Most people don’t spend music festivals worrying about how they’ll feel after all the shouting, head-banging, and (if you’re into that sort of thing) drug use is over. That’s something you can worry about on Monday. But while living in the moment can be liberating, it doesn’t feel as liberating when you’re nursing a nasty hangover, likely compounded by sleep deprivation and undernourishment. So, if you want to make Monday (and Tuesday and Wednesday) more bearable, here are some ways to minimize the damage as you return to real life.
During the festival…
Don’t forget to eat. If you’ve been using certain, ahem, substances to keep you going, food may feel superfluous. But don’t let stimulants’ appetite-suppressant properties fool you. Being deprived of food will have the same effect it always does — you may just not feel it until afterward, and it’ll make your hangovers that much worse. “Try to ‘graze,’ eating smaller, nutrient-rich foods throughout the day and night,” says James Giordano, professor of neurology and biochemistry at Georgetown University Medical Center. “Fresh fruit, fruit and nut bars, and low-sodium jerky are all good, easy-to-pack-and-carry options.”
Take power naps. If the event goes late into the night (or early morning or afternoon), try to find some time to sleep, even for a short while. “Power napping (for 20-60 minutes) during the event can be helpful to avoid compounded effects of fatigue and periodically re-charge your system,” says Giordano. Plus, you may then feel less of a need to use stimulants to stay up.
Bring water. Hydration is essential if you’ll be out in the sun and/or dancing all day, especially if you’re using a drug like MDMA that dehydrates you. “There are a number of new hydration packs on the market that can make carrying and re-filling water at re-fill stations far quicker and easier,” says Giordano. The newly launched hydration pack Lunchbox also keeps your stuff secure so you don’t have to worry about theft.
After the festival…
Take in electrolytes. Electrolyte-rich drinks like coconut water provide extra hydration to replenish you after a debaucherous weekend. You can even eat salty snacks to get electrolytes. Kellye Greene, President of New York DanceSafe, recommends doing this before you go to bed after the festival.
Supplement. B vitamins help flush out toxins, says Greene, so taking a B complex supplement during and after the festival might lessen the intensity of your hangover. A protein isolate like Isopure can also help you recover if you’ve been using drugs. Other supplements that may be helpful for hangovers include vitamin C, magnesium, acetyl L-carnitine, ginger root, N-acetyl-cysteine, milk thistle seed, and dandelion root, Greene adds.
Eat well. Ideally, you should be eating nutritious meals during the festival, but at the very least, eating well afterward can make your hangovers less hellish. Greene recommends green juice smoothies, bone broth, miso soup, asparagus, and Korean pear juice.
Listen to some chill music. This is not medical advice, but this playlist might help you relax and rejuvenate. Enjoy.
Music festivals are disappointing. There, I said it.
Every few weeks or so, somewhere in the world, people spend a ton of money on plane tickets, festival tickets, and hotel rooms, then spend a ton of mental energy figuring out what to pack and what to wear for some festival that will probably disappoint them.
My recent trip to Ultra Miami epitomized this experience.
As usual, I lost a ton of sleep with the planning. I spent half an hour on the phone with my life coach discussing whether to go (I’m admittedly neurotic). I looked up hotels after I booked one just to reassure myself I got the best deal possible (I didn’t). I checked ticket resale sites every day as I anxiously waited for my press credentials to not be approved.
Then, the ticket I paid double the price on didn’t arrive when it was supposed to. I spent three mornings in a row on the phone with the company, eventually pulling the journalist card and threatening to ruin their reputation if they didn’t come through (hey, it worked). Exhausted the night before the festival, I slept through the Above & Beyond concert I’d gotten tickets for. Then, the friend who’d convinced me to come to Miami got out-of-his-mind high and disappeared, and the only other person there I knew didn’t have time to see me. The interviews I’d planned to do fell through. Almost nothing I went there for actually happened.
The festival itself didn’t live up to the hype. The grounds were small and the stages were basic — nowhere close to the gorgeous artwork of EDC or Tomorrowland. Even Armin van Buuren, who consistently kills it, fell flat. My friends and I agreed he lacked a certain energy.
