While the title might be specific towards the ZoukOut music festival in Singapore, I also want to use this entry to write about music festivals as a whole. To make this entry seem less daunting, I’m going to be throwing pictures I took in this year’s ZoukOut (2016) throughout this post.
It’s hard to convey the feelings I get with music festivals. The excitement I feel is similar to how a kid views a playground during recess. The anticipation is like the moments after you wake up right before you set out on a vacation. The purity of the vibes you get is absolutely magical. If I want to get goosebumps, all I have to do is load up a YouTube video of the latest festival. It’s a place that has a life of its own, full of beauty, freedom, and love. Walking out of a festival makes you feel like you’re in a completely different world. There’s one word I would use to describe them. Surreal.
On the surface, music festivals seem to be a place just for lights, music, and drugs. But I think it’s much more than that. It’s a place where people from all over the world come to celebrate the freedom of being alive. It’s a place to show how beautiful we as humans can really be. What festivals offer, is a chance to grab one of the good times with the people around you before age, work, family, and the everyday battles we go through, get to them.
While happiness can be found in the smallest things in life, I haven’t found the same kind of freedom associated specifically with music festivals. You have the freedom to feel the music, not just listen to it. The freedom to dance however you like, to wear (or not to wear) whatever you want. The freedom to represent your nation, to celebrate your sexuality, to show off your body, to be as sober or faded as you want to be. The freedom to be stupid just for a few laughs. The freedom of being a part of something larger than yourself and your world. Your phone becomes part of the show, your singing becomes part of the song, your joy becomes part of everyone’s joy. Festivals make you feel large enough to touch the sky, yet small enough to be swept away by the crowd.
Whether alone or with a group, I found the experience to be memorable. The romance of meeting new people and sharing this intense experience with them is unforgettable. It’s complete sensory overload. As long as you put yourself out there, you will run into a group, or perhaps another soloer. Even if you don’t meet people, that all goes away once you step into the crowd and start feeling the music with the people around you. I love the moment when you look behind you and find yourself surrounded by a sea of people and lights.
The most beautiful scenes that I can remember come from sunsets and sunrises at music festivals.
Now to get into ZoukOut. I didn’t go to the festival alone per se, but I did go to Singapore alone. Singapore is dope as hell. It’s a very efficient country with no crime, bright culture, exuberant nightlife, amazing food, and pretty much spotless. I mostly stayed at hostels, and one night at the coveted Marina Bay Sands hotel. The River City Inn was by far one of the best hostels I stayed at. Great location, cheap, and really friendly people that worked there. They had a common area where you can meet other travelers. I can honestly say that my trip would not have been the same if I stayed somewhere else.
Anyway I ended up meeting some really cool people at the hostel I stayed at and went together with one of them. Overall, I really liked the atmosphere of ZoukOut. I loved that it was dusk till dawn. Most of the other festivals I’ve been to ended at 12am, and something just doesn’t feel right walking out of the festival that early. The food was good and reasonably priced (Tonkatsu ramen for 8 Singapore dollars).
They provided umbrellas to stand under and tables to sit and eat at. The main stage was an eye, with the VIP section directly to the left of the stage. 2 bathroom areas, one near the entrance and one discretely tucked away in the middle. There were about 50,000 people that went, and not nearly enough space.
There were 3 stages. The main stage was an eye, the 2nd stage was underneath some scaffolding, and the 3rd stage was a small black light one. ZoukOut is on a beach, and we ended up getting a lot of sand in our sneakers. Things started to pick up when Alan Walker performed at 10:30pm then got really heated when Zedd came on at 2:30am. Martin Garrix came on around 4:30am. Needless to say, the crowd was lit when he came on.
It started drizzling around 1:00am. By 1:10am it was a downpour. There were 20 people huddling under one of the umbrellas meant for probably 6 people at most. I was by the dining area. The once crowded dining area was no completely deserted. I saw people hopelessly trying to find space inside the umbrellas to no success. In the spirit of “Eh, fuck it” these people went back to the dining area, jumped up on the tables, and started to dance on them. One by one people from the umbrellas started to join them until the rain finally stopped. Seriously it was like shit out of a movie, I wish I took a picture of that moment.
The beach concept was a little gimmicky, since there was no way to actually go into the ocean (and rightfully so). After the festival I had an endless amount of sand in my shoes. They did not allow you to bring in your own water, and they did not provide water stations. This is a HUGE red flag and safety hazard. Since they didn’t have water stations, you had to buy bottled water from them. That would be fine, if it didn’t take literally an hour to get 2 bottles of water. They didn’t have dedicated places to buy water, you had to get it at the drink stations that had both water and alcoholic beverages. What really slowed the process down is that they allowed credit cards, so each transaction took 2-3 minutes. There were a few people I saw that were not doing too well, completely alone, and no water in sight. In Singapore’s heat coupled with whatever those people were taking, dehydration could have been a serious issue. I ended up getting first aid to look at a few people I found scattered around the festival.
Aside from the difficulty of getting water, ZoukOut was everything I expected in a music festival and more. It might not be worth traveling a long distance to go to it, unless you’re crazy and love festivals like me, but if you’re in the Eastern part of the world I would definitely recommend checking this one out.
I think everybody should experience a festival at least once in their life. Sure the heavy price tag, long lines, crowded stages, and loud EDM might be off putting for some, but the trade off is feeling the most alive you’ve ever been. These EDM festivals are something our generation created, and its something that we should embrace while it lasts. Our generation has been the most diverse as its ever been, and with that, our differences tend to get the better of us. And in a world where we seem to focus on the differences that separate us, they all seem to disappear in a sea of flashing lights.
I know this is a bit over the top and going to sound profoundly cheesy, but for me, festivals give me another purpose in life. I sit at work waiting for the next festival’s lineup to come out and watch videos of festivals from previous years. I think of my next attire I’m going to wear and which DJ I want to listen to for the next 2 months. I look forward to the next place I’ll visit, the new connections I’ll make, and the experiences I’ll never forget. I love it.
Going to a music festival is like being in a relationship with someone you love, just shared with thousands of people. To have a great experience and to become a part of someone else’s great experience. That’s the kind of energy that fuels the great vibes you get from music festivals. And when it comes down to it, isn’t that the kind of love we’re all seeking?
I want to end this post with some festival advice.
- Stay hydrated
- Don’t wear nice shoes
- Pace yourself. Save some energy for the set you came to see
- Bring a portable charger, or be mindful of your phone’s battery
- Make a meet up point and time with your group by first aid
- Go to the bathroom before the set you want to see
- Don’t buy substances at the festival
- Get a test kit for substances you do get
- Take substances responsibly and stay with someone if you do
- Look out for one another
- Remember that the show isn’t only the DJ on stage, but with all of us as well
See you guys at the next festival.
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