The first step is acceptance: you can’t see it all. It’s just not possible. The second step is showing up. But there are many more steps to doing Northside Festival right – and I don’t mean right as opposed to wrong – I simply mean having fun, staying hydrated, and not passing out from a sudden drop in your blood sugar. Take it from someone who makes a living overbooking herself at events like these (I once thought I could manage seeing six shows in one night at CMJ… after working from 9-6).
With over 350 bands playing in four days, it’s so easy to get overwhelmed, stressed, and eventually hammered with buddies to calm your nerves; the next thing you know, you missed that New Zealand artist you’ve been waiting to see for two years, who probably won’t return for yet another two years.
Sure, going to a festival like Northside is fun – but it also takes physical and emotional stamina, focus, comfy shoes, a robust bladder (or a willingness to pee in public,) and so much more. Because I can’t physically deliver care packages with tiny water bottles and snack-size packages of Goldfish to every single one of you (though I wish I could), I give you my tips for staying alert, alive, and having fun during this four-day music extravaganza.
1) Make a Plan.
First thing’s first: make a list of ALL the bands you want to see at Northside. Now chop that list in half. Now chop that list in half. If you don’t work during the days, my guess is you can swing between four and six shows a day. If, like me, you have a 9-5, it might be wise to stick to a 3-show maximum per night to stave off utter exhaustion. Got your list? Good. Now go to Google Maps. Make a route for each day of the festival; your chronological trajectory following the set times and venue locations. Obviously you can do this on your phone, but if you’re a luddite such as myself, you can print your map out, and draw on it like a treasure-hunting pirate, or disturbed toddler. (I KNOW I can just use the Google Maps app on my handheld talky computer, ok? I just like carrying paper!)
Whether you are in touch with touchscreen technology, or like pretending you’re Indiana Jones on a quest for the Holy Grail, getting your coordinates down and planning a path will definitely help you maximize the gigs you see.
2) Bring snacks.
Unless you like spending unnecessary cash on overpriced food truck items, or enjoy nearly fainting/murdering someone due to low blood sugar, I highly advise you stow away some treats in your tiny backpack. If you’re traveling sans purse, get creatively invasive with your undergarments – you’d be amazed at the places you can hide a Kind Bar. But seriously – you’re going to be out and about for HOURS. You will have more fun and be more fun if your caloric intake is on point.
Not exclusively with beer. This one’s trickier as venues typically don’t let you bring water bottles inside. Fortunately most clubs/bars will give you tap water (and sometimes sparkle water) for free. Of course you could spend $4 on bottled water, but I’d rather cup my hands under the bathroom sink faucet and lap up H20 like a dog – an activity that will never be below me.
People say “Brooklyn has changed” and that you can tell “Brooklyn has changed” due to all the high-rises rising, strollers rolling, and music venues morphing into Dunkin’ Donuts and fancy gyms. But I say that the big indication for “Brooklyn changing” is that you used to be able to pee anywhere in public. I don’t mean to be crass, though I do enjoy public urination more than most people. (What? I grew up camping!) But regardless of my territorial complex, peeing in the street is a simple matter of necessity most of the time – especially during an event like Northside, when so many gigs are outdoors and have meager toilet offerings. So, if you’re doing a good job hydrating, but have a squirrel-sized bladder like me, squat in those dark, tucked away hedges; that spot behind that dumpster, between a couple SUVs, next to a traffic cone, etc. You can even invest in one of these bad boys, which helps you aim your stream like a dude.
5) Go solo.
For most people, festivals (or concerts in general) are social occasions – a time for you and a pack of pals to gallivant in shorts, meet hotties, and dance. That’s all well and good, but if you’ve never seen a show stag, I assure you you’re missing out. Fellow music journalists are used to seeing concerts alone. I have seen far more gigs solo than with friends, and while a lot of people seem to find that sad (“you’re SO brave!” they say), I must admit: it’s fucking awesome. And it’s fucking awesome for a bunch of reasons. For example:
- You don’t have to stress about whether or not your plus one is enjoying the music or themselves – because you are your own plus one.
- You (or at least I) tend to drink less alone, which means you spend less money!
- You actually meet new people.
- You pay way more attention to the music, because no one is chatting in your ear, or complaining, or asking you to hold their shit while they go to the bathroom.
- You get to leave whenever the fuck you want.
- You get to do whatever the fuck you want.
6) If you are feeling social, take up smoking.
I consider smokers to be one of the last unified social groups in our heterogeneous culture. Their blood runs thick – probably because smoking increases plaque build-up in blood vessels – but that’s not the point! Ok, ok, I’m not actually recommending that anybody start smoking, but if you already do it, leverage it as a way to meet people at shows! Maybe you are an ace in social situations, and don’t need the quintessential human prop (the cigarette) to help you strike up a convo. But if you are painfully shy like me and terrified of approaching people you don’t know, the best thing you can do is ask for a light. For example: “Hey, do have a light by chance? Thank you. DO YOU WANT TO BE FRIENDS?!”
7) Put your phone down.
No one wants to watch the show through your iPhone screen as you carefully direct the cinematography of your Instagram story. Just put it down and enjoy the music analog style. #Lo-fi.
8) If you can, buy a record from the merch table.
Smaller touring bands make most of their dough on the road playing gigs and selling merch. When you by an album, or a t-shirt, or a beer coozie, that $20 is going straight to starving artists, as opposed to the $0.00001 they get from a Spotify click.
9) Wear comfy ass shoes.
If Larry David can make it look cool, so can you. You’re literally going to be on your feet ALL day and night. Don’t make your feet and lower back hate you.
10) Bring a book.
While I do a lot of going to shows, I also do a lot of waiting for shows to start. I don’t know what the hell I would do if I didn’t have reading material on me at all times. I’d probably have to…talk to people!