By: Lauren Tingle
It’s festival time in Middle Tennessee! To the more than 160,000 music freaks expected to hit Nashville next week for CMA Music Festival: Welcome to Music City. We genuinely hope you enjoy your stay. If you’re a CMA Fest veteran, you’ll notice a few changes. The city is currently under major construction to accommodate an influx in population. Pack extreme patience and add an extra 15-30 minutes of travel time for getting around town. During Country Radio Seminar, it took me 45 minutes to drive one mile from Music Row to Citizen in the Gulch in 5:00 traffic. I would have walked, but it was raining sideways at the time. As a seven-year Nashvillian who’s worked 16 music fests, I want y’all to have the time of your lives. Here is a Tingle guide to fest like a pro.
Be In The Moment: Music festivals come with a ton of distractions. There will be obnoxious drunks, drug users, chainsmokers, fan paparazzi who film entire sets, chatty Cathies who scream in your ear during your favorite songs, Facebookers, Tweeters, Instagrammers, Periscopers, Snap Chatters, FaceTimers and more. Although I’ve never seen it happen at CMA Fest, there is a possibility of crowd surfing. If any of this bothers you, relocate to a place more your speed where you can enjoy your favorite acts the way you want. You have no control over how others fest, but you can control your location and your attitude. When I went to the 2013 Hangout, my friends and I arranged to meet at the left of each soundboard for acts we wanted to see. I highly recommend this move for big groups because it’s an easy meeting place everyone can remember in the event of separation.
Phones, Pictures, Video, Oh My! Do not — I repeat — do not be among 31-percent of 18-34-year-olds who are on their phones for half an event or longer. All you get are fuzzy photos, gross selfies, shaky video, crappy audio and zero memories of concert magic. Leave the filming to the pros. The sold-out concerts at LP Field are being filmed for an ABC special so you won’t miss a moment. If you are dead set on documenting everything, play music journalist. Pack a pocket notebook and pen to write down your favorite highlights. I love this activity for children and young adults to develop them into loyal music fans with manners. Fun fact — Professional photographers at most music festivals are limited to shooting during the first three songs of each set if photography is allowed. At Bonnaroo 2007, Questlove applied for an official photo pass to get professional shots of his favorite bands. Can you picture Questlove in a sea of photographers in a photo pit? Believe it. It happened. I stick to the three-song rule for every concert and I get great shots without missing a beat. Plus, filming shows on enormous iPads is a fast way to make enemies with your neighbors. At Bonnaroo’s 2013 Superjam, the urge to punch a crazy tall dude blocking my view with his iPad was hard to fight. What nerd brings an iPad to a show? At the Bonnaroo press conferences backstage, Jason Isbell cracked me up when he said, “No guy filming an entire show on his phone is ever going to get laid.” So. True.
Speaking of sex… Alcohol and other mind-altering substances lower inhibitions. If you’re a guy interested in a lady at a show, be a gentleman. A simple, “Hi, my name is ____. It’s nice to meet you,” will do. There is no good reason to be a barnacle on a woman at a concert. My Bonnaroo wristband last year got me on the main stage and when I’d look out into the crowd, I’d see women with looks on their faces that screamed, “OMG. Get this drunk a**hole off me!” If you do get lucky, be responsible and wrap it up. STDs are terrible souvenirs.
Footwear: I recommend a worn-in pair of cowboy boots. They’re perfect for stashing cell phones and wallets, freeing your arms for waving, clapping and other cardio as you fest.
Other Tips on Phones, Social Media and Apps: Airplane mode saves battery. It’s not necessary to post every moment of your experience. But if you’re adamant about making all your Facebook friends and the rest of the world jealous of all the fun you’re having, the official handles and hashtags of the week are @CMT #CMTAwards; @countrymusic #CMAFest; and @bonnaroo #bonnaroo. Apps for CMT, CMA Fest and Bonnaroo are available now.
Hydration and Hygiene: There will be more than 70 hours of live music in Nashville next week. You don’t have to be drunk or high for all of it. Hydrate. Hydrate. Hydrate. Trips to the ER are major buzzkills. Baby wipes and hand sanitizer are a must for shaking hands post-port-a-john visits. Wear sunscreen. Music is eternal and you want to enjoy it for the rest of your life. Protect your hearing with earplugs.
Be Green: Pack a Nalgene, Camelbak or other reusable drink holder to reduce plastic water bottle waste. All that plastic ends up in the oceans we fish and suffocates wildlife. Keep Music City pretty and pick up trash when you see it. LP Field has recycling bins and event recycling will be available around downtown. Dispose of cigarette butts responsibly. They are not biodegradable but they make for great earplugs in case you misplace yours.
Get wild: If you’re among the VIP ticketholders for Bonnaroo, rock your pants off. Dance. Scream. Sing. Whistle. Do anything but yell, “Freebird!” There is a sea of diehard fans at your backs who camp like refugees and would kill to be in your boots. A lack of participation frustrates not only the artists onstage but also your fellow audience members. If you’re a member of the music industry at CMA Fest or Bonnaroo, don’t stand in the audience with your arms folded in judgment thinking to yourself, “Is this a hit?” Who gives a flip? Folks are pumping major bucks into your economy, keeping your bellies full and your lights on. Enjoy yourself. It’s a blessing to get to do what we do for a living.
For more, refer to Rolling Stone’s list of the 10 Most Annoying Concert Behaviors.