After another long PNW winter, the glowing lights of festival season are finally shining down upon us. One of the region’s finest, What The Festival, is gearing up for its fifth parade in central Oregon on June 17th-20th. Check out this year’s lineup here (including big names like Thievery Corporation, Lettuce and Claude Vonstroke, as well as Portland favorites Chanti Darling, Lola Buzzkill and Luz Elena Mendoza) and buy tickets (if you haven’t already done so) here.
I first attended WTF in 2013, and for too many good reasons to name, it’s kept reeling me back in. Although some may feel that a festival “survival guide” is unnecessary, take my word for it, this one is nothing like what you may have experienced at more mainstream festivals like Lollapalooza or Sasquatch. Most of the differences are quite positive, however, there are elements in Dufur, Oregon that you may not be prepared for, especially if you’re not familiar with spending time in the desert. Below is a brief list of things you won’t want to overlook in your deemed most important by a secret study I’ve been conducting based on things I heard.
Dust Guard – A must. This item is listed first for a reason because you don’t want to be pulling out dust boogers all weekend. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll still be picking out dust boogers, but the extent will be far less if you protect your face. What The Festival!? takes place about 20 miles east of Mt. Hood in the Central Oregon high desert where there’s very little rain, and thousands of people will be kicking up a shit storm of dirt and dust while dancing. Any type of cloth you can wrap around your nose and mouth will suffice. Bandanas work great and they make you look cool.
Clothing – Optional during the day. Yes, we all want to be sexy all day every day, but there is a time and a place to let it all hang out. And that place is the pool party. At night, it’s a different story. Temps can drop to 50 degrees. You don’t want your nips (or otherwise) to freeze off while walking through the Illuminated Forest and then picked up by some hippie thinking it’s a ground score. Cover up the vitals and get funky with your style, but make sure it’s not too difficult to pee. Anything goes but remember to stay culturally aware.
Porta Potties – It wouldn’t be a good festival without dropping a deuce or two in the ol’ honey bucket. These hell holes are emptied at least once a day, usually at the crack of dawn. Your best bet for a pleasant defecatory experience is to hold off until the morning and head to the units furthest away from campsites as they won’t already be filled with everyone’s nasties by the time you get moving. Head into the distance, grab some coffee, talk to some people along the way, and make a morning of it. Pro tip: Choose a portlet covered by shade. No one wants to poop in a sauna.
Hydration – Lots of dancing in hot desert conditions can lead to exhaustion. Dry air means dry body. More partying means… you get the point. Make sure either yourself or someone you’re with is carrying a camelback, etc. A standard 32 ounce Nalgene should realistically be filled up twice a night, for yourself. But plan on being a good buddy and looking out for your friends’ hydration, because they may not have been smart enough to read this. Force feed your friends water if you must. The organizers at WTF know WTF they’re doing and they keep cold water available and free-flowing all night.
Hangovers – See “Hydration” above. Also, eat a minimum of one meal for every 24 hours, regardless of whether or not you’ve slept. Pro tip: Fruits and vegetables are more important than meat.
More Hydration – Drill that word into your head. This goes beyond regularly drinking water. Lip balm, protective sun lotion, aloe gelly, and even anti-chafing cream can be life savers.
Sleeping – Tents aren’t necessary. There is a very low chance of rain in the middle of June in the desert. For the best sleep, hammocks are the way to go. They’re ultra-light, easy to set up, and keep you off of the dirt. Bring a hefty blanket though, because they tends to get drafty. The camping areas at WTF are split between the woods and the parking lot. I will forever be a woods camper because of my love for trees, but car camping saves you a hell of a long walk. Pro tip: Carry a flashlight or headlamp on you at night because all tents tend to look the same in the dark (and when on drugs).
Festi-Name – It’s common knowledge that everyone needs a good festival name. Ladies, you’ll feel weird telling Sargent Sodapop your name is “Sue.” And fellas, you don’t want to meet Princess Lullaby Cornflake and introduce yourself with a boring name like Colin. Gross. Choose an alter ego that fits your style. Pro tip: Go with something more creative than “Dumpsterfire.” Find suggestions for a rave name here.
Crew – Another highly important aspect to how much fun you have at WTF is the crew you roll with. If you’ve come with a group, and you like them, stick it out. If you don’t know too many folks, let the flow of the festival choose it for you. These things happen naturally. Once your immediate crew has been established, set out and determine your immediate allies. An ultimate-ally-coalition will cast no judgement whether you’re a dinosaur, unicorn, priest, snake, super Mario, or a giant fucking panda. This coalition’s soul purpose will be to party all weekend, without worries or bad vibrations. A successful coalition will have folks envious, wanting to be a part of your crew. Next thing you know the whole festival will be your crew, and the rest is history.