The Toxicity of Camping Culture

Written by on March 1, 2019

Those who frequently attend concerts know the pain of camping culture. You know that huge line, wrapped around the building, around the block and into the parking lot three streets over? Yeah, the people at the first 1/3 of the line are who I’m talking about. The ones with tents, sleeping bags and trash littered all over the cement ground they’ve been sleeping on for the past two days? That’s camping culture.

Camping culture hasn’t been much of a problem until the last couple of years. Four or five people would gather around the doors of the concert before it began in hopes of securing concert-goer’s most prestigious home: the barricade. Front row. These people wouldn’t be much trouble; they’d sleep and eat and do their own thing until the doors opened. But that’s not what it’s like anymore. In current day, these people flock by the dozens, arriving days before the show is supposed to take place. Arguments began to occur over people cutting in line, extreme temperatures threatened health, and venue security was stuck with the task of protecting a hundred unsupervised teenagers on their property when they’re sleeping outside in the middle of a busy city.

Many venues across the United States have introduced some sort of “club” or pass to buy that allows you into the venue before the rest of the line. I can see what they were trying to do here– combat the camping problem by giving them a chance to be first in line without actually waiting overnight. As one can imagine, this backfired pretty quickly. Once the general public found out about these offers, it became a free for all. People began to buy these passes and then create two seperate lines: one for general admission, and one for those who were able to get in early. Campers began camping to get in early and beat the rest of those who bought early entrance passes to ensure their spot at barricade. Now there are two lines for people to camp in.

Although this is pretty hectic, the real problem occurs when venue security explicitly tells fans not to camp. Used to having no supervision and no rules to follow, it completely blows the campers’ mind that they are being told “no.” I’ve been to concerts where the security asked campers to leave and come back closer to showtime, and it resulted in the police being called to remove the campers from venue property. Although the conclusion was one of peace and safety, it was an added measure of resources that should not have been needed.

The most common solution that campers come up with is to start their own “unofficial line,” in which anyone who wants to camp goes over to a separate location, off the venue property, camps there with sharpies written on their hands that detail their place in line, and walk over to the official line together once security allows queuing to begin. This is more harmful than helpful. When the venue allows people to get in line for the show, if someone who was not camping somehow gets in front of someone who was, you’d better watch out.

“Are you kidding me? I’ve been waiting in an unofficial line for 26 hours to get to the front of the line! You can’t just walk in front of us– that’s so unfair! You just don’t do that. It’s common courtesy to not cut people who have been waiting for longer than you. Security is going to move you to the back of the line.”

More often than not, security does not move these people to the back of the line. What the campers fail to realize is that their unofficial line is exactly that– unofficial. Venue security has no obligation to honor the unofficial line, and when these campers are rude, disrespectful and leave trash everywhere, it’s even less likely for their unofficial line to be honored. At the end of the day, it means these people slept outside in tents on concrete for 26 hours for no reason.

Over the past years, camping culture has increased and intensified more than the community ever knew it could. Even mainstream media outlets have taken notice, doing stories on “crazy fans” who sleep outside on the pavement for two days. People keep coming earlier and earlier to outdo each other; campers trying to beat other campers for the first spot in line. If you’re an average concert-goer and you want to be at least in the middle of the crowd, you can no longer come a few hours before doors open. You have to kick it up a gear and wait in line all day like the rest of us. And this world where fans of the same band fight, argue, create drama and stress on venue employees begs the question: is it really worth it?

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