Harrington: Music festivals are expensive, yet worthwhile

Guest columnist Jacob Harrington explains how he is going above and beyond to get to Bonnaroo.

Jacob Harrington

Jacob HarringtonOn the morning of February 19, a lot of things happened. I ate a grapefruit and listened to “Everything In Transit” by Jack’s Mannequin. I made coffee. Two of the biggest music festivals in the country readied their lineups for release. Then, I mostly thought about the state of my bank account.

Firefly Festival announced its long-awaited lineup at 9 a.m. Firefly is an expensive festival with a ridiculously stacked lineup that you want to go to as soon as you know it exists. It takes place in Dover, Del., my hometown. The house that I grew up in is about 10 minutes from the festival grounds, which are next to the mall I worked in throughout high school. Firefly has this hometown draw to me, and I am sure everyone else from Dover — it’s right there in our town, where not much except for NASCAR races ever happen.

The first Firefly Festival was the best thing that has ever happened to my town. It brought thousands of people and millions of dollars to Dover. I had never been so happy to tell people that I was from Dover. To myself and other local kids it was like Woodstock coming to us. History of rock and roll holds Woodstock to mythical levels of music and fun and culture, and that is about how excited we were for Firefly. I was not disappointed. I was eagerly looking forward to Firefly Festival No. 2.

But on the morning of February 19,Bonnaroo announced its lineup, too, and Firefly, alas, took second hat. I was all ready to spend my money on Firefly and be content. Then Bonnaroo’s lineup made me go back to looking at my bank account. The lineups were both good, but Bonnaroo’s had a few choice acts that made me certain I wanted to go — Paul McCartney, Animal Collective and The National.

The National is my favorite band. I expected them to be at Firefly, and they were not. Two hours later, they were announced to be at Bonnaroo. My brain started doing the math.

So I guess that was when I just decided I was going to Bonnaroo. Just for one band? Sort of. Firefly is right there in Dover, while Bonnaroo is 803 miles away in Manchester, Tenn. 803 miles is a lot of gas, and I figured the total cost of the trip somewhere around $700 — rent money, or enough money to not have to worry about money for a lot of pleasant weekends. Firefly would cost about $300.

Do you know that desire that settles in your stomach when a band announces some one-off show that the likes of which will surely never be seen again? The tickets are expensive, it’s far away and you do not really have the money right now, but man that show is going to be so good.

Shows that you get tickets for against all odds are the best. Brand New live in Atlantic City on New Year’s Eve 2011 — that show sold out in seconds, and I had to break my bank account and went through inordinate levels of stress to get the tickets, but it was worth it. Bonnaroo will be a good deal hotter than Firefly. It will be hot, sweaty, crowded, tiring, probably grungy and exhausting on a general level. People will wear the same clothes multiple days in a row. We will all suffer under the sun for the sake of the music we came to see. It is worth it.

Bonnaroo has motivated me to appreciate my work hours, look for a second job, save money, look forward to June and the vacation/salvation that I have been working so hard to get to. It has been a tough lesson in saving money. It will be worth it when the road trip starts.

Bonnaroo came along as this fantastic, expensive and adventurous journey that seemed so tempting and yet so out of the realm of financial plausibility. It seemed like the least Jacob thing I could do — why drive to a festival 803 miles away when Firefly is next to my parent’s house?

I do not really know why.  I was drawn to it, like Frodo to the Shire. Maybe it is because I am young and financially shortsighted. Maybe it is because The National is my favorite band, and I just really want to see and hear ‘About Today’ live. I want to see a Beatle play music before there aren’t any left to see. My wallet laments it, but I have never been more excited for a weekend or a vacation, and I have never worked so hard to get to one.

Music festivals are by nature absolutely insane. They are designed so that you just have to go — all your favorite bands are there, and obviously if you don’t go you will regret it until the end of your days. Firefly Festival was an incredibly fun, hot, satisfying weekend, and I am sure Bonnaroo will be even better. It better be, damn it. It was expensive.

Jacob Harrington can be reached at jacob.harrington@temple.edu. 

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