The Festival Lawyer: Upgrade Your Festival Experience Part 2


Read the first article in this series. Follow the Festival Lawyer on Twitter.

If I had a time machine I would go back in time and…

  1. See The Doors play live.
  2. Tell my younger self to wear ear plugs if I intend to go to this many concerts the rest of my life; and finally
  3. Tell my younger self to hang out with more positive and less negative people.

I know, I know, I sound like a jerk for not using the time machine to kill Hitler or stop George Lucas from wrecking Star wars. But in my defense, how cool would it be to see Jim Morrison live at the Whisky a Go Go with a bunch of people freaking out?

Anyway, the point I’m making is that when you write about ideas to make festivals better and more fun, some positive people step up to say “how can I help?” Or more often than not I’m hearing, “guess what, I am already doing that!”

So I wanted to do a follow up article telling you about all the awesome “Upgrade” ideas people sent me. In fact, I am going to turn the last part of this article over to Britz Bitz from Shambhala Music Festival. She will talk about how part of her job at Shambala Music festival is literally to promote positivity and encourage Upgrades by their fest goers. (And I thought my job was cool.)

Here are some awesome UPGRADE ideas you can try at your next fest/rave:

It’s super hard to misinterpret your attitude or intent with this one. I mean seriously why did this go out of fashion? What’s so funny about Peace, Love, and Understanding?

I like to hi-five anyone who I see that is dancing or singing or being awesome at a festival. There is no clearer way to say, “You are killing it”.

Everyone hates taking a “T Rex Selfie”. Next time you see someone struggling to hold their phone out far enough to take a decent picture, just offer to take it for them. Guess what? You just made an instant concert friend and totally helped someone document an awesome memory.

BONUS: if you want a pic of you and your girlfriend, they kind of have to take your picture back. It’s like the law or something.

This is super easy and yet has a huge impact. I usually wear a crazy silver disco shirt to fests. I do this mainly because a silver disco shirt is the universal symbol of “Let’s Party”. Also, a silver disco shirt sends the clear message, “go ahead and approach me. I am wearing something so ridiculous that I clearly won’t judge you.”

But really, T-Shirts can do more than just make people have more fun at festivals. Just ask the “I Am So Happy” crew. They all wear “I AM SO HAPPY” T-Shirts to their festivals. They emailed me to tell me about their awesome philosophy on going to festivals. Check out their cool credo below. It’s got a very “In Brightest Day, In Blackest Night” Green Lantern Corps kind of vibe to it:

We will do literally anything to enhance the experience of those around us. This familial tendency is what, we feel, the scene is lacking. We are a family, we are all there to enjoy ourselves and the music, but not at the expense of our health or the enjoyment of those around us. This is a part of the credo that takes priority once donning the shirt, to always look out for your neighbor and always act when circumstances require action. With every shirt we give away or sell, that is the ideology we bestow on the new member.

How awesome is this idea? (you can find them on Twitter @imsohappycrew or their website.)


Giving out water at a rave or watching to make sure your friends are hydrated and cooled down is not only an “Upgrade” but goes to that “Responsibility” thing as well. But what might not have occurred to you is that there can be fun ways to be responsible…Don’t believe me? Check this out:

Kate wrote,

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.

Another thing you can do to Upgrade people is give a little gift that although small in price is huge in terms of how much comfort it gives.

My girlfriend (the amazing and awesome Mrs. Festival Lawyer) carries some cardboard “p-mate” disposable female urination assist devices with her. This is a device that lets women use the bathrooms standing up. When she sees a woman who shares her horror of porta-potties, she will give one to her and tell her how to get them for herself next festival.

I know what you are thinking, “If God had wanted women to pee standing up He would not have created urinals.” And honestly I don’t think as a man I truly “got” how much more horrifying public toilets are for women than men. But I do now. Honestly the amount of Upgrade this conveys is amazing to see. Women are sooo happy when she gives them out. I almost expect them to come out of the bathroom area singing “Sisters are doing it for themselves”. Find them here.

Giving away some small stuff is a total upgrade because of the simple fact that people love free shit.

It’s like those times you find a free newspaper in the lobby outside your hotel room when you wake up. You get seriously pumped up, right? This is true even though logically you know that paper actually cost 200 dollars (or whatever the rate for your room was).

Candy is probably the easiest thing to give out. The main issue is that people assume you are trying to give them drugs or trying to poison them, and in fact people might be super suspicious of what you are doing. I’m not even kidding. Honestly, I recommend saying out loud to people “Don’t freak out – I am not giving you drugs or poison it’s just a Jolly Rancher.” Repeat this calmly and deliberately with a non-maniacal smile on your face for best results.

