What Music Festivals Mean To Us

What Music Festivals Mean To Us

Music Festivals all across the country have been canceled for Spring 2020 and continue to be canceled into the summer and fall. The pandemic has hit most everyone in the country hard and we are all doing our best to find our own coping mechanism.

Glorious memories of Lockn' Festivals gone by!
Glorious memories of Lockn' Festivals gone by!

This made me reflect on what it means as a fan of festivals, to miss something so important to so many of us. Festival life is like another world, another reality. You dress how you like, hug your friends as you come across them all day, and share in the sonic emotion created by your favorite music together. All in a sleep-deprived haze.

The festival experience begins to build far in advance, as you pour over the lineup, making decisions about what you will see, what you might have to miss. You think about the people you will get to see, some you only see at that fest.

Festival Shenanigans
Festival Shenanigans

The first day at a festival can be overwhelming; it is where expectations meet reality. You see so many friends; relive the past moments that brought you together. Then there’s the business ahead. Will there be some magical one-time-only moment? The time Trey Anastasio sat in with the Tedeschi Trucks Band when Dead and Company. sat in with the New Orleans royalty, The Foundations of Funk. What band will you see for the first time that will fall into your regular rotation? How about that moment you dreamt about when JJ Grey plays "Lochloosa" and you float above the ground? Or when a favorite band busts out a cover of a classic song, Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds playing Led Zeppelin’s "Kashmir", Les Claypool playing Pink Floyd’s "Pigs" (Three Different Ones).

2019 French Quarter Fest

2019 French Quarter Fest

2019 French Quarter Fest

2019 French Quarter Fest

Each festival has it’s own community, its own vibe. Urban festivals often have spectacular backdrops like French Quarter Fest in New Orleans or Sweetwater 420 Fest in Atlanta or Lollapalooza in Chicago, and the chance to go to classic restaurants. Camping festivals are often in a spectacular bit of nature like Floyd Fest or Lockn in Virginia. But in any case, the vibe is made by the people and the music, the friends you came with and the friends you made. The moments you got to experience together.

2019 French Quarter Fest
2019 French Quarter Fest

Perhaps you can comfort yourself by perusing Youtube for fan and pro shot videos of past festivals, or go to old reviews in magazines or check out your favorite photographer’s photos sets. But make sure you reach out to your friends by social media or phone or email. Make contact with those you love and miss and do some reminiscing, grab some of that feeling again.

During this time, please spare a thought for all the people that work the festivals, that base a significant part of their income around them. We think not only of the artists on the stage but also of the production crews, the lighting crews, sound crews, artist hospitality workers, security, electricians, cleanup crews, food service, craft vendors, drivers, photographers, videographers, and on and on and on. Please support them where you can.

We will be back together - eventually. The world will likely look a little different and operate a little different. This is a humbling experience for all of us. Keep the faith - we will hug and dance and celebrate again.

What Music Festivals Mean To Us
What Music Festivals Mean To Us


Previous Festival Coverage

Previous Festival Coverage

Previous Festival Coverage


About the author
Bob Adamek

Bob Adamek

Bob Adamek is a full-time photographer working for Harrisonburg City Public Schools and the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts at James Madison University. He has been writing about and shooting music since 2006 and spends his summers covering music festivals and concerts from New Orleans to New Jersey. Bob also played bass in bands for 30 years and attended the Manhattan School of Music in the mid 1980’s.