Think about your favorite song. Imagine yourself listening to it in the car with your friends. Think about how it makes you feel, and think about all the good times you’ve had listening to that song.
Now picture yourself watching that song being performed. It’s not just about you anymore; you’re watching the artist perform and you find yourself thinking about the artist. What do they feel when they perform it? How many memories does this song represent for them?
And then you turn around, slowly, and you remember that thousands and thousands of other people are listening too. And it’s also their favorite song. And as they close their eyes and lift their hands in time with the beat, you can feel their energy permeate throughout the crowd, swelling from person to person. One energy, one beat.
This is the feeling that draws thousands of people to festivals all year long.
Why is our generation so drawn to music festivals?
Interconnectedness: In this day and age, we are constantly connected to other people. Social media and the Internet make it possible to never really be alone. Ever. We crave an even stronger feeling of connection, one that brings everything we love (live music, food, art, good friends, new people) all to one place.
Discovery: The attention span of a Millennial kid is short; we constantly want to discover new places, people, experiences, and of course, music. Festivals offer all of this.
Escape: Festivals become their own little world: each one with its own vibe and unique community. Entering is like taking a giant step out of the reality of life and stepping into a surreal, abnormally happy, and serendipitous place.
Music can reach in and touch our emotions like very few things in the world can. And perhaps the most powerful thing about music festivals is that these songs are no longer just reaching us individually, but in thousands. No matter where we come from or who we are, we all share something indescribable during those magic, elated moments of our favorite songs being played.
This past weekend at Outside Lands Music Festival, Sam Smith's introduction to his song “Not In That Way” captured this idea:
I fell in love with a guy three years ago who completely broke my heart, and it was the one of the hardest things I’ve had to go through... but now I can’t relate to these songs as much as I did at the beginning. So now these songs are no longer my songs; they’re your songs.
The music doesn’t just belong to the artist, it belongs to every person who has ever connected to it. We are brought together by what these songs represent, whether that emotion is one we have moved on from or something we feel right now.
In the end, there is no real way to pinpoint exactly what draws so many people to a festival. It is simply a feeling. To really find the answer, you need to find yourself up on someone’s shoulders, looking out at a crowd of people from around the world, all feeling some emotion, all brought about by one song. You’ll look around at the crowd below you... and you’ll feel their love, their heartbreak, every sentiment of the song emanating through you.
Then, you’ll know.