Photo by CH
SETTING THE STAGE:
It's time to cut through the BS and get down to brass tacks people. If you want to have an exciting, memorable experience at a festival:
a) Know what you're up against.
b) Put yourself in the best situation possible to succeed.
Thus, any advice telling you to: "be yourself", sit around and wait, or any other passive, crap-shoot-type reasoning will not be a part of this piece. This is about having a plan.
As we discussed earlier, courting situations at a festival are intense. It's like reflecting the sun through a microscope sometimes: hot, fast, and you can't be too laid back with your aim. After your first impressions are made, you're ready to set the stage and get your hands dirty.
One thing I can attest to when meeting people at these things is there are a lot of "first impression" moments. Have many, filter them, choose who you like, and try and find them morning one. If all goes well, they remember you and the customary trial period ensues in which potential sweethearts size each other up. It seems to happen faster and w/different criteria than in the square world. This opening trial can be a little weird, but it's pretty damn important in the quest to the promised land.
Going out of your way to get to know someone with plans and strategies seems unnatural, but it's something you may do if you want to meet someone who's cool. Comfort zones may be tested, and you might even embarrass yourself at some point. It's called living. Take heart in the fact that you're in the game. Have patience and try to be in the position to make a play. Aiming this microscope accurately takes patience and a plan.
USE WHAT OTHERS ALREADY KNOW
In the last century, academic types have come up with some pretty interesting strategies on how to anticipate and understand human behavior. I propose we use some of these established social theories in our quest to hook up.
Observe the environment, anticipate needs, try and fulfill them. Waking up dehydrated the first morning reminds everyone that we’re here to RAGE for the duration. The impending heat eventually drives us out of our tents to face the music. Most of us are hung over, a little spun, and our bodies crave basic necessities. Plus, we’re all without a bathroom sink, so we look like it. Normal protocol: time to bust out the supplies and fuel up for the day. Use this time to set the stage.
IF YOU FEEL LIKE SHARING
If you’re a vet and brought everything you need, your cooler should still be nice and frosty. Make sure you pack plenty of cold water for drinking/giving to hung-over shortie’s. Begin preparing tasty breakfast stuff and check out what the neighbors are doing. 7 out of 10 times, people are too lazy to want to do anything in the morning so you’ll attract attention by virtue of the sound/smells of food prep.
Normally, I’ll just start offering stuff to people. Be generous, but understand the value of what you are doing. Normally, if its someone I'm not interested in (dudes) I’ll ask for trades. Even a joke or a back-flip is worth something, and maintains the line in the sand. If its someone who strikes my fancy (quasi-nerdy hipster chick), I use the opportunity to lay some game.
The mission remains the same: find out where they are camped, where they are from, and what shows they are looking forward to seeing. Remembering what people say goes miles in these situations. You know you are getting somewhere when they start to accept your gift offerings.
This whole strategy is based on the theory of reciprocity. Give stuff to people you like. It feels good, and it comes back your way. In the square world, it’s not uncommon to ask some dime on a date and pay for dinner, movie, strip club,...whatever. Doing so puts some exciting pressure on them to reciprocate; same idea here. Remember, the point is not to give stuff away, it is to establish a rapport which should grow as the weekend rolls on.
WHEN SUPPLIES ARE LIMITED
If you’re involved in a group food initiative, you probably won’t be able to give much of the supplies away. Most of the food will probably be consumed by your crew, who in this case wouldn't appreciate you using it as love barter. It’s like sending aid to a sexy foreign country while those at home go without. No sweat; in this situation, you become the one in need. Grab a few supplies and press out into the campground. Also, bring knowledge of the area. Sometimes you'll run into a lost soul and you can use that opportunity to HOLLA!
If you are a real talker, offering trades/gifts are a good way to meet folks. Make sure to pick up whatever is good from your local area (regional fruit, drugs, clever bumper stickers) and look for those you may have met already. Same theory goes, give stuff to people you like after talking to them for a while. Use the exchange as a launching pad for a connection.
ENGAGE WITH THE PEOPLE
Bonnarroo '04, I lucked out and was camped next to 6 budding co-eds from Ontario. I made sure to bring a bag of juicy oranges to share w/whomever I thought worthy. Morning one, I cut some citrus in half and walked over to make friends. At first, it was a little weird, as I was just some dude offering them oranges. No one knew what to expect. I'd entered the awkward zone. This is our challenge people: getting past that weirdness and establishing ourselves as the cool peoples we be. It's funny, these opening gambits often go unremembered but are ultra-important.
When you are out and about, it can be more difficult to bond with people as they don't know anything about you. I suggest being as genuine and real as possible. Keep it fun, and ham it up if you want. At a music festival we’re all living outside; it’s ok to get messy, silly, preach, dance, yell or sing sometimes. In some ways, we can be little kids again. Any of that stuff can only help you in your mission.
With the Canadian chicks, I decided to sunscreen my face after hanging with them for a while. I used too much, and needed help fully applying it to by face/body. Pretty soon we were all rubbing each other with lotion and it seems totally normal. By the next morning I found myself waking up in one of their tents for round II of a sunscreen body rub bonanza. If you're a real Hoss, keep your sunscreen in the cooler. It's pretty damn satisfying and clever.
WHEN YOU'RE BASHFUL
If you're not much of a talker, don't sweat it. One time I saw a guy carrying a homemade sign that said “will break dance for breakfast” around the lot. He walked kind of slowly, dancing and smiling as he went. When people saw his sign they reacted with delight, and he would lay the sign down and spin around on it. He was an awful break dancer, but he was hilarious. He was just some shy dude from Oklahoma City who normally wouldn't demand much attention. After his dance, I talked to him and discovered he was pretty cool; I even considered letting him bang my buddy TK's sister (kidding).
After the morning rounds, keep to your normal schedule. No need to over do it. Just like yesterday, it's important to have time for yourself to do what you want. Clean up, chill, hydrate, check with the crew, and all that other good stuff. The point of all of the above discussed activities is to bridge the identity gap from "some dude/chick" to "the cute guy/girl from down the way". With any luck, you've seen your special friend last night and this morning, and they're beginning to notice your interest. Let it marinate, and try to set up something for later that night.
It's still early. Making a day time date threatens to impede on everyone's freedom, and normally no one is drunk enough yet to do anything crazy. If you've had any success at all with the above techniques, you're in a good spot for some late night lovin'.
Next up: Section III: Making Your Move