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Recap: Virgin Mobile FreeFest

Each year I clear my calendar for when Virgin Mobile FreeFest tickets are available. It’s a mad scramble using my SmartPhone, multiple browsers, and Facebook but I usually score at least a pair. And each year, something comes up where I end up not going. This year I didn’t score tickets… but I actually attended!

I kept trying to win tickets, entering contests weekly. It seemed all my friends were going and it would be great to go with them. The thing was we didn’t have babysitting available for the whole day and through the night. So when my sister asked if I wanted to be her date with her extra ticket, Karl said I should go and he’d stay home with Emerson. As it drew closer to FreeFest day, more friends were bailing due to work schedules, family emergencies, and other conflicts. It ended up being me, my sister, and our friend Tiffany who went together.

What I Wore: I wanted to be comfortable for 10 hours straight so I worried more about comfort than style.  I wore my blue-gray Old Navy Vintage V-neck, Karen Kane jeggings, my black DUO riding boots, and in my bag was a cotton plain shirt from Lands’ End Canvas.  When it got super windy I put a bandanna (vintage Vision Street Wear) on my head.  Aviators, silver jewelry, and last minute switched from my crossbody to my festival backpack (smart decision).

My sister wanted to arrive in time to see Allen Stone. While I had heard his name, I couldn’t place him and didn’t care one way or another whether I saw his show. We had a late start but arrived before his set, and was able to get a place down center in the Pavilion for it. And I am so glad we did. Allen Stone looks like a grown up Napoleon Dynamite with his oversized glasses, toothy smile and long blonde curls, but he sounds like a young Chris Robinson (from the Black Crowes). While he did two covers (a great rendition of Tell Me Something Good and a bluesy yet hokey version of Bob Marley’s Is This Love), what really stood out were his original songs. Great voice, great songs, great energy… Allen Stone has a new fan!

Who I Saw: I bumped into Tammy from A Loyal Love, Emily from Capital Style, and we met Jason Holt (the drummer for Allen Stone)

After Allen Stone, we headed for the Festival Stage which was in a field back behind the ordinary Merriweather Post Pavilion grounds and caught the majority of the Portugal. The Man set. I know I have Portugal. The Man on my iPod, but I haven’t really listened to them in a while and was pretty impressed by their set. Enough that I added more of their tunes to one of my Spotify playlists. I got pretty close during their set and after they finished I was right on the rail and planned on staying for The Dismemberment Plan, but my friends were hungry so we went to grab lunch.

Who is that short person behind the guy in the furry red hat?  Oh yeah, that’s me in the audience at Nervo!

It was around 4pm and I really wanted to see Santigold so we headed back to the Festival Stage. We ended up passing through the Dance Forest and Nervo was on stage. There was a perfect path from the grass right into the crowd and without any wiggling I ended up almost on the rail. The show was super fun, though the crowd was young enough to be my children. We didn’t care, we danced and jumped and had a blast. However, I decided to leave so I could get a decent spot for Santigold.

This is where I made a major festie mistake – I left without my friends and without a way of contacting them. In just three hours, I had completely drained my phone battery just trying to get reception. I guess this was also a major festie mistake by Virgin – their festival WiFi was practically nonexistent. I was able to get it once at 1:30 or so, and never again. There was no reception for my AT&T phone, and same for those I met who were on Verizon, Sprint, and T Mobile. Maybe it was a calculated plan by Virgin to get people switch to them as their provider? Anyway, with a dead phone in my back pocket, I hoofed it back to the Festival Stage.

Being alone and a woman over 35 has its advantages at a festival. No one messes with you because you could be their mom and you must be cool to be at a festival, and if solo it’s easier to wiggle into a crowd without pissing anyone off. At Santigold I had tall boys regularly see me behind them, and offer me the space in front of them to see better. Within minutes I was only about 10’ from the rail on the left side of the stage. I hadn’t see Santigold live before and have loved her for a while. She didn’t disappoint and she still has a big fan in me.

The fabulous Alabama Shakes

After Santigold, I decided to head back towards the pavilion since I figured at least my sister would want to see Alabama Shakes and they were already playing. I wandered a bit and decided the best chance to see someone I knew would be to stand at the bottom of the lawn, center, right along the sidewalk. I saw fellow blogger Tammy from A Loyal Love; she let me borrow her phone to text my sister my location, but she didn’t get it or didn’t see me. I decided them to enjoy the show and a bit of people watching. Alabama Shakes rocked it, but I didn’t expect otherwise. I saw them at Rams Head Baltimore a few months prior and I recommend seeing them to anyone – truly awesome.

After Alabama Shakes, I decided to stop looking for my friends and just have fun riding solo. We all were adults and knew where the car was, we had all attended many shows and festivals in the past so I knew each of us would likely see the solo experience (I later learned that Debbie and Tiffany got separated soon after losing me) as a blessing and adventure. I headed back to the Festival Stage to catch part of Nas’ set… but soon left. While Nas sounded great, the crowd totally sucked. A lot of jerks, a lot of drunk kids, a lot of aggression. I decided to just wander. I got a beer, moseyed through the lawn, soaked up the atmosphere. I walked past the pavilion where ZZ Top was ready to perform and thought… there’s no other show I REALLY have to see so maybe I’ll check out the situation to get in the pit for Jack White.

I ended up in line along the right side of the pavilion for Jack White with some hardcore fans and ended up catching ZZ Top’s set. I wouldn’t have normally stayed for ZZ Top but was glad I saw it. Those guys are PROS. Their set was tight, they understood their crowd and played the right songs at the right time. They sounded amazing, and I knew my father in law would have been pleased that I saw the performance. I also met some nice people in line and had the opportunity to use my age to my advantage.

While standing in line, some guys started walking right past us, wiggling between our line and the seats. I asked them where they were going. “Getting in line to see Jack White.” I told them we had been waiting for the past hour and the line ended back behind me. They said, “Whatever lady” and tried to push past me. Maybe it was the beer, but I stood my ground and said, “Do you know who I am?” They looked at me, and the lead guy looked a bit scared and said, “Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize” and walked away. Thank goodness they didn’t ask who I actually was! But seriously, if you think you’re too old for such events, stop and think how badass you look having confidence and walking through all those teenagers. You’re not old, you’re what they wish they could be in 15-30 years. Wear that with honor!

Jack White did every song I could desire – songs from White Stripes, Raconteurs, the Dead Weather, and his solo album!

So finally they started letting us in to the pit. There were already a bunch of people in the pit (VIP? Fan club?) so we tried to find the best places possible. I ended up being right in center, again about 10’ from the rail. Unfortunately though I was close, I had about eight men over 6’ tall in front of me. I had a woman to my left who was about 5’ tall and a woman slightly in front of me to the right who was about my height. We all craned our necks from left to right and if the wind was just so we could see Jack White between shoulders. The pit was pretty packed – there wasn’t any dancing and I couldn’t even raise both hands over my head, but the crowd was pretty awesome… for the most part.

We all had our spots and were getting settled. The guys realized us shorties were behind them and didn’t sway too much. Jack White and his all-female white-gowned band were killing it, and this guy in a Hillbilly Casino Tennessee jacket starts pushing through the crowd. The guy next to me was very zen about it – he told his friends to let Hillbilly Casino go, don’t ruin your own good time getting angry over one human. I liked his mindset… but then Hillbilly Casino tried to get past the tallest guy in the crowd (me and a new friend called him Michael Phelps because he had a similar build and face shape) and NotMichael put out his hand and stopped him… in front of me.

I wasn’t super stressed, Hillbilly Casino was shorter than most of the guys in the area so it actually improved my view. However, this guy had some serious negative energy. He was staring to the left, not to the stage the entire time. He was so angry he was literally shaking, clenching his fists. You could feel the anger radiating off him. The more time that went by, the angrier he got and he started bouncing from one foot to the other like a boxer before a match. I ended up tapping him on the shoulder telling him the crowd was too tight, it was too late in the show, just sit put and accept his place. I couldn’t deal with this hostility and nervous energy less than a foot from my face. He just looked at me as though I was insane and kept on with whatever mission he was on.

See those tall people to the right in the crowd? Yeah, that’s where I was!

We found out what his mission was when the set ended and he took a swing at NotMichael Phelps. Immediately, I grabbed Hillbilly Casino to pull him back (yeah, he was right in looking at me earlier as though I was insane) and two guys also grabbed him. We pulled him back and I pushed him in the chest and we all told him to leave immediately. Luckily he left; those who still had cell phones working (seriously folks, 90% of the people I met had no juice left because of the poor reception) lit them up and we found NotMichael’s cap which flew off during the punch and we all settled in happier and more relaxed for the encore. Oh and to have Hillbilly Casino gone, the thrill of helping to kick him out, extra space, happy neighbors AND Seven Nation Army? Perfect ending to a phenomenal set!

I really wasn’t pressed to see anything after Jack White. the lawn was empty except for trash, the place was clearing out. However, Skrillex was still playing so I decided to walk that way. It had gotten very cold so I put on my plaid shirt and buttoned it all the way up. I was walking from the lawn down near the barn and stepped over some of those plastic plates that cover cables. It was damp, I was tired, and in slow motion I slipped and landed on my ass. I looked up and there were three little girls half naked in fur boots and Native American headdresses and face paint. “Are you okay ma’am? Do you need help getting up?” I know they were just being nice but to be tired, be 37, just semi-fight some guy twice my size, and be literally on my feet for nine hours was too much. I said I was fine, got up, brushed off my ass and my pride and headed to the Festival Stage.

I got to the bridge to that part of the grounds and could see the craziness before me. The stage was lit up, kids were dancing everywhere, the Ferris wheel was spinning, and I just didn’t want to get into all of that. I leaned against the chain link fence enjoying the bass and people watching. A couple slammed against the fence behind me, making out as though they hadn’t seen each other for a year. It didn’t bother me, I actually thought it was sweet but a minute later another couple slammed against the fence in front of me. I decided that was life telling me the day was over so I headed back to the car. My sister was already there, my friend Tiffany arrived soon after and us three old, tired, yet happy women headed home.

Would I go back to Virgin Mobile FreeFest? Yes, in a heartbeat. Sir Richard Branson knows how to throw a party. I was impressed with the little details – the phone booths where you could get a call to win anything from a beer to a meet and greet with a festival performer. That the schedule was set that the folks who prefer rock (and likely were older) had their last shows near the main exit and they ended a bit before the dance music. This way we could get out of the parking lot before all the teens on acid and Ecstasy. Fun additions like a circus (I didn’t see but Debbie and Tiffany caught). Plenty of staff, be it Merriweather folks or the 9:30 Club staff. It was very well organized and a pretty fabulous lineup for a free festival. I also liked it being post-festival season and not when it’s a kazillion degrees. Yes, the crowd is primarily under the age of 25 and I think the majority of those folks were there for the drugs and hook-ups and not music, it was still a lot of fun and look forward to next year’s fest!

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Legit Music Festival Fashion Advice

Oh April, the time of year where every fashion blog and website claims to be an expert on what to wear and take to a music festival yet fails miserably. As soon as I see a romper or designer picnic blanket recommended I know that author has never attended a music festival, nor likely an outdoor concert.

Now I don’t claim to be some sort of expert and hey, you may be double-jointed and find wearing a romper and peeing in a steaming hot porta-potty easy, but here’s my tips for attending a music festival:

1. Read the FAQ. Before you start packing, see what you’re allowed to pack and what the festival organizers suggest. Many do not allow umbrellas, even the small travel type. Quite a few do not allow detachable lens cameras, glo-sticks, or chairs of any height . The festival planners will be able to let you know if there’s access to drinking water, shade, lockers, charging stations, and more.

2. Expect a lot of Sun. Even if the festival is in a grove of trees, expect to be doused with a ton of sun. Bring a floppy hat, large sunglasses, a bandanna you can dip in water to cool off or tie around your neck to protect it, wear sunscreen and bring more. I like the spray sunscreen because it doesn’t have to be rubbed in and you can spray as you walk to the next stage performance. The higher the better – I can wear SPF 50 for an entire festie weekend and still go home with a tan. Seriously, nothing ruins a festival experience faster than a raging sunburn.

The sun not only can exhaust you, but it can also quickly exhaust your electronics. Keep your phone out of the sun and bring a charger for a long hot festie day will sap your battery. Don’t expect to find an outlet; plan ahead with a pre-charged battery backup or bring a solar charger. Do note that many festivals have poor cell reception, so have a Plan B if your original idea for organizing with friends involve texts.

3. Prepare to Walk. You can easily walk a half mile from your campsite to see a performance, and walk five miles in just a couple hours around the festival grounds. Not only that, the ground will be bumpy, can have sharp grass or rocks, very well will be muddy or dusty. Wear shoes that are comfortable for long spans of time. I wear old boots with new insoles, but a pair of desert boots, sneakers with arch support, athletic sandals or a canvas slip-on with a good insole will also do well. Bring a second pair of shoes in case your first pair gets wet or ruined, and bring socks (you may find them dorky looking but may be glad to have them Day 2 after Day 1 gave you blisters or sunburn).

4. Pack to Dance. And to walk, and drink beer or water, to chat, to eat an arepa while racing across the grounds to catch up with your friends, to use a porta potty. Use a bag that can handle all that without cramping your style. Fanny packs are back and great for day fests or places that don’t need a lot of equipment to be comfortable for long spans of time. For longer festivals far from camp, consider a small backpack or a crossbody that doesn’t dig into your shoulders when completely full.

