10 tips for safely navigating an entrance search at a festival

bonnaroo-(festival-snob)_postPhoto by FestivalSnob.com // Written by The Festival Lawyer //

It is just about impossible to enter a music festival, concert, rave or any kind of a major sporting event these days without being searched as a condition of entry.

This isn’t likely to change. If anything, the trend is towards more security at big events. For example, Electric Zoo recently announced new security measures including drug-sniffing dogs stationed at all entrances and the use of undercover narcotics officers to patrol the festival grounds.

Obviously, festivals need to be able to search folks for weapons and keep people safe. But what about the festivalgoers? Do you have any rights if a search goes too far or you run into an abusive security guard? Or did you give them all up at the entrance?

Here is some legal knowledge (and practical tips) that can help you navigate that entrance search like this guy:



In general, The 4th Amendment prohibits the police from randomly stopping you and searching you.

If you are stopped at a festival, I’ve advised people to ask the question “Am I Free to Leave?” to determine if they are being detained. If you are detained, you should never consent to a search of your person or property by the police. Instead, keep calm, show your ID and continue to ask if you are free to leave. You should always insist on your right to remain silent and ask for a lawyer. Whenever possible, have your festival buddy witness or document the encounter.

The following infographic lays out these rights in a simple “flowchart” form.


From a legal standpoint, you clearly have these rights once you have passed through the entrance search. But what rights apply when you first are searched entering a fest?


Almost every festival has ticket language and signs at the entrances stating that you are agreeing to be searched as a condition of coming into the venue. For example, here is Electric Zoo’s ticket language:

“Your use of the ticket is contingent upon your unconditional and voluntary acceptance to be searched…prior to your admission to the venue and/or at any time thereafter.” (Electric Zoo)

This is what is called an “Implied Consent Waiver”. “Implied” meaning that you knew you were going to be searched and decided to come in anyway.

Here’s the thing. Courts really don’t like any kind of an “implied” waiver of Constitutional rights. In fact, courts often throw out these kind of implied waiver searches when they are challenged by festivalgoers.

Courts look at several factors to determine if an implied consent search is legal:
1) Did the sign and ticket language make it clear you were going to be searched?
2) Were you deprived of a benefit if you refused to be searched?
3) Did you know you had a right to refuse to be searched?
4) Did you demonstrate “affirmative conduct” agreeing to be searched?
5) Was the search necessary to a “vital interest” of the festival?

The point is, it is NOT legal for festivals to just put up a “You agree to be searched” sign up at the entrance and then conduct a blanket search without any limitation. The courts instead look at what is being searched for, what you agreed to in your ticket and how the search is being conducted on a case by case basis.



Normally, private security has a right to conduct a reasonable search on you as a condition of entry BEFORE entering private property if they are looking for weapons. This probably isn’t a constitutional violation as long as it’s made clear to you that you’re free to walk away.

Courts have long recognized that festivals have a “vital interest” in keeping their patrons safe from weapons and other dangerous items knuckleheads might bring in. Because of this, courts have allowed “limited” searches if they are for the purpose of looking for weapons and projectiles and dangerous items. (“Limited’ meaning a pat down search for large/hard objects or screening through a metal detector.)

That’s reasonable right? I mean, I love music festivals. But I REALLY love the festival and EDM community and want people to be safe. Any responsible festivalgoer should want a safe place for all of us to play. Even if this wasn’t the law, I’d agree to a “limited” search like this because nobody has any business bringing a weapon into our space.

(Fun fact: The song “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple refers to a fire started during the Montreaux Jazz festival by “Some stupid with a flare gun.”)


In State v. Iaccarino, 767 So. 2d 470 (Fla. Dist. Ct. app. 2000) the Court struck down “invasive” entry searches at the “ZenFest” festival. (“Invasive” is legalese for “Wait, you touched people where?”)

I mentioned above that festivals have to show that their entrance searches are being done for a “vital interest” of the festival to be found legal.

In this case the court rejected the idea that keeping drugs out was enough of a “vital interest” to allow this level of intimate and personal searching:

“If this court permitted the illegality of the substances themselves to rise to the level of “vital interests,” then a similar sign posting would justify any search of any person at any time and to any degree. For example, such a “vital interest” could seemingly justify a search at a high school football game, where each student, teacher, and parent could be directed to take off shoes and socks, pull out their bras, empty their pockets and the contents of wallets, and have their crotch and genitals frisked.”

In other words, courts draw a distinction between limited searches for weapons and “invasive” personal searches for drugs.

Part of the problem in the Iaccarino case was how far they were going in these searches. They were basically treating the patrons as if they were being booked into a jail. Searches included things like “genital taps” and “crotch frisking”(!?) (Which probably is not nearly as much fun as the name suggests.)

As a practical matter, often it’s not clear whether the searcher thinks they have the right to search you in a more personal way or if they are asking for permission to do so.

Asking in a calm, polite way, “Are you asking for my permission to search further?” or “ Do I have a choice to be searched in this way?” can clarify if you are being “ASKED” for a further search or being “ORDERED” to submit to a more invasive search. You can then make an informed choice as to how to handle that situation.



There are certain places where courts have said the danger of terrorism is so high you are essentially entering a “4th Amendment free” zone and can be searched at will. The most typical example is an airport.

In a 2006 Valparaiso Law Review article the author recaps all the cases I mention above and notes that currently there is no legal way to randomly and invasively search people entering a sporting event.

Rather than thinking, “Oh that must be because WE FREAKING LIVE IN AMERICA” he argues that these cases are old and that after 9/11 we should start treating festivals and sporting events like airports.

In fact, the TSA has already assumed that festivals are like airports and sent its VIPR units out to randomly search festivalgoers.

A conservative court in 2014 might agree with this logic and treat festivals and sporting events like airports. Or after all of the overdoses we see at events a court might change its mind and now consider searching for drugs a “vital interest” for festivals. But it’s important for festivalgoers and promoters to understand that is NOT the law currently.


You can improve your experience navigating these searches by adjusting your attitude and demeanor. I call it “acting like a festival pro”.

Keep the line moving. Be attentive. Have your ID out and ready, purse open, pockets empty, etc. Maybe skip the “Hey buddy, this is the most someone has touched me all week” joke they’ve heard a million times.

First impressions are important – The security guard will subconsciously make a split second decision about you. Paint the picture you want them to see. Present yourself in a non-threatening manner. Make eye contact. Be friendly. SMILE. Heck you are about to go into an awesome life experience, why wouldn’t you be smiling?

I always show deference to the security staff and say things like, “How are you doing today, sir?” Remember, they are people too and they are just doing their jobs. Many times the staff will be attending the festival too, and they aren’t trying to make your life difficult. You can be calm when you know in the back of your head that if something goes wrong you know your rights and how to enforce them.

And of course, don’t bring in dangerous items to the festival (do I really need to list that?)



The 4th Amendment prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures normally only applies to private security guards when they are acting as “agents of the government.”

To decide this, courts look at whether there is such a coordinated effort between real cops and private security that they are the same. (Things like a unified command structure, same communication system, coordinated arrests etc.)

The bad news is that if private security officers aren’t found to be “government agents,” you can’t get a judge to throw out the evidence against you in a criminal case.

Technically, a private security guard only has the right to arrest you the same way a private citizen does. (A so called “citizen’s arrest”). What I’ve seen as a practical matter is that private security will typically do the initial search and then call the real police in if they find something interesting.

But there are cases that say that private security is only allowed to search you for the purpose of deciding if you should be ejected or allowed in. And if you have something you aren’t supposed to, you can withdraw your consent and ask to be ejected instead.

