Tis’ the season of blue igloo coolers, camping, sweat, and sun. This is a time of year when BBQ grills across the country fire up and fill backyards with the most wonderful smell of seasoned smoke and the sizzling sound of fresh steaks.
Summer is just incredible, you can play guitar outside, the leaves are green, and it is the season in which the summer music festivals descend upon large and small towns alike across the US. Most festivals are multiple days featuring a slurry of bands, some local, some national, some big names, and even some names that were big once upon a time.
I have always found summer festivals to be one of the more interesting experiences life has to offer, not only can you catch really amazing performances, but also, you have the opportunity to participate in some wonderful music being played in and around the campsites (if the fest happens to have them).
Now don’t get me wrong summer music festivals aren’t all lollipops and rainbows; there are some hardships and dangers that go along with camping, attending shows with thousands of people, and bringing your instrument along for the ride. So since this sounds like a recipe for potential instrument damage, I have created an instrument survival list. Please take these suggestions and heed these warnings as you see fit during your summer music festival experience. Enjoy!!!
- Beat the Heat – Yes it’s true the sun is hot and luckily for human kind it shares it’s warmth… but remember that instrument you left in the trunk on the way down to the fest?!?! Yep, get it out of the trunk… DO NOT LEAVE YOUR GUITAR OR ANY OTHER INSTRUMENT IN YOUR CAR. This seems like an easy one, but remember it can get hot enough in a car to melt the glue and other adhesives used in the building process; this equals disaster for a guitar that is mainly wood held together with glue. So when you leave your car, take the extra 5 minutes to grab your guitar and lug it along.
- Skin Things – To be blunt, bugs suck and so does getting sun burnt. Nobody likes to arrive at a festival on Friday only to wakeup Saturday morning red as a beet with mosquito bites everywhere. Logic would say, well just make sure to have plenty of sun screen and bug spray… no big deal right. Actually, some sun screens and bug repellants contain harsh chemicals that can actually eat through the finish of your guitar, so exercise caution when using these products and try not to use them if you plan on playing later that day.
- Strings and Things – Some festivals have a small “guitar pro shop” setup where you can get strings, picks, and capos… but these tend to be very small. So make sure to bring along ample supply of extra strings, picks, tuner batteries, string winder, bridge pins, capo, you name it, if you think you will need it, and it is small enough, bring it along. The worst thing that can happen is you are mid jam and you lose something essential to playing. Make yourself a guitar apocalypse kit, small fishing tackle boxes work great.
- Water, Water, Water – Make sure to stay hydrated, the sun is hot and you will likely be sitting in it for the whole day. Make sure to bring plenty of bottled water, and if you can’t get it through the gates at the fest, make that be your first stop. Important note here: not only should you be drinking… your guitar should be too!!! Yes I am concerned about the well being of humans, but think of all of those guitars in the adverse weather conditions. Just be sure to keep your guitar humidifiers damp since the sun will be drying them out quicker than normal.
- No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service – Yes sun tans are great, but if you are playing your guitar make sure to keep your shirt on. I know this one sounds goofy, but our skin has dirt and oil in it… especially after hanging out in a campground all weekend. So, for the sake of the guitars finish, we should do our best to protect it. To compound the problem if your guitar gets crud on it and then is in the sun… we have baked on yuck… so please keep your shirts on when strumming.
- Nice and Light – Hard cases are incredibly protective, there is no doubt about that; however, they can become quite cumbersome when lugging them around the festival grounds. The solution… a trusty gig bag… Now don’t take this the wrong way, I am not talking just any gig bag. You will most certainly need one that is rugged, rigid, (insert other ‘r’ word here), and ready to take some hits. Having a gig bag will save you some pain during the sometimes long walks involved from the campground to the festival grounds.
In all seriousness, festivals aren’t that scary, but we often forget about our six string friend… so the golden rule for any festival where your instrument is in tow is: “Always carry your instrument with you and as long as you are comfortable it should be too… but it never hurts to check it out now and then”
Have fun this summer season, enjoy a cold beverage every so often and make sure to keep on pickin’!!!
Tony Polecastro is a certified “guitar geek” who drinks three super sized coffees every day. When he’s not doing YouTube guitar reviews for the Acoustic Letter, he teaches guitar, dobro, and banjo to over 50 students locally and worldwide via Skype. You can get free tabs and video lessons for the Acoustic Letter demo songs on his website tonypolecastro.com