5. Leave Designer at Home. A stranger may accidently step on your Karen Walker sunnies and your Design Within Reach throw blanket may get lost in a muddy mosh pit. A festival is a place where people dance and mosh and run and do it all while on little sleep and often lots of alcohol or drugs. Protect your much-loved items and leave them home; a festival is a perfect place for a chic DIY tie-dye bedsheet and truck stop sunglasses.

6. Stay Hydrated. Bring a water container – be it a Camelbak backpack with bladder or a reusable bottle, make sure whatever you have can hold at LEAST 22 ounces and you refill it often. Dehydration can happen quickly when you’re in the sun, heat, drinking, and dancing. Protect yourself, and keep the fun times going with regular water replenishment.

7. Prepare for Porta Potties. No rompers, no overalls, no jumpsuits unless you don’t mind stripping naked in a hot overflowing porta potty with a broken lock. Sundresses are awesome; slip a pair of bike shorts underneath to prevent chafing and to provide modesty when sitting on the ground. I like looser beat up denim shorts that look better with the dirt of the day and don’t stick to sweaty skin.

Along with that, tuck some toilet paper and maybe some Clorox wipes in your bag so if you encounter a grody or unstocked porta potty, you’re set.  I put a little of each in Ziploc baggies; if my friend is holding my bag while I go in, I just grab a bit of each and tuck in my bra strap so my hands are free.

8. Have fun! The fashion mags and sites will lead you to believe that a visit to Coachella or Bonnaroo is the sartorial moment of the year. Yes, some may treat it as such, but the rest of us dress to enjoy the real purpose of the festival – the music. Go ahead and wear fun jewelry or a boho-inspired tunic or a cut up band tee shirt, but dress in a way that doesn’t require you to check your reflection every hour, lets you run and dance and lie in the grass and sit in the dirt. I promise you, the majority of the people at the festival won’t care what you’re wearing, they’ll care more about how you’re feeling and enjoying the event!

For more about music festivals, feel free to visit my previous posts:

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Forecastle Festival 2012 – What I Wore

This is the first in a series about my experience at the Forecastle Music Festival. Additional posts will be about what I carried in my bag, and the festival itself.

This weekend I attended the Forecastle Music Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. The festival was over three days, we were staying in a hotel less than a half mile from the festival grounds and there was a good chance of rain. We miraculously were upgraded free to VIP which gave us access to air-conditioned bathroom trailers but we fully expected to be using porta-potties all weekend. The music was a mix, but mostly alternative, singer-songwriter, rock, and electronica. Music was taking place from around 2-3pm until midnight. Unlike our trips to Bonnaroo, the hotel was close enough to do an outfit change if it got cold at night or we got rained on.  Everything I took I fit in the largest size of Lands’ End tote bag.

Friday:
We entered the festival grounds around 5:30pm. I wore a white ribbed tank with a crocheted sweater over it (from Ann Taylor last year – seen here) and a pair of denim shorts from Target that I distressed myself. I don’t usually wear denim shorts this long and loose, but knew they would be good for walking, if I got sweaty, etc. On my feet I wore my Softspots Tatianna sandals. Since I knew we wouldn’t be there terribly long, I took my J. Crew suede tote (seen here).

Saturday:
The day started a bit earlier for us because we had tickets to see My Morning Jacket’s soundcheck. I wore a tee shirt with Keith Richards on it that I had cut up a while ago to give a more feminine cut. With it I wore a pair of denim cutoffs I have had for eons – they originally were gauchos and I cut them when gauchos were past their prime. Again the Softspots sandals, though this time I switched to my Kelty backpack. I knew I would be standing in line in the sun so I added a straw fedora I picked up at Target. The night before my shoulders hurt from the crossbody, and this bag has attended all Bonnaroos and similar events with me and is always comfortable.

After the soundcheck, we went back to the hotel to grab lunch. We went to a casual café in the hotel, so I just changed into a long-sleeved tee and some flip flops.

When we went back to the festival, I changed tee shirts since the morning one was sweaty and gross. I wore a bandanna around my neck to have for mopping sweat or protecting my head/neck from the sun, and changed into my DUO “Bern” boots since it had rained earlier in the day and I worried about mud. I wore Ray Ban aviators and carried my Kelty backpack.

When the festival ended for the night, we were hungry so we went back to the room to change and get food at the hotel’s sandwich shop. I wore a pair of old beat-up Gap Long and Lean jeans, a gray Vintage v-neck from Old Navy, and my Lolly Clothing scarf (seen here) with flip flops.

Sunday:
We started the day by checking out more of Louisville and grabbing brunch. I wore a brown Gap maxi dress, this necklace, and my Softspots sandals; I carried a tan leather tiny crossbody bag from HOBO.

When heading back to the festival, I dressed down, ready for sweat, dirt, and the possible beer splashed in my direction. I wore another tee shirt (seen here), and the same shorts from Friday evening. Since I didn’t experience much mud on Saturday, I went back to my Softspots sandals which are more supportive and comfortable when walking and standing.

On the ride down I wore the Gap jeans with a tee shirt and my sandals, on the ride home I wore white jeans, my blue-gray Vintage Old Navy v-neck, and my flip flops.

What Else I Packed:

  • Workout clothes. The hotel had a gym and I wanted sneakers in case we wanted to take an early-morning hike or walk.
  • Poncho (will detail this in future What’s in My Bag post)

What I Packed that I Didn’t Use:

  • Dresses. While I love cotton dresses at Bonnaroo, they just seemed too fancy and complicated for Forecastle. While there were many women in skirts and sundresses, I felt most comfortable in a pair of denim cutoffs so I could sit on the ground and not worry about strapless bras or bike shorts.
  • Long-sleeved shirts. I brought my orange plaid cotton voile button-front and my chambray shirt, thinking I could toss them on when the sun went down, but they weren’t necessary.
  • Nicer outfits. I knew there would be after parties at various bars and clubs in Downtown Louisville and brought clothes for them. However, we were pretty done after each day and headed back to the hotel.
  • Hair dryer. Hotel had one, but I never had a need to use it anyway – I let my hair air dry, and only used my curling iron for when we went to brunch.
  • Canvas cross-body. I bought this for Bonnaroo, but for Forecastle I always wanted a bag big enough to carry things like water and a chair.
  • Second pair of sunglasses. Good to have just in case, luckily that situation never happened.

All in all I felt really prepared and comfortable at Forecastle.  In fact my husband and I mentioned that we felt like professionals – never lacking for anything, not over-burdened but always had what we needed, quite comfortable and had a blast!

Details on the actual festival to come!

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Ask Allie: Music Festival Fashion with Boots

I can’t imagine wearing boots to a music festival! I saw your post on Inforoo saying you wear them but it seems so hot I plan to wear some TOMS what’s the benefit of boots?

I know you’ve been to music festivals before, what do you recommend for shoes?

I’ve been to Bonnaroo several times, attended the Virgin FreeFest and Forecastle and have worn a variety of shoes. Sandals, flip flops, Chucks, even Crocs (I know, I know!). However for the past couple of years my go-to shoes for music festivals are boots. Yes, even in the dreadful heat of summer in Tennessee, I wear boots.

Why Boots Rock for Music Festivals:

  • They are Sun Protection. You can’t imagine how many people get the tops of their feet burned at fests. It’s the part you forget, the part that gets dirty and the sunscreen rubs off, the part (other than the top of your head) that gets the most sun as you walk from stage to stage.
  • They are Injury Prevention. I know someone who had the scary spiky grass of Bonnaroo pierce her flip flop and spike the bottom of her foot. I’ve had many a person step on my feet as they are wiggling to get closer to a stage, and my sister hobbled through one Bonnaroo because an unfolded E-Z Up tent fell on her foot. Mosh pits, hot cups of coffee, setting up camp accidents… boots keep your feet protected so you can enjoy the festival.
  • They are Cooler Than You Think. I wear a pair of DUO Boots I bought eons ago, they’re calf-height, very low heel, leather but have a shearling lining. They keep my legs warm in winter and surprisingly cool in summer. I wear with cotton or wool socks to add cushioning and breathability.
  • They Support Your Feet. TOMS are cute and may be comfy when walking around town, but they don’t have arch support or cushioning that can be quite nice after 12 hours of standing and walking on hard ground, rocky terrain, and concrete. Trust me. A boot can also be made even more comfy with insoles; I buy a new pair of insoles made for work boots prior to each music festival.
  • They Can Take a Beating. I spray my boots with waterproofing spray before I go and don’t even blink when I have to tromp through mud, dust, or worse. Most boots look better with some wear; when I get home I clean them, give them a good polishing, take out the insoles and have them ready for weekends and casual affairs.

Be they a pair of tall boots with a babydoll dress, lace-up granny boots with a peasant skirt, some Docs with denim cutoffs, or Western-inspired booties with a boho-inspired dress, a low-heeled boot can offer comfort, protection, and miles of style at a music festival. Don’t sacrifice your comfort for fashion when there’s alternatives that can give you the best of both worlds!

Do note that the sample ensembles feature some important things for festivals – sunhats with decent sized brims (no fedoras or beanies), large sunglasses, and bags that can be worn while you dance and rock out.  Your accessories are just as important as your shoes to ensure you have a fabulous time this summer at the music festival/s of your choice.

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Ask Allie – What to Wear to a Music Festival?

Hi Allie, I know you recently went to the Bonnaroo Music Festival in the US. I am going to the Oxegen Festival. I was wondering what you suggest I wear to it?

Dear Allie,
Are you going to Bonnaroo again this year? I am going too! What do you suggest I pack?
Dear Allie:
My boyfriend got us tickets to Outside Lands (it’s a fest in CA). What sort of clothes should I wear to such an event? I haven’t been to a fest of this size before. Thank you so much!
Image courtesy of the NY Daily News

Ah, the music festival. A life-changing event for anyone, no matter how large of a music fan. Music festivals are all-day or multi-day events full of music, art, food, and sights you may never seen before. I have been to a few one-day festivals and have now attended the Bonnaroo festival in Tennessee for three years. Bonnaroo is four days, and I have done general admission, which is camping sans electricity or proper bathrooms (hello porta-potties!)and a lot of walking in extreme heat. As a slightly high-maintenance woman, I feared my first music festival, but found that with the right wardrobe and supplies, anyone can be comfortable AND stylish at such an event.

Surviving the Heat
Most music festivals are during the hottest months of the year. This is great for those in school – no need to skip classes to see your favorite artist. However it’s pretty tough to spend 12+ hours in high heat for multiple days. It is important to dress and pack correctly so that you protect your skin, your energy, and your health during a festival.

I highly recommend wearing 100% cotton (not jersey) dresses. Pure cotton will float away from your body with the slightest breeze and will dry quickly when wet from sweat or a Super Soaker. In the summer, it’s not hard to find adorable cotton sundresses at most any retailer. For this year’s Bonnaroo I scored several sundresses for under $20 each at Ross, and also saw plenty of dresses that would be perfect at Old Navy and Target. Don’t take your designer duds – no matter what you do, clothes can get dirty. Not only is there the potential for mud (even if it’s dry, there can and will be mud), there will be messy carnival food, large crowds of people bumping into you and possibly spilling their food/drink, and folks trying to get into the spirit with water guns, glitter, glo-sticks and other various things that can be tossed into a crowd. If you do find a great score at a discount place, be sure to secure the straps. A friend and I both had a strap break on a sundress while at the festival this year (and be at the ready with a mini sewing kit and some safety pins just in case of any wardrobe emergency).

No matter your size, many women experience that which we lovingly call, “chub rub”. Many women have curvy thighs, and when walking long distances and sweating, you can get a rash on the inside of your legs. I have found the best thing to combat this is a pair of bike shorts under my sundress. In 2007, I bought two pairs of moisture-wicking black bike shorts from Kmart for $9.99 each and have used them ever since. They do a great job of preventing chafing, and also offer modesty so I can easily sit cross-legged on the ground during a show. I know many women who prefer using BodyGlide (or use it along with the shorts). BodyGlide can be applied like a stick deodorant and will help prevent chafing, even if you sweat.

When there is heat, there usually is sun. A music festival is not the place to work on your tan. You won’t realize how much sun you have gotten until you end up with a nasty burn that evening. I have found that even when I wear SPF 30 sunscreen, I will come home from a festival with plenty of color. This year I used SPF 30 on my body and 55 on my face, and carried both with me all day for easy reapplication. Aerosol sunscreen is a great choice for such an event because you can reach your back, you don’t have to run it in with grubby hands, and that type of container is less likely to leak in your bag. I also take a stick or tube of higher SPF sunscreen with me to the shows to apply to the face and any sun-sensitive places (shoulders, back of neck, tops of feet) on a regular basis. It’s also wise to get a lipbalm with SPF – your lips will get dry from the heat, and they are quite susceptible to sunburn.

