Staying Sober at Festivals


As the 100s of empty liquor bottles left on the pedestrian bridge over to Randall’s Island and Governors Ball can attest, people don’t only like to load up on music at a festival. Like like to get loaded too. That said, as with every festival, there were outliers, people who preferred to spend their time at GovBall sober, high on life and soaking up the festival (and sun!).

See also: “This Is The Whitest Thing I’ve Ever Seen”: Notes From a First Festival

For these people, GovBall contacted Patrick Whelan, responsible for Sober Ball. Sober Ball is a tent of sober music lovers offering respite from the drunken masses. Sober Ballers could rest up on blankets under the tent, sharing their feelings and whatever else was on their mind during meetings several times a day. Among the volunteers at Sober Ball was Barbara Lee, who goes by Barbikat, a veteran sober music lover.

“A lot of people are sober and they feel like they can’t have fun anymore,” she said, “But they can.” Lee sat under the Sober Ball tent, offering free candy and stickers for pay (to cover the cost of the candy). She has been going to concerts for years, always sober and happy to offer a space for those who like to enjoy music as she does.

Lee explained that the sober trend’s been big among the jam band scenes, the Grateful Dead and Phish each having their own sober music goer communities. Sober Ball, specifically, isn’t linked to a group (nor is it linked to a 12 step program or any other recovery program), but features the yellow balloon, a symbol for the scene, and the elements that other communities offer.

And the trend is growing, she believes, with sober communities popping up in various genres of music. Which is a good sign for the tens of people who lounged around the tent, stopped by for questions or sat inside under its clean and sober shade.

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