Those who were on the fence about camping out at last weekend's Middlelands Festival and ultimately chose not to do so made a huge mistake. According to the event's co-promoter, Insomniac Events, more than 15,000 campers wound up partying over the weekend on the site of the Texas Renaissance Festival, an experience that anyone in attendance will not soon forget. Beautiful, sunny days and starry, chilly nights gave campers some incredible weather for the few days they were together. From the weather to the grounds to the sights and the sounds, the festival was a success, barring a few minor issues that will surely be addressed in future offerings.
There did not appear to be any complaints about traffic getting into or out of the festival site. Having a large majority of the festival-goers staying on the grounds limited the amount of vehicle movement to and from the site. Once a camping vehicle was on the grounds, it was not allowed to return without a very substantial charge. This policy, combined with staggered arrivals on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, allowed a steady and easy flow of patrons moving into the park. The entry and searches of vehicles entering the camping area also went extremely smoothly. The festival consistently tweeted out messages about what to expect in terms of wait times and prohibited items that would cause delays in getting into the camp.
The official Bassrush Pre-Party kicked off on Thursday night as Crizzly and 12th Planet blew up the Insomniac Soundcamp at Conqueror's Court. The eyes of two security officers widened to the size of saucers as the barricade was being shoved toward the stage by the powerful little headbangers. At this moment it was amazing to think that the actual festival hadn’t yet started.
All the Sound Camps production and sound were incredible for being placed virtually in the middle of the woods, with one of the best coming from New Orleans's Dohm Collective. It was loud all weekend, a bit more than expected even at an electronic-music festival; the noise levels went until early in the mornings, eventually quieting down between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. This was simply a 96-hour party with short nap breaks between changes of the celebration locations. The Sanctuary was designated to be a quiet camping area with a strict no-noise policy coming from the neighbors. Given that these spots were still within a mile of the Call of Booty Sound Camp, not even the best set of earplugs would help drown out the noise. You didn't just hear it; you felt it, constantly.
The campground was all positive vibes, a very communal atmosphere where people were extremely friendly. Other than the couple wearing matching Space Jesus shirts that were embarrassingly screaming at each other on Thursday night, there were not any other major conflicts witnessed on the grounds. There were a few spots where people made “Leave a Thing, Take a Thing” areas that had items including beer, KanDi jewelry, tampons, loosies and a quarter gallon of Red Bull and vodka. It was something fun and interactive that they would do as they passed by on their bicycles to play Archery Tag or get some food.
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The biggest issue that campers talked about was the long wait during peak use time for showers in the late morning and early afternoon. Other, minor issues discussed in the crowd included smokers not being able to bring open packs of cigarettes from the campsite into the festival grounds and being forced to dispose of them, a few instances of theft from tents, and cops arresting a few people (don’t do drugs, kids).
From being greeted by the friendly Insomniac staff at the front gate to the security officer waving good-bye on the way out, the festival camping experience was top-notch. Looking toward the future, it might be wise to book your camping spot as soon as Insomniac announces spots are available.