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Festival Friday: Survival of the Schedule

There is this beautiful time when the line-up is announced, tickets are purchased and possibilities abound as to how it will all come together.

Then it all crashes when the schedule is finally announced. Suddenly, there are conflicts, there is timing involved, and just when you think you've got it all figured out you realize that you will spend 14 hours a day going from one band to the next. Intense.

Don't worry, it'll be okay. Just take a breath. We'll figure this out.

- Pick out your must-sees. Even if you want to just leave it to chance, double check the list and make sure there isn't a set that you would kick yourself for missing. If you want to be up close and personal for the whole set of your must-see, make time for a bathroom break, replenish your water, and time to find your spot.

- Think about location and time of day. For example, I sunburn very easily, so I try to stay in the sun for short durations between 3:30 and 5:30. It's not easy, I've had to miss some great stuff, but I'd rather be able to enjoy the rest of the festival as a non-lobster. Catch 15 minutes of a band in a very sunny area, then find a shady area to enjoy the rest or go see another band in a shaded area.

- Make sure you give yourself time to rest. Especially if it's a multi-day festival. Don't overdo it on the first or second day and be laid up for the rest of the festival. Take your time. Take care of yourself. Find times in the schedule where you would miss a few bands in order to take a break. See if there are any bands that you would be just as happy to lay on the lawn and listen. Knowing of a few spots where you can rest beforehand might help you be able to stay up really late for that one set you're dying to see, or endure some time up in the front of the mob at a band you absolutely love.

- Be flexible.

- Don't forget to eat. This can get a little tricky, if you're on a budget like us and need to find time to escape back to the campsite. We carry snacks in my bag to help sustain us between meals - have some carbs, have some protein, but don't have anything that melts (including chewy granola bars, candy, yogurt covered granola bars, etc.).

- Print off a schedule and mark it up. Sometimes I use a star rating system, sometimes I just write comments next to the band's name - "!" or "meh." If you don't know a lot of bands, maybe it would help to write what kind of music it is. That way if you're feeling more reggae than rock, you'll know where to go. Also, anything you really don't care about can just be crossed right off.

If all else fails - Just do a 3 song set. 3 songs and you can count is my rule of thumb. Often, I get to hear a song the band is known for, an older song and a newer song. It's almost always a perfect set, and great for catching a bunch of bands stacked on top of each other or an easy way to find new stuff. For bands that don't necessarily have defined songs, 15 minutes is a good equivalent. There have been times that I've stayed for less and there are times I've ended up staying for the entire set.

My summer project for my students is to build their own three song set. 3 songs that they can play anytime and give people a good idea of who they are or where they're at. It is the magic number after all.

I hope that might help any of you feeling stressed looking at those festival line-ups. Just take a breath, make some notes and wing it. Have fun, stay hydrated, and use sunscreen!

Ps. The 3 song set idea might place me at Lady Gaga on a smaller stage at Lollapalooza in 2007. I can't place it, but looking at the schedule, it's very likely. How weird is that?


Festival Fridays: A little Latin music...

Looking out my window, there is snow and it makes it hard to believe that tomorrow we will be throwing our Cinco de Mayo party. Or that it's spring. Though one cool thing when it snows in May, the ground is sort of mint colored now.

In honor of Cinco de Mayo this weekend, here are some latin bands we saw last year:

Afrocubism at Bonnaroo 2012Afrocubism - A blend of Cuban and Malian musicians, this album is amazing beginning to end. On the Which Stage last year, it was during one of the hottest/sunniest parts of the day and I could only stay for 20 minutes of their set - lest I became a lobster. Their instruments were so interesting and the music was perfect for the weather - definitely melts the snow right off this May.

Rodrigo y Gabriela - a guitar duo, this still has a blend of traditional Latin sound to it.

Pedrito Martinez - He did a late night session last year in a quartet and played a very long set. The music was so amazing - I couldn't take my eyes off the keyboardist, Ariacne Trujillo. She was insane! It was such a fun way to end our evening.


Kinky at River's Edge 2012Kinky - The first of three that are not so much traditional. Be ready to dance for this one because we did last year at River's Edge. It's tough to be the first band on the main stage at a festival, but by the end of their set, a lot of the crowd was dancing.

Mexican Institute of Sound - On the Chipotle Stage the second day of River's Edge, they drew a crowd. A blend of sounds, this will get your party going.

Mariachi El Bronx - From LA and a former punk band, last year they rocked their stage at Bonnaroo in full on Mariachi gear. I thought for sure we had a picture, but I was sadly mistaken. You'll just have to take my word for it.

