Once I decided to call myself “The Festival Guy,” I dedicated my life to going to music festivals and finding ways to improve them. To learn what makes one festival experience superior to another I have attended as many festivals as possible over the last two years. Now with 35 festivals under my belt, I have a keen eye on what is working and what is not. This viewpoint is why I was so upset with Sasquatch! Music Festival last weekend.
Sasquatch! is held a couple hours away from Seattle in the Pacific Northwest, which has a reputation for being the most eco friendly corner of America. People here recycle, ride bikes, eat organic, and do anything else they can think of to save the environment (just watch the show Portlandia for proof).
My first red flag for the weekend was when I noticed that there was not one recycling bin in the campgrounds. When you have 25,000 people camping at one place, it’s not hard to imagine how much trash and recyclables add up over the weekend.
Once we made it into the fairgrounds, I noticed that you had to walk a long way just to make it from one trashcan to the next. Trashcans are something you can’t have too many of at a festival. They did offer recycling inside the fairgrounds, which was a step in the right direction.
A few shows into the first day, the trash inside the festival started to pile up. Unlike every one of the other 34 festivals I had attended over the previous two years, Sasquatch! didn’t have any cleaning crews cleaning the fairgrounds after each show. If a piece of trash was left on the ground by a careless festival goer, it would be there for the rest of the day.
As the trash piled up, everyone seemed to have gotten the impression that that was just what you do at this festival. By the time the last act went on, the entire hillside was covered in trash. It was disgusting.
The next day I got in touch with someone that worked with Sasquatch! and voiced my concerns. They said they would email the production team but nothing ever came of it. The trash was just as bad this day and it was clear that nothing was going to change no matter how disgusting the fairgrounds became.
The campgrounds were not any better because the trashcans were not being emptied enough and they overflowed with trash. I have never seen anything like this in all of the festivals I have been to.
On the third day of the festival I decided to take matters into my own hands. I made a sign that read, “If we all picked up a piece of trash, we would clean the place.” I trash bags from guest services, carried the sign around with me, and led trash sweeps across the hill on the main stage. I opened the bags and everyone would brought me their trash. Over the course of three trash sweeps we filled up 6 bags, which sadly didn’t even cover a third of the hillside.
Why did I do this? I felt like someone had to do something. The trash was completely out of control, and Live Nation did not seem to care about it in the slightest. Hopefully they will learn from this year’s mistakes and lead trash sweeps of their own. Even posting signs encouraging people to pick up after themselves would go a long way. With a ticket price of over $300, the attendees deserve a clean experience just like all the other festivals provide.