Sunday, July 16, 2006

Getting into music festivals - Gratis

For me, shelling out over 130 Euro for the three-day NUKE festival seemed a bit steep. The line up wasn’t amazing and the weather was not the best. Saying that, dancing in the rain while The Street played was one of my highlights. Thanks to the girls for donating their spare ticket for the first day and my fellow photographers who sorted out a left over photo pass for me. Aside from the odd mp3 here and there, I don’t condone ripping off musicians or festival operators, and if everyone got in for free, there would be no show. But if you can arrange a legitimate reason for getting in without paying, then all power to you.

I now present to you several ways to get into a music festival for free.

Volunteering for an tree-hugging organisation
This option can see you sitting bored out of your brain for the entire day or almost getting into a punch up with a dreadlocked “pacifist” about the pros and cons of anarchism. An old friend used to go to music festivals through her work at the Wilderness Society. To score her free ticket, she would have to sit in the tent and hand out flyers to anyone that asked for one. Then she would have to walk through the crowd for an hour and hand out free “save the rainforest” postcards, most of which would end up thrown away unread. One year, she got sick from eating too many of the complementary carob balls and had to leave early.

Volunteering for the first aid team
This has its own dangers. I remember talking to someone about free entry a few days before the Big Day Out in Adelaide after I had just bought my $90 ticket. She mentioned on several occasions that I was a chump for paying and that she had got in for free because she volunteered for St Johns Ambulance. Her only obligation was during the daytime, leaving her free to catch the headline acts in the evening. Being 20 with a shitty paying job, I was rather envious of her supposedly superior arrangement, and went to the event in a bit of huff. After about 40 minutes of wandering around the venue, I saw her standing behind one of the crowd barriers and she flashed me a rather smug look. Pft! I wished a pox on her and left to catch one of the local acts. It was one of those super hot days that are so often associated with the BDO. Blistering sunburn, water tents making hair dye run and unplanned reactions to funny coloured pills smuggled into the venue in someone’s jocks. I didn’t see my St John friend for the rest of the event and enjoyed the acts that I had paid for. A few days later, I ran into her in town and asked what her Big Day Out experience was like. Her eyes glazed over and she lost some of the colour in her face. It ended up that there was a particularly nasty batch of pills around 120 people had fallen victim to. Combined with the dancing, the 38-degree day and the lack of water, kids had been dropping left right and centre from about 3pm onwards. She was asked to stay on during the evening to help the already strained medical team, missed out on the main acts and was thrown up on three times.

Sneaking in
Technically illegal, this option is not for the faint hearted and is more of a sport between friends than a way to avoid paying for a ticket. Jumping fences and running from security, finding the weak alternative entry points of a venue (The large drain under the agriculture pavilion at the Royal Adelaide Showgrounds, the hole in the fence near the trees at the back of Flemington Showgrounds), are all exciting illicit attractions. These misadventures always provide entertainment, with the slower, less agile friends getting caught and taking the fall for the team. However, I have seen some rather unpleasant looking gashes acquired when scaling tiger wire fences at music venues, so if you are going to take this option. My only foray into was when I was 17. I managed to get into the BDO via the drain at the RAS with no problems, but a couple of the tail-enders got nabbed as they entered. I think it was Peter running around like an idiot after the first few of us got in, shouting “fuck you, I got in for free” at a couple of the security staff just near our not so secret entrance.

Faking it
Most of these methods involve lying, and therefore will end with some shirtless, Doc Martin-wearing guy kicking you in the face and giving you hepatitis as he crowd surfs onto you. Turning up and claiming someone else’s tickets is a no no, but usually the right person knows more about the tickets than you do and can repair the damage you have created. There are ways to get in without saying a word, especially into smaller gigs. But this method is rather ballsy and does require props. The guitar case and confident quick walk through the front door works well.

Being one of the acts
This does involve a bit more forward planning and possibly some talent, but the benefits of being let into the artist and VIP areas far outweigh any public embarrassment. Last year, Luke and I cooked up a plan to perform a Puppet Street Theatre version of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly at the Big Day Out. A few months before the festival, we found the contact details for the people who run the Lily Pad, the auxiliary stage and chill out area found at the BDO, where the line between irony and drunken 40-something men drooling over the youngins is often blurred. Luke and I had sent in all the right forms and got the go ahead from the organisers. But as our big day got closer, we still hadn’t found out how to get tickets and hadn’t got any replies to our emails. I was in Melbourne for the BDO there and ran into one of the non-drunk guys who manage the Lily Pad. I told him the situation and he said to call him the night before the event to collect the tickets and gave me his number. A few days later I was back in Adelaide, 6am on the morning before the performance, watching the movie for the 4th time, hoping to the end without falling asleep. We acquired some other performers to help out our act, paying them with the extra tickets we had been given. We got to the main entrance, and were told to go to entrance around the corner. When we got to that entrance, we were told to go even further (crossing over the free entry drain, now heavily guarded) and ended up doing nearly one full lap of the RAS to get to the artist entry. We were back stage, drinking the free booze and busily putting the finishing touches on the sock puppets we had neglected to make in the days previous. Our performance was between an act who lifted heavy things with his genitals and a bunch of gender bending semi-naked female cowboys. The act itself only went for 8 minutes, and rather than asking us to leave, the stage manager just turned our mikes off and packed up the mic stands.

Not going in, but listening from outside
This is such a shit option, but as my folks were of the hippie persuasion, this was a regular occurrence during my youth. Once at a Mick Jagger concert at Thebarton oval, I picked up a whole bunch of passout tickets from around the exit and got my entire family in for free. If you actually want to see an event, then there’s a sweet spot on the hill next to Colonel Light where you can see right onto the pitch of Adelaide Oval. It works well for cricket matches, allowing for a BBQ to be set up and a radio to be listened to. Get in early though, as it isn’t that secret and you might have to fight for a place.

Photo passes
Like being an act at the event, this does require a bit of forward planning. This option works the best for me as I’m a bit of a tight arse, but I love music and taking photos. I can see the show, take some photos and have a legit method of getting in for free. Back in Australia, I would have a few months warning about up coming festivals, allowing for the careful process that is involved in acquiring a photo pass. But, with the music industry in Australia being the monopoly of egos it is, with the same people involved year after year, you need to know who to ask, how to ask them and have kissed their arse just enough to get one. And if this
grovelling protocol is not observed, no photo pass or free entry for you.

After attending the NUKE Festival here in Austria thanks to the goodwill of others, I would like to thank everyone that has helped out this little Aussie battler over the last few days. Everyone from the train conductor who carried my bike trailer to the free pizza from the Nokia tent, you have all helped me out in your own way.

I leave it to you the reader to add your own stories of how you got in for free.


Anonymous said...

hey dan, you still know me? i'm sebi the security you talked to at the first day in front of the moon stage. being security was my free ticket. not THE job on earth but u are able to see many bands and meet some people.
nice page with nice pics!! hope we hear from each other.
sebi (

JCriquet said...

hey, dan

no stories from me, but it was a treat to read this entry!