Upgrade your Fest Experience by following the 3 “Festival-Buddy Golden Rules”


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This article started with me wanting to talk about what happened at Electric Zoo and the need for people to “Rave Responsibly”. You know, things like the need for accurate information, testing kits, and organizations that promote “Harm Reduction” and other practical advice. But when I started to write that article, I realized we needed to talk about something else first.

Did you know that PLUR used to have a second R? And that the second R stood for “Responsibility?” The question I keep asking myself is, “Do people still follow that second ‘R’?” Are Festival Buddies still taking care of their friends?

If so, why do we now see so many drunken folks left passed out or wandering aimlessly around by themselves at Coachella, sometimes looking like an episode of The Walking Dead? And how come a young woman is taking 6 tabs of Molly at Electric Zoo without her buddies stepping in? And why are women being put in potentially dangerous situations because their friends don’t know who they left with?

So, instead of just focusing on the EDM scene, I think we need to talk about a bigger topic: How do we create and promote an awesome, and more positive festival scene for everyone? To me the solution is for all of us to work on being better festival buddies to each other. I suggest following the Three Golden Rules:


You are responsible for your buddy’s (and rest of the audience’s) safety.

This rule is basically another way of saying, “There are ways to do irresponsible things responsibly.”

As a good Festival Buddy, I won’t leave your drunk ass lying in a heap because I am mad at you and just cross my fingers that you get home. Instead, I will get you home safely like you would do for me, and THEN tell you what an ass you are for wrecking my show.

Festival Buddy Golden Rule #1 Examples:
Many years ago, I pretty much missed most of a Pink Floyd show because halfway through, the dude I was with leaned over and said “Hey…I just took something from someone.” As smart as secretly taking an unknown drug from a stranger might seem, it turned out be a huge mistake on his part. Soon thereafter my friend started flipping out and told me that he was now seeing “cavemen on his eyelids.” Your humble narrator required constant use of the phrase “keep your shit together dude…right now…I’m super serious” and some Vince Vaughn level of fast talking to authorities to get us safely home that night.

I did that not because I am a great guy, but because my buddy was helpless and vulnerable. And because he would have done the same for me. A true Festival Buddy adopts a strict “Leave no Raver/Rocker behind or alone” philosophy.

Also, a good FB is an Educated, Empowered Citizen. He (or she) is educated and informed about organizations like dancesafe.org, bunkpolice.org, and plur-rx.com that promote testing and other “harm reduction” ideas at festivals and raves. Any person taking any drug has by definition engaged in a uniquely dangerous act. But if that’s your personal choice, then you need to be one seriously informed individual. Anything less is not “personal choice” but “personal recklessness”.

Also, as my last two articles have discussed, a good Festival Buddy knows his/her rights, and would watch and record an arrest for his buddy, or at least make sure to be that person’s lifeline to friends and family. (If you need to get up to speed on this, here is Part 1 and Part 2 of “What To Do if The Police Stop You at a Music Festival”.


(No, not “You do not talk about Festival Lawyer Club”)
“I will try to enjoy the show in such a way I don’t wreck your enjoyment of the show.”

A true Festival Buddy also knows how to “UPGRADE” his friends’ experiences. I call this philosophy the “UPGRADE” now, but I’ve seen this same idea floating around under a lot of different names and variations: PLUR, Good Vibe tribe, Rage it Forward, The 10 Principles, Concert Karma, etc.

All of these are different names for the same basic idea; that the level of fun you have at a festival has less to do with how good the performer is (although that helps) and way more to do with how good the audience is.

In other words, you will have the most fun at any festival where the audience is being fun and spreading positivity and good vibes to each other. This may sound a bit too “new agey” and “woo woo” for your tastes, but I assure you it is true both sociologically and psychologically. But seriously, do I really need to scientifically prove this to you? Isn’t it obviously more fun to be in a crowd of fun, positive, dancing people than be surrounded by a bunch of negative bad vibey jerks?

So part of the way I can UPGRADE the audience is by enjoying the show in such a way that it doesn’t wreck my friends’ show experience.

Festival Buddy Golden Rule #2 – Examples:
Maybe you might want to record the whole show on your iPhone (or now iPads? seriously?) and just stand there and focus on getting the best video and pics. I’m not here to judge or scold you. Although I do feel the need to point out that you will NEVER watch that stupid motherfucking shaky video again and you are watching something through a tiny screen that is actually happening really big and loud RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU LIVE!!! (Umm…actually maybe I am judging you a tiny bit. Sorry.)

But that’s beside the point. The point is, I can “UPGRADE” the experience around me by being present, being fun and by not holding up a large metal view blocking device throughout the concert in the face of the guy behind me.

