9 Things That Surprised Me About My First Music Festival Experience

This weekend I attended my first music festival, the Made in America festival in Philadelphia. I did not love it.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m not really a music person. I wasn’t going for the music. I was going because, well, FOMO. All our friends were going and I’d hate to miss out on a good time.

Music Festival Fashion - Jumpsuit
As a jeans + t-shirt kind of girl, this jumpsuit was well outside my comfort zone. It wound up being the perfect choice for the hot but breezy day.

That said, I’m glad I went. I’ve experienced a music festival, I know what all the fuss is about. I probably won’t attend one again.

Here are a couple of things that surprised me (in good and bad ways) about my first music festival experience:

1. The crowds are no joke.

Prior to heading to Made in America, if someone had asked me “are you claustrophobic?” I would have said no. Now I’m not so sure.

When a popular artist starts on a new stage, lots of people walk toward the stage. Even if you are standing where there was previously lots of space, you might wind up in the midst of a huge cluster of people. I’m talking shoulder to shoulder, a person touching you on all sides.

I tried so hard to be cool about it, to go with the flow and let people push as they may, but eventually knew I was about to have a panic attack. I freaked a bit and then I was the pushy one, shouting “excuse me, excuse me, I’m sorry” and pushing my way further from the stage until I found air and space. It was very easy to suddenly find yourself in crowds like this so I preferred to hang way back.

2. If you aren’t pushy, you don’t see the artists.

I saw Kanye West but I didn’t actually see him. If you aren’t willing to push your way to the front, you might never see the artist. I saw Kanye on the jumbo tron from about 1/4 mile back. I could not see over people to ever actually see him on the stage. Sure, I still kind of got the experience and the energy of the crowd was cool to be a part of, but in a traditional venue I probably would have been able to actually see him. At a music festival, I was not.

Made in America Philadelphia
3. There were less drugs than I thought there would be.

I kind of anticipated seeing a lot more drugs and people on drugs. While there was a fair amount of that stuff that’s legal in California and Colorado, that was all I saw (or really, smelled). Maybe it’s just the stereotype of music festivals but I anticipated seeing people who were obviously on something. That wasn’t the case.

4. But the secondhand smoke will kill you.

I mean, you knew that, right? Too much secondhand smoke usually gives me brutal headaches. There were so many smokers that it was hard to avoid and yeah, my head paid for it.

5. As expensive as you think everything might be, it was more expensive than that.

$11 for a 16 oz. Budweiser? $12 for french fries? You’ve got to be kidding me. We already paid over $100 to get in!

Music Festival with Friends

6. We were kind of old.

One of the first things we noticed was how many teenagers there were. At 26, we were definitely on the older side of attendees.

7. For the number of people attending, the lines for the bathrooms weren’t that bad.

There were 40,000+ people and more porta-potties than I could count. They were pretty disgusting (I mean, when are porta-potties clean and enjoyable to use?) but when I did have to use them, the line was only 10-15 minutes. Not too bad when you think about how many people there were.

Kayne West Performs at Made in America Philadelphia

8. Kanye West is exactly as big of a douche lord as you think he would be.

Confession: I’d held out secret hope that Kayne West was not a total jerk wad. That hope is gone.

He completely stopped the concert to chastise the lighting/video people. Later he went on a 5 minute long, awkward rant where he complained about being famous, the fact that his “the music that we do is not a joke” and his “interracial relationship is not a joke,” and that the tabloids made him out to be a jerk. US Magazine even covered it, it was that ridiculous.

NEWS FLASH: Stopping a concert to complain about your privileged life in front of a crowd of 40,000 people makes you the jerk. The tabloids don’t have to even try to make you look that way. You do it to yourself.

9. The theme of the festival was, without a doubt, butt cheeks.

You know the high-waisted shorts trend? Yeah, it was out in full force. It’s like every girl who was attending spent too much time on pinterest and decided that high-waisted jean shorts and crop tops were the unofficial uniform of music festivals. So many butt cheeks. I know that I can’t pull off that look. There were a lot of women who decided that, regardless of whether it was flattering or not, they were going to rock out with their butt cheeks out. It was interesting.

So that was my music festival experience. If we’re being honest here, I thought about leaving a couple hours in to it. I really wasn’t enjoying myself at all. I’m glad I stayed (so I’m not forever known as the party pooper) but like I said, it was probably my first and last music festival. Please tell me there is someone else out there who also didn’t have a great music festival experience. Is what I experienced the norm for all festivals?

  • I’ve never been to a big music festival like that but they totally seem way too overwhelming. I can’t handle being at a live show in the pit section and having people push through. I would not do well at a music festivam.

  • Sounds JUST how I’d feel. I don’t even really enjoy concerts, crowds, live music, just not a fan. That makes me sound old and boring, but I swear I’m not. I’ve just never been into that scene. And Kanye being a world class ass is no surprise.