Still, it had its magical moments. The highlight was Marshmello, who brought up Will Smith for “Welcome to Miami.” After him, The Chainsmokers also put on an entertaining show, and Jauz gave a high-energy performance as always with a set that incorporated the intro to Martin Garrix’s animals and Internet Friends’ “You Blocked Me on Facebook.”
When most people come to music festivals, they’re set on which artists they need to see, which friends they need to meet up with, and what parties they need to go to. The irony is, you can’t control your way toward losing control. Sticking to an agenda completely defeats the purpose of a festival: to let go of stress and have fun. Ultimately, many people leave festivals just feeling more stressed out.
I refused to leave Ultra this way. So, at around 7 p.m. on the last night, when my body was telling me it could not continue even though I was dying to see Above & Beyond at 9:30, I called a Lyft, headed back to my hotel, ate some tacos, and played Above and Beyond from my computer. And it was fucking fantastic. Above & Beyond may be what I came there for, but what you come somewhere for is not always what you stay for. Our desires change, and isn’t the whole point of a music festival to live in the moment?
“When I say ‘life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you,’ I don’t really know if that’s true,” Jim Carey once said in a commencement speech at Maharishi University. “I’m making a conscious choice to see challenges as something beneficial so that I can deal with them in the most productive way.”
That’s exactly how we have to act when things don’t go our way: entertain the possibility that they did go our way; we just didn’t realize it. I didn’t get what I came to Miami for, but I did gain some valuable self-discovery. Perhaps that’s the best we can hope for, no matter where our journey leads.
It’s hard to talk about drug culture without talking about music culture. From the abundant weed references in reggae to the psychedelic imagery in 60s rock songs, drugs have irrevocably shaped music. And, in turn, music has shaped how drugs are used and thought of.
Just look at festival culture. There’s no setting quite like music festivals where drug use is so widely accepted and publicly celebrated. As of March 2015, 25,605 Instagram posts about 15 of the world’s most popular festivals talked about MDMA, 9,705 talked about weed, and 4,779 referenced coke, according to a DrugAbuse.com study.
Why is this? Of all the places people can get high, why have concerts, clubs, and festivals become among the most popular? What do we gain from getting high as we listen to music? What might we lose?
On the first Monday of every month, I’ll explore those questions in a new column about music and drugs, along with ethnographic questions like: How does a drug become a club drug? Why are certain drugs associated with certain genres (even to the point that they’re named after them, as with psychedelic music)? How do drugs shape other aspects of music-centered cultures?
I’ll also delve into political issues like: Why are the drug-testing stands you see at European festivals absent from American ones (hint: we’ve got the RAVE Act to thank for that)? And scientific ones like: Why does MDMA make music sound so good?
I’m also here to help you navigate the world of drugs and music yourself. I’ll talk about how to stay as safe as possible at festivals, get the most out of musical settings where you’re planning to take drugs, avoid the combinations that truly are dangerous, and make comedowns and hangovers less awful.
My interest in this topic is personal. Like many people, I got introduced to drugs through music festivals. At the time, I knew shockingly little. After all, most festivals’ sites and signs echo what we learn in health class: “say no to drugs.” The reality is, many of us say “yes.” We decide that despite the risks, what we get out of drugs is worth it. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Perhaps it’s this shame that’s made identifying with music a stand-in for identifying with drugs. I plan to drop those pretenses and acknowledge how central drugs have been to various musical subcultures. Through both music and drugs, people seek to alter their minds and expand their perspectives. And hopefully, this column will do that, too.
After discovering the crazy and liberating world of EDM at EDC Vegas last year, I was alarmed to learn that someone died at that festival and many more ended up in critical condition. A quick Google search for “people dying at music festivals” yielded morereports that made EDC look tame. Many festivals have been home to multiple deaths, typically resulting from drug overdoses combined with the crowded, hot, high-energy environments these events foster.
