If anyone knows the ins and outs of summer music festivals, it's Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne. His band is one of festival season's usual suspects, and considering the Lips' whimsical performances, often a highlight. As a member of a popular band, Coyne has it easy these days: air-conditioned backstage areas, plenty of food and water, and comely virgins feeding him peeled grapes. (That last part is speculation.) But, as a man of the people, Coyne knows what concertgoers face at big music festivals, events that are both the best and worst things for music fans. In an effort to make everyone's experiences more pleasurable, Coyne offered this advice to The A.V. Club.
The A.V. Club: What's the key to getting through a long summer festival relatively unscathed?
Wayne Coyne: It depends on which type it is. We do the type a lot where people are going to camp in a field for sometimes up to four days, and then other times it's like the Lollapalooza, Coachella sort of vibe where you're staying in a hotel… Camping out sounds great, but if you don't do it a lot, it's a beat-down. The sun comes up early, it gets hot, you're up by like 7 o'clock. If you've been up taking acid all night, you're just getting to sleep at 6. It can be a struggle. Then there's always the going to the bathroom at the Porta-John. My main suggestion would be, if it's Porta-John stuff, just don't eat very much. If you're a woman, do some practicing where you hold your piss a little bit longer. 'Cause it's either try to avoid it, or just truly embrace it, which is what we do.
AVC: Embrace it how?
WC: I think it's true of all people's lives: Once you embrace the idea that shit isn't the worst thing in the world, life gets better for you. I have three dogs, and every week I have to go out in the yard and scoop up poop. When I started doing that like 12 years ago, I was like, "My God, this is horrible." But now I think it's beautiful. That's how damaged I've become.
AVC: It's a tall order to find the inside of a Porta-John beautiful.
WC: Well, no. You just have to say the moment is what it is and just get in there and do your business. Ultimately, you feel a lot better because you did, and the whole thing is richer. Let's just say that: The experience will be richer because of that. I do think, in a sense, the hardship, the struggles add to the whole color of the experience, and you want that. That's why I think summer festivals are so great.
AVC: Those trials make for better stories.
WC: The idea that you go to a festival and you feel like you have to see everything, all your favorite bands, I think sometimes that can kind of wear you down. It has to be like eating at the Golden Corral, where it's all you can eat, until you try to eat the barbecue chicken and the calamari. By the time you get to the fourth thing, you're burned out. My suggestion to people is just enjoy your day. Your band is playing, you get to see a little bit of them. Go see them for 10 or 15 minutes, and enjoy your friends and enjoy your day. As the sun goes down, it's a lot easier to endure.
AVC: What do you suggest when it's miserably hot?
WC: They should drink a lot more water than they think they should drink, but unfortunately a lot of people are just going to drink beer—and it's just going to beat you up. But you really should just be drinking water, constantly, all day. You don't pee as much as you would think… What happens to a lot of people is, they don't go outside all year, and then they go to one of these festivals, and they're sunburned, they're dehydrated, and they're just beat down. You have to know what you're doing, but that takes a little bit of the fun away from it.
AVC: It's amazing that people don't bring sun block.
WC: Yeah, and as anyone should know by now, take that damn sunscreen with you. But it's a hassle, and you look all greasy—people want to go to festivals and they want to look cool and all that. It's a struggle. They should do like they do in Europe: People just get naked, and they don't care. Maybe that's not a good idea.
AVC: What do you think is the biggest festival don't?
WC: I think the worst thing is don't get drunk and pass out by 1 o'clock in the afternoon and be the guy who's laying out in the open field throwing up at 2 in the afternoon. We see that all the time, like my God, how big of a miscalculation was that? The guy's laying there, and he's going to get sunburned, and it's just miserable. Not only that, he's going to feel worse after this, and he's missing the show at the same time. So if you've never drunk that much beer before, don't try it at a festival in the middle of the summer. I think it's better if you're younger, too. The older you get, the more you're like, "Why would I want to stand in the heat all day with a bunch of drunk morons?" When you're young, and the possibility of having sex is in the air, and you're seeing new things, that's a beautiful thing.
AVC: Any other advice?
WC: I guess my advice to everybody is just embrace the calamities that happen. Instead of thinking, "Oh I didn't get to see my favorite band," enjoy it with your friends. Enjoy the hassles with the parking lot, enjoy trying to find each other with your cell phones—all those things can really be enjoyable. They don't have to ruin any of it. It's your time, it's your day, make the most of it. Like you said, it makes for better stories.