Music Festivals: More than just ‘sex, drugs, and rock and roll’

Mario Miotti

Summer music festivals of any description: transformational, mainstream, camping or non camping, electronic or mixed genre, all offer the chance to hear live music, hang out with friends, and enjoy a variety of added entertainment. Festivals draw thousands of people from across the country and the world for multiday events featuring dozens of musical concerts, silent discos, artist performances, varieties of art, merchant squares, interactive activities, and even yoga and spiritual workshops. From festival to festival, the food choices will differ, with some offering mostly junk food, to others offering fully organic and natural food vendors. All told, there is an amazing variety of vision and purpose to festivals; some created to make money, and some created to help you actually become a happier person.

Whatever festival you choose to attend, it will likely depend on what features listed above you most care to be exposed to. It could very well be that you have no idea what to expect, that this will be your first time, and that the reason for  going is to see your favorite artist. Or perhaps your best friend needs a companion, so you just buy a ticket and take the ride.

Whatever gets you inside the gates however, will open you up to a world of entertainment and choice-making that you may not ordinarily find in your everyday life, whether in the city or the country. The music festival environment may encourage you to act in ways that you might not otherwise act: both in the positive and the negative. Your attitude, your comfort level, the people you are surrounded by, will all influence your experiences and choices. Getting carried away and saying ‘yes’ can lead to spontaneous and happy outcomes, and generally, this will be the case. Yet decisions may also lead to regret and leave you with a desire to have done things differently. All of this will matter, as you begin to hone your personal balance on how to enjoy a music festival.

A poll run by MSN UK ‘Summer Music Festivals: More About Partying Than Music?‘ asked 2000 British summer music festival goers about why they attended festivals and their behavior whilst there:

• 47% confessed to doing something at a music festival that they would “never consider doing outside the music festival environment”

• 21% reported using illegal drugs while at the festival

• 10% reported they’d slept with someone they met onsite

• And only 45% said they attended the festivals specifically to listen to the music

The percentages are just a guideline, the point is… What exactly IS something someone would ‘never consider doing outside the music festival environment’?

Here is a list: Play beer pong, make out with a stranger, not shower for 4 days, join a cuddle puddle, attend a yoga class, buy a colorful and bold garment, wear a bikini all day, have sex in a tent, have sex in a porta-potty, dance, lick someone’s ear, hug someone for 60 seconds, participate in a sacred space ceremony, howl at sunset, stay up all night, flash the band/DJ, take a lot of embarrassing selfies, smile at everyone, say hello to everyone, eat organic, create a piece of art, open yourself up emotionally, crowd surf, watch a sunset, watch a sunrise, pick up a piece of garbage that was not yours, turn off your phone all weekend, turn vegan.

Which would you do or not do? And would that change if you were at a festival?

Music festivals are an explosion of the fantastic, where you will find yourself inspired and motivated to try things you never thought you would want to try. Any choices you do make however, make them with the belief that your freedom to choose is what matters most. Allow yourself to expand your horizons if it feels comfortable, and if it doesn’t, ask yourself, can I do it safely? And how will I know if I never try? Make friends, make connections and be adventurous, you will not regret it.

Illustration by Claos

If you fall in love, in lust or simply think you want to get sexual, do so safely as you would in any other circumstance. Feel empowered in your choice, and go boldly into the experience. Be prepared. Females should carry condoms too; the more both parties can help with a safe interaction the better. And of course, no one can make you do anything you don’t want to do, consent is sexy and mandatory. Choose because you want it, and speak out if transgressions occur.

The truth is, you don’t need sex, drugs or alcohol to enjoy a musical festival. Some people even find that music itself provides a natural high for them. And that yoga, platonic human contact, cuddling, and tantric practices all create deep emotional satisfaction. Skeptical? Try it!

The Enchanted Forest Gathering in California over the 3rd weekend of July, provides and espouses just that. Attend, stay sober, and they will help you get naturally high through exercise, human connection, and nutritious food choices. Zac Krohn writes in an article published on their blog, “With the right stimulus, your body can serve you up a cocktail of its own psychopharmacological delights that evoke emotion and affect the way you process the world around you.” 

Once you have these tools at your disposal, any festival you attend can be enjoyed any way you like, including sober. Read the full article here ‘5 Ways To Get Silly Without the Sauce’. And here are 7 more alcohol free events around the world, including Shambhala in BC, Canada.

Any party, anywhere on the globe, will likely have attendees consuming drugs or alcohol, or both. The fact is there are plenty of people who go to music festivals of all descriptions and don’t consume any mind-altering substances. They get a good group of friends together, find out where their favorite bands are playing, and go enjoy the live music experience clean as a whistle; then wake up early and go do yoga. I’ve done that myself, it’s awesome.

However should you choose to enhance your festival experience by dabbling in some recreational treats, make sure you do so safely. Sparked Magazine does not encourage, sponsor or endorse the use of any drugs or alcohol, but we fiercely believe in your ability to find education on the subject and to make wise decisions. Nor do we judge your decision-making; we simply want you to be educated and safe. Harm reduction is the key.

Visit sites like Dance Safe, ANKORS, Bunk Police, and EZTest; read as much as you can about drugs, their effects and safe dosages. Watch this free documentary, ‘What is in my Baggie‘, on the rise of misrepresented substances, as well as a critique of ineffective drug policy . Buy a testing kit and test everything you come into contact with. Often, just mentioning you want to test will keep the supplier honest. If they were planning to scam you, they would likely make an excuse to walk away.

And remember, abuse of any substance, illegal or not, almost always leads to the worst outcomes, so please, employ moderation at all times.

Tell us: How do you have fun at music festivals or concerts without using drugs or alcohol? Or if you do use them, how do you feel it makes the festivals more enjoyable? We are interested in sharing both points of view. You may keep the letters anonymous if you wish. Address emails to, titled “Drugs: My Experience”.

Finally, whatever it is that draws you to music festivals, value the opportunity to be a participant, to learn, to make new friends, to accept differences in lifestyle, to open yourself up to something you may have not thought to try before, to be tolerant, to practice being eco-conscious, to help your neighbors, to share your passions and interests, to be yourself, and to express your personality as brightly as you possibly can. A festival is a place where the fantastic is encouraged, and by being there, you are already fantastic. Stay safe, have fun, dance like crazy and above all else: love yourself, respect your environment and smile at all those around you. Change is you and you are change.

Illustration by Deemah M

Sparked Magazine will have a full article soon dedicated to exploring all the sides to ‘harm reduction’ projects at festivals, why some festivals use them and some do not, as a matter of policy.

By Mario Miotti

BIO- Mario is a fashion photographer, health nut, avid dancer, and believer in the principles of keeping young by remembering to play. As the founder of Sparked, he seeks to share with you his love of music festivals, what makes them a powerful force of nature, why everyone should go to at least one in their lifetime, and how they can change your life.