Festivals aren't all glamor and fun. Whether you're a proud patron of Coachella, Lollapalooza, Fyre Festival (too soon?), or any other music and arts extravaganza, you know that a lot of money, time and effort goes into the #BestTimeofYourLife.
But remove the (literal and figurative) rose-colored glasses, and you'll uncover the real blood, sweat and tears that go into the festival experience. And we all know someone who ends up in tears...
Like the recent LA vs NYC piece (go back and read it if you haven't) I asked people from around the country to share real experiences of the thorns behind the flower crowns.
The identities of these festie-besties will remain anonymous - because we all have jobs, duh - but the tales of triumph and defeat actually took place. Enjoy.
1. “I broke my front tooth at EDC."
I went with my sister and younger brother to the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas a few years ago. They say that families that rave together, stay together… which played out when I accidentally bit a Camelbak too hard, popped off my front veneer, dropped it in the dust, and forced a group of strangers to take out their cellphones and “find the damn tooth!" Meeting new people was hard after that, especially when they were met with the smiling face of a snaggle-toothed carnivore adorned with glitter and sweat. The next day, I thoroughly cleaned the veneer and stuck it back in my mouth to find a surprisingly seamless fit. It was so seamless in fact that I forgot it was there when I went to brush my teeth… and watched my $1000 veneer fall down the sink at the Wynn. My favorite part of the whole story is opening the hotel door for the handyman and kindly explaining that there was, “Something of mine he needed to retrieve… now."
2. “I accidentally insulted my friend's girlfriend at Electric Forest."
You half-expect people to be on drugs at festivals, and sometimes you just can't tell. But after meeting my friend's girlfriend and hanging out for a few hours, I realized she'd definitely gone cross-eyed and needed help. “Those are just my eyes," she said. I was mortified.
"They say that families that rave together, stay together… which played out when I accidentally bit a Camelbak too hard, popped off my front veneer." Photo Courtesy of Indigo East
3. “I lost everything I owned at Coachella."
My sister and I share a purse at festivals -- it's just easier to carry things that way. That year, we thought it'd be “smart" to bring our passports as a second form of ID (should we somehow lose our licenses), and carried them inside the purse with both of our car and house keys, all of our credit cards, a thousand dollars in cash, new iPhones, and all the swag we'd picked up at the brand parties. And then -- just as you probably guessed -- we lost the purse. The consequences were dire: it ruined the rest of the festival (it was the last day at least), and we had to have our car towed to the nearest dealership. Since we'd lost all our cards and ID's, we had no form of payment (or proof of identity to get new cards at the bank) so I had to go around the party house Venmo-ing people I'd just met for cash to pay for it and the $250 new car key.
Luckily, one of us still had our phones. We kept calling the iPhone that was left in the purse until, at the dealership, an angel answered it. We ubered to his house 20 minutes away, cried our eyes out, and paid him for being so honest.
4. “I checked myself into the Medical Tent at Outside Lands."
The line-up at Outside Lands in 2015 was amazing -- even Elton John performed! Too bad I missed it. Apparently, after just one show, I'd taken the liberty of running away from my friend group, hanging out with complete strangers, took a nap in a field, and suddenly woke up to run away… leaving my phone in the grass. I have a few memories, one of them including yelling the word “bed" to a paramedic. When I came to, I realized I'd checked myself into the Medic Tent claiming it was nap time, and proceeded to sleep through the entire festival. The next day my coworker asked how Elton John was. I had no comment.
"You get invited to a lot of celebrity after parties at Coachella — but they don't always turn out to be as great as you'd expect." Photo Courtesy of blog.zalora.com
5. “I missed Drake's Coachella after party… and was shamed by my Uber driver."
You get invited to a lot of celebrity after parties at Coachella -- but they don't always turn out to be as great as you'd expect. After Neon Carnival one year (at like 4 am) we got invited to Drake's mansion. My friends and I were tired and didn't want to risk driving 20 minutes at surge prices to get to a party that might get shut down by the time we arrived. Plus, we were stuck in crazy traffic getting out of the event parking lot. Our Uber driver overheard us and asked for the party address. We told him we'd give it to him if he drove his brand new Mercedes over the concrete median, thus cutting the traffic line. He agreed, we gave him the address, and we went home.
An hour later, we get a text from him laughing, saying how incredible the party was and how bad we fucked up. It was the greatest night of his life… and the worst of mine.
6. “I accidentally became a peeping Tom at Reggae by the River."
I was sitting on a rock in the middle of the river, only realizing later on that the other people in the river weren't dancing but… you know. In retrospect, that would account for the angry looks they were giving me. But I honestly thought it was some discriminatory thing so with my “warrior mentality" I decided I wasn't moving. It's not every day you're involved in an orgy without realizing. One less thing on the bucket list.
7. “They locked me inside of Coachella and I had to climb a fence to escape."
I decided to volunteer one year with an organization in exchange for free tickets to Coachella. Sounds like a fair trade, right? Wrong. Crazy shifts and hard labor under the scorching desert sun weren't exactly “a walk in the Polo fields," and the comfort level of the volunteers was not prioritized. But the worst moment came the day after Coachella ended, when we had to tear down the booths and art installations. After working for hours in the blistering heat, the organizers finally released us… waving goodbye as they drove away in golf carts toward the staff camping/parking area (which was about a 30 min walk away). When we finally crossed the fields, we found the exits fenced and locked, leaving us with literally no way to get out. We tried calling for help, but the area was an empty wasteland of techno dreams. We had to the climb the goddamn fence to escape. Lesson learned: I now buy my Coachella tickets like a normal person.
