Tucker Gumber sold his house, packed a suitcase and now devotes his life to festivals, having spent 460 days dancing, camping and listening to live music

The first time Tucker Gumber attended a music festival, he was both enchanted and a touch horrified. It was winter 2011 at Colorados Snowball, and with flurries falling lightly against the Rocky Mountain sunset, Big Gigantic playing onstage and a crowd of fans playing tag in the field, Gumber knew festival culture, in all its heady whimsy, was for him. At the same time, he was confounded by the lack of direction provided to the tens of thousands of attendees.

They were basically telling 50,000 people like: Show up. Youll be fine. Here are some drugs. What could go wrong? Gumber says.

Gumber, 34, has since dedicated his life to music festivals, having christened himself The Festival Guy and hit more than 135 festivals in the last seven years. If youre a festivalgoer in the US, its not unusual to see Gumber from across the field at Coachella, Bonnaroo, Electric Forest, Electric Daisy Carnival, SXSW, Okeechobee, Burning Man and many more, typically wearing his signature top hat and surrounded by a gaggle of friends. As of June 2018, Gumber has logged more than 460 festival days of dancing, camping, listening, eating and generally having the time of his life at shows across the country.

And in the process, hes grown quite savvy.

Gumber is now focused on helping fellow attendees optimize their own festival experiences and elevating festival-ing to a legitimate hobby. With his recently released The FestivalGoers Guide, he has literally written the book on the subject. I realized it was my purpose, Gumber says. I quit my job and learned how to be a pro who makes festivals better and creates tools for festival-goers.

While his lifestyle may be non-traditional Gumber doesnt have a house and spends most of the year on the road going to shows as The Festival Guy hes continuing his familys legacy of turning hobbies into jobs. His grandfather was an avid golfer and his dad worked for the division of wildlife in Colorado, where Gumber grew up passionate about live music and the outdoors. My dads entire job was to enforce the correct way to be an outdoorsman, Gumber says. I was taught from a young age that theres a right way to do things.

Which is why what Gumber was seeing at festivals litter, shoddy campsites, rude attendees, sleep deprivation, lost cars, keys, tents and friends was so disconcerting. He Googled guide to festival-going and found there wasnt a comprehensive manual on par with those written for more traditional hobbyists like golfers, fishermen, hunters, snowboarders and hikers. There was no one he could pay to give him a lesson. So, he sought out festival veterans, the people with the comfortable chairs, organized campsites and good shoes, and soaked up all their knowledge. He then led by example, finding efficient ways to instill order, and thus greater levels of enjoyment, into the often disorganized and sometimes sloppy festival culture. His goal is to establish festival-going as a legitimate hobby. Hes even trademarked the word FestivalGoer.

Gumbers goal is to establish festival-going as a legitimate hobby. Photograph: Miles Najera

His first taste of success came at Coachella 2011, when he brought a portable phone charger hed bought online. These chargers werent common at the time, and fellow attendees were impressed that Gumbers phone didnt die all weekend. It was just game on from there, he says. It was like: Theres a right way to do this and Im going to learn it.

For a time Gumber made money by renting the house he had bought in Los Angeles where he moved after college when he was 24. (I was really good at sales, he says of the purchase.) He eventually sold the house and invested the money into FestEvo, an app he developed that helps fans discover new music, connect with friends and gather festival tips. Everything Gumber owns now fits into a suitcase and carry-on bag. His only major expenses are his cellphone and the cash required to keep the FestEvo servers running, and he typically gets into festivals for free with media or artist passes. At shows he subsists largely on 99-cent tuna packets and protein shakes and says hes still navigating how to make his lifestyle financially viable.

Certainly Gumbers greatest asset and most employable skill is the knowledge hes accumulated in his hundreds of days of festival-going. Just as a fishing guide can lead you to the best spot on the river or a snowboarding instructor can show you how to carve, Gumber knows what you should wear, how to pack your car and how to avoid post-fest depression. All this information is in The FestivalGoers Guide, his comprehensive book that should be required reading for any car full of 18-year-olds driving off to their first event.

Ive been able to cover every angle of festivals because Ive been bitch slapped from every angle, Gumber says. In my first year of festivals, there wasnt one that I didnt have a moment where I didnt kind of feel like crying because my phone was dead or Id lost my friends or I couldnt find my tent.

The crying days are long gone. Gumber is now the guy with the lights, the protein shakes and the earplugs. But his interests extend beyond pragmatic supplies. For him, festival-going is also about the attitude one brings to the event, an aspect hes dubbed the circle of vibes. He feels that in the last seven years, as festival culture has exploded in the US, events and the people who attend them have gotten more sophisticated. (His first book, The Festival Goers Bible, a guide for event organizers, was published in 2015.) With more than 800 festivals happening each year in the US, it seems festival-ing is gaining legitimacy.

Tucker Gumber: In my first year of festivals, there wasnt one that I didnt have a moment where I didnt kind of feel like crying. Photograph: Jar Photo

Sweet, funny and blessed with a huge and seemingly permanent smile, Gumbers love for festival culture and the music, community, nature and travel within it is obvious. While others might feel a level of burnout after seven years on the road, he remains enthusiastic and dedicated. A few years ago he left Coachella on a Saturday morning at dawn, flew to Oregon to be a groomsman at a friends wedding and flew back to the festival the next morning. He even had the wedding DJ play music by all the artists he was missing.

Like his father before him, Gumber is a hardcore conservationist. (I was a four-year-old and picking up trash on hikes with my dad, so it hurt my heart to see the litter at festivals.) He posts a selfie of his clean campsite after every show, organizes two-minute festival clean-ups on Facebook and travels with his own reusable utensils to cut down on waste. He nearly got into a fight this year at Coachella after approaching a man who had tossed a tomato on the ground. In his book, Gumber also takes a hard stance against sneaking into shows and scalping.

If youre selling tickets above face value, thats enough for me to know I dont need you in my life.

Last weekend, Gumber shared his expertise with hundreds of attendees at Michigans Electric Forest. Hell give the talk again this weekend at the second iteration of the fest, having become the sage veteran with the comfortable shoes he sought out in his early days. He says the best part of the festival was running into people who had benefited from his advice. One guy ran up and gave him a hug, saying he was able to get some sleep by following Gumbers recommendation of removing the rain fly from his tent to create airflow. Telling this story with the same enthusiasm one might use to recap a great day of fishing or particularly epic day on the slopes, its clear this hobbyist turned FestivalGoer has found his calling.

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2018/jul/09/tucker-gumber-the-festival-guy-lifestyle


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