Yet few of the articles I read offered any advice beyond the usual “don’t do drugs, kids!” and the festivals didn’t provide any information either. The website for Time Warp, one of Germany’s biggest EDM festivals, includes no guidance regarding drug use other than, “Say no to drugs. Please stay away from drugs. We want to have a ‘clean’ party!” — a warning more fitting for a middle school DARE class than adults attending an event that runs from 7:30 p.m. on a Saturday to 2 p.m. on a Sunday. The “health and wellness” page for Insomniac, the tour promoter behind dozens of EDM events including EDC, reads, “Insomniac institutes a zero-tolerance drug policy at all of its events — end of story.”
But the reality is, that’s not the end of the story. One in 25 Americans ages 18-25 has used MDMA over the past year, according to the Drug Policy Alliance, and that number is likely far higher among ravers. A March 2015 DrugAbuse.com study found that over 25,605 Instagram posts about 15 popular music festivals mentioned MDMA, 9,705 mentioned weed, and 4,779 mentioned cocaine. In total, over 40,000 posts about EDC alone mentioned drugs.
To learn how to be as safe and healthy as possible at music festivals, whether we’re high or sober, I got in touch with DanceSafe’s Director of Programs Kristin Karas. Here are some tips she gave for taking care of yourself and those around you.
1. Test your drugs
Many drug-related deaths result from unknown substances mixed in. To make sure you’re getting what you asked for, consider investing in a home reagent kit. These won’t tell you your drugs’ purity, but they will reveal what’s in there.
2. Control your doses
When you’re high, everything can seem like a good idea, including getting higher. To avoid this spiral, research how much of your chosen drug you should take in advance, and pledge not to exceed it. If you don’t know exactly how much you’re getting (which you usually don’t), take less than you would otherwise. And if you’re not feeling the effects you’d like as soon as you expected, wait it out. People often make this mistake with weed edibles, says Karas, which can take up to two hours to kick in.
In the case of MDMA, RollSafe recommends never exceeding 125 mg at a time, and that’s an absolute maximum. For women or newbies, that number’s going to be lower. RollingPro recommends 60-90 mg at most for smaller or more sensitive people. For reference, the average ecstasy pill has 75-100 mg, and many find that half a pill is plenty. If you’re not sure how much you’ll need to see an effect, start off with a small amount, see how you’re feeling an hour later, and take more if needed (but question your initial impulse, which will probably be to take it). And avoid taking more than one drug at a time.
Between the sun and the dancing, music festivals can leave you parched even without drugs. Add in MDMA, and you’ll end up dehydrated while losing the sensation of thirst. A lot of festivals have hydrating stations, so bring a water bottle and fill it up regularly. But water alone isn’t enough. Since you’re also losing salt and retaining more water than you normally would, balance your electrolytes with sports drinks, juice, or snacks to avoid hyponatraemia (dangerously low blood sodium levels) or cerebral edema (swelling of the brain cells). Remember: just because you’re high doesn’t mean you don’t need to eat or drink.
4. Take breaks
With all those people packed together, music festivals can get hot, and MDMA, coke, and amphetamines can also cause overheating. Take time to get out of the crowd and cool off every hour or so.
5. Wear earplugs
Another health risk people don’t always talk about is hearing damage, says Karas. Some festivals have such loud noise levels, they can do their damage in just a few seconds, according to DanceSafe. A study last year found that festival-goers who wore earplugs were able to hear better after the event than those who went without, so stash a pair in your bag to safeguard your ears, and try to stay away from speakers.
6. Be aware of your surroundings
Additional potential causes of deaths and injuries at music festivals include getting hit by cars, getting crushed in crowds, and other accidents you can help prevent through vigilance. Stick with a friend or group so you can look out for one another, especially if you’ll be high.
7. Learn what resources are on the festival grounds
Some festivals have peer security teams and sanctuaries to help people experiencing medical problems. Consult your festival brochure, map, or website beforehand to figure out what to do in the case of an emergency.