The Nebraska Supreme court talks about this in a case called, State v. Smith, 782 N.W.2d 913 (Neb.2010)

“The State argues that Smith impliedly consented to the search because he was aware that Club patrons were subject to a pat down and search. That may have been the case when Smith got in line, but Smith withdrew his consent before his pocket was searched. The Club may have been free to turn him away but it was not free to turn out his pockets.”

If private security feels something in your pocket and asks to see it…you don’t have to show them. Respectfully and politely say,

“I am withdrawing my consent to any search. I am asking that I be ejected and my ticket price refunded.”



Here’s the thing, you don’t have a lot of rights when it comes to drug dogs. In Illinois v. Caballes, the Supreme Court ruled that police do not need reasonable suspicion to use drug dogs to sniff a vehicle during a legitimate traffic stop.

The Supreme Court followed that up with the outrageous Florida v. Harris case. Here, the Court rejected the idea that police should have to show that drug dogs are reliable evidence finders but just need to show they had the proper training.

Which is unfortunate because these dogs are not reliable. In their dissenting opinion of Caballes, Justices Souter and Ginsburg pointed to studies showing that drug dogs frequently return false positives (12.5-60% of the time, according to one study). In fact, a Chicago Tribune field study revealed that drug dogs are more often wrong than they are right when alerting for drugs in vehicles.

This poor track record can be due to poor handlers, poorly trained dogs or even there can be officers who train their dogs to falsely “alert” on suspects.

There aren’t many tips to handling drug dogs but my friends at “Flex Your Rights” list a few here.


If you run into a private security guard who is conducting an overly invasive or inappropriate search, alert a supervisor. Have a friend with you document the encounter and let the supervisor (as well as the festival promoters) know that you have been handled in an inappropriate fashion. Most festivals take these allegations seriously and will act to fire unprofessional security guards.

Politely but firmly object to any violation of your body. Simple statements of fact are probably best

Example, “What you are doing is making me uncomfortable and I you want you to stop. I want to see a supervisor.”

If you are not getting any satisfaction from the festival or the promoters, consider warning others about the bad behavior of this particular fest. (I had a follower suggest tweeting the hashtag #myboobsmybody to call out festivals if they become “Gropefest 2014”)


I am a lawyer, I am just not YOUR lawyer. My Facebook page lists me as a “Fictional Character.” That’s because it’s best to see me as sort of a combination legal resource/legal spirit guide/festival consigliere rather than someone giving you specific legal advice.

So, I can’t give you specific legal advice. But what I can do is provide a resource for you.

The awesome members of the #festlaw crew researched a lengthy brief that might be a good resource for your attorney if you are ever have the misfortune of being arrested for any sort of low level, non-weapon situation. I’ve included it here as a resource. You may reproduce fully and in any manner you or your attorney sees fit.

So, as your Legal Spirit Guide, I advise you, as always, to make good decisions, party smart, and help each other out. YOU are what makes this community so great, and I expect to see you all smiling and hi-fiving me at your next festival.


The “Know Your Rights” infographic at a festival


Download the infographic image or PDF //

People often suggest to me that either 1) It’s somehow “Un-American” to talk about your rights when dealing with the police or that 2) Somehow only someone who is intending to break the law would need to understand their legal rights.

As to 1) This is really some dangerous nonsense. In fact this honestly might be one of the craziest ideas that has ever taken root in our Country and as to 2) As I always say “It’s better to know your rights and not need them, than to need your rights and not know them.”

The accompanying article goes into an overview of some 4th Amendment law in more detail. But really the infographic is meant to be shared even without the article. Feel free to share this infographic on Twitter and Facebook. Tag family members or friends who might be going to a music festival. Share your experiences and insights. Do more reading of your own and share that too.

As the very last part of the infographic says
You have rights. Know them.

Tweet & Retweet at Twitter (use the hashtag #KnowYourRights)
Share at Facebook
Upvote & Comment at Reddit
•View at The Free Thought Project
•View at Copblock
•View at WhiteRaverRafting
Share DanceSafe‘s promo
Share Students for Sensible Drug Policy’s AMPLIFY Project promo
Share Flex Your Rights‘ promo

Ed. Note: The Following breaks down the Festival Lawyer’s infographic in more detail:

The “Know Your Rights” infographic – A Police encounter “Flow Chart”

A lot of people write me asking how they should have handled a negative encounter they had with the police at a music festival or rave.

I keep hearing phrases like, “I wish I had known that I didn’t have to make a statement” or “I didn’t know I could say no” or “I wasn’t sure if I had a right to leave or if the cop was detaining me.”

The fact is that you DO have rights in dealing with the police. The “Know Your Rights” infographic is meant to be used as a practical flowchart of what your rights are at every stage of a police encounter.


The 4th Amendment of the Constitution prohibits “unreasonable” searches and seizures. That means you are supposed to have a right as a citizen to freely go about your business without being randomly detained or investigated. In order to “stop” you, an officer first has to have a belief that you were engaged in criminal activity.

There are 3 levels of police “stops”. At each higher level of police encounter, the police officer has to show more justification as to why he stopped you.

Consensual Encounter – A police encounter where you are not the subject of a police investigation and are free to leave. Officers don’t have to legally justify a consensual encounter because you can leave at any time.

Detention – A police encounter where you are temporarily stopped while the police investigate you for a crime. Officers must have a “reasonable suspicion” that you were involved in criminal activity to detain you.

Arrest – Permanently stopped and on your way to jail. An officer must have “Probable Cause” to believe you committed a crime to arrest you.

You know how H20 can be in three different physical states? (Steam, water and ice if you don’t have your 4th grade science notes handy) Well, the 3 levels of police stops are similar. Each of these levels is sort of a different legal “state” of being. And your rights are different in each of these “states”.

There are some big differences of course. In the H20 example you end up with an ice cube. In the police stop final state you end with a cell mate named “Bubba”.

One of the main goals of the infographic is to give you the right questions to ask so that you will know at any time which level of police “state” you are in. (Get it? police state? See what I did there?).


If you are stopped by a police officer, the first question out of your mouth should be, “Am I free to leave?”

Asking this question gets you an immediate answer as to whether you are legally “detained” or free to leave. It also puts you in the best legal position possible should you later want to challenge the legality of the police stopping you. If you challenge your detention, the officer will have to show a “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity based only on the facts existing at the moment you said the phrase and he detained you. Nothing AFTER that moment can be used to justify the stop.

Here is a practical example of the use of the “Am I Free to leave” phrase.


As you can see from the decision tool, if you get a “YES” after you ask “Am I free to leave? The only “action item” is to LEAVE.

Again, there is a legal reason for this. If you don’t leave immediately when given the chance, a judge may later rule that you were free to leave but that you chose to stay. (In other words, it was a “Consensual Encounter”). As I mentioned above, an officer never has to legally justify a “Consensual Encounter”.

In other words, once you get a “YES”, the best and only advice is “You got to get out of there”


A “NO” answer means that you are detained and no longer free to leave. You are enough of a suspect that Marge Gunderson would consider you to be, “fleeing the interview” if you left at this point.

It’s important to remember that officers DON’T have to read you your Miranda rights in a detention. Don’t respond to questions like “What is this?” or “Whose backpack is this? or even something innocent like “How long have you been here?” as they can be legally used against you later.


Some civil libertarians would argue that you legally never have to show a police officer your ID unless you’re driving a vehicle or you are a passenger on a commercial airline. The problem with that is that a number of states have what are called “stop- and-identify” laws. These laws give cops the authority to make you identify yourself if officers have a “reasonable suspicion” to believe criminal activity may be taking place.

