Don't fool yourself. The years fly by and before you know it, you look in the mirror and wonder who the old dude is. The bright side though, is that with a little foresight and planning, and more than little luck, you just might be able to make having fun your main pass time again.
For me, fun means finding myself in crowd of smiling, happy people all grooving to some good chunes. I think some of you may agree...
With that in mind, I am starting this thread to both describe some of my own favorite festival experiences over the years and my plans to repeat, and to ask for you other fun lovers out there to describe your own experiences so that I can use your collective insight to help me fill the gaps in what I am going to call
mutt's fabulous multi-year music festival retirement road trip and dancing plan
Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Indio, California Currently two weekends in April with the same lineups both weekends. $$$$
Highlights The best thing about Coachella is that it is first in the spring after a long, wet, northwest winter. Weather in the southern California desert in the spring time is typically dry and hot during the day, and warm at night. No need for a sweat shirt or hoodie or long pants. THIS IS IMPORTANT! The Coachella Valley is also quite a beautiful place, with the snow capped San Jacinto mountains to the west, and Joshua Tree to the east. If you like to golf or lay out by the pool, you are in the right place. Hiking in the nearby mountains is pretty cool too, especially some of the desert trails out in Joshua Tree.
The grounds and layout at Coachella are pretty basic - mostly flat, wide open polo fields, with little natural shade. One of the things I enjoyed was being able to stand in the middle of the grounds and seeing the 40K or so people, milling about between stages, tents, and the various art displays. Great place for crowd watching. The art displays are pretty cool too. My personal favorite when I went was the tesla coils and metal man.
Traffic in and out of the festival is by far the worst part of Coachella. Dusty and hot, even at night. Trying to get out of the day parking after the show is agony when you are tired, dirty, and hungry. Camping is available on the grounds for extra $$$, but mutt's camping will probably be confined to places with no other options. Fortunately, there are plenty of nearby resorts and hotels, and mutt has a time share condo within bicycling distance, so the the mutt fabulous retirement multi-year road trip and dance party plan will be to stay at the condo and bike overland.
Flashback Mutt took his soon-to-be 18 year old son, plus son's girlfriend to see Kanye, Arcade Fire, and Kings of Leon in 2011. Looking back at the lineup now makes me wish I had planned a little different route through the weekend, but oh well. The highlight of the festival was night two, with Mumford and Sons opening for Arcade Fire on the main stage. Mumford had just kind of taken over the airwaves leading up to the festival, and their set was a foot stomping Irish hoe down! I have always enjoyed good harmonies and solid musicianship, and I am a big fan now. Can't wait to see them again somewhere. Can't believe I missed them last year at Sasquatch. Stupid mutt.
Arcade Fire blew me away. I had only recently discovered them, and I had also just recently be given my first Ipod, so there you go. I had been playing the shit out of all three of their albums, and was especially fond of Funeral. I made a point of listening to that one as I wheeled over the Bay Bridge on my road trip down, so getting up close and personal was bouncy fun to say the least. I noticed during Mumford that there was this large box sitting behind the stage, and about an hour or so into the Arcade Fire show, the box started climbing into the air. Not knowing what to expect, it was obviously going to be some kind of climax to the show.
Anthems at shows are one of my favorite things. I just get off on seeing and hearing thousands of groovers groove together. As the intro to Wake Up began, it was climax time. The box had moved to the very top of the stage by now, and when the front opened up and hundreds of big bouncy balls starting falling down, it was just ejaculatory. Lights inside the balls started flashing to the beat, first in purple, then green, then orange, then back again. And for all the fun had during the Violent Femmes inflatables party this year, multiply that by about a thousand!
Retirement Plan An annual trip to the Coachella Valley in the springtime is such a fucking good idea that it will definitely be on the plan*. $$$$ be damned.
Next installment - Outside Lands
*mutt fabulous multi-year music festival retirement road trip and dance party plan - need better title.... too fucking long...
So a slow day at the office leaves time for the next installment of the mutt music fest retirement plan.
Outside Lands - San Francisco, California
Highlights - It is hard to beat Golden Gate Park and San Francisco as a primo music fest destination. I love the city, and spending three days riding the subway and buses back and forth to the park is half the fun, well maybe 1/4... anyway, use public transit to get to the festival, it's the only way to go. Plan to see a few sights while you're there too - Haight-Ashbury is at the east end of the park and is great for a morning walk as you head to the festival. Or, ride the bus to the beach and take a morning walk in the sun before the fog rolls in.
Plan on doing some walking as the main stage area is at the polo field, but the park has numerous different pathways to get in. I ended up using the south entrance most since it was closest to a metro station - the Blue N line, Judah and Sunset station. Hint, if you plan to catch a bus after the show, go to the north side of the street to catch the bus. The buses on the north side will be west bound and mostly empty of passengers and you can easily get a seat - you just have to ride the bus to the end of the line and turn around. Same with the trains - east bound train stations will be packed.
The stages at the festival are pretty basic. The Sutro stage is a nice secondary stage, tucked away in a little meadow with a nice hillside to provide a good view. Lots of shade too. The main stage is a polo field, big and flat with bleacher areas on the sides. The other stages are at the east end of the grounds and are also tucked into open meadows amoungst the trees. The grounds, with trees and sand and the afternoon fog that rolls in, are very conducive to making the festival feel very intimate, even though there are probably 60K people there. As the fog thickens in the late afternoon and evening and the lights start coming on, the grounds assume an almost Shire-like aspect. Lot's of weird shapes and shadows, with trolls and fairies and elves... or maybe that was the corn chips.
Flashback - my visit to Outside Lands coincided with the 22nd installment of the mutt and muttwife nuptials, so watching her dance to Stevie Wonder on Sunday night along with a bunch of other crazy happy people was the top. I have a picture of her in my head that will never go away. Besides that, I have to say that this was my ATF festival, music-wise. Neil Young and Crazy fucking Horse! Foo Fighters. Jack White. and one of my favorites was seeing Reggie Watts. Very, very cool! Had me dancing in my high tops. And to top it off for a metal head like mutt, Metallica on Saturday night in their home town was energizing to say the least. I decided to risk my then 50 year old meat sock and made my way as close to the front as I could. I was lucky in that the mosh pit broke out a few people in front of me instead of around me, so I mostly avoided getting pummeled in the pit. But the flames from the show practically sizzled my eyebrows when they went off. Luckily, muttwife had decided to go shopping on Saturday, so she was spared the bruises and burns I received in that glorious scrum of humanity.
Outside Lands and San Francisco should be on every festival lovers to do list. Take a week and see the city.
One last thing - even though the festival is in the middle of August, you know, summer, take warm clothes with you to change into as the fogs rolls in the late afternoon, which it will. The temperatures close to the shore can be 15 - 20 degrees cooler than the east side when the fog comes in. And by nightfall, it will be cold enough for a jacket and long pants... maybe a parka.