FESTIVAL SEASON IS UPON US! (Kind of.)
This past weekend I attended my first festival of 2018 – Minus Zero in Mount Snow, Vermont. Despite the fact that coldness is implied in the name, AND it’s billed as a “winter sports and music festival,” I still managed to be surprised that the temperature was predicted to drop to a low of about 15 throughout the weekend. I was pretty nervous as I packed every long-sleeved shirt and other warm item that I own into a giant suitcase, but, as festivals are wont to do, it turned out to be a fantastic weekend. In fact, it was one of the most well-produced festivals I’ve ever been to. Here’s the lowdown:
There’s no camping at Minus Zero for obvious reasons, so my friend and I just drove up to our hotel on Friday afternoon. No waiting in hours-long lines to get your car searched for 20 seconds. The actual festival gate security went really quickly and I think we never waited in line for longer than 10 minutes. On day 1, two separate security guards told me that the gate people wouldn’t let me in with my string backpack because they weren’t letting in bags of that size. I don’t understand this because my backpack is smaller than a Camelbak (which are allowed). They did let me in, but I decided not to risk it on days 2 and 3 and went, for the first time ever, without any type of bag. It was a strange and freeing experience and also a fun exercise in trying to find as many pockets as I could in my winter coat to keep my phone, wallet, chapstick, etc. safe.
You have to be at least a little nuts to want to go to a music festival in the winter (technically it was April, but if it’s snowing, I’m calling it winter), and I think this really weeded out anyone who was anything less than super cool and extremely laid back. Everyone I met was incredibly nice, and the last day of the festival in particular had the absolute, hands-down, no exaggeration best festival crowd I’ve ever been a part of. The music was dark and heavy (more on the music in my next post) yet the energy was really joyful. The artists even commented on it. The cold temperatures gave everyone the opportunity to break out their fuzzy animal onesies, which was a nice touch. Here I am in a penguin onesie sitting in an inexplicably large chair.
If you ski or snowboard, I imagine having that as an option for a daytime activity is pretty sweet. My friend and I opted to sit in our hotel and watch TV. There aren’t really any other activities at Minus Zero in the way some festivals have, BUT the ski resort location meant we could enjoy sit down meals (!) while watching little dots of people through the window making their way down the mountain. There was live painting and other art displayed, as well as a stage at the top of the ski lift in case you either a) ski or b) wanted to head to the festival at 5:30am for an exclusive sunrise set only available to the first 150 people to get on the lift. Hard pass on both accounts, thank you.
The ski lodge had free water and cups! One major benefit to hosting a festival at a “real” location, instead of turning an empty plot of land into a small city for a weekend. Seeing as Minus Zero was about 70 degrees colder than normal festivals I think water was a little less of a concern for most people, but heading into the lodge after the headliner was done each night to down some water and not have to pay $6 or wait in an insane line to refill a bottle for free was incredible (especially because I had to leave my bottle in the hotel room when I stopped bringing a backpack).
While this was not the smallest festival I’ve ever attended people-wise, it was absolutely the smallest festival surface area-wise. Not counting the stage at the top of the ski lift (because it was really only for people to check out briefly before skiing down the mountain), you could walk from one end of the festival to the other in…3 minutes? There was the lodge, the main stage, and a barn with another stage. And that was kind of it. It was tiny, and after attending so many festivals where I had to walk 20 minutes in between sets, I felt spoiled.
I will say, regarding the layout, that while the barn stage was cool and slightly warmer than the outdoors, the enclosed structure meant that capacity was limited. I never had a problem with this, but they had Claude Von Stroke (who is kiiind of a big deal) playing in that barn and there was a line that wrapped around the entire building. If I went all the way to Vermont to see an artist and couldn’t even get in to the stage to see him, I’d have been pretty pissed.
Our hotel was a short walk to the festival grounds, but there was a free shuttle that ran every 15 minutes through the surrounding area, picking people up from various hotels and dropping them off at the festival. My friend and I chose our hotel specifically because we had a heinous VIP-to-GA shuttle experience at Electric Forest last year and wanted to avoid having to rely on one in the future. So as we walked to Minus Zero and yelled, “FUCK SHUTTLES! WE’RE NEVER TAKING A SHUTTLE EVER AGAIN!”, the shuttle appeared out of nowhere, pulled up next to us, and the driver asked if we wanted to get on for the rest of the way. We did.
So cheap! I think my tier 1 ticket cost around $120, What we saved in ticket costs we ended up spending on splitting a hotel room that could have fit 4 between 2 people. But, whatever. Worth it.
Because I was staying in a hotel and because they had the indoor ski lodge, I never set foot in a port-a-potty all weekend!!!!!!!! I use excess exclamation points to convey exactly how legendary this is. Again, I just feel so spoiled.
Everything about Minus Zero was just so well done. The acts all started on time, the visuals of the main stage were next level, and I loved that there were no breaks between acts with the exception of a 15-20 minute break before the headliner each night. The sound system was probably one of the best I’ve ever heard, in that they could pump the music up loud and it didn’t hurt your ears – I always wear ear plugs at shows because not only is it a good idea, but after years of wearing them I have a pretty low tolerance for crazy loud music. The music at Minus Zero almost never bothered me before I put my ear plugs in, which was a first. Every artist on day 3 had seriously heavy bass and it didn’t sound at all scratchy.
The cold, while certainly not my favorite thing, wasn’t all that bad thanks to many layers and body heat from the crowd (plus, the falling snow made the lasers look like glitter!). As much as I had been dreading spending a “springtime” weekend in below freezing temperatures, I loved the whole thing and would 100% go back again.