Image courtesy of the Nashville Beauty Blog – the Blogger at Bonnaroo 2009

With so many cute hats in fashion right now, it’s silly to not wear one to a music festival. A basic straw cowboy hat is always stylish at such an event, and will do a good job of keeping your neck and nose protected. Fedoras and porkpie hats are trendy now – they aren’t really good at protecting you from the sun, but will offer protection to your scalp. The best choice is a floppy hat with a large brim – I have a crushable straw one that I have had for over a decade. I can roll it up and stick it in my bag when I am indoors or it gets dark, and easily pull it out for when it’s sunny. I have found great sun hats at Title 9, Athleta, Lands End and Macy’s. I also recommend checking out Etsy – you can find some really unique and cute sunhats there – check out these adorable numbers from Bonniesknitting!

Another great item to pack for sun protection is a bandana (or two!). A bandanna can be tied around your neck to protect it from the sun, it can be tied over your head like a kerchief to protect the scalp and tip-top of your forehead, and it can be dunked in cold water and used to cool you off in a jiffy. I tie a bandanna to the zipper of my bag to have at the ready – it’s also great to mop sweat off your brow. If you don’t like the look of bandannas, any cotton scarf will do. This year I took a candy-colored cotton voile scarf from Lands End’s Canvas line and it worked just as well (and laundered just as well) as a classic bandanna.

You MUST stay hydrated! Don’t expect a water bottle or two from a vendor to suffice. It’s easy to get dehydrated and not even notice. Next thing you are feeling dizzy or worse. Even though they are not chic, I carry a backpack that has a hydration pack inside it. I have one from Kelty that I bought several years ago – it is very small and fits right between my shoulder blades, but has room to hold 50 ounces of water along with my essentials. If you can’t imagine carrying a Camelbak-type bag, I recommend having a large aluminum or Nalgene-type bottle that you can hook to your bag and can be filled quite often from water stations. If you have to carry your bottle in your hand the entire time, it very well may be discarded for being a nuisance. I don’t want to be all TMI, but if you haven’t had to hit a porta-potty in a bit, it’s a good chance that you aren’t drinking enough. And know for every alcoholic beverage you consume, that much more water you need to consume to stay properly hydrated.

Be smart – find shade between shows, be it under a tree, from the shadow of a tent, or even if you decide to head back to your tent or hotel for a quick break. You really need to pace yourself – prioritize the performances you wish to see, so if you’re feeling a bit woozy, tired, or overheated you can take a break. Beer gardens, movie tents and vendor tents are great places to duck in and get some shade. In 2007 I almost passed out from the heat, and this year a person I knew died from the heat at a music festival. I would hate this to happen to any of you, so please stay cool, stay hydrated, and pace yourself.

Surviving the Lack of Plumbing
Porta-Potties
Be you attending a one-day fest or a multi-day camping adventure, you will likely be dealing with porta-potties. No one enjoys them, but they are a fact of life. Here’s a few things that can make your bathroom experience quick and less painful:

  • Don’t expect each porta-potty to have toilet paper. Bring your own. I see many people who enter porta-potties with a whole roll of T.P. I personally don’t like that option because then there is something you need to hold while in there. I will fill a sandwich baggie with pre-torn piles of toilet paper. Then before I enter a porta-potty I will tuck the little pile of TP into my bra strap or pocket. Nothing to have to hold, and I am prepared in case the porta-potty isn’t well equipped.
  • Not only will portable toilets be sans toilet paper, they will also be disgusting. I carry a second sandwich baggie with Clorox wipes. I take one in with me (tucked in the other bra strap or pocket) and wipe down the seat before attempting to do anything in there. I am a petite woman, and there is no way I can properly hover over a porta-potty and not make a mess. It is far easier to clean the seat than try to not touch it. Also, it is a “pay it forward” sort of act for the woman in line after you who may not have thought to bring sanitizing wipes!
  • If you can, head to the porta-potties with a friend. Then she can hold both of your bags while you are in there, and then you can reciprocate the favor. If you don’t have this option, it’s great to have a cross-body bag or backpack that you can put on the front of your person and keep from touching any surfaces.
  • Bring hand sanitizer! I prefer sanitizing wipes to the liquid in this case, so I can use it to scrub off stuff instead of rubbing it in. I wait until I am out and out of way of the line before attempting to use this. Some porta-potties come with sanitizer, but you can’t rely on that.
  • If you will be at a multi-day event, I recommend a third sandwich baggie with personal cleansing wipes in it. In case your carnival food doesn’t sit well with you, or just if you want to do a wipe down to feel refreshed and less sweaty. Be sure to mark the bags so you know which baggie is Clorox and which is Cottonelle!
  • If you are going to be at a festival at night, it’s a good idea to clip a headlamp or LED light to your bag so you can see what you are doing. Some porta-potties are perfectly set up near outdoor lighting, but many times, especially in camp sites, they will be located in a dark corner of the grounds. My husband picked up a cheap LED head lamp for me (small light on an elastic band) from some Big Box retailer – I never stick it on my head, but I have slung it around my neck when walking in dark locations, have held it in my hand to light my path, and have switched it to the red light and attached to my backpack so my friends can find and follow me in a crowd.

Porta-potties are another reason why dresses are a great option for attire. To have to wiggle off sweaty jeans or shorts in a rush can be awkward, difficult, and can give you more opportunity to accidently bump into a surface in there. Also jeans and pants can drag on the floor. Every woman I know agrees that dresses and skirts are FAR more porta-potty friendly, especially in the heat!

Bathing
If you are staying in general camping, running water may not exist, or if in the case of the Bonnaroo Music Festival, it may be ice-cold well water running from spigots in a metal trailer. It’s pretty much a given that you won’t be spic n’ span at a fest, but you can still be comfortable and relatively stink-free.

If you have running water (troughs, spigots, etc.):

  • My sister thought of the brilliant idea of bringing a child’s play bucket – the type one uses at the beach. In it, put your soap, shampoo, washcloth, etc. Then you can place it on the floor or hang it off a hook or fence and have all your necessities at arm’s reach and not getting gross. Sometimes the floors at these water stations can have several inches of water, so your regular shower caddy with open sides won’t always be a good bet.
  • You can’t get fully naked (unless you are very daring), so I have found it best to wear a bikini or a bra-tank or bikini top with a skirt or pareo when you go bathing. Be sure to wear shoes with good grip because it can get slick and muddy at the water stations.
  • Though I am a stickler for high-quality shampoo and conditioner for my highlighted hair, at a fest I go with a travel-sized bottle of 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner. It’s easier.
  • For cleaning the body, I take a bar of Ivory soap. I can then use it to clean my whole body and even clean clothes if need be. My husband prefers a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap because he will even use it as his shampoo. Either way you look at it, a multi-tasking product makes the most sense. I find a washcloth to be easier than a shower poof or just my hands – easier to scrub grubby feet and to get sticky sunscreen off shoulders.
  • I also pack one of those small, lightweight microfiber hair towels. It’s usually too hot to bother with drying my body, and these towels dry fast, will sop up moisture from your hair without having to rub, and can make a really great turban or tuck into your bag or bucket when finished.
  • If you know the water station will have spigots with threads on them (like a spigot off your house), it’s a great idea to take an old hose, cut a couple feet off the female end and take it to have a DIY shower. One can often find old hoses for offer on Freecycle. Home improvement stores also carry short hoses specifically for washing machines that have finished ends – this is a nice alternative and also means you can attach a nozzle to control water flow.

If you have shower stations (shower trailers, pay showers):

  • Don’t expect the luxury of even the cheapest motel – these showers are small and cheap. At Bonnaroo they have pay showers sponsored by Garnier Fructis. For $7 you get a teeny plastic stall (think RV bathroom – we’re talking a space not wider than your shoulders) and a very thin shower curtain that has been torn and trashed by previous users. The floor of your shower stall is littered with leftover packets of sample shampoos and balls of hair. These stalls will be lined up along the wall of the trailer, there rarely are mirrors or a changing area.
  • Wear shoes in the shower. Not only can you scrub them clean, but you keep your tootsies safe from fungus and other grodiness.
  • The bucket again can come in handy, it can be placed on the floor, a shelf, even over the shower head if you are tall enough.
  • Bring a bigger towel, and hang it over the shower curtain for some modesty.
  • Wear something that is super easy to get off and back on when you are damp. Again this is where a cotton sundress comes in handy.

Other ways of staying clean:

  • Outdoor stores sell personal cleansing cloths that are thicker and larger in size than ones you can find at Target. However either type is wonderful to wipe down with after a sweaty, sticky day.
  • Outdoor stores also have what’s called solar showers. Pretty much these are bags you can fill with water and hang from a tree, a hook, or even buy a tent created just for a solar shower. Just be sure that it’s not set up in a way that the runoff will spill into a neighbor’s campsite.

Surviving a Day Away from your Home/Hotel/Campsite
The way to have a successful day at a festival is to be fully prepared. Yes you want to look stylish, but there’s no point in looking cute if you have blisters, sunburn, and no camera to take a picture of your fine self.

As previously mentioned, my day bag of choice is a very small backpack with a hydration bladder in it. What I fill it with:

  • My three baggies for the porta potties
  • Two hair elastics
  • A few safety pins of varying size
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sunglasses with case and little cloth to clean them
  • Camera, in a plastic bag (protect from condensation from the hydration bladder, and also if it rains, someone spills a beer on my bag, etc.)
  • Lip balm with SPF
  • Face sunscreen with high SPF
  • Body sunscreen (aerosol) with high sunscreen (or if a friend has a bigger bag and I know I will be with them the whole time, they can carry it)
  • Cell phone with the numbers of every darn person I know at the festival PLUS the number for the nearby tow truck or taxi company (usually comes with your tickets)
  • Booklet/map provided with the festival
  • Cash in small bills (never more than $40 unless I know I will be buying a souvenir)
  • Sharpie (you never know when you may bump into a celebrity and want their autograph!)
  • Business cards (I have ones from VistaPrint which are cheap, have my name, my cell, my email, my Website. Great to trade with new friends you make, and can always make notes on the back with your Sharpie)
  • A snack (Clif bars, granola bars, cheese and crackers packet, baggie of granola – something that will give you long-running energy and will hold up to the heat. Lines may be long at vendors, you may run out of money, you never know and it’s nice to have a snack just in case)
  • Bandanna or cotton scarf, tied to the exterior

I highly recommend you get a bag you don’t mind wearing for long periods of time and you can wear while dancing. Cross-body bags can be great if they are small, but can but a pain if they keep banging into your thigh while rocking out at your favorite show. A regular purse will not be comfortable on your shoulder for long periods of time. Look for a sleek and smaller cross-body bag or a backpack. Fill it with everything before you go to see how it feels on your body and try walking around and dancing. You don’t want to put your bag on the ground for fear of mud and thieves.

What I leave back at camp, locked safely in my car:

  • iPod
  • Wallet
  • Rest of money
  • Chargers for cell and camera
  • Anything else of value

Festivals are a great place to meet very friendly, like-minded people, but they also attract jerks and thieves. Protect yourself by not carrying everything in your bag, having a bag you don’t mind carrying at all times, and putting all your valuables into your car out of sight. If you drove a car there, keep a key to your car safety pinned into your bag or clothes, and leave the rest of the keyring in the car. Also hide a second car key at camp or give it to a friend in case your bag is stolen.

Treat Your Tootsies Well
Finally, one of the most important things for a good long day at a festival is proper footwear. This is not the time to try out your cute new gladiator sandals or to wear your $1 Old Navy flip flops. You want a pair of shoes that will treat your tootsies well for hours upon hours on end of standing on hard ground and asphalt, cushion you over walking on rocky terrain, can handle a sloshed beer or a mudpuddle, and have traction.

When I say traction, I don’t just mean on the bottom of the shoe. This is why flip flops are not the best option. Have you ever tried to run in a pair of soaking wet flip flops? It’s a recipe for disaster and a sprained ankle. I have been to festivals where it has rained; even a 20-minute sunshower can create ridiculous mud which will literally suck flip flops right off your feet.

A great choice are athletic sandals like Tevas, Merrells, or Chacos. These will stay on no matter the conditions and won’t leave you with a blisterful pair of feet. Many people like lightweight canvas shoes like Chuck Taylors or TOMS; I have a special place in my heart for Sanuks – a company with a good heart that makes super comfy “Vans”-like shoes with a sole as cushy as your favorite flops.

 Photo courtesy of The Girl’s Girl

I have worn my brown leather DUO boots (the Bern) to many a concert and festival – they are shearling lined (keeps me cool) and I have added a waterproofing spray to the exterior. They have a low heel, good traction, an additional cushioning insert and let me tromp through most anything feeling secure. I despise despise DESPISE Crocs, but I have to say they are the perfect festival shoe – they cushion your feet, let them breathe so they don’t get sweaty and stinky, will stay on in even the muckiest of mud, and can easily be rinsed off at the end of the day. They also give a bit of protection to the foot if a beer bottle is dropped on you or you have to enter an especially soggy porta-potty or water station.

Whatever your footwear, be sure they are broken in prior to heading to the festival. Nothing will cramp your good time more than painful, chafed, blisted, cramped toes.

So, What Should I Pack?
If you are staying onsite or at a hotel nearby, I recommend two outfits for each day. If it’s hot or rainy, you will want to change into dry clothes. And when I mean a separate change of clothes, I include underwear in this. Pack two pairs of underwear for each day (if your clothes are sweaty, so will be your undergarments), and bring a bra that you can switch into while the other is hanging up to dry.

