The music festival. Typically lasting three days in the middle of nowhere. Thousands upon thousands of people converging in the dust and sun to celebrate their favorite artists. Girls in the shortest denim shorts you've ever seen. Guys double-fisting cinnamon whiskey and cheap watered-down beer. The music festival is something we either love or hate...and this weekend I set out to find which category I truly fell into.
I've attended over a handful of music festivals ranging from EDM to country. This weekend was the annual gathering of all things cowboy boots and southern twang - Watershed Festival. This was my third year at this particular festival. My first year was spectacular, my second was horrible. Both years I went wasted, cracking open that first beer while still in line for the campground.
This year I went sans alcohol. I wanted to know if I truly loved WATERSHED, or if I only loved the party.
This is what I learned.
MUSIC CAN TRULY MOVE YOU
There is definitely a difference between a drunk cry and a sober cry. When you are sober, you feel the music differently. You recognize the artist's emotions, you see it buzzing through them like an electric current. You feel what they felt when they wrote the song. And when it hits you right in the heart, you get that crazy lump in the deepest part of your throat and suddenly, without warning, the tears are falling down your sunburned cheeks. I never noticed those things drunk. I never FELT the music the way I did this weekend. And that truly changed the way I looked at the artists - I fell in love with the SINGERS. I fell out of love with the PERFORMERS.
WITH THE MONEY I SAVED I CAN AFFORD NEXT YEAR'S TICKET
We spent a total of $24 in the venue over the course of three days. Four waters at six bucks each. One beer would have cost us about $15. I was able to buy a Watershed hoodie and not feel guilty about it. We ventured back to camp for dinner rather than drunkenly splurging on french fries and greasy burritos inside the venue. We cooked healthy meals instead to fuel us for the dancing and sweating in the 100 degree heat. I remember bringing $200 cash last year and being broke by day two. This year I didn't even pull out cash and not once did I contemplate using an ATM.
YOU WAKE UP WITH ZERO REGRETS
"I did WHAT?"
"Oh my God, did I really say that?"
"Please tell me I didn't really get in a shoving match with that girl."
"I can't make it to the show tonight, I feel like crap."
Not once were these statements uttered from my lips. I knew exactly what I was doing. My patience level exceeded what it ever has (and it has to in order for you to deal with such a huge crowd). I got pushed and stepped on and rather than elbowing back or starting a fight, I moved. I made the conscious effort to think about how to best handle the frustrating situations and made the smart decision.
I woke up each morning feeling like a champ. Which resulted in full days of adventure all weekend. We woke up and relaxed with our coffee, reminisced about the night before then took our time to pack up for a day at the lake before coming back and getting ready for another night of amazing music. We planned out who we wanted to see and where we wanted to see them from. We were easy on our bodies, taking breaks in the grass when needed and going hard in the pit for those we really wanted to see.
There was zero drama. We communicated with each other. We truly enjoyed each other's company.
YOU HAVE TO HAVE A SUPPORT SYSTEM
Could I have done this alone? Probably not.
I went to Watershed with a girl I met my inaugural year. She's been my rock every year now. And this year she went alcohol-free as well. She kept me grounded. Reminded me when I needed to take a deep breath to avoid murdering the drunk people who found my last string of patience. She was goofy with me and wasn't afraid of what everyone else thought. She let me be 100% me. Awkward. Silly. Childish. And a little bit Irish when it came to my temper. But around her that temper rarely flared. She made the experience everything I could have ever hoped for, no judgement.
THERE ARE DIFFERENT TYPES OF DRUNK PEOPLE
When you are sober you REALLY notice when people are drunk. And as long as you keep your patience in check, you can honestly TRULY ENJOY their company. After all, they are just having fun too.
TYPE ONE: The WOOHOO!
There was a guy across from our camp who fell in this category. He'd sit by himself in his lawn chair and every once and awhile you'd hear it, "WOOHOO!" No particular reason. He was just excited and happy. And he wanted the world to know it.
TYPE TWO: The Glazed Donut
He walks past you not realizing that your gaze is on the stage, not him. And he stares deeply into your eyes like a starved office worker would stare at a donut on a Monday morning. But he's not really looking at you. His eyes are completely glazed over and he won't remember you tomorrow. But for that moment he has made a connection with the girl of his dreams.
TYPE THREE: The Fighter
This is the only category I didn't have patience for sober. That whisky makes them angry and oddly enough they are FEMALE 95% of the time.
You high-fived my boyfriend? I'm gonna threaten your life.
You brushed your butt against my man when you walked by? I'm gonna push you.
You looked at me and smiled? You must be up to no good. So I'm gonna glare back.
Oh ladies, calm your hormones. Enjoy the music. Enjoy your company. Nobody is out to get you. We are all here for the same reason and there's no reason for you to hate yourself tomorrow because your drunk mind fed you a bunch of BS.
YOU CAN HAVE FUN SOBER
Who says sober is no fun? We played flip-cup (seltzer water is WAY harder to guzzle than beer) and beer pong (we got stand-ins to drink for us). We dressed up in silly costumes and decorated our camp like the funnest trailer park imaginable. We passed out free alcohol to our camping neighbors. We rode the rides (holy cow what a difference it is when you aren't drunk). We danced at the late night stage and covered ourselves in glow sticks. We floated on unicorn and guitar inflatables at the river. We rubbed our bodies with black "healing" mud. We chugged energy drinks out of red solo cups each night before we went into the venue.
We. Had. FUN.
YOU'RE GONNA REMEMBER IT ALL
Most important lesson learned. I remember every set. How every artist made me feel. I learned the words to songs I didn't know. I remember what the artist looked like. How the sweat felt on my brow from the sun and not from the hangover. How my feet hurt. How the goosebumps felt when a song touched my soul. How the energy from a crowd can change a moment. How it felt to TRULY have the BEST WEEKEND IMAGINABLE.
I'm going to remember IT ALL.
"Would You Do It Again?"
Over. And over. And over again.
I went to a music festival sober. And I lived to tell about it.
I proved something to myself this weekend I haven't been able to prove since I stopped drinking. That I am capable of LIVING, truly LIVING my best life without a drink in my hand. I'm proud of myself, of my amazing friend. We did something very few people have done.
I told her we are unicorns.
And what an amazing feeling it is to be magical.