As of 2013, 24 states had stop-and-identify laws. Since you already asked to leave and were told “NO”, the officer clearly thinks he has a “reasonable suspicion” to detain you. To me, it’s too risky not to show your ID (and give your correct name) once detained. But as with everything in this article, do your own research for your state laws and make your own best decision.


If you are detained, calmly ask, “Why am I being detained?” This can be valuable if you later want to fight your case in court.The answer the cop gives may limit what he can later claim was the reason for stopping you.

It’s important not to use this question as an excuse to start arguing with the cops. I can’t stress enough the prior advice about not talking to the police. People who talk to the cops end up in a legal situation we call “raptus regaliter” (royally screwed).


In an encounter with the police, the courts require you to keep asking to leave or you may be deemed to be in a “Consensual Encounter”. If the answer is “YES” then leave. If the answer is “NO” you will need to determine if you are under arrest by asking the following:


Legally, if a detention goes on long enough, it becomes an arrest even if the officer doesn’t say the magic words “You are under arrest”. Basically, if you keep asking to leave and the cop doesn’t let you go the courts say you are in the “functional equivalent” of an arrest. I call this a “Cover Band” arrest. The officer may not be calling it an arrest, but it sure looks, feels and sounds like an actual arrest.

Whether the officer is calling it a “detention” or an “arrest” as a practical matter you should make the two statements listed at the bottom of the infographic to fully protect your legal rights.


Cops always make it seem like you’re some kind of a criminal if you express the slightest hesitation about having your property searched without a warrant. You can expect to hear an “If you have nothing to hide, why can’t we search your stuff?” type of response from the cops.

Know this…If the police are asking you permission to search you or your property, it usually means they know they are making an illegal search.

The police may have a legal right to search you without your consent. (For example, if you are arrested and the officer had probable cause for that arrest) But what you’ve done by making this statement is preserve all your legal rights and force the police to show they are legally entitled to search you.


Cops will say that a person invoking their rights in this way has “lawyered up”. In addition to sounding cool, there is a really good legal reason for “lawyering up”.

As I mentioned above, the police only have to read you your Miranda rights if you are under arrest (or a “cover band” equivalent of arrest). The police can legally question you without Miranda rights in a detention.

In Salinas v. Texas (Jun 17, 2013) 133 S. Ct. 2174 the Supreme Court took that rule a step further. The Supreme Court ruled since it’s legal to question you during a detention it’s also fair for a prosecutor to comment on your silence. In other words the prosecutor can say how suspicious it is that you didn’t respond when a cop made a damning accusation to you like, “I know it was you, Fredo!

The Court ruled that your silence in the fact of an accusation can be used against you unless you make it clear that you were affirmatively exercising your right to remain silent and have a lawyer present for questioning.

In other words, you have to SAY OUT LOUD THAT YOU WISH TO REMAIN SILENT…which would make an awesome Newspeak poster in Oceania by the way.


Recording a police encounter can be one of the most helpful things a festival buddy can do to help a friend being arrested. However, it’s also one of those areas where you can easily end up in legal trouble yourself from taping.

I strongly suggest you review your state’s laws and have an understanding of what you need to do legally before attempting to video the police. Here is a good starting place.

If you feel you can safely and legally video tape the encounter I suggest that you say the following if cops instruct you to turn off the camera.

“Officer, I’m not interfering with you in any way. I am just documenting this arrest. This is a public place and I’m entitled to record this.”

While making this statement, I would make a show of backing up and getting out of the way to prove that you are not interfering but just observing.


10 music festival must-haves to elevate the experience

1.MUSIC-FEST-BRING-POSTBy The Festival Lawyer //

With festival season starting, I decided to ask my Twitter and Facebook followers (and of course some of my favorite “Festie” writers and bloggers) the following question:

“What one item did you not know to bring to your first music festival that you always bring now?”

I took the best of their advice (and a few of my own tips) to give you the following 10 items that are guaranteed to make your next festival safer, more comfortable and more fun.



A few years ago, I stood about three feet from Dave Navarro’s amp for an entire show at The Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles. For several weeks I had massive ear ringing and buzzing. I also said, “What?” so many times my friends were at the, “Say what again, say what again. I dare you, I double dare you, motherfucker” level of exasperation with me.

Fortunately, my hearing returned. But ever since then, I’ve considered earplugs an essential festival item for both safety and comfort. Most people who say they “don’t like” earplugs have only tried those cheap drug store foam ones. Those don’t do much more than muffle and muddy the sound.

High quality earplugs (I personally like @earpeace, but there are lots of choices) are only about $12-15. They provide a nice level of hearing protection without feeling like you’re missing the live sound experience of the show. Believe it or not, at certain shows earplugs make the sound better. Get all your festival gear here.



One of the most common issues at festivals is how to transport your needed gear easily. I asked Molly Kish (Media Relations Manager, Showbams) what makes her such a “fan” (see what I did there?) of fanny packs.

Fanny packs are the quintessential festival must-have. Trumping the bulky backpack or burdensome purse, fanny packs are the hands free alternative to carrying around your belongings all day and keep you from becoming the resident mule amongst your festival going friends. Allowing enough room for your wallet, camera, phone, sunscreen, chapstick or any other personal items you’ll want within immediate reach, fanny packs keep your possessions conveniently stationed on your hips throughout the day (becoming nearly unnoticeable by the end of your festival experience).



Like the fanny pack, a Camelbak is another easy way to store your keys, wallet and other valuables at a festival. It also has the added advantage of keeping you hydrated while avoiding long lines for refillable water or the high cost of bottled water. Dehydration can turn from a comfort issue to a safety issue really quickly. This is especially true at music fests where people are partying hard or are dancing in the middle of the desert in the afternoon.

There are entire reddit threads and message boards devoted to arguing the topic of which Camelbak is the “best” for festivals or raves. This should come as no surprise since the internet was pretty much invented for people to have a place to argue with ferocity and utter moral certainty about things that are subjective opinions. I won’t enter that fray except to say that this model of Camelbak is super popular. See designs of rucksack backpacks here.



The average festival porta potty looks like something they would show Piper on the first episode of “Orange is the New Black” to scare her about how awful prison life is going to be.

Because of this, a lot of folks wrote me to remind people to bring things like baby wipes, packs of tissue, hand sanitizer or their own toilet paper to try to make the situation better.

(Bonus tip for the ladies: Cardboard “p-mate” disposable female urination assist devices lets women go to the bathroom standing up. Find them here.)



Tucker Gumber, aka “The Festival Guy”, attended something like 20 festivals last year. I figured he would be a good guy to ask the “things to bring to a music festival” question.

People go to festivals to hang out with their friends while enjoying world class music. The more festivals you go to, the more friends you make, the harder it is to see everyone. There is one thing that will determine your ability to meet up with whoever you want, whenever you want. Your cell phone battery. If your phone dies in the middle of the festival you will often find yourself searching through thousands of people looking for your crew. (PS: always set a meeting point) This frustrating situation can be easily avoided by carrying a cell phone power bank (I recommend Mophie). When you carry extra battery life you will not only avoid the stress of having a dead phone, you will now have the ability to help other people whose phone has died. Cell phone service is not perfect at festivals (although I did have service at 16 of 20 festivals I went to last year with Verizon) so make sure to be very precise with meetup locations and time stamp your texts.

(Bonus Tip: Tucker and the rest of the Festevo crew are only weeks away from their Festival App “Festevo” going live. When it does, it will DEFINITELY make this list. Find out more about their app here.)



A lot of festivals take place in crazy hot environments where shade is at a premium. Sunscreen, sunglasses and chapstick are all “musts” at these kind of fests.

I asked bloggers and festival experts “The Festival Twins” if they had any other tips for folks trying not get “fried” at a music festival.

