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…


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,, and 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.