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Radar is expanding the traditional concept of journalism, to cover a wide array of Baltimore Arts and Culture.

The Modern Music Festival
June 1, 2011 |

They’re all over the newspapers, the magazines, the blogs, TV, twitter… Even your parents know what you’re talking about when you mention “Lolla” and “Roo.” So, what is it about the modern music festival? What makes them different than the festivals of years past? Why so much hype? Why so much appeal?

Unlike the renowned music festivals of the 60s (such as Woodstock) that were hubs for the passionate, counter-culture, anti-war perpetrators of the era, today, festivals are considered mainstream, are well organized, and controlled. Although Woodstock and other festivals were immediately idealized in magazines, music, and documentaries as touchstones of popular culture, the events were anarchic, unruly, and even violent. The Woodstock festival of ’69 experienced a massive traffic jam that accumulated throughout the event that left many attendees without food, water, and proper sanitation for days. The Altamont free concert held in ‘69 is known for the considerable violence that occurred, including four deaths and a score of injuries. Nowadays, concertgoers are likely to be subject to a pat down upon entering the grounds of a music festival. There is first aid available at all times in case of emergency. There are convenience stores within camp grounds that are as well-stocked as your local pharmacy. Additionally, quality food and beverage have recently become a perk and selling point at the festivals (this year’s Sweetlife Festival guaranteed its attendees free gourmet salads at any Sweetgreen location for a week upon presenting their festival bracelet).

Music festivals have become one to three day-long vacations filled with good music, food, drink, friends, entertainment, and sunshine. The community appeal has lost much of its political bearings, the radical dangers that one may have sustained in the 60s are entirely avoidable, and the events can, to a certain extent, be as lavish and luxurious as one is willing to make them. This development has attracted a specific “type” of festival-goer: the middle to upper class, hipster-trendsetter, who nonchalantly listens to anything from indie rock to electro and dubstep, and can afford a $400 weekend, while taking a couple days off of work in order to attend all performances.

The success of music festivals of recent years is largely due to the world-renowned artists that perform at them, yet it is clear that other factors have started to play roles as well. To many, simply going to a festival and being able to come back and proclaim that it was the most awesome/mind blowing weekend, ever, is what counts – and wouldn’t be possible without outstanding performances… and a little bit of everything else.

Any festival-goer will tell you that there are discrepancies among festivals in the United States (even though many of them recycle one another’s musical acts, year after year). Each festival has different personality, qualities, advantages, and traits.


pvd-crowdUltra is not for the light of heart. The three-day electronic music festival typically turns into a non-stop dance party filled with bumping bass lines and thunderous electro tracks that go on into the wee hours of the morning. One should expect little to no sleep, minimal clothing (due to the heat – the festival takes place in Miami, FL – and all the sweating), and rampant drug use (the ones that will keep you up all night, dancing along with the rest of the crowd). The festival is held in March,

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and is a prime destination for college spring breakers, hardcore techno lovers, and the emblematic Miami guido. This year’s lineup included DJs and electro bands such as Tiesto, Deadmau5, The Chemical Brothers, David Guetta, Underworld, Empire of the Sun, Armin van Buuren, and Duran Duran.

What to bring/what you’ll see?

Price? Tickets range from $220 to $500 plus fees.

If you like Ultra, see Camp Bisco and Electric Zoo.


bonnaroo-2009-109Bonnaroo is your typical hippie gathering. The festival is known for its grassroots 60s-era ambience. Attendees almost always camp out on the festival grounds for the three day affair, which takes place in Manchester, TN. Most say camping out at Bonnaroo is part of the experience: people are in it together, down to get dirty, to be one with the earth, with nature, and happy to make friends with every other music loving neighbor. This year’s lineup will include indie rock, jam and jazz bands such as Arcade Fire, Widespread Panic, The Black Keys, Buffalo Springfield, Neil Young, The Strokes, and Mumford and Sons. Hip hop and rap artists, Eminem and Lil’ Wayne will also be making appearances this year (and though uncharacteristic of the hippie scene, have not hindered ticket sales).

What to bring/what you’ll see?