Picture courtesy of BallerinaGrape

On top of this, I recommend some clothes to keep you warm when the sun goes down. I don’t recommend jeans (see above re: porta potties, also jeans suck to put on when you are achy or sunburned). If you are wearing a dress, pairing it with a pair of full-length leggings or some floaty linen pants is a great idea. I often just change into a maxi dress or a completely different outfit with a long skirt. Also if you bring a hoodie, it’s usually enough and then you can tie it around your waist or on your bag when you warm up from dancing.

Pack more than one pair of shoes. Even if you have broken in your shoes, they can very well give you some pain after wearing them for 12+ hours at a time. It’s healthy to switch your shoes each day anyhow. I also like to pack a simple pair of basic flip flops for when at camp or for the drive there and back.

Bring two pairs of sunglasses – you never know if you may lose a pair and it would suck to go without.

Pack a survival kit. Safety pins, a small sewing kit, extra hair elastics and Bobby pins or clamp barrettes, Shout wipes or a Tide to Go pen, Immodium AD and Pepto Bismol, pain reliever of your choice, something with electrolytes (Propel, Gatorade, I really like u hydration tablets, which aren’t full of all the fake stuff and sugar of many other electrolyte tabs and they taste really great), if you are within a week or so of your period pack some feminine hygiene products just in case, an extra pair of contacts or glasses, first-aid basics (band-aids, something to clean a wound), extra car key, insurance and AAA card, a hidden $50 that you won’t spend at the festival in case you need a jump, tow, taxi, etc.

Pack some clothes that are fun. When the sun goes down, the party gets crazy at music festivals. Bring your face glitter, your neon pink lip gloss, your angel wings or tutu. You may not feel brave enough to don them, but festivals have a way of bringing out the party girl in most any woman!

But I’m not a Dirty Hippie/Hipster/I’m a Music Newbie!

 Photo courtesy of Music Festival Junkies

If you Google photos of people who have attended music festivals, you may think that all of them are young and cool, or else decked out in tie-dye and hemp. Neither is true, festivals are great because they attract every type of person. I have returned to Bonnaroo so many times because it is a festival that offers pretty much every genre of music.

No need to buy a whole new wardrobe of peasant skirts and rope sandals, or fedoras and Ray Bans. I buy sundresses for music festivals because they are comfortable, and they can also be worn again on summer weekend days. When doing your summer shopping, instead of buying clothes just for this event, see if you can find things that will do double-duty. Instead of buying a dry clean only frock, look for one that can be washed in the machine. Instead of polyester, look for cotton. In place of safe black, consider a cheery print.

Keep in mind that a festival is a laid-back environment. No need for a ton of accessories, coordinated pieces, perfectly polished ensembles. Simple is better, you will get sweaty, you will get dusty and you will want to dance. I leave at home my wedding set and the only jewelry I bring is a turquoise necklace my husband brought back from his yoga teacher training in Mexico, and a pair of silver hoops.

If you are the type of woman who can’t leave your home without at least five pieces of makeup, you may want to adjust your routine for this event. Makeup doesn’t hold up too well in 100-degree heat, and you won’t have regular access to a mirror for touch-ups. That doesn’t mean you need a bare face. At Bonnaroo I wear waterproof mascara, bronzing powder dusted on my cheeks, and Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm. I carry Urban Decay’s De-Slick to combat shine. If you have a bad zit, it’s fine to try to touch it up with some concealer and pressed powder, but a fully “done” face will only leave you with a mess and a smear.

And if you are not familiar with most of the artists, well all the better! Some of my favorite bands in 2010 are ones I never heard of three years ago. They became faves because I saw them perform at a music festival. Festivals are great places to learn about new music, and find your personal music style without being biased by corporate radio, TV, or friends. At a festival, every artist will have an audience of raving fans, so there isn’t any bias, you can’t choose wrong. Go ahead and see a performance or two by yourself – you will make instant friends with the other excited people in the audience!

What to leave at home:
Heels, tight miniskirts, tight jeans, hairspray, flat iron, anything that is dry clean only or delicate or can’t handle getting wet, expensive jewelry, designer anything, your favorite purse, anything that won’t be comfortable enough to dance in or sit in on the ground.

Also leave at home any snark, eye-rolling or criticism. Seriously, you will see EVERY type of person at a festival. Many people travel from fest to fest because they are huge fans of music, but also because festivals are a place where they can feel accepted. That woman in the chain mail bikini and Indian headdress may actually be upper management at a stuffy corporation during the week, the “dirty hippie” may be her college’s fashionista come fall semester. Relish in the fact that you are able to go somewhere where you can be totally relaxed, not stressed over hemlines or heel heights. Be comfortable, feel attractive in your own way, and wear the best accessory out there – a big happy smile.

And be sure to come back and share your experiences at your next fest!

Festival Fashion from a Festival Lover

Every year around this time, fashion blogs, sites, and magazines offer their opinion on great music festival fashion.

And every year around this time you’ll find me shaking my head and getting ragey.

Their fashion advice SUCKS. Sorry magazines, blogs, and sites that I love… don’t give advice on something you know nothing about. You can’t base festie fashion advice on what Emma Roberts wore to Coachella, or what an Olsen sister wore to Bonnaroo. The thing is, celebrities have VIP areas – places with air conditioning, cushy seating, real bathrooms, places to get a bottle of icy water and have a moment to freshen up. They see shows either from the very front row (without having to shove through thousands of sweaty bodies), or from the side of the stage. They roll around the grounds in golf carts, and have shady places to rest and sip a beer.

Fergie, Paris Hilton, Dita Von Teese, and Emma Roberts all wearing celebrity-specific fashion at Coachella 2012

If you’ve been to a music festival, you know this is not how the majority of people roll… and therefore we regular folks need to dress differently.

Music festivals take place during warmer months – even if it’s April, there’s a good chance that it will be blazing hot. If it’s not blazing hot, there’s a good chance it will be raining. What started off as a lush green pasture in just a couple hours’ time will become a dusty dirt pit or else a mucky mud pit. As for the bathrooms? Well get used to very well-used porta-potties that have been sitting in that blazing heat (and are surrounded by that mucky mud).

While fashion experts will suggest white crocheted sundresses, rompers, and wedges, here’s some advice on what to wear to a music festival when you are not on the A List.

1. Flat Shoes. Be they flip flops, leather sandals, or boots… a music festival is NOT a place to wear a heel, a wedge, or even a flatform. You will be walking a lot, and on bumpy, dirty, and possibly muddy terrain. You will be standing a lot, and you won’t have an opportunity to switch out your footwear.

For a single-day festival, a flat sandal that has already been broken in is a great choice. Many like flip flops, but I have seen mucky mud suck flops right off people’s feet. Having a few straps to hold your shoe in place is the best bet. This is a time where TOMS, Vans, Chucks, desert boots, and other lightweight lace-up shoes are a great choice.

For multiple-day festivals, choose comfort over style. A shoe with cushioning, arch support, and protection from mud as well as dry scratchy grasses is perfect. Again, a desert boot or lightweight sneaker is stylish yet comfy; I wear my DUO “Bern” boots to fests and add new inserts for extra cushioning.

Whatever you do, don’t wear your favorite shoes. They may get muddy, may have beer (or something worse) splash on them, and will be pretty beat up come the end of the festival. Choose shoes that can handle a beating (or at least a tumble in the washing machine).

2. Sunhat. So you have a base tan. Maybe you’re a lifeguard and are in the sun all the time. Even if you slathered on the SPF 55, the sun can be brutal at a music festival. To accommodate the crowds, the venue is usually pretty free of trees and shady spots and you will spend the majority of your time uncovered. Keep your head cool and your skin safe with a hat.

While some just like a fedora or baseball cap to look cute and have a bit of shade on the skull, a music festival is a perfect place to look chic in a large-brimmed floppy sunhat. This is a venue where such a hat will be admired, so don’t be afraid to go bright, quirky, or big. Not only will you have people coming up to you complimenting you on your accessory, you will be sun-smart and be better able to enjoy the festival.

3. A Comfortable Bag. You won’t have a place to stash your stuff while standing in line for the porta-potty or rocking out to your favorite band, so you need a bag that is comfortable when worn for long periods of time, and also can hold a lot. While I have been known to sacrifice style and wear a Camelbak, you can also consider a crossbody, which will leave your hands free to take pictures, drink a beer, and put your hands up with the crowd. Test such a bag before going – pile in a bunch of stuff (a jacket, full bottle of water, camera, sunscreen) and see if it digs into your shoulder or inhibits your ability to walk and dance before taking it to the music festival.  As with everything else, be sure your bag is one you don’t mind getting dirty or damaged.

4. Porta-Potty Friendly Fashion. I don’t know WHY every fashion outlet encourages rompers at music festivals. Who wants to strip down naked in a porta-potty? Those locks don’t always work, and you’ll have drunken people with bursting bladders trying anything to find a free john. My friends and I have often accidentally walked in on someone who forgot to lock the porta-potty or had one with a busted lock, imagine how awful it would be to have that happen to you while your entire outfit is at your knees.

Along with this, keep in mind that porta-potty floors are pretty disgusting and there is rarely a shelf or hook available. You need a bag that you don’t need hands to hold, and clothes that won’t drag when you are doing your business. This means overalls, maxi dresses, white and light colored dresses, fitted jeans and pants, and long fringe are poor choices unless you don’t mind wearing the floor muck for the rest of the festival.

Celebrity fest fashion that is actually wearable – Busy Phillips, Vanessa Hudgens, Kelly Osbourne, Kate Bosworth
 

What I Do Suggest:

  • Cotton Sundresses. They’re cute, they’re breezy, and they can look adorable with comfy shoes like TOMS and boots.
  • Denim Cutoffs. This is something fashion experts suggest and I can agree on. As long as they aren’t skin tight and cover your rear, they are durable enough to withstand a music festival, and may even look better after the experience!
  • Bikinis. If you have the figure, a music festival is a place to flaunt it. A bikini top makes a cute pairing with denim cutoffs or even a gauzy peasant skirt and swimwear means you can hop in a fountain or water activity, hose down after a muddy mosh pit, and you can cover and support your bust without additional layers.
  • Cheap Sunglasses. Leave your Chanels at home and head to your local Target (or even gas station) for a pair of oversized aviators or big plastic shades. Your sunglasses can get lost, broken, scratched, stolen, or dulled from dusty winds, it’s not worth it to take the designer shades. Also, this is an environment where a pair of neon yellow faux Wayfarers can actually look cool.


For more music festival fashion advice, check out my post, “What to Wear to a Music Festival.”

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Forecastle 2012 Recap

While I have attended Bonnaroo several times, I had yet to attend a city-based music festival like Forecastle. Unlike Bonnaroo where you camp on the same grounds as the music festival, you have to stay offsite with Forecastle. We chose to stay at The Galt House, which was less than a half mile from the grounds and also had a great price for festival attendees.

The Galt House was HUGE! Two giant towers, restaurants, spa, gym, shops, pool and more! We reserved a room with a king bed but it wasn’t ready at check-in time. They apologized, gave us a room with two queen beds and a river view and even comped our parking as an apology. Even better, our new room ended up right across the hall from my sister!

The room itself was lovely – pretty basic but a huge bay window overlooking the Ohio River.  We bought a bottle of bourbon (when in Louisville…) and had cocktails enjoying the view.  My husband said it was looking at a live train set with the bridges, barges and boats, trains and more.

Friday:
The music started just after 5pm; we arrived around 5:30 to get a lay of the land. The festival site is predominately under a major highway which was actually pretty awesome because it shielded attendees from the sun and possible rain (it was set to rain all weekend). While the stages are far enough apart to prevent too much audio bleed, the grounds are small enough that you can easily dash from one stage to another to see every set you desire. The two biggest stages are right on the water, so through the stages you saw the Ohio, the bridges, and the most spectacular sunsets.

We bought a packet from the My Morning Jacket fan club which gave us access to the MMJ sound check, pit access for their performance, and access to the VIP entrance the whole festival. Friday when we went into the festival for the first time, we handed them our ticket and got a black bracelet. Then a woman saw our Roll Call cards and said we were missing a bracelet and gave each of us an orange VIP one. We were confused but soon realized that either they messed up or the package was far better than we expected because suddenly we had VIP access all weekend! We were able to get into VIP which had tons of seating, an air-conditioned lounge tent, air-conditioned bathroom trailers and their own beer and food vendors. I swear, this festival kept getting better and better!

We did a lot of bouncing around from stage to stage Friday night and caught a bit of Rebelution, The Head and the Heart, Atlas Sound, Atmosphere, Sleeper Agent, and Bassnectar. The only show I saw in its entirety was Sleigh Bells, and I got a great spot about a dozen people from the pit, a little right of center. I loved every artist I saw except Atlas Sound and Atmosphere. While both are extremely talented and put on a good show, Atlas Sound was bibbing about the “digital” coming from Atmosphere’s stage, and when we left and went to Atmosphere, we found that he was being a of a Gloomy Gus too, with negative snarky lyrics and conversation between songs. Such things wouldn’t usually bother me, but it just felt like a bad way to start the first night of a festival so I moved on.

After jumping up and down for a full hour at Sleigh Bells, I ended up catching most of Bassnectar from VIP – not a good view, but good sound and it was fun to watch the crowd (and also take advantage of VIP!).

