Music festivals have become one of the main releases my
generation has. They are places where we can come together in love, respect,
mutual admiration for aural art and the need to escape from the modern
condition for a few dusty, sweaty days. They are unarguably important cultural touchstones that breed creativity and openness. But there are prices to be paid, yins to our yangs.
I’m standing in a line for coffee with my cohort somewhere around 11:30pm-12am on the Saturday night at Shambhala and am overcome with a thought… “This entire event, no matter how gloriously happy it’s making everyone, is built on evil.” I pointed it out loud and we both immediately knew I was right. We are kind of awful people. We laughed nervously/awkwardly at the thought, made a couple snickering remarks and thought nothing more of it. It was time to get our delicious caffeinated beverages.
The coffee tent is a perfect example of the excess and privilege that these festivals celebrate. In the middle of a field at midnight, we can get an iced chai-mocha drink and why? Because we fucking deserve it, that’s why! We are young, rich, beautiful and want our every whim catered to at any given moment!
Lights? Fuck, we have so many we can shoot them around for nothing more than enjoyment. Remember all those Power Smart presentations we had in elementary school teaching us the importance of conserving energy? Fuck ‘em! All the warnings we hear about global warming and the impact of travel? Not our problem. At least not this weekend. We’re free to drive from all over the place to get here and take two hours to get from the camp ground to the highway. (This is much the same problem I have in my heart with flying. Just because we’re lucky enough to be somewhere that allows us the opportunity to go where we please, it probably doesn’t mean we SHOULD.) Plastic is getting used to house glowing goo in tubes because it looks pretty and enhances my party experience.
This all sounds like I’m really down on the whole festival experience, but I’m really not. It’s just an interesting thought. It’s all quite evil. And everyone there, somewhere deep in their hearts, knows it. We are a generation who has watched the people before us squander money on military budgets and government waste while people, not just in our own countries but all over the world, go without basics like food, water and shelter. I, like many of peers, always bemoan the fact that if a mere portion of our country’s defense budgets went to social programs and helping the poor a huge, immediate positive impact could be felt. What if all of us young, relatively rich festival goers took a year off, took the money we would have used for a weekend of hedonism and gave it the causes we actually give a shit about? We could probably do some amazing things. But will we? Probably not.
And that’s fine. I’m not above the fray. I love these festivals. I loved my time at Shambhala. Fucking dearly I loved it. I loved flying to Tennessee for Bonnaroo. I loved taking a bus to Sasquatch. But deep in my heart I know that what I’m doing is hurting the Earth I claim to love so much. Much in the same way I’m completely content to pack up my car full of shit and drive two and a half hours to bask in the glory of nature, when it would be far more beneficial for nature if I just stayed at home and looked at pictures of it on the internet.
Apparently I’m happy to stick my head in the sand for four days and wallow in excess with friends and strangers. It’s cool if you want to join me to. But it’s probably also good to acknowledge, even for a few brief moments between awkward laughter with friends, the evil and the damage that we ignore each time we make these trips to these gatherings of Pranksters.
Gentlemen, to Evil!