Going it Alone at Festivals / Louder Features
Updated: Feb 6
All photos courtesy of the Slam Dunk Festival Facebook page (linked below)
Ask any festival-lover what three words come to mind when summer festival season kicks into high-gear, and inevitably one of them will be ‘mates’ (and the other two will more likely than not be ‘beer’ and ‘bands’!). But what happens when your friends either don’t fall into your particular musical niche, or the plethora of bank holidays in the run-up to the long summer evenings have wiped out their bank accounts? Attending festivals alone carries a peculiar social stigma: as if other people are a pre-requisite for having a festival experience to remember. However, if you are flying solo at a festival this summer, it is more than possible to create amazing memories, even without a miscellaneous posse of mates in tow. Louder sent one of our team to this year’s Slam Dunk Festival South on a solo mission to discover the best ways to make the most of the individual festival experience:
1. Get down there early
The temptation not to bother dragging yourself out of bed a second earlier than is necessary if you’re heading to a festival alone is an incredible cross to bear. However, not only will you be able to skip the lengthy queues at the gate if you arrive early, there is plenty to wander around and see before the bands even start. Being alone means you have complete autonomy over your day- and also nobody there to film you screaming your lungs out on any of the fairground rides! Slam Dunk this year featured a whole host of fairground rides outside of the arena itself, which meant there was plenty to do before the gates even opened!
2. Get the drinks in ASAP!
As the day wears on at any festival, lines for all the bars (and consequently, also the loos!) are always going to stretch further and further off into the sunset. Being at a festival alone means you don’t have to wait for your mates to get cash out, (or indeed dig deeper into your own pockets to get a whole round in!), so joining the queues early and getting the festivities underway is likely to save you both time and money in the long run!
3. Get stuck in early on!
Attending festivals with mates means catering to the whims and wild fancies of everyone- those who can jump from mosh pit to mosh pit with seemingly boundless energy are often restricted in their quest for bruises by those with a more delicate disposition when it comes to living it up. However, when it’s just me, myself and I, the choice of when to enter the fray is entirely at one’s own discretion (of course, you also have nobody there to pull you out of the melee when you’re getting out of your depth- but party hard or go home, right?). Beginning the Slam Dunk experience with the mellow tones of William Ryan Key’s acoustic Yellowcard memoriam couldn’t adequately prepare anyone for the veritable carnage that was the main stage openers WSTR. Their unbridled approach to new wave pop punk whipped the crowd up into a swirling melee of wildly slung limbs, and with the help of many tracks from their latest album ‘Identity Crisis’, there was much finger-pointing and crowdsurfing fun to be had by all! Early in the day it may have been, but throwing yourself headfirst into the fray would surely be one way to blow off the cobwebs for the day that lay ahead!
4. Venture out of your comfort zone
As packed as the Slam Dunk line up was this year, there are always going to be moments at festivals where there are no bands. Being alone at a festival means that in those lulls, you are free to wander around and see who takes your fancy. This was the case for us, when we stumbled across Mancunian pop-rockers Hot Milk, whose enticing melodies, fist-pumping choruses, and driving basslines had the rammed Key Club stage dancing and clapping along almost involuntarily! Similarly, flying solo allowed us the chance to wander up to the Punk in Drublic stage, curated by NOFX’s Fat Mike, and entered the hallowed halls of classic punk rock. Doing so brought us the virile, carefree delights of skate punk legends Millencolin, as well as the anger-fuelled lyric gymnastics of the iconic Bad Religion. While these are niches that few of my go-to fellow festival attendee friends would be overly enamoured with, going it alone gives you the freedom to seek out the hidden gems- and who knows, you may just discover your new favourite band in the process!
5. Make new friends!
Just because you begin a festival solo, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way! Some of the best friendships are forged by an unlikely meeting of two like-minded people at a punk rock show, a fact that many people, much of the Louder team included, will be able to attest to! Even the smallest of connections can take root and grow- be it the people you complain about the sound quality with during pop punk prodigies Neck Deep’s set, or the mother and daughter you hand a tissue to when Simple Plan bust out their heart-wrenching rendition of ‘Perfect’. Or perhaps it is one of the many hundreds of crowdsurfers that you help lift during the utter bedlam that is the mosh pit for pop punk-turned dark alt-rockers As It Is, who were crashing down over the heads of the front rows like waves in a thunderstorm, relentless and buffeting in their onslaught. Whoever it may be, meeting new people at festivals is one of the great joys of music- bringing people together in the unlikeliest of ways and forging friendships that can last a lifetime!
6. Throwing it back
Nobody wants to remember much about the person they were at 14. For many of us, it involved a lot of eyeliner; oversized band t-shirts; hair so long it obscured most of your vision; and an unhealthy obsession with the likes of Pierce the Veil, Sleeping with Sirens and/or Bring Me the Horizon (all bands which secretly then remain in our music libraries to this very day…). However, when one of those bands is announced for a festival, even the most reformed of emo kids will still feel a tiny pang of nostalgia buried in their black little heart. And if one just so happens to end up at that festival alone- well, nobody is going to know if you scream every word like an angst-ridden teenager or not, now are they? Slam Dunk this year hit on that nostalgic nerve perfectly, with the inclusion of their not-so-secret special guests, Y3K, who… busted… the Key Club stage wide open with their plethora of early-noughties radio-rock anthems. The lively guitars and infinitely danceable melody of ‘Crashed the Wedding’ took the entire crowd back to the first song on everyone’s iPod Shuffle, and closer ‘Year 3000’ set the whole tent rollicking like rippling waves! And if you can’t sing along to pop punk covers of The Greatest Showman’s ‘This is Me’, ‘The Power of Love’, and Frozen’s ‘Let It Go’ - courtesy of genre heavyweights New Found Glory – when you’re alone at a festival, then when can you?! Headliners All Time Low also embraced their pop punk roots, in celebration of the 10-year anniversary of their seminal album ‘Nothing Personal’. Opening with the unmistakable crashing drums of ‘Damned If I Do Ya’, all sense of maturity and decorum fled the scene at pace, as the ever-so-deadly cocktail of nostalgia and alcohol had everyone from those in their early teens to their mid-30s singing, pogoing and, during the dulcet tones of ‘Therapy’, sobbing their hearts out! Truly proof that it really isn’t a phase after all!
So whichever festivals you are attending this year, if you’re flying solo, never fear- there are many upsides to going it alone that make it a unique experience all of its own. Experiencing Slam Dunk unaccompanied made it an entirely different venture to previous years, and with the rest of festival season still ahead, forging a path alone through them is an ever more intriguing prospect…
Slam Dunk Festival 2020 has already been confirmed- keep an eye on their Facebook and Twitter pages to be notified when line-ups and tickets are released at the end of the year (and to see all of these amazing photos, and many more besides!)