If it’s a camping festival, a canopy is an essential addition to your campsite. We learned the hard way, showing up to our first Coachella without one and paying the price for it. Shortly after sunrise the inside of our tent was super bright and roasting (no sleeping in!). During the day when we were at our camp we would all huddle under a small blanket we had strung up between our car and tent (we didn’t all fit underneath it).

Canopies not only offer shade from the sun and reflect heat, they also shelter from the rain and wind, and offer privacy. They are also a great way to distinguish your camp site from those around you, by attaching siding to them, adding a sign or flag to the top, or simply just by color (Hey! We’re the blue canopy between the red and white one!).



Most music festivals involve a ton of walking. Probably THE most common items that people recommended were worn in, comfortable shoes. I asked Pete Mauch (Contributor, Showbams) if he had any other tips to keep a long day of walking from turning into a disaster.

At Bonnaroo 2005 in Manchester, Tennessee on the fourth and final day, I was hobbling around like I had been riding a horse for weeks. From that day forward I swore to myself that I would never go to a festival without my precious Gold Bond. Being able to walk long distances comfortably is key to having a great experience at a festival, especially a larger scale one like Bonnaroo or Coachella where you could be walking for a good while between stages and your campsite. I’ve helped out many aching friends who were not as prepared so please share your Gold Bond with others.



I highly recommend you keep a few “safety” apps on your phone. Since there isn’t a “Festival Lawyer” app (yet), I highly recommend you download and bring the DanceSafe app. Tons of great drug safety tips and emergency care information are available there.



One of the easiest ways to make new friends at a music festival is to share an item your festival neighbor forgot to bring (a lighter, handwipes etc.). Personally, I like to hand out candy or gum. There are certain fests where dust is everywhere. When your mouth is dry, your lungs are uncomfortable, and your breath is questionable, someone handing you a stick of gum is sort of your new hero.

I also love to give away cheap “fireworks” (refraction) glasses. It’s a close call between cats and myself about who likes lasers more. Fortunately, man has again defeated the animal kingdom by inventing this new technology. (These diffraction glasses make lasers look freaking great is what I am saying.)

You can find cheap paper diffraction glasses or nicer ones here.



I’ve written before about how much more fun your festival is when you spread positivity and good vibes to your fellow audience members.

One of the absolute best ways you can spread the good vibes is by wearing a funny t-shirt or something else that says, “let’s party”. But if you really want to take it to the next level you can wear a memorable costume. I asked Eamon Armstrong (Social Media Manager – Fest 300) for the origin story of “Purpleganda.”

In 2006 I went to Coachella in a baseball cap and a polo shirt. I thought of it like a concert where you go with a friend to watch other people play music. Eight years later festivals have become an immersive experience for me and how I present myself is part of how I participate.

A memorable outfit isn’t just an upgrade for you, it upgrades the whole festival. Your style makes the atmosphere of the fest more alive for your friends and other festies. Your silliness makes you more approachable. People want to compliment you because you look awesome. You say thanks, making them feel great. I personally love to just walk around the grounds telling people just how terrific they look!

From some funky tights to a full DIY light-suit, your costume makes the surreal world of the festival that much more magical. Plus if you ever get overwhelmed by the experience you can simply retreat into the role you’ve created. In fact, sometimes the costume makes you free to lose your mind a little.

OK, festies! What other festival items do you now consider “essential”? Be sure to let your fellow festivalgoers know in the comments section about any other festival “upgrades” that you love and want to share. Plus, see which are some of the top festivals in the world here.


10 safety tips women should know when going to their first music festival

10-safety-tipsPhoto by Marc Fong // Written by The Festival Lawyer //

In my life, I have four cool older sisters, the awesome Mrs. Festival Lawyer and a rad little feminista daughter. As Hank Moody would say, “I’m a big fan of women, I have all their albums.”

Lately, I’ve started to wonder how safe festivals and raves are for women. In 2013, there was a report of a sexual assault of a 16 year old girl at Electric Zoo.  Two sexual assaults were reported at the Made in America Festival. Three men allegedly sexually assaulted a teenage girl at Stagecoach in 2012.

Because of that, I thought it might make sense to ask several long time female festivalgoers and ravers what tips they would give to a woman attending her first event. Before we get to the tips we need to discuss the topic of “victim blaming.”  As Leandra Pelonquin, former director of the YWCA Rape clinic explains,  

One of my co-workers was presenting to a college class and said “I’ve gone up to rooms alone with a guy. I have never been raped because I have never been with a rapist.” It is not about the victim, the perpetrator makes that choice. Most men don’t rape, those that do usually have multiple victims throughout their life…Rape is a societal problem, not a self-help issue.

In other words, none of these tips are meant to put the responsibility on women not to get sexually assaulted. Instead, this article is meant to start a dialogue on what we ALL can do to make sure that every festival or rave is as fun, safe and positive for everyone.


Tip #1 – Go in a group and within that group have a “Festival Buddy” who always has your back

Miami’s “Lady Casa” (@ladycasa305) promotes higher consciousness, good vibes, safety and PLUR through her group PLUR Warriors. Since she has been in the EDM scene for more than ten years, she often acts as a role model and inspiration to younger ravers. Her biggest advice?

Go in a group! I’ve been to a few festivals alone but that was after raving for more than 10 years. As a newbie I highly recommend women go in a group. And within the group have at least one person that you are ALWAYS with! …Getting lost happens. I recommend finding and sticking with a GROUP OF GIRLS if you lose your group. Ravers are friendly and often welcoming. Don’t be afraid to tag along with another GROUP.

(Writers note: Totally agree. In fact, I call having a “Festival Buddy” one of the “Golden Rules” of going to festivals.)  

Tip #2 – If you are a solo female make the crowd aware of your presence 

The “Festival Girl” (@thefestivalgirl) writes a blog specializing in up to the minute live festival coverage (find it here). Because many of her friends live abroad, she often goes to events by herself. She points out the importance of solo fest-goers letting the crowd be aware of their presence so they can assist if there is trouble:

The first thing I do when I arrive to my campsite at a camping festival is visit the neighboring tents and introduce myself. I want people near me to know I’m there. That way, if I go missing, it might occur to someone to say, ‘Hey, where did that girl next door go.’ 

Tip #3Watch out for other people in the crowd even if they are not your “Festival Buddy”

In crowds, there is a psychological phenomenon called “Diffusion of Responsibility.”  Because there are so many people present, everyone assumes that “someone else” in the crowd is already calling the police or helping. Ironically, that means having a LOT of people around you makes it LESS likely that someone will get you help.

The Festival Girl reminds us how important it is for everyone to look out for each other at a festival”

I definitely think it’s important for people in groups to acknowledge solo travelers and extend themselves as surrogate buddies. The crowd can either act as a screen, unintentionally covering up violence against solo fest-goers (especially women), or it can act as a protective entity for those same people…My wish is that fest-goers broaden their collective vision beyond their individual groups of friends and care about everyone in the scene…we’re all in this together.

Tip #4Prepare an “exit strategy” and have a plan for what to do if there is an emergency

Because of of the noise and the chaos of a rave or festival, Lady Casa thinks it’s important to have a designated meeting place and working phone in case of an emergency.

Have an idea of the layout. The entrance, exit, medical tents, water vendors, stages, etc. … It’s critical to have a meeting spot for the end in case you are lost from the group. (Also) charge your cell phone to 100% and if possible take a battery pack case for extra charge. Have at least one number in the group memorized in case you lose your phone. Make sure everyone in the group is accounted for when you make it to the meeting spot at the end.

(Several of my followers point out that if you turn off your WiFi and data on your phone, the phone won’t drain your battery looking for service yet still allows you to receive emergency calls and texts. Also, walkie-talkies seem to be coming on in a big way at festivals.)  