I was already impressed with Forecastle by the end of Friday. Most of the grounds are gravel or concrete which means no mud and little dust. The views of the Ohio were amazing and we were treated to spectacular sunsets each evening. Enough water, more than enough porta-potties, plenty of food and trinket vendors. However the best part was the people – real music fans, few pretentious hipsters, no age-ists who looked down at us parents rocking out – a real mix of happy music lovers.

Saturday:
As previously mentioned we splurged on a special pass for members of the My Morning Jacket fan club to attend their sound check and get pit access for their actual show. The sound check was at 11am, before the festival grounds opened to other attendees. We got there… and it began to storm. They couldn’t let us out to the stage with lightening so they had us wait under the overpass until it blew through. Soon it was clear that the storm wasn’t going anywhere, but instead of cancelling and disappointing their biggest fans, My Morning Jacket gave us a special treat – they came to us! Jim James and team walked over to our group under the overpass and did an intimate acoustic set for us! It was amazing – they sounded phenomenal and did some of my favorite songs – they started with Tonight I Want to Celebrate With You (me and my husband’s song), even did Old September Blues, and everyone joined in to sing Wonderful (The Way I Feel) (do check out the links, they are YouTube videos of the actual sound check!).

After that amazing experience and being in blazing sun and then rain, we headed back to the hotel to rest up for the evening. And what an evening it was! We did a bit of wandering, catching a bit of Justin Townes Earle, The Ravenna Colt, Galactic, Dr. Dog, Andrew Bird, and Real Estate. However, we were all feeling a bit distracted thinking about later that evening. As previously mentioned, we had a package to go into the pit for My Morning Jacket – they had one side of the pit for those who waited in line, and one side for us. This made for a very comfortable pit – not too packed, and only holding those who truly love the band.

The show was epic. I have seen My Morning Jacket in concert four times prior, and each time the show is different. I think that since they did most of their lower-key songs for us in the morning they amped it up for the evening show. The craziest part of the set was their cover of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” where they started changing the “nah-nah-nah-nah-nah” part to “Ba-na-na-na-na” and started throwing bananas at us!  Here’s a link to the entire performance.

While many of our friends went to see Preservation Hall Band and MMJ play on a paddle boat, we didn’t splurge on that and instead headed back to the hotel to rest up for the next day.

Sunday:
Like Saturday, the day started rainy, but cleared up in time for music. We had no major plans in the morning so we headed into town for brunch and ended up at Dish on Market. I had the most utterly sinful corned beef hash and one too many Bloody Marys; thank goodness the food was amazing because the place was understaffed and service was at a snail’s pace. Later, my husband and I went for a walk around Louisville and stopped at two different bars – one for a cocktail, and one for a lunch of oysters, tuna tartare, and another cocktail. Why? Because we COULD! Seriously, it feels so utterly decadent to be eating oysters one moment and rocking out in the pit of a festival the next.  As I said in my previous post, we really felt like we were festing like a boss!

We headed back to the festival in the afternoon, and again wandered around from stage to stage. Ones that stood out were Fruit Bats, Gramatik, Beats Antique, and Clutch. As a DC-native, I love me some Clutch. Since they were playing at the same time as Wilco, I was able to get right up in front in the pit, and have plenty of room to rock out. I often felt that Neil Fallon was singing right to me – at one point I jumped off the yellow jackets (the plastic things that cover wires and a great riser for short folks at concerts) to get out of the way of moshers, and Neil looked out into the crowd a bit confused. I jumped back on the yellow jacket and started cheering again and he went back to singing – I doubt he missed me but it was fun to think so!

After Clutch I watched Wilco from VIP. They sounded great – so great that this gal who is pretty “meh” about Wilco now wants to see them live again. However I was wiped from the weekend and my VIP futon was too comfortable to leave and venture into the crowd. Oh well, next time!

A big thanks to Cate, Allison, and Krista for connecting with me and offering suggestions on where to visit and eat while in Louisville. Much love to Hollie, Sarah, and the other Inforoosters I bumped into at sound check and didn’t get enough time to hang with while there – next festival for sure! And finally, a big thank you to Louisville, AC Entertainment, and My Morning Jacket for putting on a well-run, fun, and friendly festival. We had a blast and will be back!

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Holiday Gift Guide for the Music Fan

Some people are easy to shop for at the holidays, and some… notsomuch. I had a couple of you contact me asking for gift suggestions so I’ve decided to do some mini gift guides for different types of hard-to-please folk, all items under $100 with free shipping. Today it’s for the music lover in your life.

gift guide music lover fan

1. No matter the recipient’s genre of preference, she likely has respect for the originators. Swissted is a book that takes rock posters from the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s and recreates them through a Swiss modernist edge, creating a collection of farmable prints (or keep intact as an awesome coffee table book) that’s sure to impress. From the Sex Pistols to Sonic Youth, Green Day to Guided by Voices; there’s band art in here that’s sure to please. $30.40

2. I have a portable turntable and I can’t recommend it enough. This briefcase style lightweight turntable from Crosley comes in five fun colors, a cool retro style, and would be appreciated by teens and adults alike. $80.00

3. What do you get the music lover who has everything? The unexpected something that shows you know and respect his passion. These polyresin headphone-shaped bookends would look pretty sweet supporting his music books, or even a stack of vinyl. $70.00

4. Nothing better than a high quality Bluetooth speaker to play your music wherever and whenever. I have headphones from SOL Republic and find them high quality; this little speaker from the brand packs a punch and fits in the palm of your hand. Available in seven bold colors, water and shock resistant, and with an 8-hour battery life, this is a perfect gift for most anyone on your list. $69.99

5. I adore this little iPhone megaphone, it’s the perfect stocking stuffer. Great for the business traveler, this silicone amplifier increases your phone’s audio by 13 dB without the need for cords or batteries and it gets great reviews. $5.28

6. A music fan won’t want to sacrifice her fancy headphones for fashion or function. She won’t have to with these EarMuffies, which slip over her favorite headphones. $15.00

What’s In My Bag: Forecastle Edition

This is the second in a series about my experience at the Forecastle Music Festival. I already wrote about what I wore, I will also be writing a festival recap.

For my first Bonnaroo, I purchased the Kelty “Tecate” hydration pack. I wanted something small that would fit pretty much between my shoulder blades, and this did the trick. Problem is, once the bag has a full bladder of water, there’s not much room to hold anything else. Over time, I have switched to attaching a Camelbak reusable bottle to the bag’s strap with a carabineer – this makes it easy to refill, I can take a sip without detaching the bottle, and I have plenty of backpack space for festival necessities.

Since 2007, this bag has attended four Bonnaroos, a trip to Vermont, various hikes around the region, a few smaller local festivals and now Forecastle. My husband says it’s bad luck to wash your hydration backpack; I have only washed it once when a bottle of bug spray exploded in it. It was fun to pull it out of the closet and see it still coated in Tennessee dust from Bonnaroo 2011. The buttons I have gathered from different festivals – I lost two since last Bonnaroo and will have to get some new good ones soon!

This year my husband and I said we were “festing like a boss.” Over time we have learned what is a necessity, and what is superfluous; what will increase our comfort level without leaving us burdened with a heavy bag. Never during the festival did I feel I lacked for anything, and had many people wanting to try out our chairs!

What’s in my Bag:

  • Packable poncho. My sister got this one for me several years ago from Bed Bath and Beyond; it’s fun to have a change from the typical blue, yellow, or clear ponchos and it’s a ripstop fabric that has held up nicely over the years.
  • Alite chair. This thing is totally awesome. It’s the size of a Camelbak reusable bottle and not only fit in my Kelty bag, but also the J. Crew tote I carried the first night. Not too tall to piss off those in the field behind you, but tall enough to keep you out of the mud and dirt; you can also recline in it for a very comfy outdoor concert experience!
  • Sunglass case. I wore my sunglasses until sunset, but didn’t want to get them scratched or lost. Ray Ban makes a nice slimline case that makes it easy to fit in the bag. I also had the cleaning cloth tucked in it.
  • Saline solution. I used to carry moisturizing eye drops, but usually I just need something to wash funk out of my contacts or rehydrate if it has been a long day. I have found that saline solution does it better.
  • Barrettes and elastics. I start the day with hair down, but if it gets too hot, too sweaty, too whatever it’s nice to be prepared. I usually do a messy updo and clip back my bangs, but I always want extras in case I lose or break one, or if a fellow attendee is in need.
  • Safety pins. I even take a couple diaper pins which could secure heavier fabrics or even hang things from my backpack.
  • Pen and Sharpie. Pen to jot things down or share info with new friends, Sharpie in case I meet an artist and want their autograph.
  • Plain lip balm. With SPF.
  • Tinted lip balm. Give the sweaty bare face a hint of color.
  • Philosophy mineral foundation. This is only there in case I get a chance to say, meet a musician and get a photo op, go backstage, end up leaving and going to a place where a sweaty bare face may be a bit much. It can go on sans mirror and look like me, just a bit more polished and it doesn’t itch or drip when I sweat.
  • Gum. One pack of minty, one pack fruity. A day in the heat, drinking a lot of water and the occasional beer can leave a gross feeling and taste in your mouth. Gum is amazing, and you can make a ton of friends by offering gum to those around you!
  • Business cards. To share contact information with new friends.
  • Face sunscreen. Small so it fits in the bag, dry so it will go on the face and stay there. One in our group will carry a can of spray sunscreen for all of us for the day.
  • Comb. My sister got this one for me from Sephora and I adore it.
  • Non-essential wallet stuff. On my person will be my ID, cash, and credit card. However, in my bag I will have things such as my insurance card or fan club membership card and festival schedule.

Not seen: carabineer holding my Camelbak water bottle

And here’s how everything fits in the bag. There’s still room to fit a can of sunscreen, a bandanna, a snack. There’s bungees on the back so I can attach a tee shirt if I buy one, or even strap my empty water bottle back there (I tuck the base in the mesh pocket to keep it from jangling around). Sometimes I take a waterproof blanket or groundcloth instead of a chair; for that I usually bungee it to the outside of the pack. If I know I will be using grody porta-potties I will have a sandwich bag of Clorox wipes and one of toilet paper.  If it’s a more rural festival, I will also pack a headlamp.

Wearing my backpack with Camelbak bottle attached – hands free to dance… or enjoy a beer!

My husband says I look like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle with my “shell” on my back, but it’s very comfortable, doesn’t dig into my shoulders, nicely disperses the weight, and I can dance without having to put my stuff on the ground.

I know many may find this to be excessive; I see many a festival attendee having a great time with just that which is in their pockets or a small crossbody bag. And it’s true, you can have a blast without all these creature comforts. I personally like to have these creature comforts so I can better enjoy the shows and not have to spend unexpected cash on things like disposable ponchos or bottles of water. It works for me, and it helped me have a fantastic time at Forecastle!

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2013 Music in Review

As you know, Karl and I bond over music. About once a month, we get an overnight babysitter and have a date night of dinner and a concert. Our big yearly vacation is to a music festival, our house is full of vinyl and CDs, our phones and iPods with MP3s, one of the best splurges on our home remodel five years ago was outdoor speakers so we can listen to our tunes on the back deck. I thought I’d do a little 2013 music recap post, sharing the best things I experienced music-wise this year.

Favorite Music-related Stuff of 2013:

Spotify
This year we upgraded to a Spotify subscription and we adore it. I know, Spotify pays a millionth of a cent in royalties to artists, but the way we use it is to check out new and new to us artists, and then we buy the album. Spotify has a lot of smaller artists so it has been a great way to explore lesser-known musicians and I love the “Discover” feature which has introduced us to a lot of new bands.

Vinyl
Karl’s dad Chief (what we all called him, a nickname from when Karl was a little kid) was a music geek, he went to concerts with us, his car was littered with CD cases, and he could spout so much music knowledge we’d call him Google Chief. When Chief passed away unexpectedly at the end of 2008, we inherited his album collection, and you can bet it was a pretty impressive collection. We had a few records of our own, but never listened to them. We couldn’t get our turntable to fit in our entertainment cabinet, we never listened to music in the office, the albums collected dust.

At the beginning of 2013 we bit the bullet and bought a turntable; we chose the Ion Audio iPTUSB Portable USB Turntable because it was cheap, was portable (even battery operated so we take it down to the fire pit in our backyard), had a built-in speaker, and could turn records into MP3s. I gotta say, we haven’t made a single MP3 from it, but we use the heck out of this little guy. It usually resides in our bedroom which is next to the office/album room, but we have carted it all over our house and even taken it on trips with us. We plan on investing in a higher quality turntable, but for now it gets the job done.

Then, I hit the mother lode of all Freecycle scores (yes even better than my brand new IKEA chair and compost bins)… my friend’s parents decided to give away their record collection. I didn’t at the time know it was her parents, but when I pulled up I recognized the house and her dad. We left with four wine crates of vinyl in good to excellent condition with awesome music from the late ‘50s all the way through the mid ‘80s (if you followed me on Instagram back then you likely remember me sharing all the amazing albums).

Since then, we have bought new records, have gems at thrift stores, and some of Karl’s yoga students have brought him albums from their collections as gifts. After Emerson goes to bed, we regularly hole up in our bedroom listening to records and decompressing. Often we bring down the turntable and play records when we have friends for dinner, and the turntable is so easy and Emerson so technologically inclined that she will often spend an afternoon rocking out to Alvin and the Chipmunks, Disco Mickey, or one of those, “BONG turn the page!” records that accompanied books and hasn’t scratched a single album. I love the portability and sound quality of digital, but there’s something so beautiful and comforting of a vinyl record.

