How to Survive a Music Festival: Drowners Edition

Posted on: June 10th, 2014 at 11:00 am by

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Drowners, Photo: IBTimes/Charles Poladian

Taking a break from the scorching sun that’s been cooking all in attendance for Governors Ball 2014, I make my way over to a shady VIP area. One of the Brooklyn foursome Drowners is carelessly relaxing against a tree trunk. The band has already played their set – 45 minutes infused with their signature dynamic post-punk mania that whipped festival goers into a tizzy early on. I have been warned that given their state, the band may be quite candid. Thinking I’ll just be chatting with lead singer Matthew Hitt, I pull up a patch of grass, breeze through the niceties, and jump right in. 

BOWERY BOOGIE: What’s your favorite part of festivals?
DROWNERS: As a band or like a punter?

BB: Either.

(At this point the rest of the band surfaces, and guitarist Jack Ridley incredulously asks, “What? You guys are talking already?” “Noooo!” replies Matt, “It’s just the first question!” He continues with his answer, and at this point, each of the band members chime in throughout the interview.)

DS: The best part about festivals is that it’s the only time I get to ride on a golf cart. The main thing I remember about all of the festivals is how good is the golf cart, who’s driving the golf cart, are they good drivers. I think the best part is discovering a band that you’ve never heard before. Especially the smaller ones – there are all of these bands you’ve never heard of. I’d also say, amazing ____ and free ____.

BB: So just use my imagination?
DS: Yeah, just fill in the blanks.

BB: Will do. How many festivals have you been to?
DS: Four or five? We’ve played… let’s call it a grip. A music grip? Yeah five. So a grip. We’re doing Reading and Leeds in August.

BB: Have you been to Reading or Leeds as a fan? 
DS: I (Matt) went when I was fourteen. But I, well, I kind of don’t like music festivals. I don’t know – how do you phrase this without sounding like a cunt – I don’t like camping. I have horrendous allergies – sleeping outdoors will kill me.

BB: What’s the most annoying thing about festival culture?
DS: The people who go to music festivals? I’m kidding, I’m kidding! Festivals are fun. Shitting. Yeah, shitting. Fair enough. Have you ever gone to a festival on a Sunday afternoon and really had to take a shit? I don’t find that many things annoying about festivals. It feels to me like going to the movies – it’s a suspense of disbelief. Playing festivals you run into bands you’ve played with, you meet up with friends – it’s fun.

BB: How is playing a festival better than a regular gig?
DS:  If we play a regular gig and people are there, then we’re like alright they know our band because we are the only band playing. And it’s great. But when people come see us play a festival, we get excited because it’s like, “Well, I can’t be the reason they bought that fucking $200 ticket.” But they bothered to show up and sing along. It’s a surprise. A good one. We played really early today, and by the end loads of people crowded the stage and were singing along. It’s rewarding in a different way than when you headline a show. It’s an ambush. A fan ambush. It’s like, “Oh! I didn’t expect to see you here! Hello! How are you?”

BB: You’re trapped in a mosh pit. What’s your exit strategy?
DS: No exit strategy. Elbows. All in. Last man standing. Stage dive so that security can comfort me like a newborn baby. I’ve developed a strategy for when I go see bands that I really fucking love, and I go and rage up front and sing all the words and everything. Right around the last two songs, and you can sense when it’s coming, hurl yourself over that fucking barrier. Crowd surf, and they take you out, and they shove you out the door, and you don’t have to wait for that 2,000 person crowd to filter out. Honestly, it’s the best. Oh yeah, I’ll see you at the bar, motherfucker.

BB: Why do guys push up to the front like that? I can see why girls would.
DS: Testosterone. Or ego. As a kid I would do it. I think it’s passion. It depends on what you’re talking about. You know the bit in that film The Dreamers? The guy talks about how he never sits in the back seat, because he wants the scream to hit him first. As a kid, I wanted it in my fucking face, so that’s why I’d push to the front.

BB: Any tips for a first-time festival goer?
DS: As a pasty man, I would say sunglasses and suntan lotion – I paid that price at Coachella. You get to be anonymous and wild out and enjoy yourself. That’s why there isn’t any real downside to festivals – it’s like a weird musical holiday. It’s like, fuck it, I’m not going to be here tomorrow, I’m going to have a laugh.

BB: Have any good festival stories that stick out in your head?
DS: I don’t think there’s anything we can talk about.

BB: Who do you really want to catch at Governors Ball?
DS: TV on the Radio. All the way. They’re the shit.

Drowners are playing a sold-out show alongside Albert Hammond, Jr. at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on June 13.


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