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Some people enjoy attending music festivals once or twice a year — and then, there are people who make raving a lifestyle, such as myself. For the past 10 years, I've been attending raves, festivals, and parties like it was my job. (Well, it kind of was at one point, but still!)
In those years, I've met wonderful human beings, found myself in ridiculous situations, made an ass of myself, and partied my ass off, too. However, there's a dark side that's somewhat taboo to discuss in the festival scene: deaths.
Over the course of my time, I've seen and heard of a number of people who either died or ruined their lives by doing the wrong thing at festivals, raves, and other kinds of wild parties. It's taboo to discuss, but yes, it does happen — even at major festivals or world-famous clubs.
Make no mistake about it, bad things do happen, and if you don't know how to stay safe at music festivals, they can happen to you, too. Speaking as someone who's lived it, here are my top tips on how to ensure you stay safe while you party.
Don't go alone, and go with someone you trust.
One of the key things to acknowledge when learning how to stay safe at a music festival is the power of large numbers. Going to festivals with large groups of friends is a good way to make sure that you have emergency contacts, that you won't be stranded without a ride home, and that someone will help you out in the event that your stuff is stolen.
PLUR, while very real, only goes so far — especially in music festivals that aren't very heavily linked to underground rave culture. By having friends nearby, you make sure someone has your back and that you can have someone to talk about the awesome memories you'll make.
If you have to go solo, make an effort to chat up people as soon as you go to the party.
Chatting people up and introducing yourself isn't just a good way to make new friends. It also can save your life. Groups are more likely to protect people they know, which means that chatting others up can boost your chances of staying safe.
Another important reason why learning how to stay safe at festivals involves talking to others is because they can be the first to notice if you go missing at a party. The more people who notice you, the less likely it is that your sudden departure will be unnoticed.
The buddy system works, even if you just met new friends.
If you're going to do drugs, test them first.
Let's just be honest — drugs and music festivals go hand-in-hand. There's a reason why EDM festivals often have kitsch involving people popping pills and "looking for Molly." I'm not going to judge people who do drugs at music festivals, since I'm not a hypocrite. I've been there and I know a lot of people want to use them for a good time at parties.
That being said, part of learning how to stay safe at a music festival is learning how to do the wrong thing the right way. If you are going to use ecstasy or Molly, make sure that you test them before you pop the pill in your mouth.
A lot of pills are cut with things you shouldn't ever have in your body. There have been cases of fentanyl-laced pills, and there have also been many, many pills that have been sold as ecstasy but contained nothing but meth. It only takes one bad pill to OD, and you don't want to end up in the medical tent.
Be aware of undercovers doing drug stings.
Yes, it's true. Undercover cops do end up at music festivals, and they're not there to have a fun time. They're there to arrest drug dealers and drug users.
A lot of undercover cops look just like other festival attendees, so your best bet is to avoid people who walk up to you asking for pills, and avoid people who ask you if you want to buy pills. Rather, go to someone you know and buy from them — ideally, away from the public eye.
That being said, police will typically not arrest people who go to the medical tent for help. At that point, they're more worried about keeping you alive.
Your best bet? Avoid drugs altogether, and you won't get OD or arrested.
Keep hydrated, and take a break if you need to.
Part of learning how to stay safe at music festivals is learning to stay aware of your body's needs. Even if you aren't popping E, you do need to stay cool and keep yourself hydrated. Otherwise, you might actually have a heat stroke or faint.
A good rule of thumb is to drink at least a gallon of water per day. If you're rolling or if you drink energy drinks, up that ante a bit. This way, you will be able to keep cool and avoid heat-related problems while you're having fun.
Bring meds, if it's a multi-day festival.
Make sure that you bring it in a regular pill bottle with a prescription or a doctor's note, too. Otherwise, bouncers and security may think you're dealing your meds for money.
You might get a little flak from bouncers, but the truth is that the bouncers would rather ensure that you're medicated and healthy rather than unmedicated and dead.
If you're only going for a single night, you can take the meds before you enter the festival venue. That way, you don't have to worry about explaining to security why you've got pills on you.
