Float Fest 2016: A Party Trifecta Travel Guide

Photo by Martha Wells: Float Fest 2016

Still in its formative years, Float Fest 2016 managed to pull Hip-Hop, Electronic, Pop, and Indie fans alike, out of the AC for a trifecta of camping, tubing, and live music that spanned across generations. They threw it back with Bone Thugs & Harmony, the Houston hometown favorite: Slim Thug, and THE BOSS himself: Mr. Rick Ross. Some of the festival’s bands, such as Kongos, Bleachers, Rooney, Yeasayer, Metric, and Future Islands brought the high octane performances necessary to wake everyone up after the long float. Big Gigantic and Chromeo fulfilled the diverse lineup’s EDM demand. Santigold’s performance took a comedic jab at the plague of commercialism in today’s world, to keep in tune with her most recent 99 Cents album. Her backup dancers flaunted selfie-sticks, cheap snacks, and outfits plastered with Santigold’s face to bring to light the absurdity that is our obsession with materialism, consumerism and our self-images.

Photo by Martha Wells: Santigold

Throughout the weekend, there seemed to be some confusion as to how Float Fest actually goes down.  Despite the fairly self-explanatory FAQ section of the Float Fest website, a common misconception among potential festival attendees was that you have to float the river to go to this event. For some people, the “float factor” was the selling point, but for others who have floated Texas’ rivers many times, the idea of how wiped out you are after a good three hour float could be a deterrent for attending the festival immediately after.

Photo by Martha Wells: Bone Thugs & Harmony

So just to clear a few things up for future Float Festers, the festival doesn’t take place on some river bank where you just sit in stagnant water and listen to music coming from the shore. You float the down the Guadalupe River from a starting point that a bus takes you to prior to attending the festival. Depending on how crowded the river is, this usually only takes about two hours to around three and half hours. That estimate typically varies with how many shotgun islands you and your friends make pit stops at….if you don’t know what shotgun island is, just float one time and you will. If you’re not from Texas and are sitting there thinking that there is an island in the river where we have actual shotguns and play some Texas-style Russian Roulette (which is a pretty logical assumption) have no fear, we just like to stop at any little sliver of river bank that we find along the way to see who can down their beers the quickest.

Photo by Martha Wells: Slim Thug

Pro Tips: It is wise to limit your shotgun island participation (because there are a few along the way) if you plan to be somewhat human at the festival. Also, the chance that you will encounter large groups on the river that have made approximately 400 Jell-O shots to disperse amongst fellow floaters is pretty high. Just remember that no one in the history of the culinary art of Jell-O shot-making has ever sacrificed a bottle of their finest booze for the cause, so keep it chill or that cheap plastic bottle of McCormick’s will come back to haunt you real quick. You may be nice and cool while you’re sitting and floating all morning, but it’s still going to be hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk when you get off the river (this is Texas after all), so pace yourselves!

Photo by Martha Wells: Future Islands

Another concern surrounding the festival and the community that hosts Float Fest was the amount of trash that ends up in the river following mass floats such as this one. Festivals worldwide are trying to adopt any new methodologies they can to encourage patrons to leave the festival grounds the way they found it. Personal reusable water bottles are a great start. However, this mission gets even more difficult when there is the opportunity for your trash to get carried downstream and sink. Thankfully, Float Fest founders were very mindful of this concern and had a large team assembled to pick up trash on the river, at the festival and in the campgrounds. There are also divers that pick up garbage from the bottom of the river. However, it’s always better to just not toss your trash anywhere near or in the water in the first place! There’s nothing cool about trashing Mother Nature. There are always those little mesh bags that you can tie to your float so each person has their own trash bag and doesn’t have to throw empty cans to their friends to put in the coolers. Somehow everyone thinks they magically turn into Tom Brady after a few beers and think they can spiral an empty can across the river to their cooler float. Chances are, you are not Tom Brady.

Photo by Martha Wells: Rick Ross

Stay hydrated as much as you can once you get to the festival itself. Thankfully the Float Fest crew took care of patrons and put up numerous tents to create a decent amount of shade. VIP was air conditioned behind the main stage and considering the low cost of the festival to start with, this is one festival that is absolutely worth springing the extra cash for VIP status. Drinks back in VIP were considerably cheaper as well! However, the VIP viewing area at the main stage was pretty far to the side of the stage and behind the sound techs so it was pretty difficult to see sometimes if you weren’t right in the front. On the other hand, one of the great parts about smaller festivals is smaller crowds, so you are always in clear sight and earshot of the stage. Another great factor about this festival is that they stagger all of the artists’ sets so you can see all the artists and never worry about missing one of your favorites!

Photo by Martha Wells: Bleachers

Overall, this festival really over-delivered when you consider how low they kept the cost. About ninety bucks got you float passes for the river for two days, camping for two days (which had showers), and two full days of an extremely eclectic lineup. You seriously can’t beat that in today’s world of festivals that you really have to be willing to break the bank for. This young festival is sure to be a Texas staple in the near future if it continues on its current course!

FestPop Staff Writer: Lindsay Shearon

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