“Can You Really Be Too Old for Music Festivals?”

Years ago, my mom dispatched my dad to find me in a lineup for an outdoor festival because–well, I don’t remember why. Maybe it was to give me an extra key to the house because they were going out.

Dad came straight from work at the Ministry of Education so he was in full office regalia: suit, tie, shiny shoes. As he walked along the line looking for me and my sister, he was taunted by the crowd: “Narc. Narc. Narc. Go home, old man. Narc.” I distinctly remember thinking “Sometimes you’re just too old to be anywhere near a rock festival. It’s better to just stay away because after a certain age, you just don’t belong anymore.” (Not that my dad ever really belonged at a rock show, but that’s another story.)

This memory came back this week because (a) I’m now older than my dad was on that day; and (b) this article from fusion that ponders the idea of age and the appropriateness of going to a festival.

When I thread through the crowd at the Sasquatch music festival, I dread seeing my own 15-year-old face. Among the hoards I’m now tempted to call “young people,” I’m scared to see that girl I was, waiting for my friends’ band to start, black X’s on the back of my hands to brand me as underaged. Back then, if I saw people in their thirties at a show, strangers I would have been tempted to call “old people,” I would squint my eyes at them and think, “Ugh, get a life.” Now 33, I scan for dirty looks like the Secret Service scans for snipers, while I flow between stages and sets, holding onto the hand of my boyfriend, who isn’t thinking about any of this.

Sasquatch isn’t just any show. The bands we’ve been waiting months to hear live are enveloped by a backdrop called The Gorge, where the setting sun casts shadows upon foothills for miles and a river glistens into the horizon, meandering through a canyon’s cliffs. Barely a set goes by that the singer doesn’t pause to say how lucky they feel to be right there, right then.

We sit on the grassy slope. I people-stare. I feel and resist and feel and resist the usual worry. I’ve asked people about it and Googled it. As I compare myself to the girls frolicking on the hill, skipping, holding hands, and taking pictures, as I search for people who look like me, I wonder about it, yet again: Am I too old for music festivals?

The Internet has said yes, and the Internet has said no. It has given me listsof signs I might be too old. It has given me resignation letters from former festival-goers, and manifestos from people who vow to never stay home. It has given me inspiring advice columns about doing whatever you want, which I try to absorb.
Intrigued? You will find yourself in this position at some point. Best keep reading.


Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

2 thoughts on ““Can You Really Be Too Old for Music Festivals?”

  • April 1, 2016 at 6:17 am

    I think if the festival is still fun for you, you aren’t too old. Just try to ignore the shifty looks from the youngsters and enjoy it. I’m 35 and I’ve gone to Osheaga a few times over the past 5 to 6 years. I feel like I’m out of “demographic”, but it’s still really fun for me. IMO, when the hassle of lineups, back pain from standing, dislike for dirt, garbage, and portapotties (and perhaps for “kids today”) outweigh the fun–that’s when it’s time to stop. But until then…

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