Besides the achy feet and sore back that go along with standing in one place for too long, being at concerts in this phase of my life means being able to enjoy the music without getting distracted by my age.
I once read the music we listen to in our 20s has the greatest influence on us over the span of our lives. There are a lot of reasons that might be true. I think it's because we do a lot of self-discovery during those years and having a soundtrack for that time adds poignancy to those memories.
But I haven't found myself outgrowing that phase or the need to have a soundtrack in the background of my life. And while I now tend to favour folk-inspired music more than the pop of my youth, I can throw down all the words to a few Eminem songs and love to crank a good summer car tune.
For the past two years, we've been on a one-concert-a-month mission, and we've just come out the other side of a massive, three-day outdoor music festival, Wayhome, that took place in an open field in the middle of nowhere. The last outdoor music festival I went to was in a similar setting with the same company—except we were all twenty years younger.
While the crowd was mostly padded with the same demographic we were in two decades ago (it was like watching ourselves all over again), we weren't the only folks in the crowd trying to track down a wifi signal to check on our kids at home.
Here are my top 5 tips for surviving a music festival in your 40s:
1) Be prepared for the outdoors: We thought sunscreen and bug spray would be enough, but a facial mist spray, a battery-operated mini fan and an umbrella (for rain and sun) are the kind of indulgent grown up tools you (and your skin) will want to have on hand. Some fancy body wipes and hand sanitizer aren't a bad idea, either. And while we're on the topic of outdoor hygiene, I noticed plenty of smarter folks packed their own toilet paper for the dreaded port-a-potty experience.
2) Dress for endurance: We started the weekend in our festival-appropriate Birkenstocks. Rookie mistake. It was a two-kilometre walk from our car to the gates each day. And a long walk between the stages and food areas as well. Sandals didn't hold up well and closed toe running shoes were a more practical choice (I'm very sorry I ever made fun of my husband for packing his hiking boots, since he was the only one of us without blisters by the end of the weekend). Bring a wide-brimmed hat, too.
3) Pack some pint-sized furniture: When we finally gave into our aching feet and backs, we would move a bit further back from the stage and find a grassy area to sit on our picnic blanket. The perk of outdoor festivals is that sound travels beautifully, and you really can't go wrong no matter where you stand or sit. But a nice fold out chair would have been a great way to avoid getting stepped on, and it's a luxury you and your derrière will appreciate (pssst, they sell backpack-style lawn chairs at Costco).
4) Be ready for some downtime: There were more than enough performers to keep us moving during the 10 hour days, but having a good book to read is a nice way to take a break. Once you enter a music festival, you won't want to leave until you're done for the day, so throw some easy snacks and a refillable water bottle in your bag, too. And don't forget a back up battery pack for your cell phone, because searching for the ever-elusive wifi signal will drain your battery quickly.
5) Bring good people and a great attitude: When I say marathon days, I'm not exaggerating. Make sure you like the people with whom you'll be spending those days. A lot. And make sure their attitude matches yours. Choose the ones who will sing and dance with you, hold your bag when you rush the stage, and remind you to re-apply sunscreen to your shoulders. Go with people who can hear the music and forget how old they are, too.
It's a very different experience going to a music festival at 21 and 41. We felt the long days physically and noticed we were stopped countless times by younger concert goers, when they needed directions or had questions. I could feel the proximity of these festivals in my own kids' futures and it was admittedly surreal.
But the moment Canadian indie rocker, Amy Millan, of the band Stars stepped up to the mic during a surprise appearance by Broken Social Scene, I knew I was in the right place. Born in the same year I was, and mother to a child the same age as one of mine, she looked so much like the women with whom I spend my day-to-day life. But when she started to sing, her age and motherhood status didn't matter. She was so glad to be up there with her fellow musicians; we could see it on her face and hear it in her voice.
She sang the music, all we had to do was stand up and listen.