This my guide on how to prepare (and hopefully survive) a European metal festival. I’ve been to many different festivals in Europe, and these are some best practices. A disclaimer is that it’s obviously based on doing it the way I prefer to do it: I want to camp (never a hotel), and I want it to be simple, cheap and practical. I revel in most of the madness that goes on, and I don’t care much for clothing or my overall appearance at a festival.
Many metal festivals are held on the countryside. How easy it is to get there can vary greatly, and if you don’t have a car it can get expensive and challenging. It’s worth making the extra effort trying to piece together flights, trains, buses and shuttles, because in the end you could save a lot money and hassle. Think of these things before actually booking the festival ticket, because they will be a part of your overall experience. Better to deal with problems on your home turf, and then having a fully enjoyable festival.
Coming to a festival without important stuff and not being able to buy it anywhere is a crappy feeling. Check out the possibilities to buy the food, drinks and accessories you like previous to going there. Some festivals have it all in the camp, while others require you to waste precious chilltime running around for it. I’ve not been a happy the times I’ve been standing in a store line in town instead of sitting in the camp enjoying my festival.
Check weather reports, and still pack different types of clothes
European festivals range from beach-parties in Slovenia, to shivering in mosquito-ridden Swedish forests. To make it even worse, the weather certainly manages to change during the course of most festivals. Do pack light, but be ready for most things, because it’s likely they will happen. I came to Brutal Assault 2016 in Czech Republic, expecting to be in my swimming trunks again for the whole festival, only to find it was wind, rain and 15 celsius the entire time.
Pack light and smart
Before I learned to festival properly, I’ve gone to muddy festivals in the German countryside with heavy travel bags more fitting for two weeks in Greece. Don’t ever do this! Get a backpack that goes well on your back where you can fit everything, so you have maximum mobility at all times.
Find some new pals before the festival
Even if you’re going in a group, it’s fun to find new friends previous to getting there. One way is doing it online, on places like official forums and Last.fm, and another is running into people while going there. People on their way to a festival are usually super friendly to others doing the same thing.
Find a strategic campsite
Finding the best possible campsite is key to your open air festival experience, and it can often be a stressful endeavour since good places disappear fast. Firstly, it’s great to find a campsite that has shelter from sun and rain. Secondly, finding a site with friendly neighbours is important for the social part of the festival. Thirdly, don’t be too close to spots where drunk people walk or do their dirty business.
Check out unknown bands in the line-up
Prior to going to the festival, make sure to check out unknown bands on the bill with the right type of genre tags. It’s fun to have an “aha”-experience at a festival gig, but it’s even better to find a great band that you binge before going to the gig.
Don’t necissarily see every band on your massive list
A bit contradictory to what I just said, but don’t see every band on your bucketlist. Of course you shouldn’t miss out on the best bands, but sometimes the camp is just too much fun to go watch a “maybe”-marked band. Seeing bands all day and all night is also a sure way to get exhausted. Unless you’re a metal journalist on a mission, a festival is a vacation.
The festival will get loud and crazy
The people at a festival, especially in the camping, will likely go loud and crazy until the early hours. I only find these aspects of a festival fun, but for someone who’s not used to it, it could be a problem. Don’t expect to get quality sleep unless you get a hotel room.
Side activities in the area
Some festivals are held in interesting parts of Europe where you might never go again. If there are sights close by, why not go there during a day and then return to the festival? It could also be good to get a small break from the festival intensity, to catch your breath a bit and prepare for a new batch of loud gigs. Two great examples: the old Dinkelsbühl town next to Summer Breeze Open Air and the National Park next to Metaldays.