Practice safe sex.
Hooking up is a classic thing to happen at a music festival, because hippie love is part of rave culture. That's why part of learning how to stay safe at music festivals involves learning how to have safe sex.
Make sure you wear a condom, ask about their sexual health, and also take your birth control before you go. This minimizes the risk of STDs and also helps ensure that you don't have a special memento arrive nine months post-festival.
Use common sense, and keep your eyes open.
Common sense is incredibly important when you're learning how to stay safe at a music festival. Things as simple as not leaving your bags unattended, not walking away from the festival with someone you don't know, and keeping an eye out for people who look like they may start a fight go a long, long way.
Festivals are chaotic, and yes, they're fun. But, while you're out there having fun, keep an eye out for anything that seems like it may end up being a problem. That way, you can leave the scene before it gets ugly.
Watch your drinks.
As bad as it is for me to admit, I know there's a reason why music festivals have such a bad reputation for date rape drugs. There are creeps out there who slip stuff in other peoples' drinks, and only you can make sure they don't do that to yours.
Keep an eye on your drink, or cover your drink with the palm of your hand when you're not chugging it. Oh, and though this shouldn't even need to be said, don't buy drinks from strangers who aren't working the party.
Do NOT attend outlaw raves.
Admittedly, I break this rule a lot, but that's because I've been around long enough to know when it's time to get out of dodge. However, this is a guide on how to stay safe at music festivals and raves, so, I feel it's mandatory to mention this.
Most people will never attend an outlaw, primarily because it's only a "word of mouth" thing in most cases. Outlaw raves, parties, and festivals are small-scale music festivals that are illegally held, often only last a night or two, and typically are found in places law enforcement will not be able to reach easily.
Outlaw raves often act as open air drug markets, and always are lawless. They are the Wild West of music festivals. This sounds cool, until you realize the ramifications of an outlaw rave.
You will not find bouncers at outlaws because the people throwing outlaw raves do not hire security. If a brawl ensues, no one will be likely to stop the fight. If you take bad drugs at an outlaw, there's a good chance no one will call 911 — and that means you'll die of an overdose right then and there.
These parties often attract people who are openly looking for trouble, as a result, brawls and gunfire do happen on occasion. Attend these parties at your own risk, and never attend them alone. You never know what can or will happen there.
Keep an eye out for sketchy people, and avoid them.
This is one of the most important aspects of learning how to stay safe at a music festival. Sketchy people come in all shapes and flavors, and unfortunately, they tend to gravitate at music festivals for one reason or another.
Women, especially, need to be aware of men who seem to be predatory, or looking for vulnerable girls to take advantage of. Similarly, if you see a guy who's clearly making a girl uncomfortable, SPEAK UP! Tell a bouncer, or grab her by the hand and walk her away from him.
Men might not have as big a problem with sexual predators, but it can still happen. What guys have to be worried about, more often than women do, are sketchy guys who are looking for a fight. Should you notice something, tell a security guard and get out of there.
Don't bring valuables with you to a music festival.
Ravers are good people, but that doesn't mean you can always trust them with your stuff. So, don't bring expensive stuff with you to a rave, unless it's a special gift for a favorite raver with a safe storage spot. It might get lost or stolen.
Moreover, you might want to learn how to "pickpocket-proof" your rave gear. A good friend of mine literally ties everything he brings to music festivals to his body. I've personally found fanny packs to be great for carrying around goods.
Lastly, keep the PLUR alive and support festivals that have a "Zero Tolerance" policy towards creepy behavior.
The thing about learning how to stay safe at music festivals most people won't tell you is that you need to support the scene in a way that encourages safety. This is one of those things you should know before you attend your first rave, honestly.
Attending parties that are notoriously dangerous or creep-filled will only keep that behavior "acceptable." Same goes with not calling out promoters who make dangerous parties possible. Attending the best music festivals in terms of safety is a good way to keep safe and have great memories, too.
So, if you are going to hit music festivals, show PLUR. Speak up for fellow ravers, and support the festivals that make a point of keeping you safe. Anything else is unPLUR towards your fellow ravers.