Why I Prefer Small Festivals Over Mega-Fests

Third person POV shot of DJ booth at The Nook stage. DJ has his hands up to the crowd making a heart shape.
Photo by Get Tiny

Coachella, EDC, Lollapalooza, BURNING MAN… the list of huge epic festivals around the world goes on.

I know, I know, Burning man isn’t a “festival,” but I’ll tell you why it still belongs in this conversation.

Ten years ago, Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) and Burning Man were two items on my bucket list of events I absolutely had to attend, so I’ll use them as my main examples. Romanced by the immersive experience touted by these two scenes, my young raver self myself became obsessed with them.

Burning Man was the place where people had life-changing experiences, thrust into the desert sand surrounded by visual and mental stimulation unheard of in day-to-day life. EDC was basically the biggest rave of all time in Las Vegas, advertising huge DJ’s and chart-topping artists. I had to find a way to attend!

Two hurdles stood in my way: cost and scarcity. EDC tickets cost about $400 dollars, not including the hotel you’d have to book, and then food, etc. Burning man tickets don’t come cheap either, and you’d be picked on a lottery system, have to know someone working the event, or get into a theme camp to find a ticket.

Then there’s the vehicle pass, and all the gear, food, and water you’d need for the week. Someone could easily spend upwards of $1000 to go to Burning Man. I tried not to let the cost deter me, so I moved forward with trying to get tickets one small step at a time.

Bee themed disc jockey smiling at camera
Photo by Jennifer Lynn Roberts
Did someone say theme camp? Bzzzzzz!

Year-after-year, all of these hurdles ended up costing me attendance. I could never find a ticket to Burning Man no matter how hard I tried or what spot I got in line for the online ticket lottery. And the astronomical price of hotels in Las Vegas kept me from making the ticket purchase for EDC.

It was quite demotivating, and sadly kind of ruined the feelings that I once had for these events. Not to mention I felt I was growing out of the “rave” scene, searching for something more down-to-earth and un-exclusive. So moving forward, I decided to try some smaller festivals on for size.

Grey haired gentleman in full festival fashion on the dancefloor. Never "too old" to rave!
Photo by Gaby Esensten
A testament to never “growing out” of the rave scene!

High Sierra Music Festival 2014 saved my soul. I was finally headed to my first festival, starry-eyed and bushy-tailed, I was welcomed with open arms by not only the staff but the alumni attendees to boot. This hippie, blue-grass type festival nestled in the Sierra Nevada forest of Quincy, California was just the breath of fresh air I needed.

I felt like I was home.

The music was unique and chill, but still funky-groovy, great for dancing the day and night away. We camped in our little tents amongst the trees and woke up at sunrise for the infamous “dodgeball” games. And all this for four days cost $275 and a little camping gear plus food money. Now that’s more like it!

Now I was hooked, I went to High Sierra consecutively for 4 years straight. Until one of my friends suggested I drop into Lightning in a Bottle midday Saturday, where she was there with some college friends having a blast. Not exactly a “small” event but stay with me!

I got a wild hair and decided to drop what I was doing and show up to this festival with not much more than a sleeping bag in tow. I was able to easily get a ticket from the box office upon showing up on day two of the event, for a discount! What a deal.

Tiny toy camera with Spongebob's face inside the lens
Photo by Andrew Lloyd
Small camera. Big picture. <3

Then I heard about Lucidity

This sweet little festival is tucked in the beautiful Live Oak Campground in Santa Barbara, CA. It reminded me of a smaller version of Lightning in a Bottle, which was just what I was looking for! Less distance to trek between stages and camp, and a tighter knit “community” feeling amongst the festival.

The dedication to community responsibility was also appealing to me, giving everyone the opportunity to actually participate in the event. They also have so many unique music stages, all with quirky themes of their own. I can already imagine the magical experiences to be had with friends and strangers in this mystical land.

I got a deeply inclusive feeling from these “small” festivals and just felt like the organizers really appreciated my attendance. I wasn’t paying top dollar to see Justin Beiber or Beyonce where they don’t even really need my support. It felt good to support local musicians, artists, and vendors.

So, what’s my next little festival you ask? Lucidity. See you there!

One thought on “Why I Prefer Small Festivals Over Mega-Fests

  1. Oh my gosh!!! I loved reading this post. I too went to High Sierra in 2014 for the first time, and then again in 2015, I was absolutely mind-blown by how wonderful and FUN of a festival this was. Everyone was very welcoming, inclusive, and the whole vibe was so down-to-earth. Not to mention, we didn’t have to walk miles and miles to get from the campsite to music. It’s refreshing to be in community with others, enjoying the music, and partying in a non-commercial space. I’ve always wanted to go to Lucidity, and after reading this post, I know it’s going to be magical. Cheers! See ya’ll at Lucidity one day soon <3

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