Favorite Albums of 2013:
Here’s a roundup of my favorite albums this year – some are new releases in 2013, some are just new to me. I won’t go into deep reviews because that’s what Pitchfork and Sterogum and Rolling Stone and Consequence of Sound and all the other great music sites and publications are for.

  • The London Souls – The London Souls. Listen with friends in the kitchen while drinking red wine and preparing dinner.
  • Drenge – Drenge. Listen when you’re cleaning a bathroom or raking leaves or pounding the elliptical.
  • Lorde – Pure Heroine. Lorde’s album is far more than “Royals.” Listen at pretty much any time.
  • The Sea and Cake – Runner. Listen to while driving on a sunny day on a smooth highway that lets you comfortably cruise over 55 MPH.
  • Savages – Silence Yourself. Listen to when in the car by yourself after a shitty work day. Play it loud.
  • Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends. Listen after the kids have gone to bed and you have an hour to just get lost in thoughts, hear the words and maybe check out a few of their videos on your phone and have a conversation with a friend or your partner about what you think of it all.
  • Father John Misty – Fear Fun. Love me some FJM, saw him live twice this year and would see him again if he came to town. Listen when doing something else, then listen again when you have some time to hear the lyrics. Listen with a friend so you can discuss the man and the music.
  • The National – Trouble Will Find Me. It took this album for me to understand and love The National. I like listening to this when driving in the morning, it helps me relax and think.
  • Jake Bugg – Jake Bugg. He has a brand new album out and it’s good, but it feels like a lot of the same. I’m partial to the original. Saw him live, think he sounds even better in person. Listen when you may normally rely on classics like Dylan.
  • HAIM – Days are Gone. Listen when making pancakes on a Sunday morning and the sun is shining through the kitchen window and you already had your cup of coffee. Then listen to again when you’re driving to run errands later in the afternoon.
  • Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City. It took their third album for me to come around. Listen when you got to leave work early, the sun is still up and rush hour traffic hasn’t really started yet.
  • M.I.A. – Matangi. Listen when you have a project at work you don’t want to do but have to power through.

Favorite Concerts of 2013:
As for live performances, I saw quite a few, but my favorites for 2013:

  • Jim James at 9:30 Club, April 2013. Well this is a duh if you know me. Didn’t hurt that Karl “finger rimmed” Jim James and got mocked on a message board for being an obnoxious hipster and it was a fun and fabulous date night for us kiddos.
  • Bombino at the Forecastle Music Festival. Best part of music festivals is discovering new artists. Never heard of Bombino but found their performance at the fest amazing and ended up researching them, buying some of their music, and loving them.
  • Father John Misty at 9:30 Club, May 2013. Even with a freshly torn calf muscle, the show was amazing and my adoration of J, Josh, Joshua, FJM grew immensely.
  • Robert Plant at the Forecastle Music Festival. Bucket list and he exceeded my expectations. Wish it didn’t rain because I think it would have gone longer.
  • My Morning Jacket at the Americana Festival, Merriweather Post Pavilion (not pictured). As an MMJ fan who has seen them several times, this ranks as one of my top performances by them. First time I saw them in the daylight, and they were an opener, not headliner. Imagine your favorite band on stage for a high school talent show, it felt like that and was awesome and fun.
  • Morrissey at Strathmore, January 2013. Haven’t seen him live since 10th grade, thanks to Emily for selling me her tickets and making a gal’s dream come true.
  • Clutch at 9:30 Club, December 2013. I haven’t gone yet, but based upon every other time I’ve seen Clutch (including same time same venue last year, a great Christmas gift from my sister along with overnight babysitter), I know it’s going to be hella amazing.

And now I ask you your favorites of 2013. I have learned about so much great music from all of you, and I know you have learned from each other. Share in the comments your favorite songs, albums, artists, shows, and gadgets from the year!

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Out and About: The Shindig Festival in Baltimore

Last weekend, Karl, my sister, and our two friends headed to Baltimore, Maryland for the 2014 Shindig Festival. It was the weekend before Karl’s birthday (the big 4-0 yo!), and the festival was featuring some pretty great bands that he and I both love: Clutch, Jane’s Addiction, Gogol Bordello, Fishbone, and more.

Since it was Karl’s birthday, we splurged for VIP tickets (regular were $35, VIP $70) and I say if you can swing it, VIP is the way to go. There were two VIP areas with shade, seats, trailer bathrooms in place of porta-potties, separate food and drink vendors, and all the bottled water you’d like was included. The VIP areas had space to the side of each stage where you could get a decent view without being in the crowd; there were also observation decks for each stage just for VIP. The ticket also came with a merchandise packet of one of those backpack/string things, a mix CD and a Shindig tee shirt.

PicMonkey Collage

Karl resting his foot in VIP, wearing his “steel toe boot” c/o CastCoverz! and me in my “OOTD.”  Wore a white tee from rag & bone with my old battered and better with time self-distressed Target shorts, my “festival boots” (the DUO boots I bought in 2007 and wear to every music festival and most concerts), and I tied my Gap plaid flannel around my waist to put on when it got colder after dark.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here, though I’ve shared on Instagram and Twitter, but Karl got a stress fracture in his foot a few weeks ago and has been rocking a boot and had to stop teaching yoga for a while. While the boot helps, he really should keep off his foot as much as possible and I was worried about this festival. However, with VIP (not just the seating and close locations, but closer parking and a shorter line to get in), he was able to rest his foot between must-see sets.

We arrived 1pm and got a lay of the land. The fest was pretty dead at that time, but I wanted to see Charm City Devils. We got there in time to catch a bit of Bad Seed Rising; gotta love young talent and this band rocks it. And Charm City Devils was just as great as I thought; I’d like to see them again in a dark club where the music would be more appropriate. We then went to VIP to get drinks and a snack but returned to see Larry and his Flask. I never heard of this band before but LOVED them! What a fun group, I would totally see them again if they toured the DC area!

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The crowd at Fishbone, that yellow dot is Karl (being the shortie I am and in front of K you can’t see me)

fishbone

A picture I took of Fishbone lead singer Angelo Moore crowd surfing during the Fishbone show; we then met Angelo during the festival and Karl got a photo with him.

One of the must-sees of the day was Fishbone. When Karl was stationed in Mayport, he saw Fishbone live and it was one of his most memorable shows. Though few of the original members remain, Fishbone’s performance was tight and terribly entertaining. The crowd was also amazing. We were in deep, just a couple people from the pit and the energy was infectious. The pit was one of the most… is courteous a weird word to use? Well it was a courteous pit, where people were aware of one another, having a blast instead of getting angry. I think it helped it was earlier in the day, fewer drunks. There was this one woman on the edge of the pit and she was totally my hero. With my arm and Karl’s leg we had to stay a safe distance away but she was raging for me and it was an awesome sight to see. She probably found me crazy but I had to give her a hug after the show, she proved that you don’t have to be young or male to enjoy a hard rock show.

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Lzzy Hale of Halestorm, photo via the Shindig Facebook page

This woman was one of many badasses at this festival. The woman power was fierce at Shindig, from female rockers in Bad Seed Rising and Halestorm, to the amazing staff and attendees. I saw a woman wearing a baby in an Ergo rocking the heck out of denim cutoffs, fishnets, and Doc Martens. I stopped a gorgeous woman with white pigtails, a gauzy white dress and combat boots to compliment her on her look, and was in awe by the personal style of so many female rock fans of every age, size, and style. Saturday was such a great reminder to not let the age on your driver’s license dictate your wardrobe, your taste in music, or how you choose to spend your free time.

So back to the festival! We wandered a lot during the day, caught Lucero (who was great), Halestorm (who was phenomenal), J Roddy Walson and the X (they were fine, I know their music and it’s good but it’s not my jam), and returned back to the Babe Stage for Clutch.

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Photo credit: Cassandra Mullinix of Bucket of Rock Blog

Clutch was another awesome crowd, we saw faces we recognized from previous Clutch shows, one guy even recognized me from the Clutch show at Forecastle! We befriended a couple from North Beach and again were near the pit so we totally vibed off that energy. The crowd was a bit older for Clutch, and since it was later in the day we encountered a few drunk and disorderly people, but we as a fan group took care of one another and quickly got rid of those causing a disturbance. Clutch was awesome as always; I’m sad their 9:30 December show is New Years Eve because I always look forward to it every year but am not going to spend NYE with a bunch of drunk men in a mosh pit and then attempt to drive home.

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Photo Credit: Cassandra Mullinix of Bucket of Rock Blog, via the Shindig Facebook page

Anyway, back to the fest. We didn’t dig deep into any crowd after Clutch. It had gotten dark but not cold, the moon was shining and we really enjoyed just walking through the fest seeing the scene. We headed over to the Bird Stage to catch Gogol Bordello but missed the beginning and the crowd was super packed so we stayed on the edge. Karl’s foot was starting to ache and while we really wanted to see Jane’s Addiction, we saw them a couple years ago with NIN and didn’t think it was worth possibly hurting Karl’s foot further. So we headed out after Gogol Bordello and went to a nice dinner with our friends. I heard Jane’s Addiction was amazing, but with so many shows under our belts and how busy our lives are, having a leisurely and delicious meal with some of our best friends was the perfect way to end a very fun day.

We usually hit a big music festival every summer, but with my arm and Emerson starting kindergarten that didn’t happen. Going to Shindig got our music festival fix, but it also makes me super excited for the next show on our calendar!

Forecastle Fashion: What I am Thinking of Packing

When we decided to attend Forecastle last year instead of Bonnaroo, I thought it would be a one-time thing. My Morning Jacket was curating and headlining the event, we were ready for a change, and I hadn’t been to Louisville since college for a trade show. But we went, and we fell in love. A smaller festival, staying in a nice hotel just a couple blocks from the festival grounds, the gorgeous views and the friendly city. We loved being able to leave and have oysters for lunch or Eggs Benedict for brunch. I loved being able to take a nap in air-conditioning mid-day or change into pants for evening. I also loved not having to pack my car to the gills with survival gear and plan months in advance how to dress for comfort and long days.

Even though Forecastle is far more cushy of a festival, it’s still important to dress properly. Clothes that can hold up if you are in fact roaming around the grounds for 12 hours straight. Clothes that won’t drag on a porta-potty floor, stick to you when you get caught in a mid-day sprinkle or when you have sweat coming out of every pore. An outfit that can handle sitting on the ground, being yanked on and off in a hot porta potty, doesn’t chafe and doesn’t make you look like a goober. Because while I do desire comfort, I also desire style.

Last year I took sundresses, but spent almost the entire festival in beat up denim shorts and band tee shirts. Big aviators, a bandanna around my neck and old boots and I felt like a veteran festie goer, a festie survivalist. This year though, I’m not totally feeling that. Not only is this a festival, but it’s also a vacation for me and my husband. Last year was pretty awesome for the two of us, and I want a bit of a romantic or feminine vibe to my look.

So while I will pack the denim cutoffs and my old Ramones tee shirt, I have the desire to go back to dresses. Not short little cotton babydolls of my Bonnaroo days but something more sophisticated and more like me now.

So what I am considering:

  • This dress from LOFT is not what I wanted. It’s jersey, which clings in sweat and humidity. The straps are too thin to wear with a standard bra. But man, it’s a pretty fabulous dress. The straps are adjustable, the skirt is the right amount of fullness for mobility but doesn’t make me look huge, and it has pockets! I bought it just for life, but think I’ll take to Forecastle and wear with bike shorts so it won’t cling too much.
  • The second dress is from Cherry Velvet and I received it from Gwynnie Bee expecting it to look costumey on me, but ended up loving it. Great fit, cute print, nice cotton that doesn’t cling. There’s a double neckline that’s not really my style, but my sister also borrowed this dress from Gwynnie Bee and told me she pinned the halter straps inside the dress and it worked great. I tried it myself and she’s right!
  • The third dress you saw recently on the blog. It’s a dry clean only dress and considering the fabric I figured it was because it shrinks so I threw it in the washer and dryer. Yep, it shrank to almost the perfect length but the hem did not shrink. I took it to the tailor yesterday to have it hemmed in time for Forecastle. Don’t know if I will wear it during the festival, but may wear it for brunch or during off time.
  • This printed top is gorgeous and also via Gwynnie Bee (original brand Eloquii). I haven’t received it yet but I’m imagining it with distressed denim and gold aviators and liking it.
  • And then of course a trusty band tee with shorts and boots… always a safe bet!

As for shoes, I will have at least my Softspots Ventura sandals and my DUO Bern boots, but I will likely bring flip flops and possibly Chucks.  I’ll also bring my army jacket, a pair of jeans, and maybe a maxi dress (such the perfect thing for a sleepy Sunday brunch!). With Forecastle, since we’re staying in a hotel and don’t have to fill our car to the brim with camping equipment, I can take a couple extra things in case I change my mind and in case the unexpected comes up (since the festival doesn’t start until later in the afternoon and we’re staying in a hotel, we have a bit of time to explore Louisville).

I went and bought a new bag for Forecastle… and then returned it. I have my Kelty backpack which has done me well to all my previous festival experiences. It’s not “cool” but it’s small, comfortable, and can hold all I need. I’ll also bring a crossbody bag for mornings before the festival – likely my Latico. And then of course my Ray-Bans, sunscreen, and a bandanna to cover my head if it gets too hot.