Tip #5Be aware of men looking for “vulnerable” women at raves or fests

Amy Raves” writes about harm reduction and personal safety in her column, “Safer Raving by Amy”. Amy thinks it’s important for women to know their limits, go to raves with people they trust and NEVER to leave with a stranger.

I think festivals should include group/female safety in their info packets. We want to trust/love everyone at a festival but the truth is not everyone is honorable. Predators know these festivals are perfect breeding grounds….some guys, certainly not most, will see vulnerability in a (drunk or high) girl and take advantage of that. Some come to raves looking for girls that are vulnerable.

One of the points of an article like this is to talk about how we as a festival community react when we see a guy treating a drunk or high girl the same way a lion eyes a wounded gazelle. Depending on the situation you may need to get involved. You may need to ask HER (not the guy) if she is okay, get her friends involved or get your friends or staff involved in the situation.  

Tip #6Men need to understand that rape includes sex with someone who is too drunk to consent to the act

I have found that there is a real lack of accurate information as to what the law actually says when it comes to sex with someone who is intoxicated. In fact, California Penal Code Section 261 defines the various types of rape and includes any situation where:

A person is prevented from resisting by any intoxicating or anesthetic substance, or any controlled substance, and this condition was known, or reasonably should have been known by the accused

California law makes it illegal to have sex with someone who is unconscious.  

(Sidenote – hopefully your reaction to this piece of information is “No Shit”) On the other hand it’s not rape when someone consents freely and willfully but alcohol or drugs caused them to make a decision they later regret. 

Okay, but at what point is someone too drunk to give “Legal Consent?” Legally consent means “positive cooperation” and “an exercise of free will.” In other words, the law asks if the person was sober enough to understand all the “consequences of the act” and acted freely and voluntarily. If not, the law considers it a rape.

Tip #7Support festivals and raves that promote safety and positivity

Amy Raves points out that just having a prominent volunteer force (Like Insomniac’s “Ground Control” program) can do wonders for the vibe and safety of an event. 

I love what Insomniac does with its Ground Control program. It’s amazing to see all the purple shirts wandering around, checking on everyone, giving them water & especially looking out for girls that look vulnerable. As a woman, it’s very comforting. Adequate security is important especially with frequent patrolling of the darker corners and nooks of any grounds. These are the places women tend to get cornered.

Tip #8 – Call out festivals or raves when you see safety issues for women

In the same way we give kudos to festivals, I think we need to call out festivals when we see something that we feel doesn’t address a woman’s safety issues.

I was at Austin City Limits last year and I saw a woman laying down with no one seeming to be with her.  She was semi-conscious and occasionally vomiting. Mrs. Fest Lawyer tracked down someone who appeared to be “in charge” and we explained the situation. 

He looked at me and said “Just give her some water and keep an eye on her” and started to walk off.  We had to seriously break down for him that we were showing him a semi-conscious person, lying alone and possibly in medical distress before he would call for help. 

I love ACL. Clearly their decision to cancel parts of the 2nd weekend this year shows they care about their audience’s safety. But this kind of thing really isn’t acceptable at a major music festival.

(FYI, I did give them several chances to address what they think may have happened here. For whatever reason, they have chosen not to. If they do comment on this story, I will of course post their response.) 

Tip #9Don’t take drinks or drugs from strangers

As Lady Casa says,

Festival culture is rich and includes positive and negative influences. Do NOT take drugs offered by strangers or new friends, watch your drinks and only drink from your own new water bottle!

A young woman’s story of how she was allegedly drugged by a stranger at Outside Lands in 2012 went viral recently. It’s a good reminder to be careful and should be read by everyone. 

TIP #10Festival and rave culture needs to have “Zero Tolerance” for sexual violence

Leandra Pelonquin points out that prevention of sexual assault needs to be more “broadly addressed”. In her words we need to make sure that rave and festival culture does not do anything to “condone, normalize, minimize or glamorize sexual violence.”  

Katie Bain, Senior Music Writer for LA Weekly wrote an article (with the mind-blowing title “Guys, Predatory Dance Floor Boners Are Not OK”) describing the problem of guys forcibly grinding on women at EDM shows without their consent and then acting as if this was somehow okay. 

This is a perfect example where the culture has to just say “No, this shit is NOT okay.” The good news is that festival and rave culture is an amazingly positive, diverse and wonderful one. I am routinely amazed at how respectful people are to each at festivals.  It seems like if any culture can have a “Zero Tolerance for creepy behavior,” it will be the Festival community. We just have to become more aware of our surroundings and be more careful with our choices. Being educated is the best way to be safe at any festival, and with help from friends, the rest of the community, and festival organizers and safety staff, everyone can have a positive, safe experience. Have fun festies!!



The Law of MDMA: Practical Legal Tips for Ravers who Choose to Use Ecstasy


Follow the Festival Lawyer on Twitter // Photo by Marc Fong

“I just took six hits of Molly.” Those were 20-year-old Olivia Rotondo’s last words to an EMS worker at this year’s Electric Zoo Music Festival. Jeffrey Russ, 24, also died from an MDMA overdose at that same event. Four other people were hospitalized.

Fortunately, the media used the tragedy at Electric Zoo to have a thoughtful, informed discussion about MDMA use in the EDM community. Just kidding. The media chose the “Blind Hysteria” option. For example, The New York Daily News’ headline the next day was simply “DEATH FEST”.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Congress was attempting to outright ban all raves and dance music events on the basis that club owners and promoters knowingly allowed illegal drug activity on their premises. And when a teenager died at Electric Daisy Carnival in 2010, California politicians immediately proposed the “Anti Raves Act” of 2011 to ban raves entirely in the state.

That’s why I am suggesting it is up to the dance community to police itself now before the government jumps into EDM events to propose new regulations or ban raves completely.

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.

This is a two-part “Ecstasy safety” article. Part One focuses on practical legal advice so that you know your legal rights if you or a friend use MDMA. Part Two focuses on practical medical and “harm reduction” tips.

If the police stop you at a rave, ask if you are being detained and leave IMMEDIATELY if you aren’t.

Let’s say you are at a rave and a cop stops you and asks to search you. What do you do?
Everyone should know and understand their basic legal rights in this situation.

1) Ask if you are being detained or arrested.
2) Exercise your Constitutional right to remain silent.
3) Do not consent to any search of your person or property.
4) Have your “Festival Buddy” record your encounter with the officer.

I have already covered all of this in a prior article in a lot more detail. If you haven’t already read it or need a refresher of your basic rights, take a look here.

Most Ecstasy cases in criminal court involve a detention and subsequent search by the police. That’s why it’s so important to ask the key Festival Lawyer phrase: “Am I being detained? Why? Am I free to go, or am I under arrest?”

If a cop detains you, unless you verbally ask to leave, a Judge will assume you agreed to the encounter with that officer.

Also, if an officer says you can leave, it’s up to you to leave the scene of the encounter immediately. If you choose to stay, the detention is automatically legal.

That’s why it is critical to ALWAYS ask the cop if you are free to leave. If not, you know you are a suspect in a crime. That means you need to remain silent and wait for a lawyer. If, on the other hand, the cop says you are free to leave then leave immediately.

Listen, I know you may want to stick around and debate with the cop his opinion on whether dubstep is dead or not. But don’t. As I always tell my clients when I get a good result in court, “Let’s leave before someone changes their mind.”

If you are “Under the Influence” of Ecstasy, you can be arrested and searched at any time.

California’s Health and Safety Code Section 11550 makes it a misdemeanor to be “under the influence” of a controlled substance like MDMA.