Or maybe you like to treat the show as a backdrop to your private conversations with your friends. I KNOW you paid for your ticket too and have the RIGHT to talk about stupid crap at an awesome concert. So you can certainly do it. But for me, I know that I might be standing next to someone who is hearing some quiet, beautiful song that he might have waited years to hear live. So I can UPGRADE the audience by not talking over it.

I was at a Jack White concert last year and this guy was loudly arguing with his girlfriend during “Love Interruption”. (Oh the irony!!) Turned out the argument was about whether Radiohead or Coldplay was a better band. Which was weird because:

A) Fuck you if you don’t know that Radiohead is about 1 million times better than Coldplay.
B) Neither band was playing at that festival so that’s an even better reason to shut up. That dude totally downgraded his festival buddies’ experience and was a serious buzz kill to the audience around him.

But more than just not being disruptive, a true UPGRADE requires a commitment to making the audience better through positivity and fun.


I will UPGRADE the rest of the audience by personally taking positive actions.

The best definition of Positivity I know is that it makes me happy to see other people happy. So Upgrading is me just letting other people know that’s it’s okay for them to have fun around me.

I mainly do this by letting you know that I don’t think you are a freak or stare at you if you feel like dancing, singing or doing some kind of insane interpretive dance. In fact, I prefer that you stand next to me so I can tell you how you are “killing it”.

Festival Buddy Golden Rule #3 Examples:
Last year at Outside Lands, I asked someone to take a picture for us. “Fuck yeah I will” was his response. While taking the picture he was saying “fuck yeah..fuck yeah..this pic is going to be killer”. When it was done I told him thanks and he said “No..thank YOU!..that was fucking awesome!” (This dude seemed sober and just awesome.)

That was a huge “Upgrade” for us right? We laughed our asses off and kept saying it to other people at the festival. Whenever anyone asked me to take their photo my reply was “Fuck yeah I will!” We felt happier and spread more fun because of it. The effect rippled because other people would laugh about the story. Heck, we STILL laugh about it. An Upgrade is anything you do that is a way of paying forward positive vibes and letting people know that near you is the best, most fun place to party.

So wearing a crazy costume is an upgrade. Giving a hi-five at the show to someone wearing a crazy costume and saying “you’re doing great!” is an Upgrade. Saying “sorry, bro” to someone who you just bumped into is an Upgrade. Responding with “No Worries” is an Upgrade back. Starting a dance circle is an Upgrade. Joining that dance circle is an Upgrade back. See what I mean?


Or maybe you might give away your last bottle of water to someone who looks miserably hot, or give your Spirit Hood to someone freezing. Or take someone’s picture that is struggling to take a “selfie” with his or her partner.

If you need more examples, talk to just about any Deadhead or Phish or Widespread Panic fan. Or talk to people about PLURR. (I’m trying to bring back the second “R”) Or read the Burning Man 10 principles.

Or you could do what I did, Follow the Festival Guy on Twitter and read his blog and meet him at your next fest. Tucker Gumber was there at my “origin story” and first told me about “Raging it Forward”. Tucker is basically the Tyler Durden of positivity.

In other words, find cool people who believe in this way of “festing” and support them. If you see someone who is doing great, tell them. Maybe even ask “How about an Upgrade?” If the person doesn’t know what you are talking about, they are probably just a “Natural” partier and you should be fine for the rest of the night. But if they say “Fuck yeah” and hi-five you back? Well You KNOW they are a party professional and you are in good hands.

Do you have a code of positivity and responsibility (example PLURR) when you fest? Who taught you about it? Do you have a favorite way to upgrade other people’s experiences? Tell me in the comments about it or hit me up on Twitter to tell me about it.

Footnote 1 – Here is how this stuff works in real life:

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  1. I like the helpful info you provide in your
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  2. Reblogged this on Terry Gotham and commented:
    My man The Festival Lawyer drops some critical tips I’d pay attention to if you’re heading out to the various festivals this summer. Upgrade someone else’s experience, it will make you feel warm and squishy inside.

  3. Once, I brought hundreds of blinky rings, pot leaf and musical note pins (thanks to Magic Matt and blinkee.com) to the Catskill Chill music festival for my own personal visual enjoyment. My husband and I stood up at the top of the hill and smiled on Saturday night watching the whole place blinking…best…light…show….ever!