  • I’m not a big festival fan. I went to SW4 (a trance/dance fest in London) last year and the only thing that made it fun was that my (then) new boyfriend hated it as much as I did so we had a blast hating it together!! xx

    Little Miss Katy | UK Lifestyle & Fashion

  • Amber

    I don’t like music festivals. I also don’t like concerts. Not even mellow coffee shop shows. Aaand I married a musician. Such is life.

  • I love music festivals IF they are the right kind. My husband and I go to local festivals in Baltimore every summer. They don’t have huge headliners like Kanye, but rather smaller national acts which tend to be more humble (and talented). They’re usually held in big parks, so you can take a blanket and chairs and chill out with plenty of space and good views all day with a normal priced beer and some people our age. I would say that the Made in America festival would be more prone to the negative aspects that you pointed out just because of the artists, size, and marketing of the festival.

    As for Kanye, he came to my college 8 years ago (man, am I really THAT old!), and I didn’t have interest in seeing him, but my roommate bought me a ticket anyway. He stopped in the middle of his show to tell everyone how this or that artist would never be where they were if it weren’t for him. He continued on that kind of rant for five or ten minutes telling everyone how awesome he was. He pretty much grossed me out.

  • Hahahaha, I loved reading this. I’m glad to know I’m not the only person who hates festivals. And I’m so sick of seeing butt cheeks hanging out of high wasted shorts!!!

    I think you had a pretty typical festival experience. It’s not for everyone. I hate crowds, and I don’t much care for live music, so it’s not really my scene.

    xo Julie

  • I would only go to a music festival if the music wasn’t rap, country, or hard rock / metallic rock / punk rock. It’s not very limiting once you factor in Latin music, as the possibilities are endless. I justify me being a music snob because I hold a degree in vocal performance, LOL.

    Even then, festivals of this nature turn me off. Is it an opera or a symphony playing classics al fresco? I’m there. Screaming drunk people taking drugs? GTFO…not my cup of tea.

    Thanks for going and confirming what I thought music festivals are like. They’re definitely not for me.

  • This is probably the most accurate recap I’ve ever read…buttcheeks and all.

  • I’m all about outdoor concerts, but I’ve never really seen the appeal of music festivals. Too many people.

  • OMG! I was there too! My best friend & I took the bus up from DC. It was my first festival too and I LOVED it! Yes I sure did feel OLD (I’m 27) and yes I saw a lot of butt cheeks and side boob, but other than that I was surprised out how nice everyone was, how great the music was, and how much fun I had. Kanye was super entertaining – but not in the way he thought he was. We were back behind the jumbo screen too and everyone around us was just making jokes and yelling out his hits while he went on his rant. It was hysterical. And when he literally dropped the mic at the end? I was doubled over laughing. Luckily for me though there were a bunch of artists I wanted to see over the 2 days. And being one of the oldies was also great because we didn’t feel the need to get drunk or go out to the bar after the show ended. We just went back to our hotel room and ate hummus and watched HGTV while we relaxed before bed 🙂

  • I do love music festivals but I totally get where you’re coming from. #4 is kind of insane and I lost my voice from the amount of smoke going around me at tomorrowland. it’s annoying!! and that SUCKS about Kanye.

  • I’ve been to probably close to 50-75 concerts/music festivals in my life and honestly, that’s the experience at every one of them. I suffer from social anxiety disorder so the whole crowd thing is something I really struggle with, but in order to break through those anxiety attacks I’ve forced myself to be in a crowd with the sweaty annoying people. I know it sounds dumb but honestly it’s really helped me. Plus if it’s one of my favorite bands/artists I’d be smushed just so I could get close.
    That being said, now that I’m older I find that I would much rather just sit on the grass/ground really far back and just watch. I rarely buy food/drink when I go because it’s just like a theme park – ridiculously overpriced.
    At least your bathroom experience was good! I’ve waited for like 30-45 minutes once, and it was because it was the only bathroom there. Horrible.

  • I love love small music festivals. The big music festivals… not so much. Too many people and too much money. And I can only handle being close to the stage for about one show and I absolutely must be drunk to handle the crowd of stinky people all around me. We’re going to a smaller one in October and since I’ll be very pregnant at that point, I plan to be camped out on a blanket in the sunshine with snacks far behind the crowd the entire time. It’s going to be delightful. I’m not a big music person either, I go to enjoy the beautiful weather and see all my friends.

  • Oh Kanye. Will he ever learn? Probably not.

    I like going to country music festivals the most. The crowd is just a little different for those festivals compared to like a Bob Marley Fest (we have that in Austin) or an electronic festival.

  • As a person who has never attended music festivals, I too have many preconceived notions about what music festivals, raves, and edms are like. But I agree that before anyone can judge what these experience is like, they must first experience it for themselves. I really like this blog post a lot because I can relate to you in a sense that I’m in the same boat as you! Thanks for sharing!



  • Best weekend article thus far!