When someone is driving a truck and the truck has a broken taillight or another vehicle code violation, cops use the slang phrase, “rolling probable cause” to describe it. This means they can stop that vehicle and investigate the occupants at any time. The owner of that truck has basically given the cops a standing invitation to be investigated.

The law says that if a cop is a DRE (Drug Recognition Expert) and he can see “objective symptoms” that you are high on Ecstasy, you can be arrested and searched at any time.

From a legal standpoint you need to be aware that if you are high on MDMA, you are just like that truck with a broken taillight. You are ”rolling probable cause” and subject to being stopped, arrested, and searched.


If you are caught with Ecstasy, what you intended to do with it makes a huge difference.

Under California law, possession of MDMA is treated as the same type of felony (Health and Safety Code Section 11377) as possession of Methamphetamine. After all, MDMA is short for Methylenedioxymethamphetamine.

Let’s take a scenario where you are stopped at a rave and found with Molly on your person. Now what?

In California, the law looks to see what you intended to do with that powder. If it’s a small amount and you can show that it was just for your own “personal use” you should be okay. The law calls this “simple” drug possession and you should be eligible for a drug diversion program or perhaps a minor misdemeanor charge.

If on the other hand, the government can show that you intended to sell (or distribute) that Molly, you just crossed a very serious line. It’s a “Smokey, You are entering a world of pain” level of line crossing.

That’s because “Possession for Sale” of Ecstasy is what is called a “Non Alternative” Felony under Health and Safety 11378(a). This type of felony makes you ineligible for any kind of “diversion” or other drug program. It also means you can’t get a misdemeanor on the case. Instead you now face a mandatory felony and potential jail time.

Remember how I told you that possession of Ecstasy is treated the same as possession of methamphetamine? I said that for a reason. Under the law, if the cops can show that you intended to sell (or distribute) the Ecstasy, you and Heisenberg both get the same charge – namely, a felony under Health and Safety Code Section 11378(a).

Cops are legally allowed to lie to you in an interview.

Okay, so how do the courts determine what you intended to do with that Ecstasy you were caught with?

Normally, the police will look at things like how much MDMA you had, how much money you had with you, how it was packaged, what kind of texts you have on your phone, and also what you told the police about your intent.

Most people are taught to cooperate with the cops and we are taught from a young age to trust the police. So a lot of people end up talking to the cops. Cops will always ask what you intended to with the Ecstasy.

But here is something you may not know:

Let that sink in. Cops can totally tell you stuff like, “We have a witness who says you sold him the drugs” or “We have you on videotape selling” or anything else they can think of to get you to confess.

One of the police’s favorite things to do is to try to get you to admit to something that sounds like it is not that serious but really IS just as serious legally.

Example, “Listen bro…I know you weren’t going to sell these pills. I bet you had that many pills because you were just going to give some to your friends to party with, right?”

Gee what a cool cop. He totally gets me and my vibe. Heck he probably is a member of the PLUR police…Oh wait…did I mention that the law considers “distribution” of drugs the same as the “sale” of drugs? That’s right, if you admit you were “giving away” the drugs, it’s the same legally as admitting you are a drug dealer.

Bottom line, if you get arrested, don’t talk, and ask for a lawyer immediately. Asking for a lawyer USED TO stop the interrogation then and there. A very recent Supreme Court case, (Montejo v. Louisiana) now allows police to keep trying to get you to talk. BUT DON’T ANSWER THEM. When the police tell you that anything you say can and will be used against you in court, they’re not joking.

NEVER give away or take drugs from strangers

Spoiler Alert: In next week’s “Medical Safety” article, one of the key tips from drug experts is to never take drugs from someone you don’t know (and never take drugs that have not been tested).

Turns out there is similar advice from the legal experts (me). Here’s why:

Sales of Ecstasy is also a mandatory “non-alternative” felony (California Health and Safety Code 11379). This charge normally involves someone selling to an undercover cop or buying from an undercover cop.

I can’t tell you the number of times someone has said to me “This guy came up to me and just kept bugging me for drugs and I eventually gave him some. Turns out it was a cop. I was totally entrapped into giving him drugs!”

This is a pretty common misconception. Actually, Entrapment only applies where law enforcement engages in conduct that would likely induce a normally law-abiding citizen to commit that crime. (People v. Grantham (1972) 26 Cal.App.3d 661, 665)

That means that you have to show that the undercover officer did more than ask you for drugs. You have to show that he pressured, harassed or threatened you as well.

That means it is perfectly legal for a cop to ask you to sell them drugs or even ask you repeatedly if you can “help them out” or just give them drugs. This is why being friendly and “giving away” some Molly to a stranger is not an #upgrade, but actually #dumb.

Bonus Legal TipIf you ask a cop if he is an undercover cop he can totally lie.

Okay can everyone PLEASE stop spreading the urban myth that if you ask an undercover cop if he is a cop he has to tell you the truth? It’s hard to know why so many people believe this. I mean, how would cops ever work undercover if it was true?

The law says that an undercover cop can totally lie to you if you ask him if he is a cop. But I mean really you should already know this. Didn’t everybody see that episode of Breaking Bad where this was all explained by Badger?

Thoughts On Our Drug War

I know you are probably thinking, “Hey Festival Lawyer, it’s a good thing our society makes drug policy decisions based on evidence about the drug’s dangerousness vs. its potential benefit to society, right?”

Hahahaha…That’s a good one. Oh wait, you were serious? No. We make drug policy for all kinds of crazy reasons.

Don’t believe me? Well I give you Festival Lawyer Exhibit One: The DEA’s complete shenanigans in making MDMA illegal in the first place.

In the late 80s hearings were held to determine if MDMA should be considered a “Schedule I” drug under Federal Law. A Schedule I drug has no “legitimate medical purpose” and has a “high potential for abuse”.

A number of psychiatrists and psychotherapists testified that they used MDMA in their practice and it had a legitimate medical purpose. In fact, a Federal judge, hearing this testimony, made a recommendation that MDMA be made a “Schedule III” drug. This would have let doctors continue to use and research the drug. The judge felt that the DEA could then make a future determination about the dangerousness of the drug.

The DEA was like “evidence based decision making…what’s that?”, ignored the medical evidence, ignored the judge’s recommendation and went ahead and made it illegal for all purposes.

To sum up, the DEA made MDMA illegal because it was too “dangerous” to the public. Ironically, the act of classifying it as “dangerous” and illegal MADE it way more dangerous. Because we aren’t researching it and studying it, we really have little idea how dangerous it is. That’s some serious, next level, ten thousand spoons when you all you need is a knife, level of irony.

That is why I believe so strongly in educating yourself about your rights and empowering yourself to make smart choices.

As part of that education, next week’s article focuses on tips to keep yourself “medically safe” through the use of test kits and other “harm reduction” ideas.

Like Showbams on Facebook and follow Showbams on twitter to get more advice from the Festival Lawyer and to win free tickets to shows. Follow the Festival Lawyer on Twitter.

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


Follow the Festival Lawyer on Twitter.

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:

Like Showbams on Facebook and follow Showbams on twitter to get more advice from the Festival Lawyer and to win free tickets to shows. Follow the Festival Lawyer on Twitter.

The Festival Lawyer: What To Do if The Police Stop You at a Music Festival – Part 2


Follow the Festival Lawyer on Twitter.

Let’s face it. Sequels suck. The only exceptions are Godfather 2, Aliens (Game over man!) and Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys.

On September 25th, I published an article with Showbams entitled “What To Do if The Police Stop You at a Music Festival“. If you haven’t read it you can find it here.

That original Showbams article started getting reblogged on other sites and tweeted and shared and re-shared on Facebook. Ultimately, it ended up going “viral”.

