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.
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.