You may remember my blog post from back in January giving my predictions for some of the artists I thought would be coming out to this year’s Rites of Spring festival. If you do remember that post, you probably have figured out that I bombed all of my predictions except for the big one: I correctly guessed that 2 Chainz would be a Rites 2014 headliner. Today, I write again about our school’s beloved spring music festival, because it starts tomorrow. My fellow staff writer Zach Blumenfeld has given you a great preview of tonight’s unofficial Rites kick-off, the annual Battle of the Bands, by giving an overview of each artist you’ll be hearing. Instead of giving y’all an artist-by-artist breakdown, I’m going to take a step back and give more of an overview on how to get the most out of the Festival based on my own personal experiences the past three years.
1) The Weather Report is a Lie
At the time of writing, Google’s weather widget is telling me that Friday will be mid-60s to mid-70s during the concert with a 20% chance of precipitation, and Saturday will be upper-60s to mid-70s with no precipitation. What does this mean for me? I’m going to dress to be comfortable in those forecasted temperatures and make sure to apply liberal amounts of sunscreen, but I’m also going to make sure I have a jacket that will keep me warm if it’s in the 40s and a poncho that will hold up on the set of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah. Rites weather is notorious for being cold and/or stormy even if the forecast is calling for the most beautiful day you’ve ever imagined. You can take a bag (subject to search) in with you; put some extra water-resistant layers in there.
2) Stay Hydrated
I’m not talking about having plenty of beer with you, or sneaking in a flask. I’m talking water. Stay happily buzzed to whatever degree your heart desires (within the realms of safety for yourself and others), but drink other fluids in addition to keep yourself hydrated. Mid-70s might not sound like it’s that warm, but add in a good bit of humidity and radiating body heat from the rest of the crowd, you can easily find yourself in need of water. Luckily, you don’t have to pay for water (at least initially); each Rites attendee is allowed to bring one factory-sealed water bottle with them into the festival grounds. Take advantage of that policy and pack a bottle in that same bag with your cold/wet weather gear.
3) Don’t Miss the Early Bands
You may not care about them now, but in the future there’s a decent chance that they’ll be someone you’ll be clamoring to see. Rites 2003 had Old Crow Medicine Show as the 10th-billed artist; present day, they’re selling out annual two-night New Year’s events at the Ryman. Similarly, The Avett Brothers were 10th billed in 2008. 2006’s lineup included Zac Brown Band and Kate Voegele in the last five artists listed. Even if they don’t break out, you may discover yourself loving a new band that you hadn’t considered listening to prior (and thus begins the path to living in East Nashville or The Gulch). It is worth it to leave (or start) your pregame early in order to see as many artists as possible. And for those of us that are of age, bringing in a high gravity 6-pack (cans only, festival policy) can replace a pregame entirely.
4) Embrace the Crowd
Don’t be the person that gives death stares to crowd surfers. Don’t be the person that dances like they have all of Alumni Lawn to themselves when they actually have barely any personal space. As much as the people making the music on the stage, a good concert experience is about the crowd. Embrace your fellow Rites attendees and help elevate their ability to have fun, thereby elevating your own ability to do so. Start a giant conga line, be the group that starts clapping along with the drums, sing along to the chorus, fully support crowd surfers so there aren’t injuries, and dance so that everyone else around you can dance too. Meet some new faces, and learn new things about old ones.
This point is especially big with EDM mogul Steve Aoki headlining Friday night. EDM music is much more about encouraging a great crowd experience with each other than with all eyes focused on the person on stage weaving the beats. Be the crowd member that you want the crowd to be.
5) Study up on the music
I’m not telling you to listen to entire artist discographies over the next day. But for each artist, know a few songs, especially their more popular ones that they may try to get the crowd involved in. While I have had my share of enjoyable concert experiences when hearing a band for the first time live, I have the best experiences being able to juxtapose their live performance with their studio recordings. You can hear what songs are average on the record but outstanding live, and see if great studio songs translate to the live setting or if they fall short. To help you get educated, below is my Spotify playlist that I’ve used to get myself ready for Rites 14.