Back in the day they had Beethoven, Mozart, and wearing a tuxedo to some stuffy opera house. Now we have impromptu nakedness, untamed revelry, and waking up behind the burger van. Music festivals are the highlight of the year, mass displays of debauchery shaped by exuberant live performances and getting so wasted you can’t find your tent.
But the best music festivals require forward planning and fortune. You have to get tickets. And you either forgot, got shunned in the ballot, or only just decided to go and can’t work out how it’s possible.
Fear not. Sneaking into a music festival is easier than you think. Jefferson Taylor’s found a way into four of them, on four different continents, and his tried and tested advice should get you past security and into a week of madness. Don’t pussy out and decide against it. In the spirit of anti-commercialism and evoking 60s hippy reverie, sneaking in is what you should be doing.
Dependent on the festival in question, you’ll need to utilize a combination of the tips below to forge your way past security. This is how to sneak into a music festival.
1. Learn to Remove any Wristband
Learning how to effectively remove any wristband is the first trick in the magic box of sneaking in. Even if you’ve got a ticket, mastering this can help get a helpless buddy through the gate.
Tip one: When they’re clasping the wristband, tell the staff that you’re allergic to the plastic or glue that’s used. That should make it a little looser.
Tip two: Take a used chip packet with a silver inner foil. Place the greasy inside flat against your wrist and slide the wristband on top of it. It’s far more effective than using soap or detergent to grease your hand.
Tip three: Never be tempted to try and carefully unhook or peal the wristband’s seal. This is the first thing that security checks. If you can’t slide it off, use scissors to cut the wristband directly opposite to the seal. Staple it back together then walk in deliberately presenting the untarnished seal to security.
2. Forget the Drab Excuses
“Oh shit, I must have lost it,” “my dog ate it,” “I didn’t know you needed it…” You’ve not forgot your homework, you’re trying to sneak into a music festival. So don’t rock up with the same shit excuses that didn’t fool Mrs Witchnose in third grade. And you’re on the blag! So chin up, make a joke, exude confidence, and start charming the pants off everyone you need to.
3. Work in Teams
Sneaking two people into a music festival can be tough. Sneaking two out of four people in is easy. Those on the inside must collect the appropriate wristbands, tickets, and whatever else to get the others in. Of course, festivals are wise to this, so you’ll always be one item short. For example, many festivals have a pass out system. After going back to the car park you’ll need both a wristband and a pass out to gain reentry, and while you can bring out a wristband to your buddies, you won’t be able to get a fresh pass out. So here’s how it works if you’re on the inside:
Step one: Befriend neighbors and collect spare wristbands, tickets, and anything else required.
Step two: Choose a quiet time (around midnight works best) and head to the entrance / exit. It’s best to be drunk and dressed as flamboyantly as possible. Chat, flirt, drink, hangout, and party with the people working at the exit. You have to leave an impression, that’s why passing a whiskey bottle around and staying for at least 30 minutes works well.
Step three: Pass everything to your buddies. Now you’re an item short but they’ll waltz straight in.
Step four: Return to the same entrance and put on a charade about losing the pass out or ticket. If you did step two correctly then they’ll recognize you and show some pity.
Extra Tip: Marcus Haney, the guy who sneaked into dozens of music festivals and made a film about it, reckons Glastonbury is the hardest one in the world to get in. This is the tried-and-tested-works-every-year method that works for Jefferson and his buddies.
4. Bribe Someone on the Inside
Offering the security guard $50 is a sure way to end up face down in the mud. Likewise, trying to give a few dollars to the cute chick on the ticket desk will get you bitch slapped. However, at every music festival there are thousands of vehicles with special passes going through the gates; catering, cleaning, stage building, sound producing, etc. Anyone working for the festival isn’t going to stash you in their trunk, but subcontractors and caterers will be pretty happy with an extra bit of drinking money.
There are two options. 1) Hang around outside most festivals for long enough and word will come out about a guy who is actively seeking the extra cash. It’s usually some washed up hippy with body odor and yellow teeth. Or 2) Be bold and brazen. Stop potential vehicles on the outskirts of the entrance and propose some terms. Seem desperate. Not criminal. Worst case scenario is the dude laughs. If for a split second they consider the offer, increase it by $20 and you’re on.
5. Jump the Fence
Ah, the classic. Dress in black, wait until 3am, and then vault the fence. But wait! Some people dress like a psychedelic dream and try climbing the fence with a joint in hand at 3pm. You’ve got to be discreet, which means watching the fence for hours and working out the weak point in its security. Mesh fences are easiest because you can also observe security on the inside. With solid wall fences, look for places next to toilet blocks or cabins – anything you can hide under once you’re inside. Remember, you only have one chance. So being paralytic drunk and rushing the move will be a disaster.
6. Walk Through With a Group
At every music festival, hundreds of people will be passing through the main security gate; bands, roadies, producers, organizers, etc. Walking through with them requires perfectionist timing and impeccable confidence. It’s best done at busy times of the day, when security have a lot on their hands and there’s plenty of traffic. Act natural. Don’t look down. Meet the glance of the security and mingle into the group. You’re relying on security not doing their job properly and assuming you’re with the others. If you’re caught, don’t panic. Ask where the main entrance is and get out of there without leaving an impression.
7. Use Others as a Distraction
Another one for absolute confidence. As security check passes and search vehicles at the main gate, there will be fleeting moments of opportunity. Best used as a last resort because if this one fails, you’re face is going to be recognized. Spot the gap, walk casually yet fast, and never turn around.
8. Time Your Arrival
Whatever the plan, timing is everything. Security at music festivals has two weak moments; the busiest and quietest times. At their busiest, there are hundreds of potential distractions but security is on high alert. As a general rule, this is the best time for any attempt through the main gates. During the small hours, staff are minimal, maybe tired and potentially drunk. For a confidence move this is an easy time. It also makes a good time for using a side entrance or jumping the fence.