I was 15 when I plucked up the courage to ask my mum if I could go to my first festival. It was Big Day Out, 2009. The Prodigy were playing, and Lupe Fiasco, and the Arctic Monkeys, too – I had to be there. But as my mum scanned the flyer while she was deciding if I could go, she noticed a name she had to be there for too, Neil Young.
My mum likes to reflect every now and then on her missed chance to see Guns N’ Roses when they came to Australia in 1993 because she was eight months pregnant with me, so I sucked up the 15-year-old shame I felt at my mum taking me to a music festival and didn’t protest. Plus, being from a rural area, the festival was a seven-hour drive away and I had to get there somehow.
Come a stinking hot day in January, my best friend and I, my mum and her best friend, and my auntie piled into the car and headed to Melbourne. We parted ways once we reached the festival – while I was having my musical awakening seeing the Prodigy play in the Boiler Room tent, my mum was at the main stage watching Neil Young. – Jordyn Beazley
In 2001, I spent a week of the school holidays staying with one of my best mates who had recently moved from Sydney to up near Tweed Heads. While there, her older sister announced she was headed to the inaugural Splendour in the Grass with some friends in a van – and did we want to come? I was 16, had only ever been to daytime music festivals in Sydney before, and was thrilled at the idea.
I can’t pretend I remember the music (apparently Michael Franti headlined, so maybe for the best). I do remember feeling in love with all my new friends, and that one of them vomited in the tent on the last night.
I’m not sure my parents knew I was there; I didn’t own a mobile phone so it wasn’t unusual to be out of contact for days at a time on holiday. This wasn’t the 1970s, I was no latchkey kid, and I don’t think of that era as a terribly permissive one. But in retrospect, that time feels very free. Older generations love to complain that young people today are too coddled, that they don’t have fun or protest or rebel the way older generations did. Yet consistently, we let police and other authorities curb their freedoms. – Josephine Tovey
I was 17 the first time I ever went to a concert. It was B2ST, a K-pop band that I had absolutely no interest in – but I wasn’t there for the music. I was there to chaperone my female cousin.
My female cousin who is a whole year older than me.
My auntie was and is still a tiger mum. My cousin was a high achiever; she got the best grades and could play two instruments to a performance-worthy level. So as a treat for being the best daughter, my auntie had paid for both my cousin and me to be part of the mosh pit of this concert, and to meet the band members afterwards. The music wasn’t bad, but I stood at the back while my cousin dived into the crowd of mostly teen girls. We met the band afterwards and, while I admit they were all very good looking, I certainly didn’t appreciate them the way my cousin did. She was ecstatic. – Bertin Huynh
When I was 16, I was totally obsessed with British indie rock band the Kooks. My friend was a diehard fan of the Arctic Monkeys, and we would regularly argue about which band was superior.
When the Kooks announced they were touring Sydney for the first time in three years, I was desperate to go, but my Arctic Monkeys friend didn’t want to come. It turned out that the only person who wanted to join me at the concert was my dad, Bill.
Bill is the kind of dad who would drop you off painfully early for parties. I’m talking 45 minutes early. Not once did I ever get to arrive fashionably late. So Dad printed out directions from Google Maps and we arrived excruciatingly early to one of my first concerts.
When we sat down, we spotted another girl from school there with her dad. But he was even more committed – he was wearing a Kooks shirt.
Looking back, it might as well have been a Bieber concert, but I was convinced I was much cooler and far more edgy (even with my dad there chaperoning me). – Eden Gillespie
I went to Macquarie University’s Equinox festival with a bunch of friends when I was 16 – Tool were headlining.
I remember standing behind my friend in the queue to enter, watching security search everyone’s bags and realising they were about to discover the homemade bong she had forgotten she was carrying. Thankfully, my friend’s laughter at this unexpected turn of events was so infectious that security simply threw it away and waved us through. But soon we had talked ourselves into serious cravings for Coke slushies.
We ignored the no pass-outs rule and left the festival to buy some at the cinema across the road. Denied entry upon our return, we tried to climb the fence back in. Halfway over, I heard footsteps and shushed my friends, worried we were about to be caught – only to see it wasn’t a security guard patrolling the fence line, but an emu. We were unwittingly climbing into the university’s fauna enclosure.
I guess if we’d had a parental chaperone, we wouldn’t have had to listen to Tool’s set from outside the gates, but then I wouldn’t have this ridiculous story either. – Shelley Hepworth
At 18, I moved across the world to study in New York City. It was my first year out of high school, and my first time away from home alone after growing up in a sheltered Sydney bubble. Understandably, my rather protective Lebanese parents were anxious.
We installed the infamous Life 360, so my parents could keep track of my whereabouts: a precaution in case, perchance, I was kidnapped in the middle of the night. It was a safety net that made me feel more at ease, as well.
But it became a little more tedious when the app’s super-fancy special safety functions came into play. For example, notifications when a person exits the bounds of a set location, like a dormitory or school. Or notifications when a person is driving too fast in a car. Or even notifications when a person’s battery hits below a certain percentage.
(Yes, I did receive phone calls from my mother, no matter the time of day or night in Australia, telling me to charge my phone.)
One night, a group of friends and I decided to go on a short walk to grab some dollar pizza. As soon as we left the dorm, my mum was notified.
She called, anxious, asking why on Earth I would leave the dorm at such an hour. I explained: we wanted pizza. She questioned: why do you need pizza now? I explained: we stayed up talking in the hallway and got hungry. She questioned: why are you staying up when you have class tomorrow?
And so it went, back and forth, until I sent my mum a photo of us all, safe and sound in the dingy pizza shop, to prove my story was true. – Rafqa Touma
I attended my first camping festival, Meredith, with a best mate when we were 17. We had just graduated high school and I was obsessed with Mac DeMarco and the Brian Jonestown Massacre, both headliners on the lineup. We took the bus, because neither of us could drive, and arrived at the campsite bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I brought my disposable camera and documented the experience – a photo of me, my hair in plaits, with a backwards cap and a Bill Murray T-shirt, face painted, peace sign to the camera.
I took another of a strange European guy who was staying at our campsite – head passed out on his book, goon bag beside him. And my best mate and I, front row at Nile Rodgers, high as kites – off joints, yes, but the atmosphere, too, of being young and rocking out with thousands of strangers to Let’s Dance in the middle of the bush for the first time. I captioned the photo “party hArd”. I’ve been back to Meredith almost every year since, but the first one is still my most treasured memory of festivals. I’ve never quite managed to recreate the feeling. – Caitlin Cassidy
Were you chaperoned by your parents? Allowed to run free? Or were you the chaperone? Tell us about your experience in the comments