Whether it be Coachella in sunny California or Glastonbury in rain-soaked Somerset, overseas music festivals can be an experience like no other. But enjoying some of music’s biggest names can also come at a price (even more expensive than your festival ticket).
Music festivals go hand in hand with dehydration, exhaustion, injury and sickness - which is little wonder after five days wearing the same pair of wet socks. The truth is, music festivals can be quite an event and you should prepare for them accordingly.
Below we explore some of the common safety risks encountered at music festivals, and outline ways you can make your experience unforgettable for all the right reasons.
Music festival deaths are on the rise
Unfortunately, festival emergencies are often more serious than a pair of wet socks. Music festival deaths are reported to be on the rise, particularly in the electronic dance music scene. In 2015, the popular Stereosonic music festival in Australia was rocked by the deaths of two festival attendees from suspected drug overdoses.
Similar incidents occurred at the 2015 TomorrowWorld festival in Georgia, and the 2016 Sunset Music Festival in Florida.
Drugs are one of the most prevalent dangers at music festivals all around the world. Despite strong police presence at festival entrances, who check all entering bags and enlist the help of sniffer dogs, some music festival attendees manage to smuggle their prohibited items into the event.
In fact, a survey of festival attendees at Auckland’s Laneway Festival revealed that around one quarter of respondents had used methamphetamine in the past year.
Remember, you won’t be covered under the TravelCare policy if you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs (other than drugs administered or prescribed by a registered medical practitioner and are taken as per your doctor’s instructions).
Other common festival dangers (and how to avoid them)
Drug-related deaths aren’t the only potentially fatal risks at music festival events. In 2001, an Australian attendee at the Big Day Out music festival in Sydney was crushed to death in a mosh pit.
Anyone who has been to a rock concert has likely seen a mosh pit at the front of the stage, whereby enthusiastic audience members dance and bump into each other (sometimes quite vigorously). There is even a set of “mosh rules” and etiquette that moshers are expected to follow, including;
- If someone falls, assist them immediately. Crushing and trampling are very real dangers that can happen unexpectedly.
- Being aggressive or violent is unacceptable.
- If someone appears to want to leave the mosh pit but can’t, assist them where you can or signal for the festival security guards who will often be on the lookout for any danger.
- Don’t grab others and pull them into the mosh pit.
Mosh pits can be great fun, but can also turn sour very quickly. If you do plan to enter a mosh pit, have a friend keep you in sight and stay on the fringes of the action to minimise the chance of becoming overwhelmed by the masses of moving bodies.
Dehydration and sunburn
Dehydration is the most common injury at music festivals. Unsurprisingly, festivals held in the summer months present a greater risk for heatstroke and dehydration than those in colder climates. However, festival-goers can forget to replenish themselves wherever they are in the world.
One paramedic who regularly attends to injured festival attendees in Australia explains this carelessness simply, “If you’re in a Zumba [dance] class for an hour, you’d drink lots of water after the class but when you’re in the 40-degree sun dancing for 10 hours, you may forget to,” he says.
What can festival-goers do to keep themselves hydrated?
- As soon as you enter the festival grounds, find the free water fountains and fill up a bottle.
- Keep track of the water you drink. Set a recurring alarm on your phone to remind you to replenish yourself.
- Hats and sunscreen are essentials for avoiding dehydration, particularly at summer festivals.
- Avoid dairy and foods high in sugar; they can deplete your hydration levels. Choose healthier snacks like muesli bars and fruit to keep your energy levels high.
- Wear a cooling collar. Cooling collars, or neck wraps, are essentially fabric scarves that retain water and keep your body cool. They’re easy to make at home and can be a lifesaver for long periods in the sun.
It’s no surprise that exhaustion ranks highly on the list of potential music festival pitfalls. Some go on for days, and non-stop dancing with intermittent meals doesn’t do wonders for your energy levels. Furthermore, food at music festivals isn’t always the most nutritious, and dancing on a stomach of nachos is unpleasant at the best of times.
Music festival organisers know the dangers of ’festival fatigue’ and most now offer luxury accommodation options. Glamping, or glamorous camping, is a popular alternative to the traditional do-it-yourself camping grounds at music festivals. These luxury tents can offer everything from king size beds to bamboo furniture, and are a great way to avoid festival fatigue.
Accident and Injury
Like with any outdoor adventure, there is always the risk of slips and trips. However, music festivals that go long into the night can present the added danger of darkness. Also, many music festivals are held in expansive open fields, where the terrain can be rough and unpredictable.
A pair of sturdy shoes will be your best friend at a music festival. Not only will they keep the dirt at bay (especially at the infamously-muddy Glastonbury festival in the UK), but they also protect your ankles from unpredictable terrain.
Many outdoor music festivals are held by the banks of rivers that flow through or beside the festival grounds. While it may be tempting to cool off after a long day’s dancing in the heat, rivers, lakes and dams have been responsible for a number of drownings at music festivals around the world. Avoid tragedies like these by;
- Only swimming when permitted by event organisers.
- Never swim under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Don’t swim at night or in the early morning.
- Don’t dive into water unless you know its depth.
- Don’t leave your valuables unattended; they’re an easy target for thieves.
Losing your valuables
It’s unlikely you’ll want to carry every one of your valuables with you for the entire duration of the music festival. However, leaving expensive items unattended in your tent doesn’t give you a lot of peace of mind, either. Unfortunately, music festivals can attract opportunistic thieves who can walk away with a treasure chest of easily-stolen items.
Take advantage of the secure lockers available at most music festivals, pack carefully before you set off, and if you really couldn’t bare losing an item that’s dear to you, it’s probably best to just not take it with you and leave it at home. After all, the less reasons to worry mean the more chance you’ll love every second of the music.