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Here’s What I Wish I Knew Before Attending My First Music Festival

Let’s go ahead and cross that off my bucket list.

Elite Daily; Rachel Chapman

When I moved to Los Angeles, I was told that attending a music festival like Coachella was a canon event. Similar to getting stuck in traffic on the 101 and running into a celebrity while shopping at an Erewhon, it was fate that I should attend a three-day festival at some point. It may have taken me almost eight years (hey, I’m a cold-weather-loving, cozy introvert), but it finally happened. In April, I attended my first-ever music festival — Stagecoach.

Beyoncé declared 2024 the year of country music and cowboy boots, and whatever Queen Bey says, I do. So when my best friend and I got the invite from Marriott Bonvoy Moments to attend the three-day country music festival in Indio, California, I had to say yes.

As much as I’ve heard about music festivals from friends over the years, there were still a ton of things no one mentioned.

As much as I’ve heard about music festivals from friends over the years, there were still a ton of things no one mentioned that transformed me from a hater to a certified lover. With so many summer music festivals to choose from this year, this may be your moment to finally click “purchase” on some tickets.

To help you decide, here’s everything I learned about music festivals as a first-time attendee that I wish I knew ahead of time.

Rachel Chapman

Where You Stay Can Make Or Break Your Experience

I lucked out at Stagecoach, because my friend and I were staying at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa. The resort was super close to the festival grounds and had a shuttle that took us there and back each day. Being close meant that it didn’t take too long to get to Stagecoach when we wanted our day to start, and we could have a speedy return at night when we were tired and just wanted to jump in bed.

Rachel Chapman

The resort also had plenty of restaurants, so we weren’t always eating expensive festival food. Plus, they had a spa I took advantage of on the last day for a much-needed foot and back massage. (Despite wearing comfortable shoes, a tip I picked up from experienced festival-goers, my feet were still pretty sore.)

Being able to stay at a nice resort changed the entire Stagecoach experience for me, and it’s worth the splurge on your accommodations if you can swing it. If you’d prefer to save money, I suggest finding an Airbnb that’s close to the venue. If amenities are important to you (think: all the toiletries you forgot to pack at your disposal), consider a nearby budget-friendly hotel.

Don’t Feel Pressured To See It All

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As a Capricorn rising, I obviously made a game plan with the sets I wanted to see and where I wanted to go so we weren’t lost when we got to the festival grounds. You should definitely make a schedule, but it’s important to be flexible and not be married to every activity on it.

You most likely won’t be able to see every artist on your list. Even if you try, you’ll get too tired going from stage to stage and potentially burn yourself out.

I made a priority list with at least two artists I wanted to see each day, and everything else was just a cherry on top. Doing this, I ended up getting lucky with surprises. For example, I wanted to see The Beach Boys for nostalgia, but their set overlapped with another artist I wanted to see, Hardy. Luckily, he showed up at Nickelback’s set the night before, so I already got to see the song I missed by being late.

Be Open To Unexpected Moments

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It’s the things you don’t plan for that end up being what everyone talks about the next day. My favorite surprise moments included Good Charlotte coming out during Wiz Khalifa’s set and Jelly Roll bringing out T-Pain.

Another moment my friend and I didn’t prep for was when we walked into the Bud Light Backyard stage right as The War and Treaty were starting, and they ended up being one of my favorite artists of the weekend.

Festivals are a great way to discover new music, and even gain those once-in-a-lifetime ‘I was there’ stories.

Festivals are a great way to discover new music, and even gain those once-in-a-lifetime “I was there” stories. At the same time, don’t expect all your dream surprises to happen. Case in point: I believed all the rumors on social that Beyoncé was going to make a surprise appearance at Stagecoach, so it only hurt more when she didn’t show up during Post Malone’s set.

Test Run Your Outfit Before The Festival

Rachel Chapman

Just putting on your outfit to see if it looks good isn’t enough. You need to walk around and wear it to really get a feel for whether it’s worthy of bringing. Yes, you want to look cute, especially for all the ‘fit pics and candids, but you truly are out in the sun for hours and walking around.

Make sure what you plan on wearing won’t ruin your whole experience. If you need to, take pics at your hotel or Airbnb for IG and then change into something comfier for the festival. I brought cowboy boots, but only wore them around the resort, and donned my sneakers at Stagecoach instead.

You Don’t Have To Be There All Day

Rachel Chapman

I know you may want to make the most of those tickets you bought, but don’t feel pressured to get there right as the gates open. If your fave artists aren’t playing until later in the day, use the morning to rest, eat a decently-priced meal, and take it easy.

Make Sure It’s The Right Festival For You

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As much as I enjoyed getting to scratch off “go to a music festival” from my bucket list, I wish I had chosen one that was more my style. I grew up in the South, so I’ll always have a little country in me, but I gravitate more toward the lineups of Coachella or Lollapalooza.

The crowd changes depending on the fest you go to as well. At the end of the day, I wasn’t as much of a Stagecoach girly as some superfans there, so the vibe wasn’t ideal. But now that I’ve dived in and tried my first festival, I’d be down for another one that better matches my musical taste.

The key is to find a festival with at least two to three of your favorite artists playing, and a good selection of musicians you listen to regularly. If you’re excited about the lineup, you’ll be way more likely to enjoy the experience as a first-timer.

You never know — you might just end up at one where Beyoncé does make a surprise appearance, and that’ll be your go-to fun fact for the rest of your life.