As we arrived to Sleepy Creek SpringDig, our first festival of the season, we were greeted by many friendly faces, including Kev, the front gate staff extraordinaire, who said “Oh hey, it’s Mr. and Mrs. Festival!” I had to laugh, but it made me kind of proud. I was called “Mrs. Festival” by two other people that weekend, which was too much to ignore! Is this my new title? Can I put it on a trophy?
There were a couple of years that we only attended one festival a year, because we both had stable, full-time salary jobs. There wasn’t much worrying about money at this time in our lives, and it was easy to pay the bills, but I found myself often staring out the window, thinking about the open fields of a music festival, and felt my heart breaking more and more every day. When my job finally “let me go,” I was relieved. It actually happened to be the day of the very first Mad Tea Party Jam, which I took as a sign. Then the real work began. Following your dreams is hard work, I have to be honest with you.
For the past 5 years we have been traveling to up to 3 shows a week, and up to 16 festivals in a year. We pay for all travel expenses, food, etc. I’ve had to try to work while on the road, balancing my laptop on my knees at the festival’s front gate, my camp chair sinking desperately in the mud while confused ticket buyers ask me questions. I’ve run up and down festival paths trying to get phone signal, because team members who are at a different festival are having trouble getting in the gate. Last year at Resonance, I timidly had to knock on the door of DSO’s tour manager to ask him for the wi-fi password.
Jobs working “remotely” that allow you to travel can seem like a dream in theory, but once you have tried frantically to upload a file in a stifling barn in the middle of a hot day while everyone parties around you, you realize how difficult it can truly be.
Besides working on the magazine while at a festival, there’s also working FOR the festival. Working a festival takes a very special type of person, which I’ve said before. You have to be able to make quick decisions on your own, take incentive, keep calm under pressure, and stay awake for long and unreasonable hours. Many of the jobs I worked at festivals, I worked for free, because I enjoy the personal responsibility and direction I have in building a festival’s vision. More than having a magazine and a festival, I feel my most valuable contribution is the role I have in directing our festival culture and fostering the community. This is absolutely a hands-on job.
Throughout these years of constant traveling and working, the people I see and work with at festivals have become my family. I love seeing familiar faces at the gate, popping in to give hugs at the production office, snapping on that radio and hitting the lawn like a battlefield. The sound of golf carts whizzing by is like a soothing lullaby, the whirr of a generator and the glow of a distant stadium light will always appear in my lucid dreams. And I will unapologetically continue to lose my voice because I refuse to miss the chance at sharing conversations with so many friends that I don’t get to see anywhere else.
I could get a regular job, I could run away out West, I could be doing so many other things that promise stability and normalcy, but I refuse. This weekend I will be traveling to Virginia Beach to work at VA Beach Funk Out, then wake up at 5AM to make the drive 4 hours back home to be a bridesmaid in my sister’s wedding, then afterwards drive 4 hour back down to VA beach. I missed my sister’s Bridal Shower, and the Rehearsal dinner, but couldn’t bring myself to miss the wedding (my family wasn’t going to let me off the hook anyway). Something I’m realizing through this, though, is I do not live anything resembling a normal life, where my calendar fills with weddings and family functions and mowing the lawn on Saturdays. Instead I have to stuff this normal family life into the nooks and crannies between the musical madness that is my life. But I’m okay with that, I’m not ready to settle. I’m going to keep ripping and tearing that road down on the way to my dreams, trudging through the festival mud in my boots, doing far too many things at once, and gathering more under eye circles with each sleepless night.
If we are “Mr. and Mrs.Festival,” that’s the highest honor I can think of, because Taco and I hold our own festival that we try to sculpt in our vision of what the perfect festival could be. Try as we might, we can’t complete the vision without our festival family, you, the ticket buyers, friends, and staff. Even if you can’t leave everything behind to follow your dreams, come to a festival near you and be a part of the collective dream. Bring your flashlight, your good shoes, and as much love as you can muster… because as Taco says, love is an action word. Let’s get busy.