You’re feeling lost in the crowd, you’re trying to meet up with your squad, and your phone has been dead all day. This is a typical scenario experienced at some point by everyone who’s ever been to a big music festival and the feeling of being alone and lost isn’t a pleasant one. The simple solution? Build yourself a totem.
A totem (aka rage stick) is a picture or poster mounted on top of a pole that makes finding your friends in a big crowd as easy as tying your shoe. Lately though, we’ve been hearing a lot of complaints from the community about the nature and size of some totems, and thought it would be a perfect time to give our advice on how to make an effective totem that doesn’t upset the people 20 yards behind you.
(1) Be Creative, Unique, and Original
As people who appreciate the time and effort that goes into making good music, we also appreciate other art forms that demonstrate a visible amount of dedication. Whether that be an intricate drawing, a beautiful sculpture, or an “installation” on top of a pole, we like to see the effort put forth.
Our first guideline is a request to please put some effort and thought into your totem. Writing #POOPDICK in black sharpie on a white sheet of posterboard isn’t what we’re talking about. We want to see something funny, original, and visually pleasing; something that adds personality and flavor to the crowd while serving it’s purpose.
(2) Keep it a Reasonable Size and Adjustable Height
There is nothing, and I’m not overstating it when I say nothing, worse than the person in front of you holding up a 5’x5′ sign at eye level. We get that you want your totem in the family photo but a totem of this nature is disrespectful and rude to others, and thats not what our scene is about.
When making your totem please be mindful of the people that are going to be around/behind you. Try to hit that sweet spot where your people can see it from far away, without disrupting the view for people behind you. There are a host of great options on Amazon of adjustable poles for pretty cheap that are a great investment.
(3) Keep it Down in Front
If you’re going to be so close you’re catching sweat off the artist, please use the adjustable pole you got from tip #2 and put it all the way down. Often people will wait for multiple sets to be close enough to see their favorite bands and acts and depriving them of getting to enjoy the view isn’t fair.
(4) Incorporate Some Type of Lights for Night
When we built our first totem this was our biggest oversight. It was great during the day, but once it got dark it was impossible to see from 20 yards away.
A good totem will utilize some form of battery-powered LEDs so it can be visible at night. There are lots of great options on Amazon for cheap, and it’ll make finding your friends for that last set much easier. Bonus points if you use lights in a creative way that serves a purpose.
(5) Put it Down During Tipper with Android Jones (or any Other Artist with Great Visuals)
Above is a frustrating video of people at Bisco this past summer with their totems up just a few rows back from the front. We understand that you want your totem to be recognized in pictures and videos, but we’re talking about the pinnacle of live visuals here with Android Jones (or Jonathan Singer, or Flying Lotus, or Bassnectar).
If you’re going to be in front with your totem during artists who have dedicated their money and time to create these visual displays for you, please do everyone a favor and put it down so others can enjoy as well.
As with everything in the festival community, just be mindful and considerate of others. Although it’s unlikely, it’s possible that totems could become such a problem that festivals will begin to ban them, and no one wants that. Similarly, if someone in front of you has a big distracting totem, don’t hesitate (in a calm, polite way) to ask them to please put it down so that everyone else can enjoy the show.
Photo Cred: David Vann, mlive.com