Need to fill out your playlist a little more? Check out the artists from the movie Calle 54 for a great place to start. Putomayo and "Rough Guide to..." are also great resources for discovering new music with the best liner notes too.

Happy Friday everyone!


Festival Friday Wedding Week Edition

It's kind of a diversion for Festival Friday this week, but in the spirit of wedding week - Wedding Music.

Inspired by friends and their weddings, I wanted our wedding to be made by us as much as possible. My original inspiration for our ceremony music was that we would each write our processionals and then write our recessional together. It didn't happen that way though. That picture? That's me on the morning of the wedding trying not to freak out and write something. So we both ended up writing our own processionals but ended up using a song by Explosions in the Sky for our recessional.

If you're not musically inclined, here are some non-traditional suggestions for the ceremony:

"The Light" - Mason Jennings: Depending on your style of wedding, you might want to fade it out before the build. Mason Jennings has a couple of other songs that would be sweet for a wedding too.

"Imagine" - John Lennon: I looped the intro of this for my friend's wedding. It works because you can make it last long if needed, and it's hard to get sick of that progression.

"Falling Slowly" - Swell Season: Maybe it didn't work out for them, but as long as you don't find that ominous, I think it's still a great song. Glen Hansard is probably one of the most entrancing musicians I've seen, it's crazy. If you ever get the chance - take it. (well, if you like his music, of course)

Erik Satie - Go to the library, open up spotify, whatever you use, and listen to all the Gymnopedies.

Yann Tiersen - his music for Amelie was so enchanting.

"Snow and Lights" - Explosions in the Sky: This is what we used for our recessional. I wanted it to be a bursting forth. "Catastrophe and the Cure" and "So Long, Lonesome" also have a good walking pace to them. And they're long, so if you have to get a bunch of people down an aisle, you're good to go.

For our reception, we used an iPod preloaded with an extensive playlist for dinner and a separate list for the dance. We also had a back-up iPod with the same lists, just in case. If you decide to dj yourself, make sure that you have someone in charge to take requests, perhaps adjusting what comes next as needed, and warding off any guests wanting a change mid-song. With all of the on-demand music options now, it's even easier than ever to create an extensive and diverse playlist.

Honestly, my husband's got a knack for this sort of thing and he did a great job assembling what music we would need. It was a mix of songs he knew everyone would want to dance to, plus music that we enjoy as well. Click here for the songs we put in our playlist. There are some classics in there, songs that were heavy into our rotation at the time, and some personal favorites.

The key to picking out music is to remember your audience. Do you care what songs are played while your grandparents are still dancing? What about children? Would some of the songs offend your guests? Frontload with classics, current hits, and favorites - save some of your own favorites for the last half of the dance. That should help you keep people dancing until it's time to go.


Festival Friday Playlist

Songs that make me smile and think of summer (in no particular order, sorry, I hadn't planned on the 2 hours of shovelling this morning):

"Wrote a Song for Everyone" - Mavis Staples

"Stay Positive" - The Hold Steady

"As We Enter" - Nas & Damian Marley

"Race for the Prize" - The Flaming Lips (or "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Pt. 1")

"Take Your Mama Out" - Scissor Sisters

"All My Friends" - LCD Soundsystem

"Heavy Metal Drummer" - Wilco

"Circuital" - My Morning Jacket

"In the Sun" - She & Him

"Sunshine" - Atmosphere

"Too Many Rappers" Beastie Boys (or "Sabotage")

"Art Star" - The Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Anyone else catch the Coachella live stream last week? So amazing!)

Let's start a new week and make it a better one. Maybe starting with a random act of kindness, maybe we can get the week started on a good note. Just imagine if we all did one good thing for someone else...



Coachella opens this weekend down in California, and to me that only means one thing:

It's music festival season!

Yay! We weren't going to do it this year. "No Bonnaroo," we said. But then they announced River's Edge wouldn't happen, and then the line-up came out, and then we caved. "Responsibility, shmonsibility!" we declared! So we're going to one. Just one.

And the Yeah Yeah Yeah's concert in June. Thinking of 10,000 Sounds in July too... We'll see.

Today I also am starting my new series (yes, I'm actually going to post regularly about a specific topic. I am tickled pink as well.) - Festival Fridays! Memories of festivals I've attended, who I'm looking forward to this year, maybe a playlist or two, ultimate snack mix, etc.

For now though, click here to check out last year's post on how to survive the wilds of the outdoor music scene.

And for those at Coachella, remember - Ear plugs, Sunscreen, Hydrate, Enjoy!