  4. I love this article! I am a festival junkie, a freak, a blissfaced lover, and I feed off the crowd energy. I love to bring presents…I make stickers, buttons, and heady laminates for my jamily. Making people smile is awesome. I have a festival buddy….my awesome husband…and we never, ever, leave each other’s side….and we stick with our friends…So here is the not so positive part to being a positive member of the jam family…I am the nurse in my crowd, and a little older, I am that person who pokes lonely wookies left alone by their friends. I can’t walk past someone who is in distress. Sometimes my own friends encourage me to keep walking and I stop anyway. I watched a whole group of people step over a semi-passed out kid on a trail back to camp at Mighty High. NOBODY stopped. He was not OK. He was disoriented, drunk, and when asked what drugs he took, he said “all of them”….his friends LEFT him! Nobody wants to be left alone with a complete stranger spunion sitting…I did it anyway because it was the right thing to do. Thank you for the reminder to stick with your friends…I have noticed a trend over the past couple years among the younger member of our scene…so many of them don’t get the concept that responsible partying includes sticking together. I don’t want to be offensive with my observation, but as an aging hipster, I notice that there is less of a family vibe at some of the events I go to. I traveled the country following the Dead in the 80’s and my “family” always stuck together and helped out a complete stranger…it was what we did…I try to bring that family vibe wherever I land.

  5. big willy says:

    its all about the shambalove!

  6. No hippie left behind has become one of our motto’s! We had one of our more youthful in our group disappear to the bathroom without his shoes (!?!?) or cell phone. He got lost on the way back and ended up partying with some very generous people who basically launched him. After the show was over we waited in our spot until security threw us out. Luckily for us all we found him wandering the lot. Needless to say our night was saved and some lessons were learned. But for sure – no hippie left behind!

  7. Monserrat says:

    Fuck yeah!!! No way we would have survived our crazy party days without our friends having our back! I like to upgrade by bringing something to give and share with ppl. Like candy necklaces, shiny things, etc…

    • totally..giving away some small stuff is a total upgrade. I used to give out those cheap “fireworks glasses that make lasers refract”..costs are minimal and if you give it to them you totally blow their minds..Candy is super cool to give out..sometimes though people think you are giving them acid. You have to sort of say “this is not acid it is just a jolly rancher”.

  8. Sharyn Friedman says:

    I swear I think I know that “fuck yeah” guy! If the same person, He had a necklace that said it & was trying to give it to me! very cool dude, AND, great article! I’m one of the older ones reading this and I just have to say that NO ONE, would have ever left someone behind years ago…

  9. Good stuff. My “first rule of concerts” is NEVER leave the venue until you have everyone you came in with. once you go out, they won’t let you back in to look for your friend. But they will allow you some time to look around if you’re still inside.

  10. First of all, great articles, Mr. Festy Lawyer! Thank you for your UPGRADES. I just saw the Furthur run at the Greek in LA. Five barnburning sets, absolutely amazing. Here’s my UPGRADE story. I drove out from Phoenix with a friend. We were picking up a friend of his from the airport. She flew in from St. Louis. We were partying in the parking lot and Shelly had to pee, but said the line for the women’s bathroom was about an hour wait. I told her I would get her in the men’s bathroom. There was a line of about 10 guys in line. I asked if anybody was waiting specifically for the stall (there was one stall and three urinals). Two people said yes. I asked if they minded if my friend went in front of them. They said no (UPGRADE). The problem was, the line wasn’t moving. This was out of confusion, not people taking a long time once they were in. I’m a software project manager by day, so I put my PM skills to use. I organized the line, stood inside the bathroom and called out when there were empty urinals. Not only did Shelly get to relieve her bladder more quickly, but by the time she was done, there were only two people in line. Good times!

    • long bathroom lines, poor sound, and terrible cell reception are the enemy of the Upgrade. I love Hardly Strictly and OSL but the bathroom lines at OSL are sometimes tragic and Golden Gate park seems like a tough place to mike for some reason. (maybe cause it’s in middle of city and they have noise control? ) anyway sounds like you figured out a way to help fix that line and totally upgraded your situation..awesome!

  11. “If so, why do we now see so many drunken folks left passed out or wandering aimlessly around by themselves at Coachella, sometimes looking like an episode of The Walking Dead? And how come a young woman is taking 6 tabs of Molly at Electric Zoo without her buddies stepping in? And why are women being put in potentially dangerous situations because their friends don’t know who they left with?”

    You want to know a major point that never gets addressed for people wandering alone, aside from the ones who go to these things by themselves? The fact is, people get lost…and meeting up with people inside a festival is no easy task. Cell jammers make it so most phones are pretty much worthless. Then consider bathroom/water proximity and the long lines. Now, apply these in a few scenarios.

    1. A group decides to sit down and take a break after a set. Someone needs to use the restroom and takes off. After waiting for over an hour and no answer to phone calls/texts, the group reluctantly decides to move on and enjoy the rest of their night.

    2. A group is at their designated meeting spot. Someone is waiting for some friends to come. This person luckily has some has spotty cell reception and says, “Okay, they’re over there. I’m going to get them and come back.” Having not returned for quite some time and not responding to calls/texts, the group assumes he/she’s off with the other friends.

