Story and photos by KT Bell
Everyone’s excited about Christmas, but here at Timber and Steel we’re gearing up for a huge Summer Festival season, especially for the New Years period. There have been 4 main festivals lining up loads of Timber and Steel friendly acts to get excited about, namely Woodford Folk Festival in QLD (you may remember my 35 Hour Woodford experience from last year), Peats Ridge Festival in NSW and two VIC festivals on either side of Port Phillip Bay, Pyramid Rock Festival and The Falls Festival (also on in Marion Bay, TAS). We’ve managed to rustle up a couple of reviewers to give you the wrap up of some of these festivals in the New Year. But in preparation, let’s take a look at how to make the most of the New Years festival experience.
Our four festivals are all multi-day festivals set in lush settings away from the hustle and bustle of the city, leaving festival goers two accommodation options. 1. pay for a hotel away from the site and drive to and from the event every day (access to some festivals are limited on 31 Dec) and limit your experience ,which is no fun, or, 2. camp. Having camped through a number of different scenarios, here’s a short list of tips which will make your camping festival experience that much better. Peats Ridge offers some sustainable camping tips to check out before the festival too.
Woodford offers Tent City which is a great option for those who need to travel light – a tent, bed, light and basics are supplied for an additional fee, you just need to buy tickets with camping and bring your own bedding (pillow, blankets etc). Peats Ridge has begun offering Tepee camping in recycled Tepees with both 2 person and up to 4-6 person camping options and you even get to take your Teepee sleeping bags home with you. Both are a stress free, easy way to experience a camping festival, with none of the effort of camping.
For all the other camping events, either take a tent you can stand up right in, or be prepared to spend very little time in your tent, most of which will be in a half sitting/ laying position.
Dealing with Mud and Rain
Given the very unseasonal start to Summer, it would be wise to steel yourself for the likelihood of rain and eventual mud. Lots of mud. Best things to do are to take gumboots, extra socks (thick socks deal with chaffing better) and why not think about a gel or wool inner sole for your gumboots while you’re at it – I can say from days dancing in boots at Peats Ridge 2009, your feet will be worn out before the end of the festival.
Take a poncho or rain coat – not umbrellas. Alternately take a couple of heavier hoodies, they’re also quite good at keeping the rain off, but they do soak through. If you’re at Woodford, I did pick up a beautiful waterproof parasol from a vendor who I believe goes regularly and it’s gotten me through a number of both sunny and rainy days since.
Take extra changes of clothes and some gear that you don’t care if it’s ruined by mud. If you are going to go sliding in the mud, whether in clothes or not (yes, another fun Peats Ridge image yet to be removed from my memory), make plans to get through the shower or dip in a creek before your favourite act hits the stage, otherwise you’ll be sweaty, tired and still muddy.
Best tip: Take a bucket, an old towel and/ or a bathmat – leave them outside your tent and use them as a door mat and to rinse off your feet before climbing in to your tent to avoid the mud spread through all your belongings. And make sure to take your gumboots off outside before entering, leave them outside or just inside the door.
There are a couple of elements to the whole multi-day camping festival and keeping yourself clean. Showers are often hugely sought after at the usual peak times, mornings and early evenings. Mind you at both Peats Ridge and Woodford, I walked past the shower blocks very late at night (as late as 2am) and they were well in use. Plan your showering/ bathing times ahead, have a look at the timetable and see if you can pop back from a quick shower before the next act.
Alternately, if you’re tough, you could forgo the showers altogether – in some locations there’s rivers to have a nice dip in and keep yourself fresher, but you will need to wear something in, be decent people. Even if you take to bathing, take along some baby wipes or wet ones and give yourself a good wipe down all over at least once a day and apply deodorant liberally. You might be able to cope with no showering, but the people around you might not cope with your odour.
Toilets at most of these festivals have moved towards the sustainable compostable toilets. No flush toilets can be challenging, especially after a few days in to a festival. Firstly, learn how the toilets work – usually there’s a tub or pile of sawdust available. If you’re heading for number 1s, just go without sawdust, and you can pop some toilet paper in after you if you need. If you’re going number 2s, take a cup/ handful of sawdust to throw in after you’ve finished. If it’s a big number 2, well, take some back up sawdust. ALWAYS close the lid no matter what number you’ve been to so that insects are not attracted to the contents – no one wants to use a fly infested loo. If everyone uses them properly, these toilets can work very well. And boys, you’re always welcome to take to the bushes if that’s easier.
Most festivals are no BYO and all would be No Glass – there’s nothing worse than some broken glass to ruin your day by slicing your foot, or worse, your butt, open. Some festivals have fire bans – check the FAQs for your festival and check what you can and can’t take in. If you can afford it, budget to buy your meals, it supports the vendors which in turn supports the festival and allows it to go ahead every year. The same goes with alcohol and festival bars, bringing your own alcohol might seem like a sneaky and clever idea but it jeopardises the festivals liquor licence and can have a detrimental effect on the bar provider which may lead them to choosing not to be involved in the future. Everyone likes to save a buck, but bars and food vendors are the life blood of funding for festivals and events, so spend with them to help your favourite festival continue year to year.
Check out your festival’s website for information about the dos and don’t’s at your festival and travel information. Also don’t forget to take some important items that are often forgotten including sunscreen, a hat, jumper/ warm clothes, a water bottle, toothbrush and paste. It’s a good idea to invest in some ear plugs, they cancel out much of the noise and volume but none of the music, you can even hear the lyrics plus they save your hearing. Having now attended a few festivals with ear plugs, they’re a staple in my stash.
Woodford has both an Eating at Woodford and a What to Bring section available from their home page.
Falls Festival has a What to Bring section which reminds punters to bring tickets. Believe it or not, I’ve seen it happen.
If all of that planning and packing seems like too much trouble, you could check out a new venture called Festival Kits which is an online service able to deliver a package to your at home before you depart which contains all the essentials, and they’re catering to all of our festivals and more.
Get In To It!
Plan your festival, work out who you want to see, and read the bios of acts you’ve never heard of and check them out, you might find a brand new favourite you would have otherwise missed. Make a note of what non musical things you want to see like arts, workshops, talks and displays so you don’t forget to catch them. A number of the festivals have lantern and New Year parades complete with fancy dress or masquerade themes which you can get right in to the thick of helping create and perform. If you don’t want to be involved, at least make sure you have your camera handy for some amazing photo opportunities.
If you’re taking technological devices like phones and iPhones, why not download relevant information to your phone, or if you’re lucky, there will be an app for that. However, think twice about how you’re going to power and recharge your device – it’s a good idea to take a car charger with you and plan some time recharging. Also keep an eye out for recharge bars seen at many festivals which allow you to plug in to solar power and recharge your devices. However, you’ll need to stick around and wait for your device to charge as the people running it sure aren’t going to babysit your phone for you.
If you’ve got some time free, or you’re not really feeling the festival experience, try volunteering. All of these festivals rely on volunteers to make the magic happen and being involved in helping the festival run can be really rewarding. All of the volunteering programs have closed except for Woodford, however no matter which festival you’re at, if you’re bored, find the volunteer tent/ center and ask about volunteering. If you do enough hours, you might even get your ticket price refunded – but you will definitely have a unique experience of the festival.
Tickets are still available to all of these festivals, except the Lorne edition of The Falls Festival, however if you feel like crossing the ditch to Tassie, you can still get tickets to The Falls Festival at Marion Bay. Why not treat yourself to an early Christmas present and grab yourself a ticket if you haven’t already!
Plan and prepare now, and stay tuned for our next installment of our Guide to Summer Festivals.