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Virgin Mobile FreeFest 2011: A Survival Guide

So, you're going to Virgin Mobile FreeFest: 10 hours of music outdoors.

James Murphy and then Patti Smith and then Grace Potter and James Murphy and the Black Keys. Blissful. That is, until you realize there will be a gazillion other people running around Merriweather Post Pavilion trying to catch their favorite bands. Organizers do a good job with traffic flow and keeping things under control, but, as with any music festival, come prepared.

Here's a brief survival guide:

Supplies Merriweather will open up the gates at 11 a.m., and once you're inside, there's no ducking out unless you're finished for the night. Merriweather doesn't allow outside food or drinks, but, you can at least bring two factory-sealed bottles of water per person. Except for the dance forest and the amphitheater, you will be under the sun. Bring some SPF. One of the best places to watch the shows at the main stage is from the lawn. Bring a blanket that you're OK with having trampled by every passing festival-goer. Bring cash unless you want to pay outrageous ATM fees. And you'll want a glow stick for Cut Copy and Empire of the Sun. If you lose something precious, call 410-715-5550 or go to the lost and found in the Administrative House.

What you're allowed to bring: small backpacks, children's supplies (like a stroller), small tote-style umbrellas, small digital or disposable cameras.

Not allowed: framed or large backpacks, chairs, coolers, tents or large umbrellas, video cameras, audio recording devices, pets, laser pointers.

What to wear Bring comfortable shoes, or those five-toed sock/shoe things. Merriweather is big, and the festival's three stages will be spread out over the 40-acre grounds. Unless you want to stay clustered around the main stage, you'll be walking long treks and climbing Symphony Woods' sloping hills to catch some acts. You don't want blistered feet to stop you from going nuts in the dance forest. Bring loose, cheap clothes that you don't mind getting stained, torn, or covered in sweat. Since the festival is in early September, expect less chilly temperatures at night than last year.

Staying clean After a couple of hours, the Dance Forest turned into a dust bowl last year. If it's held in the woods again, bring some facial towelettes to avoid looking like a Victorian-era chimney sweep. Or, embrace the crusty look if you want to leave Columbia with some traces that you spent the day dancing in the sun with thousands of people. Just bring some deodorant.

A designated driver Due to the sound curfew, the festival ends much too early in the night. Go out in Baltimore or Washington afterward. Just drive around with your D.D.

Erik Maza

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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