As I did last year, I will be sharing my outfits on Instagram and will do recap posts on what I packed and what I wore and of course how it was!

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Guest Post: Music for a Neverending Winter

By This Is Our Jam

As it becomes later in March, we’re just SO over winter at this point — and we can only imagine that as a victim of black ice, Allie agrees with us! Doesn’t the universe know that it just needs to warm up and stay spring-like — and that a St. Patrick’s Day snow storm is just not okay?

In honor of Allie’s broken wrist, we’ve come up with a playlist to say “screw you!” to winter. Take a listen, and join us in our anti-snow dances. We’ll even take some of the DC area pollen in exchange for permanently warmer weather. And you know that’s desperation.


This Is Our Jam is the (mostly) musical brainchild of three friends who, once upon a time, changed their GChat statuses a lot. Krista, Kristen, and Stacey love to share music, YouTube gems, and other assorted thoughts with the world. Whether new music we’ve just discovered at a DC concert or old throwbacks from childhood, we have a lot of jams that we think the world should hear. We don’t define ourselves as a critical music blog (we leave all the detailed critiques and musical theory to musicality experts), but rather we aim to be an entertaining source for both finding new music and re-discovering songs and artists that may have gotten buried in your iTunes library.  Follow This Is Our Jam for tunes, assorted thoughts, and so much more online, on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

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My Wardrobe Today – Monday

Black shirtdress – Lauren by Ralph Lauren (no longer available – similar)
Black beltLauren by Ralph Lauren
Teal suede pumps - Jessica Simpson “Terrance” (no longer available – similar)
Silk scarf – Thrifted (similar)
Gold bangles - Ralph Lauren
Gold charm bracelet - J. Crew via eBay

This is one of those outfits that looks far better in person than in photos. I think fashion can often be like models; some women who look average in person look phenomenal in photographs, some outfits that look meh in real life look gorgeous when photographed… and some that look pretty fab IRL are meh on film.

I was going to return these shoes after getting the blue ones on eBay, but then I realized that I got these for only $20 due to an online sale and thought they were cute enough to keep for that price!

This weekend was pretty gray and gloomy, but we still had fun.  Saturday there was a music festival in the town square – my husband went to take pictures, I went with Emerson so she could get her groove on.  She’s a huge fan of live music.  There was a troupe of hula hoopers there and they brought extra hoops for the crowd – here’s Emerson making an attempt to hula hoop:

Iz5aXd on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs

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Ask Allie: Should I Go to Coachella?

A friend of mine has an extra ticket to Coachella and asked if I want to go. I’ve never been to a music festival in my life, though I do objectively think I like good music. Is it all going to be “kids” and not my scene? What should I wear/pack? We aren’t camping, we are staying in a hotel.

Though I have been to many different music festivals, I have not attended Coachella. However my good friend Nicole has been the past couple of years and has had a blast. Like you, she stays in a hotel instead of camping. And like you and me, she is not a “kid” and isn’t into the stereotypical festie scene. I say go, you’ll have a great time and have a great story to share with your friends and your kids once they’re old enough to consider attending a similar event. You will see people of every age and walk of life. Don’t base a festival by the photos you see on the Internet, photographers love to capture that which will increase pageviews or look crazy/cool/fashionable.

Since you’re staying in a hotel, packing is far simpler. Treat it as if you were going to a day festival like Columbia’s Wine in the Woods or Virgin FreeFest. You want to dress and pack to be able to be away from your hotel for the entire day but no need to act as though you’re going on an expedition to the wilderness. But again, don’t base your fashion on the pictures you find on the internet of half-dressed college kids and celebrities. You can seriously wear anything and look fine; dress to fit your current closet and for comfort.

Shop similar: top | shorts | sandals | hat | sunglasses | bracelet | bag

This outfit embraces the boho style of California without looking like a costume. Wear a tank or bathing suit under the top when it’s warm, put it back on when in the shade or when the sun goes down. Denim shorts are a popular choice for music festivals because they can take a beating, but be sure they’re a bit slouchy and loose so it’s easy to slip them on and off when you’re sweaty in a hot cramped porta-potty. Sandals are fine for a festival, I wear them often, but be sure they are well broken in beforehand to prevent blisters. A hat and sunglasses are a must; a crossbody bag or backpack is the best choice to carry your essentials as it leaves your hands free to hold a drink, take a picture, or dance.

Shop similar: dress | sneakers | hat | sunglasses | shirt | bag

I love wearing cotton dresses to music festivals; they float away from the body, dry quickly, and are comfortable in the heat. Consider a pair of bike shorts underneath for both modesty when sitting on the ground, and to prevent chafing. A pair of canvas sneakers like Chucks or Supergas are great for a festival and look adorable with a girly floral dress. Such a dress looks great with a big sun hat and tortoise frames, carry a denim shirt to put on when the sun sets and the temperature drops.

Shop similar: top | pants | shoes | hat | sunglasses | jacket | bag

I love how flowy lightweight trousers and track pants are in style, they are comfortable in the heat and perfect for a music festival. In a breezy fabric, a pair of pants like this protect you from the sun, from chafing, and are uber comfortable. Pair with a drapey tank or tee for breezy style, lightweight shoes like TOMS or sandals will finish the look. A well-worn denim jacket stuffed in your locker or bag will not only keep your warm later in the day, it makes for a pretty good groundcover when sitting on the grass.

As for a bag, look for one that is comfortable to wear for long periods of time and leaves your hands free. I have a small backpack I take to festivals, but I have also done a crossbody purse and even a fanny pack. Each person has different needs when at a music festival, but I think these are the essentials:

reusable water bottle (take in empty) sunscreen | wet wipes (to sanitize hands before eating as well for gross porta-potties) | bandana (sun and dirt protection as well as much more) | extra hair ties or barrettes | ear plugs (you can get the disposable ones, I have these Hearos and they’re great and come in a carrying case) | cash (as well as a credit card and your ID and insurance card) | Sharpie and notepad and/or business cards (get autographs, write email of a new friend, etc.) | gum or mints | lip balm with SPF | cell phone with a battery case or a juice pack

For more information, visit my previous posts on music festivals:

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Wide Calf Boot Resources

wide calf boot online shopping resource

One of the biggest keywords that bring people to Wardrobe Oxygen is wide calf boots. As a curvy cusp to plus sized petite woman with athletic legs, I’ve never been able to walk into a shoe store and find boots to fit my wide calves. But over time I’ve found some spectacular online resources to buy stylish wide calf boots to fit and flatter my figure!

Posts on Wide Calf Boots:

Outfit Posts featuring Wide Calf Boots:

DUO Boots Santana Boot in Brown Leather:

DUO Boots Catalonia Riding Boot in Black Leather (no longer available – similar):

Ros Hommerson Maryland Heeled Boot in Black Leather (I had this boot tailored by a cobbler to narrow at the top of the shaft):

Fitzwell Bit Wide Calf Boot in Black Tumbled Leather:

DUO Bern Boots in Tan Leather (no longer available – similar):

Out and About: Robyn & Röyksopp at Wolf Trap

robyn-and-royksopp-wolf-trap

Robyn and Röyksopp

Living in the DC area, we’re lucky to have several awesome music venues, and come summer there’s a type of venue for any type of music fan. One of my favorite places in the summer is Wolf Trap; it’s not close by, but they have a shuttle from the Vienna Metro station and it’s worth the trip. The acoustics are fabulous and they let you bring in picnic baskets and coolers of your own food and alcohol (no bottles, but these days you can find fab beer in cans and wine in boxes). We usually try to grab a weekend day festival there each summer, and it’s a great place to see classic artists, plays, and orchestras. However when I heard Robyn with Röyksopp were coming I HAD to go!

I’ve liked Robyn since the late ‘90s (yep, same gal), but after seeing her at Bonnaroo in 2012, Karl and have become mega Robyn fans. Our friend Nicole is a fellow Robyn lover, so the three of us decided to go. Nicole suggested we get pavilion seats and we decided to splurge. Gosh am I glad she suggested that!


Thursday, August 21 was the Robyn/Röyksopp show and if you’re from this area, you know it wasn’t the best weather. It rained in the morning, cleared up some, but the rain returned by rush hour. By time I arrived at Wolf Trap it was rainy, humid, steamy, and disgusting. We hid under a tree to enjoy a drink and then quickly retreated to our pavilion seats to stay dry.

The opening artist was ZHALA and well, I felt bad for the gal.  While she likely would be awesome in a smaller, intimate venue like the 9:30 club, performing on the big stage of Wolf Trap before sundown was a bit depressing and felt as though we were spying on someone dancing in her bedroom in front of her mirror.  She manned her own smoke machine and got down while the crowd was busy texting their friends, finding their seats, and chatting with one another.  We decided to take the time for a restroom break (the perk of a Robyn show is the crowd is primarily male so no line for the facilities) and get a drink (can’t bring anything but water into the pavilion so I ended up splurging on a $9.50 cup of Pinot Grigio).

When Röyksopp started we went back to our seats.  It was dark and they started strong.  While most of their songs are instrumental, they kept the crows riveted with a light show that rivaled Pink Floyd.  They got the crowd in the right frame of mind for the headliner, and when Robyn came on the stage the crowd erupted with cheers.

robyn royksopp wolftrap

Images via Robyn’s Facebook page

Robyn is just as animated and awesome in person as she is in her videos and TV appearances.  Her energy level is astounding, she dances all night long while maintaining a strong singing voice, which is even more impressive when you realize she’s 35, not in her early ’20s like most pop stars.  I love how she doesn’t give a fug and dresses how she wants and dances how she wants without trying to look sexy or cool and totally gets into the moment.  Robyn kept the crowd going all night and it was fun to see folks from all walks of life dancing with her, the energy was so positive and friendly.  I didn’t get any good photos because it was dark, and because I was too busy dancing!  We decided to leave just before the end so we could get out of the parking lot at a decent hour since the next day was work for all of us!

For more photos from the show, check out this post from my friends at This is Our Jam!

What my Ears Have Been Absorbing: July and August

The past month has been a bit of a blur, especially when it comes to music. I’d love to write an individual post about each musical experience, but it’s summer and I’m spending my weekends outdoors soaking up the sun and hanging out with loved ones and I hope you’re doing the same! So to keep us all enjoying real life instead of the computer, here’s a quick recap and mini-reviews.

Forecastle Music Festival
If you follow me on Instagram (which you really should because I share more outfits on there and what I am doing on weekends and lots of cute pictures of Emerson and not a rehash of the blog) you know I had an amazing time. This was our second year going, and we felt even more like bosses. We stayed again at the Galt House, which is a short walk to the festival grounds. Last year we got VIP by accident, this year we decided to splurge to confirm that upgrade. Totally worth it – no porta potties, shorter lines to get in, free mug for the bourbon tent, free poster (and Karl ended up getting a free bandanna at the same time), shorter beer lines and a special pit area so we could get pretty close to the two big stages.

This year I wanted to dress in a more feminine manner, but once I got there I went back to my standard festie uniform of beat-up denim shorts and band tee shirts. The weather was excellent until the end of the last day, when we got utterly soaked during the finale of Robert Plant’s set.

Speaking of Robert Plant… I SAW ROBERT PLANT LIVE! I saw him before when he was touring with Alison Krauss, but it was underwhelming. His set at Forecastle was not, it was epic. He did new music mixed with Zeppelin hits – he did put a fresh spin on the classics but not so much that you didn’t recognize or get excited by them. I was excited to have experienced it, and while I wish it didn’t rain (because I think he would have played far longer), it was still a fab performance.

Other memorable shows were Jim James (shocker), Killer Mike and El-P, Big Boi, and Bombino. Were there others that were amazing? YES! However some I had seen before (Alabama Shakes, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Houndmouth, FLips, Black Keys), and some were great but didn’t change my opinion of the band or help me find a new favorite artist.

And well… we didn’t see everything we wanted to see. We were very relaxed this year. Miss a show? No worries. Spend time chatting with a stranger or drinking bourbon or eating a burger at a bar that is supposedly visited by ghosts? Just as awesome as a good set. The weekend wasn’t just about music, but about Louisville and getting away for a mini-vaca. And it was a mini-vaca, I came back refreshed and happy!

Americanarama Festival
The Americananarama fest is a four-band tour, and it stopped in Maryland about a week after we got home from Forecastle. Close enough to still be on a buzz from previous festie fumes, and I went with the same peeps (Karl and my sister Debbie). The show was Ryan Bingham, My Morning Jacket, Wilco, and Bob Dylan. I KNOW, Bob Dylan! To see two legends in one month is pretty darn fantastic!

Ryan Bingham was good. My Morning Jacket was outstanding. I think it was the first time I saw them perform in daylight. We had 5th row pavilion seats (not going to pit it for seven hours) and a great view, but the time of day for MMJ’s set and the seats made it feel as though we were watching a high school talent show performance. Sounds bad, but it made it even more awesome. The band seemed to be having a blast, and I think it was one of my favorite My Morning Jacket performances!

Wilco was good, and if you’re a Wilco fan you’d likely be gushing over the set like I did for MMJ. Try as I may, I just haven’t caught the Wilco bug. I like them, I respect them, but they’re not my jam. And 2013 Bob Dylan isn’t my jam either. While Dylan is a legend and I should be honored to experience him live, his set was so dreadful we actually left before it was over.