How viral? Well, the article has had over 250,000 unique views. It ended up receiving over 30 thousand Facebook likes. But I knew we were truly viral when someone in Australia asked me, “Is there an Australian version of this article that explains Australian law?”

If you’ve read this far, I know you think I am about to pull a Kanye and announce that I am now a “A Legal God” and want to be referred to as “Festival Yeezus Lawyer” from now on.

Sadly, no. I am not quitting my day job. However, I think the article went viral due to the fact that “doing whatever the police tell you” is not really what Jefferson had in mind when he came up with that whole Bill of Rights thing. And because we all recognize that the Founding Fathers wanted an educated, empowered citizenry who kept an eye on their police. And because a heck of lot folks have found that getting into a bad situation with a cop and not knowing your rights is one of the scariest things that can happen to you at a festival.

So despite the obvious danger, I really think a sequel is needed to talk about the great comments and reactions the first article generated. Wish me luck.

ADDITIONAL TIP 1: Educate yourself on how to legally record cops in your home state.

I had a LOT of lawyers in other states write me to tell me I had given bad advice about videotaping police making arrests. In particular I had several lawyers tell me that my advice was going to get someone going to Lollapalooza arrested. Their point was that Illinois had a law making it a felony to record video of an encounter with a cop. Several other attorneys pointed out that their own states had similar “wiretapping” laws.

Nice try, but when it comes to the Festival Lawyer, “There can be only one” (*Highlander theme plays*)

The actual law in this area is that in Illinois (home to Lollapalooza), the American Civil Liberties Union recently won a challenge to this law. A federal judge issued a permanent ban on enforcing the law. Also, almost every state has an exception for videotaping where there is no “reasonable expectation of privacy”.

I started to write up a little clarification of different State laws in this area and give some tips on videotaping the police. But one of the great things about this article was that it caused me to finally get to talk to the amazing Steve Silverman at www.flexyourrights.org.

Turns out he had already written a great article explaining EXACTLY what you need to know to record the police in any state and in any scenario.

However, this is an excellent reminder to always do your own research and find out the law in your home state. I am a California lawyer and your state may have very different laws. So even though I just teased them slightly, I want to thank the out of state lawyers who took the time to contact me. Please keep the comments and questions coming.

ADDITIONAL TIP 2: Recording cops? There’s an app for that.

Several people also pointed out that there are numerous apps that allow you to upload your videos to the “cloud”. (For the purposes of this article, let’s just collectively pretend that I know what the cloud is and how it freaking works rather than get ourselves bogged down in unnecessary details.) The point is that you may need to have your video of the cops instantly uploaded to a secure location so that you have it in case your phone is taken from you or damaged.

As commenter “sarahrwilson” wrote:

As to making a video recording, the key is to also stream it from the phone so regardless of what the police do to the device, there will at least be a copy of the video they can’t touch. The ACLU of NJ has an app for I-phone or Android that does exactly that.

The ACLU has provided a collection of Apps on their website that lets you upload cell phone videos to the cloud immediately.

Festival Lawyer Protégé Tip: At the same time you download your Festival’s app, download the ACLU ‘cloud’ app, just in case.

ADDITIONAL TIP 3: These are “Break Glass – Only Use In An Emergency” tips.

A few members of law enforcement wrote in to point out that taking an immediately aggressive tone could actually inflame the situation:

As a police officer, I initially read this on the assumption I was looking at another story of how to “politely disrespect” officers (LEOs). I was pleasantly surprised to see that this was, in fact, a well-written article by an educated member of our society that gives valuable information on how not to become a victim of over zealous officers. That being said, I’d like to add that all of these tactics are great if you aren’t doing anything wrong; however festivalgoers and the likes should know the reason LEOs are at these events is ensure people have a safe and fun time. If you’re actually doing wrong, these tactics only stall the inevitable and eventually, you will be arrested and face the courts for your misdeed.

Also, recording an event does set the tone (from an officer’s point of view) that you are being non compliant and confrontational. Exercise your own good judgement, and don’t get excitable. Much like the open carry activist, if you handle law enforcement with respect, they will most likely return the favor.

I mainly quoted the above comment because it makes me look good. But besides that, it makes a valuable point. If I could add just one thing to the original article it would be that these tips are essentially a “BREAK GLASS – USE IN CASE OF AN EMERGENCY” toolkit.

I think it was implied before but let’s add a step zero – be nice and treat the cop like a fellow human being. Personally, I hate when people wear “fuck the police” shirts to a concert. It’s not how I feel. And it sends a super negative vibe and message. I hold a huge amount of respect for the police and for the law. But I am also an Educated, Empowered, Positive US citizen. That means I love my Country, and want to make her better, but I don’t necessarily trust all of her employees. The comments page is FULL of real life innocent festivalgoers who ran head on into a bad situation: A sexist cop. A racist cop. An overly aggressive cop. A cop who didn’t like someone’s sexual orientation. Or a cop who just wanted to fuck with someone. (Not to get too legal or technical with you). You need to be prepared for THOSE situations.

All of that brings me to my final tip…

ADDITIONAL TIP 4: Educate and empower yourself, even if you don’t ever plan on doing “anything wrong” at a festival.

In some ways, Festivals can be kind of a clash of two worlds.

Cops see themselves as being present at Festivals to keep the peace, and to keep people safe. Festivalgoers see fests as a playground that consenting adults can attend, and the normal rules of society don’t necessarily apply. When you add in some super crazy choices we have made as a society about drug laws, there is always the potential for things to go really badly, really quickly.

That’s because there is a small percentage of cops who feel the drug war really is a war. And in wars, normal rules don’t apply. (People use the phrase “All’s Fair in Love and War” for a reason.) Added to that are police agencies who are not there to “keep the peace” at all. They are there instead to “keep the quota” and make arrests for stats. One of the many examples from the comments to the article should suffice:

Wish I had seen this a few months ago! After leaving (a music festival in an RV my husband and I were pulled over for an “Illegal lane change”. After the cop asked a bunch of questions, he nicely asked if he could take a look inside to make sure we didn’t have any “weapons or dead bodies inside”. Of course we stupidly said yes…becuz we didn’t want him to think we had either of these things inside. Upon entering the RV, he claimed that the straws in our garbage can are considered “paraphernalia” so he then had the right to search the entire vehicle. He made us stand 50-feet away while we watched him take apart the RV with an electric drill. He dumped out all my vitamins and medication into one big pile on the floor, open up all my cosmetics, went through my dirty (personal) clothes, dumped out all our food, and tore apart the lining on our RV rental. He then gave us tickets for the straws since in the state of Arkansas, “paraphernalia” is a crime. We didn’t argue or say anything, figured that was in our best interest. But because we (live out of state) we couldn’t exactly travel back to Arkansas to defend ourselves. We had to hire a local lawyer (that never met us) to defend us. My husband got the charges dropped against him, but the cop was adamant that one of us get charged with paraphernalia – so lucky, I am a mom, and had no record. I was coming from a music festival in an RV. Everyone I spoke to told me we should have NEVER let him search the vehicle, but I didn’t know my rights or the law. We were just scared.

So at this time, let’s all repeat the Festival Lawyer’s motto together:

“Better to know your rights and not need them, than to need your rights and not know them.”

More than anything I wanted to write a sequel so I could have a chance to thank you all. The idea of a legal article with zero cats in it going viral is seriously insane. But it did. And because of that, I got to meet a bunch of amazing people and had some really cool conversations. Believe me when I say I enjoyed being the “legal advice meme” for my entire 15 seconds (that’s not a typo) of internet fame.

Next Column: How to “upgrade” your entire Festival experience without spending a dime.