8. Get help if you don’t feel good
Take any physical discomfort or incapacitation you start to feel during the festival seriously. “Signs that something is wrong and you should seek medical attention include difficulty breathing, seizure, loss of consciousness, rapidly increasing body temperature, rapid or irregular heartbeat, signs of head injury, confusion, chest or abdominal pain, fainting, and signs of severe dehydration or heatstroke,” says Karas. “Signs of heatstroke include altered states of behavior, lack of sweating in a hot environment, nausea, vomiting, and headache.” If you experience any of these and can’t get to the festival’s sanctuary right away, call 911. Don’t try to save your ass — tell them if you’ve taken anything. After you recover, you’ll want to avoid partying hard or getting too much heat for the next few months.
9. Look out for those around you
Part of the magic of music festivals is that for that day or weekend, you’re a family. And that means looking out for one another. If you notice any signs of heatstroke in a fellow attendee, call an ambulance or the festival’s medical team, take them somewhere as cool as possible — even if it means leaving the festival grounds — pour water over them, fan them, give them dry clothes or a blanket, and give them a sports drink or water mixed with salt. Let the medical professionals know what they’ve ingested, and make sure they get to the hospital.
During EDC last year, a cute guy I spontaneously made out with offered me his water bottle. Though I hadn’t felt thirsty, I suddenly found myself guzzling it like there was no tomorrow. Then, he put his hands on my shoulders and said with an entertained but concerned look in his eyes, “Stay hydrated.” At the time, I didn’t understand what he meant. Now, I do. I even carry my own water bottle to events – and offer it to anyone who lacks the information I have now.
Around this time of year, I’m usually unearthing my leather jacket from the season-long crypt that is my closet. I’m forgetting to send my mom a birthday card and cursing the ubiquity of pumpkin spice. I start to crave horror movie marathons, and turtlenecks, and potpie. But more than anything, at this time of year I am usually preparing for the once annual CMJ Music Marathon.
This very moment, I should be stuck on some letter in the alphabet, two-thirds of the way through with my yearly, militant, and self-appointed task of listening to every band and artist on the lineup, usually numbered at around 1,500 or so. I took special pride in knowing exactly how ninety percent of the bands would sound just by looking at their photos and witnessed a foolproof pattern that any time my assumption was wrong, I ended up loving what I heard. The element of surprise goes a long way.
Around this time of year, I should be compiling an overwhelming, archaic, and impossible calendar for the week of CMJ. One that suggests I can somehow manage between four and five shows daily, even though my record high was three, and I came down with a cold immediately after. The calendar would be printed, with handwritten information. “Must-sees” would be striped with pink highlighter.
And yet in the spirit of a fall that won’t begin-highs in the mid-80s today – it looks like CMJ 2016 won’t either. According to articles published by Pitchfork, Stereogum, and Brooklyn Vegan, the event’s 2016 existence is largely in question. As far back as April, Brooklyn Vegan posed the question: “Is CMJ happening this year?” Stereogum’s late August headline probed even deeper when it asked: “CMJ Sure Seems To Be Over. So How Come Nobody Is Talking About It?”
As it turns out, trouble has been brewing for a few years now. According to a 2013 New York Times article published the first day of the mini festival that year (very sensitive of you, NY Times,) the organization behind CMJ was facing a $1 million dollar lawsuit due to a failed merger with Metropolitan Entertainment. And that is just what’s keeping four days of new music bliss at bay this year: business problems.
But despite the pessimism from various news outlets, CMJ CEO Adam Klein is asking that everyone try a little tenderness and hold their horses this year. He expressed in a press release that he is “totally committed to protecting CMJ’s unique and ‘live’ heritage while adapting to the ever-changing demands of artists, fans, and the music industry. A little patience and a whole lot less wild and unsubstantiated speculation is what we need right now.”
But what about what music journalists need? Don’t we need four nights of nearly 1,500 bands we’ve never heard to lose our minds over every fall? Of course we do! I must be in full-blown denial of the situation, as I check CMJ’s website near daily just in case this is all some sort of lofty prank.
