

However, the music festival scene has grown so much that even in Champaign-Urbana we can expect access to one of the greatest small festivals in America, Pygmalion, and one of the greatest camping festivals of all summer just down Interstate 74, Summer Camp Music Festival.

It seems that while music festivals have become a massive summer gathering spot, they’ve also become one of the meccas for some poor decision-making. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not speaking out against the inherent value of a music festival — I think they’re awesome. The fact of the matter is that we’re seeing such a large explosion in festivals because of just how awesome they are, seeing as they’re mostly housed in an open park with free reign while showcasing perhaps the most popular music of our time. 

In 2011, for example, I sat in the front row at Lollapalooza to see Young The Giant, The Kills and, most importantly, Coldplay. I would have never had this opportunity at anything other than a music festival, and thus I could not be more thankful for the opportunity that Lollapalooza provided for me.

As with most good things, however, music festivals, especially those which are held outside in the summertime, are easily abused by those who don’t know how to handle them. While they are generally a great time for fans to see some really rare live shows, have fun and relax, unsurprisingly, this goes awry quite frequently. I need two hands to have enough fingers to count how many times I’ve witnessed someone pass out at Lollapalooza, and they weren’t all from heat exhaustion or dehydration — drugs or alcohol may certainly have been involved.

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Last year, during Chance the Rapper’s set at a very cramped state at Lollapalooza, I saw a man go entirely limp, turn white as a sheet, fall to the ground and have his eyes roll to the back of his head — all in a matter of ten seconds. Luckily, after a massive circle formed around him with plenty of screaming festival-goers, he stood up and walked out of the crowd like nothing had happened. 

Please, if you’re going to a music festival, don’t be afraid to take some time out to chill in the shade, drink some water and gauge how you are feeling, both mentally and physically. That way, you avoid causing a scene.

Some people can’t help but faint due to the high temperatures and the plethora of people who flock to various stages over the summer, and those people have my utmost sympathy, but to those who partake in drugs or alcohol and simply cannot handle themselves, I cannot have the same sympathy. It’s not that hard to not go overboard. Any mass of humanity is fairly spooky, and music festivals are no exception. Combine the poor choices that many make with the heat, humidity and exhaustion, and you have one nasty cocktail of consequences. The real danger creeps in when you can’t handle how you feel, which seems to happen quite frequently in these festivals.

But by and large, the best experience I’ve had at a festival comes every autumn with Champaign’s own Pygmalion Music Festival. Instead of dealing with hoards of young suburbanites at large festivals who have trouble handling their liquor, it is hosted in various venues across C-U, making for a more enjoyable concert-going experience, with a little mix of outdoor revelry at the outdoor Highdive stage.

If you’re going to a music festival this summer, first and foremost: have an immense amount of fun. Go see some concerts and make some memories with your friends, but also remember that many of us are there to witness music, not just to get drunk or go out with our frat buddies in neon tank-tops or faux-hippie girls who just took the train in from Wilmette with flowers in their hair. 

With that being said, I wouldn’t trade the festival for anything, even in this dense Illinois heat. I’m still going to go to festivals before I get awkwardly old, and if you find yourself at Lollapalooza or Pygmalion this year, come find me and say hi!

Boswell is a senior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected].