15 ways to make your (and my) Sasquatch experience not absolutely terrible

Let me be frank: music festivals are awful. They are magnificently unpleasant. All of them. There is almost no other way to spend $350+ and have a worse time, other than maybe flying coach to the Midwest three days before Christmas.

That being said, this will be my sixth year attending Sasquatch. My first S’quatch was in 2006, and I went consecutively for the following four years. The 2010 festival was, barring Massive Attack’s STUNNING performance, such an abysmal waste of three days that I, during the dark, rank, exhausted drive back, swore I would never, ever go again. Ever.

Worst. Ever.Going to Sasquatch is like getting waxed: after enough time has passed since you last had your hopes and dreams ripped out through your bleeding follicles, you forget the pain and gloss over the memory. Soon enough, you’re back on the table, writhing in agony, wondering what the hell you were thinking.

And, so, two years since I last subjected myself to the dirty, loud, hot, overpopulated nightmare that Sasquatch has become over the past five years, here I am with a four-day pass and a rough schedule of bands to see.

Now, before you point your grubby little hipster fingers at me and call me a naysayer or a cynic, I will admit that music festivals have their advantages, Sasquatch especially so. Yes, it’s expensive, but I would probably end up paying close to $350 to separately see just a quarter of the bands that will be playing.

Yes, it’s an overcrowded swarm of humanity, but, as an introvert, I would rather condense all the over-stimulation of multiple shows into one intensive session from which I can then spend the rest of the year recovering.

Yes, it’s hot and cold and dry and wet all at the same time, but I defy you to find a more beautiful backdrop to lounge beneath for four days.

Worth it.There’s also something I find incredibly satisfying about making it through a weekend of Sasquatch—sporting sunburns and bruises like badges of honor, recounting harrowing tales of drunkards and overturned HoneyBuckets to gape-jawed friends, and then, of course, those moments when you hear a song you just saw performed live and immediately relive the vivid connection between musician and audience that only blossoms during the extraordinary kind of sets that are somehow so commonplace at Sasquatch.

Sasquatch is instant misery and latent bliss, generous suffering and hard-earned ecstasy. It’s something you dread and pine for, all at the same time.

The ultimate love-hate relationship.However, not all the evils of Sasquatch are necessary ones, and I will concede that my personal Sasquatch experiences did, for the most part, improve each year as I better learned how to prepare for and navigate the festival. So, out of both the kindness of my black, merciless heart and the hope that, for some of you, reading about your own douchebaggery might jar you into self-awareness, I have constructed a list of Do’s and Do-Not’s for your immediate absorption and strict adherence, punctuated by small samples of what kind of musical greatness to expect this weekend.

You’re welcome.

15 ways to make your (and my) sasquatch experience not absolutely terrible:

1. DO NOT take a dump in the floor of a HoneyBucket.

First things first. This is one of the main reasons I swore off Sasquatch after the 2010 festival. I walked into not one, not two, not three, but FOUR (quatro) HoneyBuckets in which someone had wiped feces (caca) all over the interior.

Mentally, emotionally, I can’t even begin to ponder the process of completing such a task. But, nonetheless, someone(s) found themselves inspired enough to attempt it, and dedicated enough to succeed. Now, I understand that there are, imaginably, mitigating circumstances which might excuse, if not explain, how an individual might suddenly find themselves exploding with poop. And even if there’s no medical reason, and you just suddenly felt the inescapable need to not defecate like a human being for a moment, all I ask is that you warn us. Smear an “X” on the door. Set it on fire. Camp out in front of it and claim it as your own personal temple.

Whatever you need to do.

Please. For the love of god. Don’t force me, or any other perfectly nice, unsuspecting person, to unwittingly walk in on your intestinal train-wreck.

2. DO NOT forget your ticket.

Three years in a row, my friends and I took turns forgetting our tickets and suddenly realizing our folly halfway to the gorge. Retrospectively, it’s funny, but at the time it was both stressful and humiliating. Also, it’s pretty dangerous when you’re bombing down the highway and everyone is frantically flipping U-turns. It’s wristbands this year, so hang it on your front doorknob or pack it with the prohibited hard alcohol we both know you’ll be smuggling in.

3. DO drink water. So, so much water.

You’re going to be out in the heat, climbing that gargantuan hill over and over again, trekking across pavement and eating salty, dried foods. Throw in a couple $15 cans of PBR, and it’s like writing a letter to the sun formally requesting a heat stroke. Bring two Nalgenes (you’ll lose one) and try to drink that much water at least six times. At least. This is critical to the safety and well-being of not just yourself, but of everyone else as well. Were you to insist on only drinking energy drinks and booze for the entire weekend, your tortured, pitiful kidneys would fail, and you would start vomiting uncontrollably, likely triggering a massive sympathetic emesis chain-reaction, drowning hundreds in a sea of puke. Don’t play us like that, bro.

4. DO bring your own food.

Unless you plan on eating craptastic $15 chicken teriyaki for four days, you need to bring your own food. If you happen to be allergic to peanut butter, you should probably just stay home, because I honestly have no idea what else you’re going to eat, and that stuff is going to be everywhere.

The best way to go about packing food for S’quatch is pretending that you’re an explorer from the 1500s about to embark on a lengthy voyage at sea. You want dried fruit (to prevent scurvy), granola bars with high fiber (to prevent constipation), and some good quality jerky (to prevent cannibalism).

Super Secret Pro Tip: Bring a knife. This handy device allows you to spread peanut butter (or your gross peanut butter substitute) uniformly over bread or bagels, while simultaneously keeping your filthy, music festival-y hands out of your food. Because tapeworms.

5. DO NOT bring the $95 silk sleeveless button-up from Anthropologie you bought specifically for the festival.

I know it’s super cute. And I know you envisioned yourself swaying delicately in it to some Mumford & Sons song and attracting the attention of one of the band members, who would then invite you up on stage and showcase your pure, youthful beauty. But leave it at home, along with anything else that you would like to be able to wear or use after the festival. In each of my five years of attending, I have never had anything stolen or broken. But, in each of those five years, I have encountered many a crying girl and crying boy wailing about their missing Canon Rebel or broken Gucci sunglasses. Rule of Thumb: If it wouldn’t survive being carried around in a bag of garbage for a couple of days, don’t bring it to Sasquatch.

6. DO bring the Three S’s of Not Dying of Skin Cancer: Sunscreen, Sunglasses, and Sunhats.

Let me put on my Bad News Pants here: statistically speaking, you will probably die of some form of cancer. But hey, just because pollution, antibiotics, toxic power plants, mass atomic weapons testing, and corn syrup have sealed your fate doesn’t mean you don’t have any say in the matter.

I’m not a doctor (legal disclaimer, you litigious bastards), but from what I’ve read/heard, melanoma is one of the worst forms of cancer and can kick into high gear as early as your teens. But, fortunately, I have also read/heard that it can be prevented through the proper use of sunscreen and protective clothing. So get your camping buddies together every morning and slather each other with waterproof sunscreen. Then throw on your sunglasses (because eyes are important) and a hat (because heads are important), and make sure to give yourself some breaks in the shade to reapply. That way you won’t ever have to battle your own flesh in a fight to the death, and I won’t ever have to pay taxes toward the astronomical medical bills you undoubtedly would not be able to afford. Win-win.

7. DO bring earplugs.

Let me tell you a secret: no one thinks you are a badass because you “don’t need earplugs” when you go to shows. Out of all the things anyone could ever be capable of accomplishing, this is probably the least impressive. Besides, medically speaking, you do need them, unless you have some mutation that allows you to seal off your ear drums at will. Fortuitously, earplugs have always come in bright, neon colors, so you’ll be able to coordinate with your super cool neon tank tops that say “YOLO” across the front.

Oh man. I’m going to talk myself out of going just by writing this. You people.

8. DO bring a travel pack of baby wipes.

Baby wipes are your new best friend. And washcloth. And shower. And toothbrush. And makeup remover. And handsoap. And foot de-odorizer. And wound disinfectant. And dishwasher. And, if push comes to shove, feminine product.

9. DO NOT bring your small child.

Why? Seriously. Why? If you are dead-set on bringing your toddler to Sasquatch, let’s compromise: you don’t bring your squalling offspring to a four-day adult event so I, and all the other adult ticket-holders, don’t have to deal with its loud, sticky, and nerve-wracking presence (because, come on, it’s only a matter of time before its complete lack of balance sends it tumbling to its death), and you can give your three-year-old the exact same sensory experience it would have at Sasquatch by strapping some speakers to its head and letting it sit in a hot car with an open can of beer and a burning cigarette for a couple hours. Everyone’s happy. Except maybe Social Services.

10. DO NOT use Sasquatch as an opportunity to try hallucinogenic drugs for the first time ever.

Let me tell you a story about a young man we called “Sloth Guy.” We found him lying face-down on the small, grassy hill by the food court area. At first, we thought he was just napping, but after a few minutes he moved his head (very…very…slowly) and we realized that he was not only awake, but that he was Tripping Balls. Capital T, capital B.

It was easy enough to deduce what had likely happened: Sloth Guy decided he would try (insert hallucinogen here) with his friends, but he made the common mistake of taking too much and the even more common mistake of having tools for friends. His friends, upon realizing he was beyond help, just left him there, sprawled in the grass, completely and overwhelmingly terror-struck by all that was happening around him. How long he had been there, we had no idea.