Like Showbams on Facebook and follow Showbams on twitter to get more advice from the Festival Lawyer and win free tickets to shows. Follow the Festival Lawyer on Twitter.

What to do if the police stop you at a music festival


Follow the Festival Lawyer on Twitter //

I know what you are thinking. What the heck’s a Festival Lawyer?

Is it a Public Defender who helps you out if you get arrested at a concert? No. (Although, to be honest, I wish I had thought of that as a job option after law school).

I’m a criminal defense attorney with a background as a former prosecutor. But I also have a background as a drummer, a DJ, and avid festivalgoer. The idea behind “The Festival Lawyer” column is to combine these backgrounds to give you legal and practical advice that will make you a safer, more responsible festivalgoer.

Advice like how to protect your rights if the police approach you at a concert. Or how to recognize the symptoms of a drug or alcohol overdose. We will talk about things like California’s Medical Marijuana laws or what to do if stopped for a DUI on your way to a concert. But mainly, the column will be focused on how we can make the Festival Experience work better for everyone as a more responsible, positive community.

As an aside, I’ve noticed that as soon as I start talking about knowing your rights, a certain percentage of people start complaining that I am somehow “teaching people how to commit crimes.”

This is dangerous nonsense. We don’t live in a police state (well, not yet anyway). As citizens it is not only our right but our duty to know and defend our Constitutional Rights and keep an eye on the police.

Anyway, let’s start with a hypothetical situation where the police stop you out of the blue in the middle of a music festival and start questioning you. They don’t say why they are stopping you but just immediately ask permission to search your person and backpack.

What should you do?

1. Like the Clash said, “Know Your Rights.”

Okay, quick criminal procedure tutorial.

In any encounter with the police, a Judge will be looking after the fact at whether the police had a right to stop you in the first place. This is because the 4th Amendment of the Constitution says that you have a right as a citizen to freely go about your business unless the police can show they had a belief you were engaged in criminal activity.

What the police have to show to a Judge later depends completely on whether the Judge finds that you were being “arrested”, “detained” or were “free to leave”.

If the police arrest you, they have to show they had “Probable Cause” to believe you were committing a crime.

On the other hand, the police will probably argue that they weren’t arresting you but just “detaining” you. A “detention” is a situation where the police stop you briefly while they investigate a crime but haven’t arrested you yet. In a detention, the police have a much lower burden of proof. They only have to show a “reasonable suspicion” as to why they were detaining you. Or the police may argue that their entire contact with you was just a “consensual encounter” where you were free to go at anytime. In a consensual encounter, they don’t really need to justify why they stopped you because they were just talking to you and you were “free to leave”, (Because people always feel free to walk away when contacted by the police, right?)

2. Remember the Festival Lawyer’s Key Phrases.

So knowing the above, what should you do If a cop stops you?

The first question out of your mouth should be, “Am I being detained?” Then, “Why? What am being stopped for? Am I free to go, or am I under arrest?”

Memorize this. Repeat it out loud: “Am I being detained? Why? Am I free to go, or am I under arrest?”

Yes I am aware that like the cop in 99 Problems, the cop may not appreciate you being so “sharp as a tack” and view you as a potential troublemaker.

So your job in this situation is to keep calm and cool. Be respectful but clear and firm in what you are saying. It is completely reasonable (and legal) to ask why you are being stopped and whether you are free to go. By asking from the start if you are under arrest or free to leave you are forcing the officer to tell you exactly what is happening and whether you are a suspect.

3. Miranda Rights: Myths vs. Reality

One of the most common urban myths out there is that the police have to read you your Miranda rights or the arrest gets thrown out of court.

Not true. The police don’t have to read you these rights. In fact, the police have the right to completely lie to you in any interview. The only time they have to read Miranda rights is if:

  • A) You are under arrest
  • B) They want to use a statement you made after being arrested in court against you.

The Right against Self Incrimination is in the Bill of Rights for a reason. USE IT. You should NEVER give a statement to the police without a lawyer. Period. No exceptions.

In the above scenario, questions like “whose backpack is this?” should be answered with a firm, “Officer, I am choosing to remain silent. I want a lawyer.”

4. Do not give the authorities consent to search you.

One other major Constitutional right you have is the right to be free from an unlawful search of your person and property.

So lets say you are already in a Festival when the police approach you. They won’t let you leave and ask for permission to search your backpack. (Obviously, security has a right to search you as you enter a festival and go through their initial security screening.)

Cops always make it seem like you’re some kind of a criminal if you express the slightest hesitation about having your property searched without a warrant. You can expect to hear an “If you have nothing to hide, why can’t we search your stuff?” type of verbal approach from the cops.

Know this…If the police are asking you permission to search you or your property, it usually means they know they are making an illegal search. Let that sink in for a second. When the police ask you “Can I search this bag?”, they KNOW they are asking you to let them make a search they are not legally entitled to make.

My advice? Respectfully tell the police officer, “I’m not giving you consent to search my property.” If they ask what you have to hide, don’t argue with them. Simply say again, “Officer, I’m sorry I’m not giving you consent to search my person or my property. If I’m free to leave I’d like to leave. If not, I’d like a lawyer please…”

At this point, they can still search you if they have probable cause, but what you’ve done with your statements is make them declare their reason for doing so and force them to show they are legally entitled to search you.

5. Document the Encounter.

In future columns we are going to talk a lot about what a Festival Buddy is and what their responsibilities are. In this scenario, the Festival Buddy’s job isn’t to yell “Hey man leave him alone” or drunkenly argue with the cops. Festival Buddy’s job is to whip out his or cell phone and document the entire encounter.

SPOILER ALERT – COPS REALLY FREAKING HATE THIS. The best thing to happen to Civil Liberties in this country was the invention of the cell phone camera and YouTube. But just bear in mind, cops will do just about anything to avoid having you upload your video of them on YouTube or on Social Media.

This is an area where your own comfort level has to dictate how far you push it. Legally, since you are in a public place you are completely entitled to film and record what is happening. But cops will sometimes argue that you are “interfering with an investigation” and threaten to arrest you. Or if you have had anything to drink they will suddenly decide that you are “publicly intoxicated” and try to arrest you. As a Festival Buddy you have to decide if you can safely film what is happening. That’s because your other job as FB is to stay out of custody and post bail and let your buddy’s family know he just got arrested.

I suggest that you say the following if cops order you to turn off your camera.

“Officer, I’m not interfering with you in any way. I am just documenting this arrest. This is a public place and I’m entitled to record this”.

While making this statement, I would make a show of backing up and getting out of the way to prove that you are not interfering but just observing.

If that doesn’t work and your Latin is good you can just tell them, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes” (pssst…that’s a joke but go ahead and Google it kids)

If things get crazier, be sure to get footage of the cop screaming “turn that camera off” before you turn it off. Everyone (You Tube, Media, Juries, Internal Affairs) loves footage of cops screaming “turn off that camera” to a calm person who is doing nothing but saying “I’m not interfering, just watching to make sure you are following the law.”

Okay that’s it for this column. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Festivallawyer and be sure to tweet at me for comments on this story or future story ideas. I’ll be back in two weeks with a new column!

Read the Festival Lawyer’s follow up article, highlighting the best reactions and responding to the most pertinent questions from this article.

BIO – The Festival Lawyer is not a professional writer (duh). I am also not a journalist or concert promoter. I am just a fan who has gone to concerts all my life. I like to say that I’ve gone to a “saw Pink Floyd, The Clash, White Stripes before they broke up” and “I wish I had started wearing ear plugs a long time ago” years-worth of concerts. I’m hoping you will consider The Festival Lawyer your legal spirit guide.

Like Showbams on Facebook and follow Showbams on twitter to get more advice from the Festival Lawyer and win free tickets to shows.