"I almost died because I burst my appendix the day before Coachella, but a healthy dose of inebriation powered me through the festival." Photo Courtesy of REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
8. Security caught me with a fake “catheter" of wine.
I tried to sneak a full 3L bag of white wine into a festival… inside my pants. I almost got through security, but at the last second I got stopped and asked to lift my shirt up. The massive bag of yellow-ish fluid was poking out of the top of my pants. Thinking on my toes, I told the security guard it was my catheter bag. She gave me a puzzled look, and it became evident she had no idea what a catheter was... so she shouts across the crowded security line to her manager, "Can you come take a look at this gentleman's catheter?!" Hilarity ensued.
9. “I got appendicitis at Coachella."
I almost died because I burst my appendix the day before Coachella, but a healthy dose of inebriation powered me through the festival. I didn't know it was appendicitis until much later afterward.
10. “I stumbled upon something in the dark at Burning Man…"
I'd arrived late at night and took a quick walk on the dusty playa, taking note of several of the art installations. A small kinetic piece caught my attention, but it was too dark to see. I walked right up to it for a better look, squinted my eyes to try and force them to adjust, and finally gave up. When I turned on my headlamp, the bright LED revealed the installation to be a human couple. “Welcome to burning man," they said.
11. “I lost my wallet (and mind) at Wakarusa."
I woke up on day two of the festival to realize that my wallet was missing. Remembering exactly where I must've left it (near a stage while making a potentially shady business deal with an unknown wook...) I rushed back to find it gone. Some festival security took me to lost and found, but it hadn't been turned in. Completely defeated (and no longer in any state to search for a small brown wallet at a muddy festival) I spent most of the day anxiously dreading the logistics of getting home without my ID or any money. At sunset, I randomly asked another security guard, who got on his radio and said, “I'll send this happy camper your way." I have never been so ecstatic in my life. Turns out the lost and found was in a completely different spot than what the first security guard told me. It had been there all day and I would've had such a great day if that asshat sent me to the correct tent in the first place. But the polarization of my emotions made the rest of the night more incredible than it could've ever been otherwise.
12. “I was handcuffed to a stranger for 8 hours at Further Future."
I met a group of friends (many of whom were firefighters) and made one of them my festie-bestie. We were so attached at the hip that his friends thought it would be funny to attach us at the wrist… AKA handcuff us together. I spent the next 8 hours walking around the Nevada desert getting to know that human very well. At one point, I figured out I could contort my hand out of the handcuff, but kept it on because I was actually having fun. Though the desert heat made the metal burn.
Victoria's Secret is best known for what it has to offer women. However, a few days ago as I was strolling around the flagship store on Bond Street, I discovered that the store also has a lot to offer men as well. Just not exactly what you'd think.
My experience began like many other shopping excursions, casually browsing for a few practical items. The store was bustling with women who were relaxed but focused on their own purchases. The women in the store all displayed a quiet confidence in knowing what to do and how to do it. My browsing journey took me into another room where I noticed a man behaving quite awkwardly while being guided around by one of the many well-trained twenty-something shop assistants. My first thought was: "Good for him coming in here alone! I imagine it isn't the most comfortable experience for a man." It was clear he felt out of place. His discomfort was obvious by the way he was shuffling around and avoiding eye contact with any women nearby.
This otherwise unremarkable experience sent a spark through my mind. This man was professional and smartly dressed; perhaps he could have worked for one of the many private equity, hedge fund or banking firms in the nearby area. I imagined that he was confident in his own world of work, but in this female haven he was not. He was the only man in the room, and it showed.
This world - that of Victoria's Secret - was not created to make someone like him feel comfortable. In this environment—a store catering to women, filled by women and selling feminine merchandise—the familiar patriarchal dynamics of the world had completely shifted.
This was a world that can transform an otherwise confident professional into an introverted, self-conscious and indecisive man who needed the help of a twenty-something female to make one simple purchase.
I have seen this story play out with the gender roles reversed many times throughout my career in the corporate world. Today, the culture of many companies are built and sustained by men, for men. Traditional male characteristics are still encouraged, rewarded and expected from female professionals, especially if they expect to reach the executive suite. Being the only woman in the room is still an everyday reality for so many women in business; most men do not understand how corrosive this situation can be to a person's confidence.
I have often heard men say that they believe gender inequality is not an issue in their firm. They hire women and now even have some women on their teams. Well, on those terms this man should not have experienced any issue either. There is no sign at the door of Victoria's Secret barring men from entry. Men are allowed to freely enter and buy whatever they choose. No woman in there would tell them to leave or suggest that to get to the front of the queue they must behave in a certain way. So, what was the problem? Why did this man appear so uncomfortable? Why did he suddenly lack the confidence he seemed to have in the outside world?
It's all in the numbers. If that store catered towards the needs of men, or if there were simply more men in the store (either equivalent to or greater than the number of women), then it is likely that man would have felt a greater sense of belonging.
Just because women are allowed into the workplace now, does not mean their experiences are equivalent to those of their male peers. Women, as the minority, simply do not have the same sense of freedom to be their true authentic selves in many corporate environments, even today.
Just like that Victoria's Secret shop assistant guiding the lone man through an ostensibly unwelcoming environment, so, too, do women benefit from the guidance of sponsors, helping them navigate the male dominated corporate world.
Before a man talks about gender parity, perhaps he first needs to take a trip to a lingerie store and experience what it is like to be the only one in the room. Maybe if more men had experiences like this, they may begin to understand what it is to feel so out of place. Maybe they would join us in creating greater gender equality in the workplace.