Leafing through my 2014 festival guide, which I have kept for reasons even I cannot fathom, I take note of the venue listings. Cameo Gallery: gone. Glasslands: gone. Spike Hill: Equinox. Trash Bar: run out of the neighborhood. There seems to be a whole theme surrounding the independent music scene in New York sometimes, and it’s not a hopeful one. While venues and bars reincarnate in more remote hoods, it’s hard to imagine what could possibly replace an event as essential as CMJ.
Like a mom that loves scrapbooking, I have kept all of my press badge lanyards over the years, a fact so dorky that it can only be expressed through use of the word “lanyard.” Without these badges, I wouldn’t have been able to see most of the gigs at CMJ…except that ¾ of the ones I select always end up being free to the public. “Ma’am, this show is free,” many a door person has scolded as I earnestly held the laminated card to their face. So thrilled I was about this event, that I would proudly take on the douchey, self-ordained responsibility of wearing my press badge at all times, even when it made absolutely no sense, like at AudioFemme showcases.
One time, in my fifth attempt to finally see Perfect Pussy, I wore my badge all the way up to north Williamsburg to an outdoor matinee featuring Protomartyr. There was no question in my mind that this was a CMJ event, as it was listed with the others. I waited in line, and gave ‘em the badge. “That won’t do you any good here,” the dough handler said gruffly. I slinked away outwardly embarrassed, but unwilling to hand over ten dollars to an asshole in a bad hat. A similar dilemma had transpired at Silent Barn days prior at a Sean Nicholas Savage show, but the resident hand stamper was more kind. Slightly.
If it weren’t for CMJ, I wouldn’t have discovered artists such as Cosmo Sheldrake, Kamasi Washington, Hooton Tennis Club, Phony PPL, Landshapes, Outfit, Tom Vek, The Dig, Money, or countless others. I first saw London trio Happyness at the marathon, and they have since become a favorite emerging band, and fantastic interview subjects to boot.
CMJ has always felt like my New York Christmas; a time of year I anticipate months in advance, and yammer on about like a grade school kid all throughout. It created a collective excitement and feeling of goodwill around the city, and fostered an environment that made me feel welcome and comfortable. I will always remember the showcases as being some of the few gigs at which I actually met people. By talking to them.
I don’t want to stress out Adam Klein. I don’t want to make assumptions, or be impatient, or god forbid insensitive. But as Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits ironically sang, “I want my MTV,” I will go on record as un-ironically saying, “I want my CMJ.” We’ve lost too many musical events and venues over the years, but losing the marathon after three decades might be the worst of it.
CMJ Music Marathon, won’t you please come back to us? Until then, I will continue to shamelessly wear my CMJ tote bag from a couple years ago, which is so grimy and frayed that even I, a person of debatable sanitary practices, question its public acceptability. Soiled though it is, it at least reminds me of the days when I could put on my leather jacket, curse the ubiquity of pumpkin spice, and then go see ten bands I’d never heard before.
A precursor to SXSW, Savannah Stopover takes place March 5-7 in downtown Savannah, a haunting and iconic boutique neighborhood. As far as music getaway’s go, we couldn’t be more stoked to attend the 5th incarnation of Savannah Stopover. Check back for full festival coverage as it unfolds, and make sure to follow AudioFemme on Instagram and Twitter as we abandon the brutal Brooklyn weather for warmer scenery with one fantastic soundtrack. We’re still anxiously plotting our schedules to see how we’re going to catch as many acts, including some featured local bands, as possible, but here are five that we’re sure to see.
The Chicago-based folk artist Ryley Walker has been causing the music scene to bat their eyelashes. We can’t wait to tap our feet to these tunes in agreement. His sophomore release Primrose Green, the follow-up to the well-received full-length debutcomes out next month. Rambling and soulful, inspired both by jazz and noise music, the 25-year-old creates a collage of the Chicago music network to come up with a sound that’s wholly his own.
