EDM.com Spotlight

EDM.com Spotlight

To Totem or Not to Totem – Has the Festival Favorite Become a Fashion Faux Pas? [OP-ED]


If you have ever been to a music festival, and more specifically, a music festival with a focus on electronic music, you have seen know what a “Totem” is.


A totem is basically a flag pole decorated with a whole variety of things attached, ranging from flags, pictures, phrases, lights, stuffed animals, and much much more. Maybe you have made totem for yourself before and brought it to a music festival, and maybe you’ve just seen them at a fest, or unfortunately been stuck behind an obnoxious one. There are a lot of mixed reviews on whether totems are good for music festivals, or bad; the view tends to sway from person to person when asking around. I myself have a clear stance on what my view on the topic is, but I’ll try to stay on the middle ground and lay out both sides of the argument until the end of this article.

The Upside


There's a reason why totems have become massively popular at music festivals across the United States; it serves as an easy way for your friends to find you incase you get lost from one another.


Your totem typically raises well above the crowd, and is easily seen by people from great lengths away. The ease of being able to find your friends allows you to avoid the frantic phone call after phone call, and the mass of texts from your friends asking “Where are you?” and “I’m like to the right of the middle, near the street lamp?!”


If you’ve been to a music festival and lost your friends, you know exactly what I mean.




And let's be honest, we've all seen some pretty spectacular totems. Whether they're a gem of comedy gold, a tribute to an artist that you’re a fan of, or anything else in between, there are a few that as a spectator you can't help but applaud. Totems give not only your friends something to remember a festival by, but also is a great conversation starter with random people you might meet a music festival, and quite possible might become friends with later.



(Photo courtesy of Kristina Bakrevski)


And for those of you on the fast track to Internet stardom, totems are also a great way to get seen on a festival or artist’s Snapchat Story, Instagram, etc. This isn’t exactly something of great proportions, but it’s something to laugh at later or to talk about with your friends.


The Downside


But it's not all rainbows and floating images of a dosed Ned Flanders, there are some drawbacks


The biggest negative by far is that people behind you in the crowd lose sight of the stage, which can be not only frustrating, but infuriating at times. Some totems are so large that the people directly behind you lose complete sight of the stage, ruining their experience of the music festival. Being stuck behind a large totem like this can ruin your night, or cause you to move from the spot that you had desperately tried to get all day, making you settle for something that's only sub par.


Have you ever been clocked in the face with a piece of PVC pipe held by an inattentive fan? It's not fun. And you can pretty much guarantee that if you're the one holding a massive totem, 9/10 people will think you're a dick.



(At least two people are having fun)

But let's not forget, totems are not always easy to hold on to.


Now that you have your totem in the crowd, what do you do with it all day? Carrying them around can be tiring as well as annoying, passing it back and forth between you and your friends. It's a great idea in theory but lets be honest, no one wants to carry it all day, let alone three days in a row. By the end people just simply give up, and drop their totem on the ground and forget about it. Your forgotten totem now adds to the waste that is created by hosting a music festival, which could have been avoided entirely if you hadn't had brought a totem to the festival in the first place. Music festivals already accumulate a large amount of trash and leave an ecological footprint on the land. If bringing this totem isn’t of up most importance to you, leave it at home instead of leaving it on the ground for someone to pick up after you.



Don't Be a Dick


Totems can really add to you festival memories because they are great for finding friends and having fun, but they can ruin another person’s experience in a crowd. If you're adamant about having a totem, do us all a favor and don't try to ride the rail. Stake your flag near the back or outer edges of the crowd and have yourself a wild dance party with you and your 10 best friends. Keep front and center and a rage zone only – with as tight as it gets in the crowd, your 15 foot wobbly stick really shouldn't be taking up space.