He moved achingly slow, a perfect impression of a sloth crossing a road, and when he did dare to gaze up at the world around him, his eyes would widen and his brain would seem to simply cease processing the bizarre lifeforms stalking about, his senses overloading and emptying out and overloading again and again, until he would slowly drop his face back into the grass.

It was one of the most tragic things I have ever seen, and I laugh about it with my friends at least once a month.

I don’t care what your friends say. I don’t care if they assure you that you’ll be fine if you just try a little and that they’ll be right there with you, and it’ll be so much fun, and you’ll have a great time. If you put your body in a stressful environment (heat, noise, crowds) and then feed it drugs that make it hallucinate, drugs that you have never before experienced or know how to cope with, you are going to have a fantastically terrible time.

If you’re lucky, you’ll end up like Sloth Guy, lying in the grass, being made fun of, and having your picture taken. If you’re not as lucky, you’ll end up eating part of someone’s face and being gunned down like a rabid animal by a SWAT team.

11. DO practice proper Pit Etiquette.

Should you find yourself in a “Pit” situation (circle, mosh, dance, Brad, etc.) remember that a good pit is about fun, not broken teeth. Keep your elbows down and watch where you put your feet. Don’t shove someone who isn’t paying attention and don’t use a pit as an excuse to try to get some girl’s top off.

There are people out there who will tell you that pits are about messing people up. No. Those people are idiots who, for one reason or another, feel the need to express their insecurity through violence. In all the punk, hardcore, and metal shows I’ve been to (A LOT), I have never encountered a pit where the asshat throwing elbows wasn’t part of a very small minority.

A well done pit looks dangerous, but is actually composed of people who are moving to the same tempo (more or less) and are looking out for each other. If someone falls down, everyone stops and helps them up. If someone wants out, you help them get to the front or the back. If you are in a pit and you see someone being unsafe or violent, tell people. Move to the front and tell one of the security officers.

Be proactive about your own safety and the safety of the four-year-olds who will inevitably be sitting on the shoulders of their negligent parents.

12. DO whatever you need to remember where you are camped.

It doesn’t matter how many times you drunkenly bang on the windows of the car I am sleeping in and shout “CARRIE LET ME IN!” At no point will the car suddenly become Carrie’s car, and at no point will I suddenly morph into Carrie. I promise it’s not a joke that Carrie and I are secretly playing on you. I don’t even know a Carrie. But I do have a can a pepper spray and a very limited amount of patience, so to save everyone time and searing pain, remember where you are camped.

13. DO dress like you are about to go through an apocalypse.

If you’ve been to Sasquatch before, or have friends who have gone, you know that the weather is always incredibly creative over Memorial Day Weekend. This festival has seen everything from hail and lightning to 95-degree heat-waves. The best advice I can give is to go read the Book of Revelations and bring whatever clothing you think you would need to survive that.

14. DO bring a box of fabric bandaids.

While I would like to be able to meet a person and assume that they do not have an infectious disease stampeding through their veins, statistics from the Center for Disease Control, among other scientific institutions, assert that would probably be an incorrect assumption. I’m not saying that you have a mutant Hepatitis-Ebola hybrid hacking away at your internal organs, but I’m not not saying that either.

The best way to handle this kind of situation is to make sure that all of your probably-perfectly-healthy-but-possibly-virus-ridden blood stays inside of your body.

Enter bandaids.

By generously applying these effective little strips (the fabric varieties stay on much better than their foamy counterparts) to the bloody gashes your brand new gladiator sandals are going to carve into your feet, you can keep all your blood borne pathogens to yourself, and I can continue not to have rabies.

15. DO NOT be an asshole.

Here’s the deal folks: we all paid a decent chunk of change to go to this festival and enjoy the music, atmosphere, and environment. We didn’t pay $350 (or more) to watch two drunk dudes kick the piss out of each other (literally), or to trip over broken bottles thrown on the ground (tetanus), or to have to pretend like we don’t notice you having “stealthy” sex under a blanket in broad daylight, right next to us. (WE NOTICE.)

Don’t fight your way through the crowd to just stop and stand right in front of someone who has obviously been waiting there longer than you. Don’t blow your cigarette smoke behind you, because someone is probably standing right there. Don’t throw your garbage on the ground. Don’t use the cover of an energetic set to get away with copping a feel—we can all tell the difference between an accidental bump and an intended grope.

I know that sometimes, what with the great burden that comes with having the universe revolve around you, it can be really hard to not be an asshole. But the non-assholes—the people who just want to spend a few days in the sun listening to great music—deserve to have the good time they paid for.

Besides, the good folks at The Gorge Amphitheater put on a music festival later in the summer that’s reserved specifically for assholes, so if you really don’t think you can make it four days without making another person miserable, maybe you should sell your pass on Craigslist and buy a ticket for Dave Matthews Band instead.

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