    3. A large group decides to move from one stage to another. When they arrive at another stage, someone is missing. Maybe this person had to tie their shoes, maybe they got lost in the mass of people, who knows? A few people go looking for the lost member to no avail. Said person is also not answering calls/texts.

    Buddy system is important, but the promoters share some responsibility here. They need to understand that seemingly trivial things such as cell reception and faster access to restroom/concessions are more necessities than luxuries reserved for VIP ticket holders. Indirectly, deaths/hospitalizations/crimes can be prevented.

    • Good point. One of the things I do is send a text with the time I sent it , so “Heading to rainbow arch – 320PM) so that when people do finally get a text they know when it was sent. But you are right, bathroom lines and cell phone reception is not only a huge hassle but can be a safety issue as you point out….

    • When I’m with a big group at a festival/big party, we usually try to have a “meeting spot” where we’ll go if we lose each other, or sometimes one by each stage. At Burning Man we had a rule that nobody should have to do anything alone unless they really want to (and are sober enough to decide this). So if one person needs the loo, at least one person will go with them. that way if the group splits up (which it almost always does, for the reasons above) at least you always have one buddy with you.

  12. Reblogged this on The Live Bite and commented:
    This post by The Festival Lawyer is a spot-on guide for all festival go-ers. The three golden rules are rules that I try to abide by for myself, so that I know I will have the best experience I can have at a festival, as well as ‘upgrading’ those of my friends and those of people I meet. Many exhibitions of these Golden Rules can be seen at festivals where people don “You’re Beautiful Just The Way You Are” t-shirts, “Free Hugs” signs, and Kandi Kids running around shouting compliments and giving away free kandi bracelets. This is what PLUR is. Where the second “R” comes to play is a matter of situation. My friends at EDC LV in 2011 rushed to a fellow raver, whom they did not even know, who was having a seizure on the ground. (I wasn’t with them at the time). While one fled to get the medics, the other used her Mist Bottle to cool the raver down. This is the extra “R” in PLURR, something everyone forgets. This is something we all need to remember and be conscious of, because this lifestyle is dependent on it. So how do we portray the extra “R” when we are trading kandi with one another? You can’t just hug it out or make an “R” with the raver you are trading kandi with. You show it. You emit it. Any festival go-er can and will see that responsible somebody.

  13. Great article! I’ve been nicknamed “the water fairy” because I’m always offering water to my friends and even strangers that look like they need it. Pretty sure I’ve saved multiple lives because instead of just looking at someone in trouble I will go find a medic or security to help them… once I even crawled under a bathroom stall to unlock it for security because a girl was passed out at a club. I’ll definitely be thinking about upgrading more from now on! Party safe and party smart:)

  14. My buddy took the video of the dancing guy! Such a rad thing to see happen infront of you.

  15. My version of the upgrade is “particiPARTY”. 🙂


  16. Brian Engle says:

    Great article. It’s good to see some of the old sentiments being passed on. There was a day when you didn’t need a festival buddy because we believed in PLUR, and the unity meant that anyone would step up to help. With the recent growing popularity of EDM, we are seeing an influx of people that don’t necessarily understand the philosophies, which brings an unknown element to the scene.

    I do have one issue, though. There is no reason to add the second R, or the H or honor, or anything else. Responsibility easily falls under respect…for yourself and others. I don’t know where the previous commenter got PLE, but it has always been PLUR. Check this:

    Be safe, and keep partying! (And I’ll go ahead and say it…) PLUR!

    • thanks Brian..I am totally going to read that history of Plur. I think the most common feedback I heard was R means Respect which is the same as Responsibility. I guess I understand but things are getting to a point where it might be good just to remind people..that’s all. But than you so much for the article..

  17. You did not UPGRADE this article

  18. Great read!

  19. Gilbert Lopez says:

    And PLUR used to be PLE so there goes your first point.


  1. […] time to time and people will want to see different acts at different times. That’s why you should pick one person to buddy up and share your super-crazy festival experience with. So long as you are with one person, you are […]

  2. […] Read the first article in this series. Follow the Festival Lawyer on Twitter. […]

  3. […] The Festival Lawyer explained this best in his Upgrade article: […]

  4. […] As I mentioned in a previous article, making a commitment to be responsible for your friend’s safety at an event is the “Golden Rule” of being a good Festival Buddy. […]

  5. […] What can the dance community do to make sure a tragedy like this doesn’t happen again? It can make sure that festivals are doing everything possible to make sure people are safe when they go to an EDM event. And ravers themselves need to be doing more on their part to party responsibly and to look out for their festival buddies. […]

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