Music I’m Enjoying
Before each music festival, I research bands who will be there who I have never heard of before. Thanks to Spotify (IMO the paid subscription is totally worth it) I could make playlists of whole albums to really get a feel for the band, and not just their single. In fact, I do this for most artists who I hear about but don’t know. Karl is famous for playing an album over and over and over again until it’s fused into our brains and we did that with some Forecastle artists, and some albums that one of us heard about and decided to investigate. Here’s the albums we have been listening to the past month that we like enough to hear more than twice:

  • Valerie June – Pushin’ Against a Stone: Gospel, Memphis blues, bluegrass, country, a bit of Jack White, a bit of Dinah Washington. A unique voice that at the same time sounds familiar. I didn’t like the singles I heard, but I adore listening to the album from beginning to end.  Seriously good stuff, unique stuff, stuff you should check out.
  • The National – Trouble Will Find Me: each summer Karl seems to get a pet band. He plays their album/s to death, stalks their live performances on late night TV, and sings random lines from songs at strange times which confuses the heck out of everyone around him. Last summer it was Band of Horses, the summer prior The Decemberists. This year it’s The National. I first heard the album and wanted to cut my wrist with a butter knife. Then I heard an interview on NPR, a couple live recordings and of course this album on repeat each day when I get home from work and Karl is cooking dinner. And now I love it… and The National.
  • Capital Cities – In A Tidal Wave of Mystery: Karl likes himself some Clutch, is a fan of Umphrey’s McGee, Eddie Vedder is his spirit animal and each summer he gets obsessed with some sad/lonely/depressed/whiny band, but he is also secretly a cheesy poppy techno fan. So when I heard more than the single from Capital Cities’ album and heard they were great live, I shared them with Karl. And he ate it up, and so did I. Seriously, love the album just for, “Like Michael Jackson’s Thriller, like Farrah Fawcett hair, it’s good shit.”
  • Jake Bugg – Jake Bugg: He has been compared to Bob Dylan, but don’t think that makes him cliché or a copycat. Jake Bugg has his own modern sound, modern lyrics, and this album is awesome. We’re actually seeing him at the 9:30 Club in September, we like the album so much. In the words of Capital Cities, it’s good shit.
  • Rubblebucket – Omega La La: I downloaded this album since they were going to be at Forecastle. I liked it okay, Karl LOVED it. We missed their set but kept listening and liking more and more.
  • Katzenjammer – A Kiss Before You Go: A friend of a friend told us this band was, “A modern-day Norwegian ABBA.” How can one resist? It’s actually a crazy mishmosh of an album, some sounds as though it should be played at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, some sounds as though it was originally recorded by ABBA, and some is just wacky. But it’s fun, it has an interesting cover of Genesis’ Land of Confusion, and Emerson knows the lyrics to almost every song.
  • Savages – Silence Yourself: I absolutely positively love this album. I listen to it and am transported to the good part of high school when I am wearing Doc Martens and rocking out in my bedroom to Siouxsie and the Banshees. Karl doesn’t get this album, but then when I was wearing Docs he was wearing shelltoes. I am going to see them at 9:30 next month and I cannot wait.
  • Diiv – Oshin: I think we saw them perform on Palladia or Jools Holland or Jimmy Fallon. Not sure, but we liked that short set on TV enough to download the album. This is good music to listen to when cooking dinner or reading a book or driving home from work.  It’s not Farrah Fawcett’s hair, but it will grow on you.
  • Portugal. the Man – Evil Friends: I feel as though I am going to go to hell listening to this album, but it is SOOO GOOD! Seriously, the lyrics are downright evil, but the music is amazing. I’ve seen Portugal. The Man at Bonnaroo and was underwhelmed, I listened to a previous album and it wasn’t memorable. Danger Mouse produced Evil Friends and wow he brought it. This album is catchy and memorable and you don’t tire of it. And there’s such good catchy lyrics even though they’re really evil thoughts. I hate to love this album, but dammit I do.


Have you been listening to any great music lately?  Seen any awesome concerts?  Tell me about it in the comments, I learn so much from all of you and I’m always on the lookout for new tunes!

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Dreaming of Bonnaroo…

We decided to not go to Bonnaroo again this year. We’ll be attending other festivals, but Bonnaroo still holds a special place in our hearts because it was the first we ever attended. Also for those who have attended Bonnaroo, you can agree it’s a life-changing experience. The heat, the lack of creature comforts, the crowds, the mud, the dust, the sun, the crazy variety of humans, the new music and art and experiences and friends. Did I mention the heat?

So while I sit in my cubicle this Friday, I shall dream of Bonnaroo…

I’ve learned a lot in the past year or two about festival preparedness.

  • Last year I took one of these chairs from Alite with us to Forecastle and it was perfection – when packed up it’s not much bigger than a large waterbottle.
  • Speaking of water bottle, I recently got one of these bottles from Bobble and it is utterly genius – built in cap but even better a built in filter! I love the pink color, and love how the strap from the cap to the bottle can also be a loop to keep the bottle attached to my bag.
  • Finally, last Bonnaroo I attended I was sans camera and phone because they both lost their charge. Since then I have bought a Soladec which could charge my electronics even while walking around Centeroo!

I’ve also learned a lot in regard to fashion.

  • I’m a loyal fan of Ray-Ban aviators, and have a couple pairs now. They’re lightweight, stay in place, provide plenty of coverage and are classic cool. I’d love some with the green mirrored lenses for festival season, they’d be a fun accent to my festie outfits.
  • I’m loving my bamboo scarves from Nepali by TDM Design; the bamboo isn’t too hot in the summer and a scarf like this one would work as a headwrap to fight the blazing sun, around the neck to protect from the rays (and dampened for the cooling factor), tied over the face for dust, and worn as a shawl when the sun goes down and there’s a bit of a breeze. They’re so light it wouldn’t be much of an issue to stuff in my bag.
  • Speaking of bag, while I’m a fan of a backpack at festivals, since going VIP I’ve found I need to carry less stuff. A waist pack (if I call it than instead of a fanny pack does it make it cool?) would be great for late night when I don’t need to cart around sunscreen, chairs, and the kitchen sink.
  • And I have learned that for me, the best festie shoes are boots. A pair of slouchy black short boots like these from Frye would look cute with cotton sundresses as well as distressed denim shorts.

This weekend, I know I will be checking out the live stream of Bonnaroo, and stalking Instagram to see all the photos my friends will be sharing.

Ah well… only a month until FORECASTLE!!!

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What My Brain Has Been Absorbing – May/June 2013

I find when I am uber stressed and frantic about the tiniest thing in life, it’s often when I am not making time for extra-curricular activities. I don’t mean dodge ball or drinking, but books and music and movies and other media. Ways to shut down the hyper chatter in the brain and fill that space with a different story that makes you think, analyze, calm the eff down. Here’s some of the things my brain has been absorbing the past month…

The Shouting Matches – Grownass Man
In the winter, I want deep music. Things I can listen to in the chair in my bedroom while I sip a hot beverage and look at the stark naked trees outside the window. Come summer, I want some fun tunes that sound great turned up to 11 on a turntable or my car stereo. If there’s some deep philosophical message in the lyrics, awesome, but it’s more about feeling happy and free and badass in my aviators with all the windows rolled down.

The Shouting Matches does that. It is a perfect album for 5:15 when stuck in one of DC’s many traffic circles. You’re not embarrassed to have it blaring out of your window, your hand is hanging out of the car patting the door in rhythm, or when you actually can go over 15 miles an hour you may have your hand wind surfing to the beat. With that, I hate to tell you who is the lead singer of this band.

Do you ever love a band without knowing its history, then look them up online and they’re now ruined for you? Kinda happened to me with The Hold Steady, happened to K with Eels, and I feared if I let K know that Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame was the singer of The Shouting Matches, he wouldn’t adore the album any more. But you know what? It kinda added to the album. We’re not big Bon Iver fans (though I must say I love this Tumblr), but knowing that someone so passionate about the art of music was behind this feel-good album ended up making us feel good. Anyway, it’s on Spotify, check it out but be sure all four windows in your car are rolled down before pressing Play.

Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
I am guessing more of you have heard of Vampire Weekend than The Shouting Matches, and there’s 50 kazillion more reviews of this album online that are better written than any drivel I can compose, so I’ll keep it short. I’ve always liked Vampire Weekend. I’m sad I hardly saw more than one song when they were at Bonnaroo in 2008, and I think this album is their very best. The band has matured with time, while keeping their signature sound. And this is another album that is great to listen to in the car with the windows down, your left hand surfing the air, your hair getting stuck in your lip gloss and you don’t care, you’re singing so loud.

Dawes – Stories Don’t End
I didn’t like Dawes. I didn’t get them. But they’re playing Forecastle so I added their album as a Spotify playlist. And I tried listening to it, and I just wasn’t feeling. I had already heard this ten years ago at a bar in Dewey Beach, 20 years ago at an Ocean City bar, and 25 years ago when riding in my older friend’s beat up Mustang convertible. Doesn’t mean it’s bad, just mean that it’s not for me.

Well Karl heard them and fell madly, passionately in love. Out came this guy I didn’t know, and I have known him since 1993. How did I not know he was a closet Jackson Browne and Bruce Springsteen fan? How did I not know that CCR was as much the soundtrack of his childhood as Zeppelin, The Beastie Boys and Run DMC? Well Dawes helped me understand my husband a bit better, and with that I decided to understand the appeal of Dawes.

I will never be the president of the Dawes Fan Club, but I get the appeal, and it is good summer music. I look forward to their performance at Forecastle, and am hoping it’s nice weather with a slight breeze, the sky getting golden, a cold beer in my hand, the river in the background when it happens. Because Dawes begs for a beachy, Outer Banks-esque situation to truly appreciate their tunes.

It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll – Jo Wood
I’m listening to NPR on the way to work and Garrison Keillor comes on and I have to change the channel. No disrespect to his fans, but his voice gives me the willies. I changed to DC 101 and Elliot Segal was interviewing Jo Wood, the woman who was with the Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood for 30 years. She was cute and bubbly and reminded me a bit of Sharon Osbourne and I figured her story had to be pretty good to be married into that band for so long and survive. So I got the book.

I liked the beginning of the book, when Wood tells of her early years as a model in London. I even gave her a pass when she left her first child from her first marriage with her parents to travel the world and party like a rock star. And then… I felt her to be the sad aged version of Band Aids.

Throughout the book I felt such pity for her. She worked so hard to be The Cool Girl that she had no self. I just found her life, even the early years, depressing. Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll can be awesome, but there’s a point where it gets a bit tedious and desperate. I read these thoughts of 50-something woman and I felt as though I was reading the memoir of a proud yet naive 22-year old. Maybe I’m extra Judgy McJudgerson because I am a mother and cannot IMAGINE doing the things she did when making a choice to create human beings (and yes even though many of her pregnancies were “oops” I find that she made that choice to be “oops” about pregnancy), but I didn’t find this book fun or awesome and I didn’t find her to be some brave heroine at the end.

Maybe it’s her style of writing, but I found her craving the desire to be seen as cool and sexy more important than anything else.  I was disgusted by how she’d laugh off John Belushi masturbating while talking to her on the phone and other situations where she was made into a mindless sex symbol and she enjoyed it.  How any ridiculous or dangerous situation was okay if it was full of laughs.  How proud she was when famous people would think she was cool, or how she hobnobbed with trendy celebrities.  At the end of the book, Wood writes, “…if you’re constantly treated like a cosseted child, you can sometimes start to behave like one, too,” and I agree, but I think Wood acted like a cosseted child even before her lifestyle encouraged it.

If you like to read about the rock and roll world, read Keith Richards’ Life; now that’s an awesome book about the Stones lifestyle. It’s long as heck and full of things I would never ever do, but it was good, and well-written. I even learned life lessons from it.  This book felt like a way for Jo Wood to cling to the limelight just a teeny bit longer.

The Great Gatsby (Movie and Book)
I see a movie in the theaters maybe once a year. Since I see them so rarely, I am quite picky. I saw Les Misérables at Christmas, and on Mother’s Day I went to see The Great Gatsby with my mom and sister.

I liked it. I hoped I would love it passionately as I do Moulin Rouge, but it didn’t get a fire in me like that film. However, it did make me respect Leonardo DiCaprio as an actor. He was spectacular. I also found the music to be far more subtle than with Moulin Rouge, but quite the supporting act that really pulled the film together and gave it a modern edge. If you didn’t see it in the theaters, it’s worth a rental once it’s on DVD but it won’t be in my Top Ten favorite movies, or even Top 50.

After seeing the movie, I wished to revisit the book. I have read it several times, but the last time was during or soon after college. When looking for the soundtrack on Spotify, I came across the audiobook of the novel and proceeded to download it so I could listen to it data-free on my work commute. It did make me realize that the film stayed quite true to the novel, but it also made me realize that the book is so great because of what your mind does with it. Most books are this way… it’s hard to have someone else’s imagination paint the picture for you, and The Great Gatsby has such descriptive writing to paint such a clear picture in your own mind. So if you haven’t read the book lately, go to your library or that dusty shelf in your living room and pick it up. Or if you’re a Spotify addict like me, search the title and find the audiobook. The movie can’t hold a candle to your own mind.

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