So it’s that time of the year again, folks! No, we’re not talking about paying taxes, we’re talking about the season of Blues festivals. For those who have attended one, you know just how fun they are. For those of you who haven’t been, stop missing out on the action; pick a festival with a good lineup and JUST GO! It’s great to get away (for a few days where no one will be able to call you in to cover a shift) and there are tons of them out there; new and fledgling ones as well as the famous staples. There are more out there in new places than ever before: Pennsylvania, Syracuse, Niagara Falls (Free!), North Atlantic Blues Festival, Arnone’s Crawfish, White Mountain, King Biscuit, Barnful, Chicago, Blues N Brews, etc. You’re in for an experience that will probably run twice as long as a standard concert AND it will cost you half as much. Regardless of whether or not you’ve never been to a Blues Fest or have been to 30, here is a list of all the things you’ll need to bring, do, or need to know in order to maximize your “Bluesperience” (I just hope I didn’t forget anything).
Bring some! Let’s face it, some of you burn easily; like “ten-second-tan” easily. You could be sitting in the sun for a few days and without it, you’re about to enter a world of pain.
It could rain and a good majority of these festivals are rain or shine. Bring a blanket and/or chair to stake out some real estate to insure you get a good spot.
You’re gonna get thirsty and need to keep hydrated. Unless you’re a cactus or a camel, better to play it safe.
4.) Sunglasses/hat help you keep a cool head and they help protect your eyes.
5.) Blanket & Pillow- If you’re like me and have ever had to crash in your car due to lack of hotel/motel funds, you’re going to be much more comfortable with these.
6.) Snacks & booze (if allowed)
Do I really have to explain this… please drink responsibly.
7.) A camera if you like to show your friends how much fun you had… and you can get a photo with your favorite performers, a nice keepsake.
8.) Remember your ID
The other color most of us like equally to Blues is “greens.” If you happen to have a lot of “green” and can buy items 1-7 on location, please disregard those. Yes, we all like to have a good time and in order to do that we usually need to drop some greens. The people putting on the festival also need to make some greens to bring you the festival again next year.
Which brings us to the…
Do these to support the festival, vendors, and musicians.
Hell, do two of these three and that should equal a good time and a successful show for all parties concerned.
Try some food from the vendors. The food is usually amazing and there’s virtually something there for any crowd. Bring your appetite because you’ll find anything from falfel, ribs, sausage, burgers, burritos, Italian ice, lemonade, chicken, and pizza to fried catfish and lobster and these days, some Indian delacasies for a tasty treat.
Take advantage of the artist meet and greet tables.
Most blues festivals will have a tent or booth where you can meet the artists. When was the last time you went to a standard concert and were able to meet a legend? Bring your old LP covers, posters, etc. Chances are they will sign whatever you have. They will probably have CD’s, posters, or pictures for sale as well. If you can, support their music by buying something. Not only do you get some of your stuff signed and a good experience, but the artist gets some sales. After you buy your CD, take a picture with the artist, for the most part they don’t mind at all.
Book a hotel room in advance
It’s WAY better than having to crash in your car. Plus, many festivals are sponsored by local hotels and motels because of the fact people stay in them for the festivals. Bigger cities may be sponsors of a festival and donate accordingly to how much revenue the hotels bring in.
Be prepared to:
HAVE A GREAT TIME!
Whether you’re enjoying the music and getting a tan, sampling the foods of the South, meeting your favorite artist(s), getting away from it all, or any combination of the above; chances are you will be having a fantastic time!! The fun never stops. Some festivals hold club jams and pub crawls before, during, and after the show. Any decent Blues festival is bound to have tailgating and other artists and musicians selling CD’s out of their car trunks and doing their own D.I.Y. gig surrounding the festival.
Meet cool people
No matter how reluctant you may be to start or engage in a conversation with others, these barriers seemingly don’t exist when you’re at a festival. There’s a good chance that you’ll meet at least one person you’ll end up swapping stories and possibly contact info with.
Buy advance tickets. Not only are you guaranteed to get into the show, but buying advance tickets will usually save you money. Who wants to pay the door price? It will probably cost more, and there may not be any tickets left. Note: When you leave for the festival, be sure you have your ticket! If you’re one of those people that forget the tickets, check to see if the festival has a will call option, they will have your tickets right at the gate. Ask if they accept your Blues Audience subscription card! Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re a subscriber to the newsletter. Your subscriber card entitles you to savings at some venues and festivals.
If you love music and want to help out, or you’re really strapped for cash (hey, we’ve all been there; no shame), volunteer at a festival. Most festivals accept a certain number of volunteers. It can take a lot of hands to work a festival. You may not get to have AS much fun as someone who pays to get in, but you’re not gonna work like a horse either. You’ll be able to see a great show without breaking your back.
And last but not least,
Go see some of the legends before they pass. Who doesn’t like fresh blood in the music scene, especially blues? We all love to see new life in the Blues, but more of the elders are leaving us than ever before. There aren’t many of the true giants left and they won’t be around forever. Go and see them before it’s too late.