Monserrat commented:

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…

So before I turn this over to Britz, let me blow your mind for a second.

The premise of my original article in this series was that if you think positively and “Upgrade” people, you will get more back in terms of your festivals.

Now get this, positive people who read it wrote back to me and gave me Upgrading ideas and cool ways to make my fest better. In other words, I wrote about “Upgrading” and people responded by “Upgrading” my column with their ideas and enthusiasm for the project.

Cool right? But check this out — I “Upgraded” them back in this column by telling people about their projects and their dreams and enthusiasm. This (hopefully) will cause other people to check out their festival or crew or program. In other words this whole article was an “Upgrade” back to them.

But wait, that’s not the crazy part! I had a premise that Upgrading stuff makes your festivals better. And by writing that article, people responded by telling me about cool festivals to go to, wanting to meet me at festivals and telling me cool stuff that will make my own festivals better. In other words…


Quod Erat Demonstrandum baby!! Oh man! Is that spinning top going to fall or keep spinning? Are you in someone else’s dream right now? Do you see the Matrix? Do you now know Kung Fu? Mind officially blown!

Okay, calm down everyone. Now that your mind is right, check out how all these ideas work in an actual music festival.


Upgrades & ParticiPARTYing — by Britz Bitz

When I was reading part one of the Upgrade series, my first thought was, “I want this guy at our festival!”

“Our festival,” is Shambhala near Salmo, BC, Canada. 2014 will be our 17th year. I’ve been going since 2003, and working for the festival since 2007.

One of the things about Shambhala that captured my heart all those years ago was the community. You really couldn’t ask for a better crowd of attendees. “Upgrades” kind of naturally worked their way into our festival culture.

For a long time, it was just this unspoken thing. But we realized at some point that if we wanted that part of culture to sustain, we’d have to communicate it somehow as the festival grew and electronic music gained more mainstream popularity.

The answer came in “Shambassadors” – “Shambhalove”, personified (ok, yeah, we totally have our own lexicon. That’s just a scratch on the surface). They share the heart of Shambhala throughout the festival grounds. They’re the first to greet guests, and the last to say goodbye. They carry spritz bottles and offer to mist people in the heat of the day, while communicating our community values to guests (as well as some practical stuff, like letting them know what health & safety services are available to them).

ParticiPARTY is an idea that kind of crystallized in my overactive mind last winter. My friends at AYNiB asked me to write a blog for them, and as I thought about my favourite experiences from 10 Shambhalas, 2 Burning Mans and dozens of other festivals, I recognized a common thread in what makes a festival experience great. And you’ve identified it as well – Upgrades, ParticiPARTY, Rage it Forward – we’re all talking about the same thing. And I love that the fire of this idea is burning in so many hearts and minds, named or unnamed.

Here’s a few of my favourite examples of ParticiPARTYing / Upgrades from this past festival season…


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  1. this article is awesome and to some extent represents a conclusion that I have reached on my own and aspire to improve upon for each festi that I experience. I’m just glad there are other people who share the same perspective as I do, makes me feel all fuzzy inside :)) I can’t wait to experience Shambahala for the first time in 2014!

  2. Love to I’m So Happy Crew!!! They are the bomb…good people with good thoughts having a good time…they get it!!!

  3. I am 53 and will be going to my fourth Shambhala for another great experience.I love to make people smile and enhance their experience with my unusual sunglasses and hats,its a no fail,no frills with exceptional value to connect with everyone I meet.I also love all the creative signage and has inspired me to think of new slogans all year until the next adventure begins.This year I will apply to volunteer at this great festival and hope to see everyone real soon…….

    • I had only heard the name before writing the first part of this article ..and now I am totally positive I want to put that on Festival Lawyer World Tour 2014…it sounds fantastic. I was shocked to find a festival that was like not only aware of the “Upgrade” idea in their own way or as they call it Shambassadors it sounds perfect for me..

  4. Reblogged this on The Live Bite and commented:
    The Festival Lawyer is back again with another amazing article. Festheads, festival go-ers, anyone…these articles will change your perspective on the whole festival experience. Take his advice, and you will not only ‘upgrade’ other people’s experiences but your’s as well.


  1. […] security concerns are handled in a professional and courteous manner. In return, festies can help upgrade the experience by being fun, positive audience goers who police and are responsible for each […]

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