The Best Festival Pranks and Near Death Experiences

By: Heidi Darby

Festivals warrant endless tales of shenanigans, close calls, extreme bladder control, and of course, unforgettable live music. Overflowing lineups and constant interaction with strangers virtually guarantee festival fans a handful of outrageous stories -not to mention a bit of wisdom for the next go-around. But what happens on the opposite side of the barricades? What mischief lies beyond those VIP fences? Fans are only part of the equation, and the time has come for the other half to start talking. Members of Dropkick Murphys, Imagine Dragons, Bat For Lashes and Local Natives pull back the festival curtain and reveal the highs and lows of festival season.


Best Festival Prank

“[At European metal festivals] we'll take empty t-shirt boxes that are all nice and new and we'll put 'em out in the middle of a field. Gangs of metal heads come by and realize there's something in the middle of this field that hasn't been completely destroyed or urinated on yet, and they'll just pounce on it and tear it to shreds. It's never ending fun watching that happen. A couple times we actually hid a roadie in the box to scare 'em before they started to tear it apart. They barely make it out alive but it's good fun.” –Ken Casey, Dropkick Murphys

Vital Festival Advice

“Get over showers because everybody's gonna be stinky. You can be clean when you retire.” –Dan Reynolds, Imagine Dragons

“Festivals can be quite muddy. Make sure you have a pack of tissues on you at all times, and be careful when you're running around in the mud. You never know what's hiding there, in the mud.” –Natasha Khan, Bat For Lashes

“Back in the day I met Jimmy Pursey of Sham 69 and you'd a thought he was Billy Joel the way he treated me. Sometimes you don't want to meet your idol because they'll let you down.” –Ken Casey, Dropkick Murphys

Unexpected Upsides of Playing a Music Festival

“When someone is a big shot at festivals in the catering area or backstage I'll walk up and introduce myself and purposely call them by the wrong name. I usually wait until my band mates are talking to him so it's extra uncomfortable for everyone around. That's what I like to do.” –Ken Casey, Dropkick Murphys

“You never really know who you're going to run into to. We did Oya Festival up in Oslo, and we were sandwiched between Big Boi and Tony Allen. Anyway, we were back in the hotel lobby and we were staying at the same place as Big Boi. He was there with his crew of people and when we walked in he made a comment to our guitar player, Ryan, about his skinny jeans. Everyone laughed at him. It was really bad but really hilarious at the same time. He basically got called out by Big Boi for wearing skinny jeans. It was awesome.” –Matt Frazier, Local Natives


Full Circle Moments

“I had been to Glastonbury [in England] when was I quite young, maybe seventeen. Coming back as a performer, it was my first time playing a festival and that for me was a huge deal… I remember having this huge, massive feather headdress on. It was exciting, and almost difficult to believe that I'd come out of the audience and stepped up on the stage. I remember thinking, 'This is what it's like.' It was really very special.” –Natasha Khan, Bat For Lashes

“I went to Coachella as a fan back in 2007 or 2008, and it was my first festival, and an eye opening experience. It was amazing to play a festival [in 2010], especially playing Coachella. About thirty minutes before the show we were sound checking and it was already super packed. We weren't expecting that kind of a turnout that early in the day. All of us are from Southern California so being able to be up there and play in a tent with people singing all your songs was a surreal experience. It was really overwhelming.” –Matt Frazier, Local Natives

Near Death Experiences

“One time we had to evacuate the stage at this Polish festival because it had been struck by lightning. All of these lightning strikes were coming down. We weren't allowed to be anywhere near metal, we all had to back into our tour busses and wait there. Then we had about fifteen minutes to pack all our gear away, soaking wet. It was crazy. You're usually on an outdoor stage, so you're dealing with natural phenomena as well as huge crowds of people. It's a crazy environment.” –Natasha Khan, Bat For Lashes

[Dan Reynolds recounts the story of his bassist, Ben McKee, partaking in the local Norwegian spirit known as Aquavit before being lead away by two pig-tailed Viking women at Bergen Fest. McKee reappeared the next morning with no memory of the previous night.]

“The only other American band on the lineup said they found Ben crawling on his hands and knees in the streets of Norway, screaming at people, 'I hate how good the Michael Jackson bass lines are! I need someone to punch me in the face because I hate how good they are!' He kept asking people to punch him in the face until some big Viking dude was like 'Alright, ok, if that's what you want!' And the dude just punched him in the face and knocked him out, which was how he got the cut on his head. He ended up getting up off the ground afterward and thanking the guy for punching him. We left Norway thinking that was our favorite festival ever. [Laughing] The best part of the story is that when he woke up in the hotel he had what looked like a scrap of a Slurpee cup in his pocket with the name Ken and a phone number written on it. We got invited back to Bergen Fest this year so we're making him promise to call Ken and find out the other half of the story.” –Dan Reynolds, Imagine Dragons

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