How to Survive a Country Music Festival

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Thanks to musicians like Taylor Swift, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, country music has never been more popular. Or at least that’s what my non-scientific one-man straw poll says. And with that popularity is the growing number of country music festivals.

Sadly, a growing number of non-country music fans are being dragged by girlfriends and boyfriends to three day festivals where musicians sing about their scuffed up boots, dented pick-up trucks, lost dogs, and runaway brides.  

If you’re like me, this sounds as much fun as a three day enema. Thankfully, even you can survive a country music festival. Or at least that’s what my girlfriend told me before dragging me to Windy City Lake Shake – a three day country music festival in Chicago.

Here is what I learned.

Windy City Lake Shake - Joe Piehl (8)Dress the part

Consider this a costume party and the theme is ’merica. If you love America, which you should, this isn’t a problem. American flag shirts, hats, boots, belt buckles, and anything denim is appropriate. Just remember to keep it classy. This is country music festival, not a white trash festival.

Windy City Lake Shake - Joe Piehl (1)Hide booze in your boots

On day two, some country music veterans taught me you can hide booze in your boots. Most security pat downs include your arms, sides, and waists, making your boots a perfect spot for a plastic bottle of Jack or a few travel size bottles of whatever your girlfriend likes.

Windy City Lake Shake - Joe Piehl (4) Drink like the locals

“I just had the most nasty ass sip of warm backwash ever. Someone get this girl a beer!” – Dierks Bentley

You’ll need a few beers to get through this marathon, so stay hydrated with an ice cold Budweiser, Bud Light, or something comparable. For some heavy lifting, skip the generic “cocktails” line and toss back an 8% ABV fruit flavored beer. Or swing by the official liquor sponsor’s tent for a drink you know if going to be made well.

Windy City Lake Shake - Joe Piehl (7) Find your sanctuary

To find enjoyment in the land of plaid and denim, search for a neutral ground and make that your home base. At Windy City Lake Shake, it was the Malibu Beach House. Outfitted with bags (a.k.a. corn hole), surfboards, shade filled tables, and delicious rum filled drinks, my girlfriend could see the stage perfectly and I forgot we were at a country festival.

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The Beach House is visiting festivals everywhere from Miami and Manhattan Beach to Minnesota Lake, Virginia Beach, and Austin. You can see the official schedule online.

 Check the approved items list

Most festival food is overpriced, fattening, and you’ll miss half the concert waiting in line. Instead, check the approved items list. Some festivals allow each person to bring a gallon size Ziploc bag of food. Perfect for apples, PB&J sandwiches, or booze soaked watermelon.

Get to know the drinking songs

Expect to hear the smaller acts play a few covers songs like Brad Paisley’s Alcohol and Joe Nichol’s Tequila Makes her Clothes Fall Off. Other songs to learn are include… 

 Note: To support my survival, Malibu tossed me a general admission pass and a few drinks. My request to keep the Beach House after the festival season was denied.

About Joe Piehl 5 Articles
Joe Piehl covers his favorite vices: beer, whiskey, and anything else that comes in a bottle. He started a travel blog while drinking "warm" ale in London and he’s the former Chicago Editor of The Local Tourist. His work has also appeared on Complex, RedEye,, WCIU-TV, and others.