  • This was such a great post, Nadine! I definitely think that before people can make up their mind about what a music festival is, they have to experience it for themselves. Each one of your points were definitely spot on about things that you see and deal with in one. And everyone enjoys it in various degrees. Like for me, a lot of those things are part of what i love about music festivals. I’ve always gone for the music and being able to experience the love and obsession for certain artists makes it feel communal, especially when you’re singing all your favorite lyrics amongst a sea of people. Crowds also don’t bother me, so there’s that. Everyone is also refreshingly friendly and there’s a sense of camaraderie. But also every festival is different and every festival changes with time especially as more become so commercialized. It’s not for everyone, and that’s okay, but it’s always nice to read different views from different people. Well written!

  • Don’t you mean Washington and Colorado? I couldn’t do a music festival either, I’d rather watch almost anything on TV in the comfort of my own home with cheap food and drinks and no crowds.

  • Erin

    I went to a music festival once, way back when- like right after high school or towards the end- it was Warped Tour actually. My best friend was into some of the bands, I had heard of some of them but didn’t really follow or listen much. Kind of like you I went for the experience & my friend more so than the music. So many stage & people. Hella hot summer day up near Cleveland Ohio, all outdoor in giant paved parking lot like spaces, too many people & the heat plus black top makes for an Erin who almost passes out & has to push her way out of the crowds to go find a space away from people to breath & feel air move around me. Not the most pleasant music experience ever but I guess I’m glad I went. I’ve at least got the experience of having been & the stories of the day. And I can say in my old age, ‘Yeah, way back in the day I went to Warped Tour. Betcha never woulda guessed that would ya?” Lol.Lesson learned that I probably didn’t need to spend a summer day outside to learn, I prefer a more subdue organized event with a main artist and opening act or 2, These days I would prefer indoor concerts but outdoors in the right season & venue aren’t totally out but I really do prefer a ticket with an assigned seat number, personal space and all…
    And that concludes my ‘novel lengt’ comment on music festival experience.

  • Music festivals aren’t my thing either. Also, I will take high rise shorts with butt cheeks hanging out over low rise shorts where I can see a butt crack any day of the week.

  • Wait, high waisted shorts were being worn at your music festival?! All the girls that attend the local music festival were decked out in panties, bras and tutu over their panties! I’ve never been to a music festival, mainly because of the cost and the attire. But, hopefully, I’ll be able to pick up the courage and attend at least one of these events in my lifetime!

  • Ew. Kanye. He’s just… all the not nice words. I love that jumpsuit on you- I feel equally old at events like this now!

  • I went to Firefly in Dover, DE back in June and I had a great time. It was the time of my life, but it definitely had its drawbacks: port-a-potties were the stuff of nightmares. Buttcheeks galore. Crowds. Dust. Lines for every thing. Weed (of which my own friends happened to partake). Not being able to physically SEE the artist. But we camped, and saved ourselves a LOT of money. We brought and cooked all our own food. We brought our own alcohol. But Firefly is a way different experience than Made in America. I’m not sure I’d want to go to a festival in an urban setting because of these reasons.

    As for drugs, there was quite a bit of Molly present but we didn’t have any bad encounters.

  • Funny to think at 26 you are on the old side for a music festival, and yeah what is with the prices at these events talk about highway robbery

  • I don’t know what I laughed at more the title of douche lord for Kanye or the theme of butt cheeks. I can be a fan of festivals from time to time, but your post definitely reminded me of why I’ve stayed away from them recently.

  • This is so great!

  • I don’t think I’ve been to any music festivals… I like live music but in a more personal or laid back setting. Like picnic in the park style. I also don’t like music that much and I feel like it makes me inhuman. I’m glad I’m not alone. Sidenote, I once went to a deadmau5 concert, having no idea what I was getting myself into. It was horrible and I refused to eat the lollipops because I was convinced they were laced with drugs… ha!

  • Give me a film festival any day. I can’t imagine I would fare well at a music festival.

  • I’ve had mixed experiences with music festivals. I do try to go to one every year but I don’t think that I can do Coachella again. I actually loved Outside Lands in San Francisco because at 27, I was only slightly older than the average age (there were a ton of old hippies there!).

  • The high waisted shorts aren’t what get me, it’s the the high waisted shorts that are so incredibly short that their entire ass is hanging out. Like, you’re walking through Target … With your mom … There is no need to be showing that much skin.

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  • at least you stayed it out! For my first music festival we got there right away (amateurs) and left after a couple hours. We didn’t even get to see the headliners.

  • I loved your post! This made me laugh! Loved what you said about the whole festival, especially about Kayne West being a douche. Which wasn’t surprising to read, but still a treat to reiterate that fact.

  • I love what you wore! I used to go to music festivals all the time but after my best friend got groped at a festival, I was done. I’ll spare you the details. And I am not surprised at all that Kanye is the biggest dueche that is thought he was. Did you see him interviewed on the Seth Meyers show? He said “everything in the world is exactly the same” and Seth was like “um………. Okay………. Weirdo……..” He is SUCH an a*** come on you know I’m Mormon I have to be am example here I can’t say the swear words I want to! Haha and ewwww with the butt cheeks!,, that is disgusting!why do girls think that is cute????

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