I recently ‘attended’ an event that has had to adapt to the times. Rather than taking place on the hallowed ground of Donington Park, Download Festival (previously known as Monsters of Rock) took place over the internet via a live-stream on Youtube.
This covid summer other major festivals such as ‘Glasthomebury’ will also be adopting this format and bands are setting up virtual full-length gigs available online. There’s a guide here for loads of solo acts live-streaming over the next few weeks.
So here are my top tips for making the most of virtual festival season:
1.Take the time off
You can’t enjoy a festival if you can’t attend! Sure, it’s streaming online but, in the case of Download Festival at least, much of the content was one-off and couldn’t be watched again. So if you want to catch it, be sure to take the time off to be able to enjoy it fully.
2. Get outside if you can
Many of the people that watched virtual Download Fest had taken to their back gardens in the spirit of watching live music outside. Experiencing the sun, the rain and the wind are a massive part of the festival experience; the mud is of course optional in this case. I saw people’s TVs on the windowsill facing outwards or even out on the patio entirely. Obviously take precautions doing this. Ensure electrics are water proofed and secure, as we all know that festival weather in the UK can be highly unpredictable.
For the full-fat festival experience, why not set up a tent and sleep overnight in the garden?
3. Treat Yourself
The whole point of a festival is that it’s a treat! Not something that occurs everyday. So you could break out the BBQ or order take-away one night. Many local restaurants have turned into take-away outlets, so it’d be a great way to support local businesses too.
Maybe there’s a particular dish you crave from the festival arena. Why not try your hand at making it yourself at home for the event? And serving it in take-away cartons? Lots of people made their own takes of the Giant Yorkshire Pudding Sunday Lunches that can be bought at Download.
4. Have a drink
Another one of those staple activities of festivals is having a few beverages. And in the spirit of treating yourself, you could indulge here too. Just be sure to drink responsibly…there are plenty of embarrassing festival stories involving a few drinks, but your back garden or living room doesn’t have to be one too. Remember you might have neighbours who’ll remember it even if you can’t…
5. Dress for the Occasion
If you’ve been to a festival before, you will know that the dress code is pretty much whatever you feel like…plus wellies. Most commonly, it’s band merch and a tough pair of jeans. But I’ve also seen festival chic, full cosplays, subculture fashions and even a man-kini (much to the discontent of my eyes). Goths, Hippies, Rockabillies, Punks, Emos, Cyber Goth, Steam Punk, Pirates and Lolitas are just to name a few of the sub-cultures I’ve seen at festivals. So why not take the opportunity to try a new outfit in the comfort of your own home? No one even has to know (assuming the neighbours don’t see you). Best part is, you don’t have to include the wellies. But if that’s your thing, cool. You do you!
And it doesn’t just have to be yourself that is dressed for the occasion. Decorations for the garden, (or where ever your festival takes place) are another way you can add to the experience. Lighting can create atmosphere so you could get a colour changing RGB bulb, raid your box of Christmas lights in the attic, or float tea lights in bowls of water. You could also throw some powder paint around (just get the type that’s meant for your skin).
6. Make your own set-list
With the Download Fest livestream, they released the set list schedule beforehand. And of course, festivals are trying to appeal to as many people as possible which means there’s probably going to be some sets that you’re not so interested in. But fear no – if there is a gap you want to fill in the schedule, there are plenty of live sets available to watch on YouTube. You could fill the odd gap here and there, and leave yourself open to discovering new music. Or you could go off on your own tangent. The choice is yours.
7. Have some friends round
Government guidelines from 24 June 2020 state that: “In England and Northern Ireland, people can already meet outside in groups of up to six people from different households.” Which means, if you’re comfortable with it and can maintain the 1 plus metre social distance rule then you could enjoy your virtual festival with friends outdoors.
Some families I know are even making their own wristbands for visiting friends – and perhaps they will be treasured as a souvenir of the summer of 2020.
8. Very British Problems
Finally, this popular Instagram account have their own tips: don’t take a shower or flush the toilet, spend hours trying to find your bed and feel very tired, lose your phone, have a existential crisis – and maybe listen to some music…
The whole ‘virtual festival’ concept requires a little bit of work to enjoy but so does going to a real festival. And you get out what you put in. I personally enjoyed the festival from the comfort of my bedroom, with plenty of beer, wine and rum to hand. Unfortunately, the weather and lack of shelter in the garden made it impractical for me to enjoy it from the garden. I’m not a welly person.
One thing I am taking away from this is the ability to organise your own ‘mini-festival’ even after lock down is lifted. You can invite a group of friends round any time, and follow the above tips for a good time. While these tips are centred around enjoying a virtual festival, with that little bit extra work, you could totally arrange to set list yourself for a day or a full weekend.