Price? Tickets range from $210 to $680 plus fees.

If you like Bonnaroo, see Joshua Tree Music Festival and Sasquatch Festival.


98410103AP059_Coachella_ValCoachella is as ritzy as a music festival that takes place in a desert can be. Its California location tempts many LA residents, including celebrities, and is known for its crazy, star-studded after parties, made famous by trendy photographer, Mark Hunter aka Cobrasnake Along with a mainstream lineup that this year included Kings of Leon, Arcade Fire, The Black Keys, The Strokes, Boys Noize, Nas and Damien Marley, and Chromeo, the festival typically attracts hip, contemporary artists, photographers, and trendsetters from around the world. It is the place to see and be seen.

What to bring/what you’ll see?

Price? Tickets range from $320 – $700 plus fees.

If you like Coachella, see Lollapalooza, Outside Lands, and SXSW.


Though not all music festivals are as trendy as Coachella – where what you’re wearing is almost as important as who you are listening to – the spirit of the music festival has definitely set fire to one’s originality through fashion. Festival-goers want to be comfortable – some are camping out for three days straight, plus a full day of concerts can be trying on any outfit – but comfortable doesn’t mean indifferent. Whether they know it or not, attendees are inspired by the creativity that surrounds them at festivals, and often use their own outfits as outlets for personal experimentation. Recently, fashion companies, brands, and blogs from around the world have been sending their photographers to festivals to document the threads of attendees. Some of the popular trends include:

The Long, Flowly Skirt/Dress
Nothing beats an airy, long maxi skirt or dress – perfect for breathability, and as fashion forward as ever.
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The Short-Jean-Short
Denim never dies. And is even better in short cut off form.


Feathers are all the rage this season – making appearances in trendsetters and celebrities alike. See a previous Radar Redux article on the trend: Birds of a Feather


Festivals are all about sunshine – let those flowers bloom!


See and be seen? Easy, when you’re wearing neon. You may even glow in the dark!

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Festival coverage by style blogs:

Vogue’s guide to dressing for a music festival

Who What Wear’s summer music festival fashion guide

Refinery 29’s what to wear fashion guide

URB’s most outrageous Coachella 2011 outfits

The New York Times’ street style at SXSW 2011


In correlation with the technological innovations in media and art of the 21st century, technology has started to play a larger role at the modern festival. It isn’t uncommon to find installations and sculpture lining festival grounds, serving as eye-candy for passer-byers, or as a place to rest in the shade. Recently, much of the art showcased at festivals has been given an extra punch with technologically advanced features. If it isn’t through art that one experiences the technological revolution of our time at the festivals, it’s through various every day activities.

Where do tech-loving hopefuls flock to in hopes of finding a job? SXSW, a multidimensional festival that takes place in Austin, TX is known for its seven to nine-day celebration of music and art, as well as its renowned forums in technology. The SWSW Technology Summit brings together industry leaders from all over the world for panels and workshops. Tech-lovers attend the festival yearly to network and to learn about the new technological innovations around the world.

This year marked the first-ever Coachella partnership with an outside organization. The Creators Project took the reigns at this year’s festival, bringing in a number of different “creators” to help give the festival some pizzazz. through innovative visual experiences, advanced by technology. The Creators Project decked out the festival’s stages and tents with large-scale interactive artwork for a new, innovative, visual experience of music, advanced by technology. The Sahara tent, for instance, was taken over by Muti Randolph, a Brazilian artist, who installed neon light fixtures from the ceiling that synced in time to the music. At the main stage, UVA, a collective from the UK, built a 3-D cage of LED lights that weaved in and out of performances.


Recharge stations for cell phones and other electrical appliances are almost as popular as the water fountains.

Today there is legitimately an “app” for everything, festivals included. Apps are available for all smart phone users, providing festival-related news, updates, maps, and information at the touch of the finger. The 2011 Coachella iPhone app, for example, included a detailed, time-stamped schedule of the three-day event. The 2011 Bonnaroo app has a special Roo-camera feature that allows you to upload your personal photos for other festival-goers to peruse.


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