We’re going to want a front and center spot for Brooklyn’s Fort Lean. The vastness of their sound can surprise you they’re from Brooklyn, as if the city is too crowded to produce such chill expressions. Play into type, grab a craft beer, and see if you can fight through the seduction to stick around for the late-night shows rather than back to your motel room with a lover after listening to these dreamers.
Amythyst Kiah and Her Chest of Glass Saturday, March 7 5:00pm
Friday, March 6 7:00pm (solo show)
Tennessee singer-songwriter and roots artist Amythyst Kiah is joined with friends Her Chest of Glass for the ultimate Saturday afternoon cocktail hour time slot. “Gothic Southern Folk” is about the most exciting mix mash of adjectives I’ve ever seen to describe music, in researching artists Mythyst has to be one we’re most thrilled for (not to mention she’s got killer style).
Parlour Tricks Saturday, March 7 7:00pm
Parlour Tricks have made the AudioFemme front page before, and this editor thanks her lucky stars (as Parlour Tricks might say) to see how the New York City pop rockers translate their buzzed-about stage presence to serene Savannah.
Saturday, March 7 12:00am
After you’ve shaken off any visuals invoked by their name, Nashville’s Diarrhea Planet are downright delightful. The punk rockers promise to deliver the climax of the festival with their Saturday late-night time slot. With bold vocals, wild lyrics, and grimy guitars, we’re sure to get sweaty for this one.
Generationals, Southern Culture On The Skids, San Fermin, ASTR, Matthew E. White, Computer Magic, Diarrhea Planet, Reptar, All Them Witches, French Horn Rebellion, Donald Cumming (of The Virgins), Dumpstaphunk, Parlour Tricks, Hiss Golden Messenger, Heavenly Beat, Gap Dream, Rocco DeLuca, Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, ISHI, Bombadil, Rose Quartz, Family and Friends, Capsula, Tall Tall Trees, Born Cages, Beach Day, Fat Tony, Horse Thief, Fly Golden Eagle, Mothxr, Young Buffalo, Jack + Eliza, SALES, Mainland, Christopher Paul Stelling, Clear Plastic Masks, Ryley Walker, Buxton, Fort Lean, Corners, PitchBlak Brass Band, Cobalt Cranes, Alanna Royale, Baby Bee, Lilly Hiatt, this mountain, Dreamers, Reputante, Caleb Caudle, Axxa/Abraxas, Suburban Living, Avers, Amythyst Kiah + Her Chest of Glass, Adia Victoria, Margo and the Pricetags, The Prettiots, Guthrie Brown & The Family Tree, ELEL, Grounders, BLKKATHY, Blank Range, White Violet, What Moon Things, Fire Mountain, Emilyn Brodsky, Needle Points, Lace Curtains, Music Band, Las Rosas, Semicircle, Ruby the RabbitFoot, Little Racer, Bedroom, Grand Vapids, Bond St. District, 100 Watt Horse, Cusses, Triathalon, Velvet Caravan, Damon & The Shitkickers, Penicillin Baby, Wet Socks, Crazy Bag Lady, Sunglow, Coeds, Wave Slaves, Beneath Trees, Paving Gravy, Nightingale News, Saint Corsair, A.M. Rodriguez, Boy Harsher, Blackrune, Black Water Choir, Heavy Boots
Governor’s Ball music festival announced the dates for its 2014 edition earlier today. The New York City event—in its fourth year, now—will take place Friday, June 6th through Sunday, June 8th in Randall’s Island Park. Keep an eye out for the lineup and ticket details to be announced very soon!
Brooklyn-based four piece Bear Hands announced the release of their anticipated sophomore album Distraction on Feb. 18 on Cantora Records. The band will co-headline a tour with the Miniature Tigers starting Feb. 27 right here in Brooklyn!
Todd Rittmann’s Dead Rider announced new album, Chills on Glass, out March 18 via Drag City.
Fat Possum Records and Self release 1995’s Subliminal Plastic Motives on vinyl, 20 years after its original release. The band are reuniting for their first concert in almost 10 years at the Gramercy Theatre on January 10.