Fear Of Missing Out: I Hate Music Festivals

Festival season spells FOMO for most of us, but missing the festivals doesn’t have to be all bad.

Gabrielle Ross

April 30, 2014 | Festival | May 2014


There are a lot of great How To guides for surviving music festivals. There’s even one of them in this issue! But let me give you the only advice you’ll need: just don’t go.

I hate to be the sour grape in the room, but when the editors announced the Festival Issue, my only thought was that I couldn’t contribute anything. I hate music festivals for many reasons. I’m prone to migraines, and I almost always develop one that lasts for days following a festival stint. The weather always seems  extreme–either the sun is way too hot and pounds on my fragile head, or it’s pouring rain and I’m a human puddle, straggling home past bedtime. I’ve also witnessed my share of alcohol/drug overdoses, panic attacks, faintings and injuries at festivals.

Admittedly, I’m only scratching the surface of why I hate music festivals. I’ll own up to my pettiness: the fact is, most of my friends can actually afford to attend the hippest music festivals. I’m a grad student! I can’t afford a trip to Tennessee, camping fees AND a festival pass. I’m going on a trip to Louisiana and Texas at the end of the month, and I had to save up for FOUR YEARS to be able to afford it. It’s worth mentioning the target demographic of large-scale music festivals: privileged young adults who may work hard for their trip expenses, but who can still rely on parental support for rent, bills, groceries, etc. Yes, this is a gross generalization, and some people who prioritize attending music festivals may budget their life accordingly. However, it’s also worth discussing the “festival culture” that derives from people that attend music festivals. Reality Sandwich wrote a great piece on the issue of Festival Culture and Indigenous Peoples. In their words, it’s important to remember that:

“The very same social hierarchies, power structures, gendered, racist and classist inequalities that underpin our society are often reproduced at these events. These behavioural patterns fuel long-standing exclusions, undercut alliance building, and severely hinder overall efforts for lasting change.”

(The article goes on to list steps to counteract these effects; I highly recommend the read!)

So, it’s important to acknowledge that this kind of privilege goes hand in hand with cultural appropriation. But that still doesn’t soothe the jealousy I feel from not being able to attend music festivals. That feeling of anxiety, followed by ickiness, followed by a something akin to acid reflux in the lung area. This, my friends, is called the Fear of Missing Out. That FOMO strikes at my core most as I peruse instagram during festival season. All the suntanned faces, crop tops and sunglasses are enough to make me stay in bed for a week, extra large sweatshirt intact. Numerous articles have been written on the subject; even scientific ones. But I’m relating the experience of FOMO directly to music festivals as a particularly unnerving experience, because music is such a visceral part of so many lives. We want to be the ones seeing St. Vincent live. We want to be the ones eating festival food while waiting for the next big name to enter and blow everyone’s minds. We want these collective experiences because they’re special, exclusive and emotional in their content. Though Festival Culture is problematic, there is an undeniable allure to it; living a shared experience through rose-colored glasses sounds lovely, right? It’s that much more devastating, then, to realize that you’re missing out on summer music festivals, week after week after week.

What can one do in that situation? Are we doomed to feel this terrible emotion on loop all summer? Do not despair, for I have prepared a handy dandy to-do list for when Festival FOMO strikes.

1. Get online, and check your local events websites.

There is almost certainly a free or, at the very least cheap, event happening near you at any given moment this Summer. Who knows, you could catch the next big name at your local coffee shop BEFORE they attend Coachella! (For Ottawa readers, Couch Assassin and Apartment613 are really good ones.)

2. Take a social media break.

Whether we admit it or not, the FOMO you’re feeling was brought on by seeing your best friend waving her hands in the air on Twitter. Don’t over-expose yourself to the trigger when it happens; go outside. Pick up a book. Call an equally broke friend. It’s Summer; chances are a beer on a patio will perk you right up.

3. Start saving money.

Is your FOMO so bad that you don’t think you can live through another season? Then it’s your chance to start planning. You have 12 months! Draft an action plan or a budget to start putting some money away. You’ll feel productive, and you’ll be able to daydream about your own fabulous future music festival adventure.

4. Create your own memories.

Isn’t that what FOMO is all about? The fact that others are creating memories that you can’t share? One way to counteract this is to create lasting memories of your own. Plan a short roadtrip. Have a themed dinner party. Attend a rally in your city. Discover your town’s hidden treasures!

5. Being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely.

Just watch this video. And embrace being alone, when FOMO gets tough and when nobody’s around to hang out.

Illustration by Ilenia Madelaire.

Gabby is an Acadian who’s missing the sea and splitting her time completing her Master of Social Work at UOttawa and watching TV. She also writes for Fantastic Fangirls & Heroine TV and tweets at @gloryisben.

1 Comment

  1. Yes I have a name
    August 25, 2017

    Leave a Reply

    I truly hated the last three festivals I went to, these being
    (1) some ghastly hippie thing in Devon in 2005;
    (2) Glastonbury 2007, torrential rain, hundreds of thousands of hippies.
    (3) Sziget 2011, four days of deafeningly loud music, a female companion who turned out to be a rage-prone speedfreak, far too many hippies.

    Consequently, I have never suffered from FOMO in relation to festival-nonattendance.

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