The Flag Day Parade. Octoberfest. Mile of Music.
Though young by comparison, Appleton’s three-day music festival/bonanza/celebration/hullabaloo is undoubtedly one of the most iconic events in the Fox Cities, drawing thousands to the area over the course of the festival.
The number of attendees alone might cause some introverts to shake in their boots, especially if they haven’t gone to Eaux Claires, CUSA or Summerfest. Because Mile of Music is fun and friendly to all age groups, large crowds are present from the downbeat of the first concert until the bands have packed up and gone home. Mile of Music might take the most planning of any summer event for introverts, so you might want to sit down and give the event some serious consideration. You can probably crank out most of your plans on the fly, but setting some time aside for planning will help you mentally prepare for crowds. Mental preparation is a bigger part of the process than most people give it credit for; it’s the difference between going to a large event and feeling alright and dropping in on “a little get-together with friends” that turns out to be a party with fifty people. You know I can’t handle surprises, Luke.
Mile of Music is one of the best events from the past few years to hit the Fox Cities, so I’ve enlisted some help for this post: Tara Pohlkotte, writer and founder of Storycatchers, a storytelling community in Appleton. As the introverted sister of Mile of Music Co-founder Cory Chisel, Tara is probably the foremost expert on an introvert-friendly Mile of Music experience. Here we go!
As with many other events in the area, planning is an absolute must. Checking out the Mile of Music website will allow you to familiarize yourself with venues, artists, and other events happening during the festival. When you’re planning, don’t be afraid to find some of the best spots to take a break from the music. Tara had a great insider tip for anyone who wants to relax without wasting a minute: “some great places to find stolen moments with the musicians themselves are outside of Artist and Mile of Music Headquarters as well as places like the lobby of The Radisson. Many times you can escape the noise and crowd AND get to interact with some of your favorite musicians while they are enjoying a moment of down time as well.” Take the size of the venue into account when you’re planning; smaller venues typically won’t be as intimidating as larger spaces and any building with concert seating will provide a slightly more laid-back experience.
This is one of the most difficult steps for enjoying yourself at a music festival: don’t be afraid to vibe to the music and get into it. If you’re by yourself, you might feel like your legs are nailed to the floor and all dancing abilities have left your body. It’s not easy, but if you can loosen up and move to the music, you’ll spend less energy focusing on what other people around you might be thinking. (Make sure you don’t get too loose though- nobody is trying to mosh at Mile of Music. It’s just too much alliteration.) If you normally dance a lot, go for it. If you’re more of the “sway and nod” kind of person, feel free to do that as well.
Side note: No matter how you dance, make sure you still engage with the performers during their set! There are few things as painfully awkward as the silence in a room when everybody is afraid to make some noise. Even classical music wasn’t originally performed with the reverent silence that we associate with it now, so don’t act like modern concerts are supposed to be absorbed in a vacuum.
This may go without saying, but Mile of Music is a relatively long festival and you shouldn’t be afraid to take breaks now and then if you start feeling overwhelmed. Make sure you get enough food in your system and stay hydrated (there’s a list of introvert friendly restaurants in the dining guide posts, which you can find by Googling them because they’ve been out long enough and I’m a little hurt if you haven’t read them already. Anyway, feel free to get out of the downtown area for a while if the crowds and overall scene is starting to make the festival feel like serious work rather than the fun celebration of music and art that it is. Tara has a great method for taking breaks: “It’s been important for me to find times to just go to a coffee shop to step away from the music maybe all together but not be so far from the action that I feel out of the loop. Insider tip: Most restaurants, bars and even stores have special menus and deals during the festival, it’s a great time to stop in that shop or spot that you’ve been meaning to get to.”
In addition to standard concerts, there are a lot of specialized events that might be easy to miss if you don’t keep your eyes open. Tara puts it better than I can, so I’ll defer to her on this section:
“The music education team puts together over 80 wonderful workshops, experiences and unique samplings during the whole weekend. This is a great way to enjoy the creative spirit of the weekend, without dealing with the large crowds that can gather at the concerts. There is always more than just music happening, too. Art installations, galleries, storytelling, shoe shining and more can be found all throughout the mile. By simply jumping on the bus there’s a great chance you will get to enjoy great music while getting a chance to rest your feet. (Insider tip: Pop-up concerts are known to happen from out on the street, to inside Queen Bee diner. Finding a bench along the mile or patch of grass hillside in the park to take a break doesn’t mean you can’t stumble into finding yourself a part of the magic.)”
One last thing – you’re almost definitely going to find people that you already know when you’re wandering between venues. You’re going to be recognized (barring significant facial prosthetics) and it’s better to talk to the people you know rather than trying to avoid them for half an hour. Assuming the person isn’t your mortal enemy, conversation isn’t going to be terrible and the initial push to converse with other people is still better than extended periods of scurrying around while avoiding eye contact. If they are your mortal enemy, find your nicest glove and challenge them on Mile of Music’s designated dueling grounds.
Tara offered one final insider tip for the festival: “A Song Before You Go concert is one of my favorite moments of the whole mile. Winding down the wonderful weekend with stripped down versions, and heartfelt gratitude and performances from the artists and community alike is my favorite way to end and to look forward to doing it all again next year.” (The event takes place at 5 p.m. on Sunday, August 6 at Lawrence Memorial Chapel.)
All of these tips can be used for individual or group excursions for Mile of Music; if you’re going with a few other people, make sure you’re all on the same page for what you’re doing and when you’re doing it. Thanks so much to Tara for helping out with this post, and anyone interested in storytelling and building communities through shared stories should check out the Storycatchers website. MoM is one of the great things that makes the Fox Cities special, so make sure you get out and enjoy it! Next week, I’ll be back with one final post: the Introvert’s Guide for rainy days!