The Barefoot Country Music Festival, or BCMF, has become an annual event in Wildwood, New Jersey. This year, being its third event, festival goers had the pleasure of catching some of the hottest performers in the music industry on the beaches of the Jersey Shore. I have had the pleasure of going to BCMF all 3 years, so not only can I give a pros and cons list of what I experienced, but I can also compare it to the events that occurred prior.
Let’s begin with the most important part of the event, the performers. The opinions on this will vary considering obviously everybody likes different artists.
Pros: This year’s performers that were among my favorite included Darius Rucker, Riley Green, Lainey Wilson, Hardy, Lady A, Jon Pardi and, very much so to my surprise, Rome and Duddy. They were all amazing. Darius played for 1 1/2 hours, Lainey Wilson is my new idol, and Rome and Duddy had me cracking up.
Cons: They had around a dozen performances each day, Thursday to Sunday, and those aside from maybe 3 other performers, were the only ones we wished to see. That’s not to say that the other performers were bad, it’s just that the line up this year had only 1 or 2 big names every day compared to the previous 2 years, where every day had at least 3 or 4 huge names. Also, while Rome and Duddy are actually 2 of my favorite singers ever, and their performance was incredible, they are not categorized as country at all. Which confused me considering we are at a Country music festival. I actually read the line up twice to make sure I read it correctly because I was so surprised to see them listed. I mention this because it almost felt like they were scrambling to get whatever performers they could. For example, Hardy was added only days before the event.
This brings us into tickets. The festival begins Thursday at 6pm and ends Sunday at 11pm. There are 3 sections. GA, Main Stage VIP and Super VIP. There are also 2 stages, The Jim Bean stage located in GA and the Miller Lite Main Stage located in the VIP sections. You can either buy 4 day festival wristbands, or single day wristbands, but single day bands are only available 1 month prior to the festival and availability depends on how many wristband overall have been sold.
Pros: The earlier you purchase your tickets the cheaper they are. As the months go on they increase in price by a few hundred dollars. We purchased 4 day Main Stage VIP wristbands, as we’ve done every year, for around $420 as soon as they went on sale. This breaks down to about $105 a day and considering you’re seeing over a dozen performers every day that’s a pretty good deal. You also get access to approach the stage and if you show up when gates open at 1 pm like we did, you will have no problem getting a spot up front that can easily be saved with the placement of a beach towel. The viewing perk is basically the only reason we get Main Stage VIP every year for reasons I will get into later. I have never been in Super VIP, but I know it comes with even closer access and a $500 voucher for drinks and food, but it is also $1,200 more per ticket.
Cons: GA is significantly cheaper, but in our opinion is an awful experience. It’s over crowded, you’re behind a barrier and just far enough away to where the crowd almost feels louder than the music. Also, while the single day tickets is a nice addition for people who don’t want to go all 4 days, it’s frustrating for the people who spent a ton of money on 4 day wristbands to have people with single day passes push their way in front of you or overcrowd the area.
Next up, bathrooms, food and drinks.
Pros: Each section has their own portable toilets, food, and drink access which makes it nice to not have to travel super far and definitely cuts down the wait time for lines. The porta potties aren’t great, but considering they are seeing thousands of people a day, they could be worse. There are tons of choices for food, such as your typical burgers, fries, nachos, funnel cakes etc., but there are also a lot of specialty food trucks. My favorite being the egg roll food truck. Last year, they had a mac and cheese egg roll, and this year had buffalo chicken and cheese steak egg rolls. The non-alcoholic drink choices are water, sodas, or my personal favorite, the slushie truck. You can choose from a regular cup, or a cute festival themed cup. You can also get alcoholic slushies; there are slushie trucks in GA and in Main Stage VIP. For alcohol, you have a choice of beer, hard teas, hard liquor or beatboxes.
Cons: There are 4 times the number of bathrooms in GA than in VIP. Which I get, considering there’s more people, but when I’m walking to GA because VIP ran out of TP, that’s a problem. While there are a lot of food stands in Main stage VIP, all of the specialty food is located in the GA section, including my beloved egg rolls. It’s not a far walk, but it’s a bit of a hike which can be slightly annoying if you don’t want to miss a certain act. As far as pricing goes, I unfortunately know to expect high prices, but the festival is sponsored by Miller and Jim Beam. You would think Miller and Jim Beam would have drink specials, but there were no drink specials from them at all. Hard liquor is $20. All beers are $17, and by all, I mean just Miller Lite and Leinenkugel Summer Shandy. Arnold Palmers and Simply Spiked are $16, and the super cool slushies are $26 for first round, and $16 per refill, but not very strong. I’m a light weight and had 3 of them, which just gave me a stomachache instead of a buzz, so drink specials by the sponsors would’ve been nice.
Vendors for band merch and Country gear.
Pros: They have all different kinds of merch throughout the entire festival. I got this really awesome hat on the last day that they had only put out maybe five hours before the festival was over, so keep checking back to see what they have. The stock of certain items they have is decent too, but if you see it and you like it, don’t wait because again, there are thousands of people doing the same thing. The special tent with authentic country items seems small, but there are some really great hidden gems in there. Take your time looking around, and the prices aren’t too bad!
Cons: The Main Stage VIP Merch tent is no joke about 1/5 of the size of the GA Merch tent. I was also told to go to the GA Merch tent if I was specifically looking for band merch, not just BCMF merch, because the GA tent carried different items. It’s confusing as to why VIP wristband holders would not get access to these specialty items in the VIP section, but again, I buy MS VIP for the viewing experience at this point, not really for any other perks. As far as pricing, while most of it is pretty reasonable, some of the items can be priced a little outrageously in the merch tents. I saw a really cute jean jacket but opted not to get it on account of it being $100, so make sure you ask the price before you fall in love with the item!!
Fellow fan experiences/security.
Pros: Majority of the people there are super nice. Everyone is just there to have a good time, listen to music and relax. We all share the same love of something, whether it be a specific performer, the beach, or just looking for a little time away from the hectic pace of life. We made many festy friends, 2 of which we made the very first year the festival happened, who we have kept in touch with and meet up with at the event each year now. There are tons of security, so if you happen to have a problem, someone is not very far at all. It felt very safe for a majority of the concert, and they do a sweep with search dogs at the end of every night and prior to the start of every day.
Cons: There always has to be a few bad eggs. We practically made it the whole weekend without seeing any, but on the second to last day an argument broke out right in front of us. I expected the security guard RIGHT THERE to escort the one girl out. Instead, the security guard told girl A to leave and proceeded to just stand there and watch as she went charging towards girl B while screaming obscenities. This all continued happening during Lady A’s performance and was quite distracting. I’m not sure why he chose to stand there and watch instead of escorting her away to begin with, while seeing she was maybe half an inch from this girl’s face, but he finally yelled once more for her to leave or else he would escort her out, and she did. This was the one and only time I saw such a poorly handled situation, and unfortunately was still a hell of a lot better than the way certain situations were handled last year. So, I guess that could be a pro?
Pro: We were lucky enough to have some fantastic weather for 3 out of the 4 days. Unfortunately, on the 3rd day we had some very terrible thunderstorms, which delayed the concert by 4 hours. Luckily, it had started right when they were about to let us in, so evacuation was unnecessary, and they just asked everyone in line to head up to the board walk to seek shelter. The communication was great. All we needed to do was download the app that they had, which most had already done, and wait for the notifications and updates telling us when we were allowed back in. Fortunately, we were close enough to see when staff started heading back in, which wasn’t very long after the storm, so we did not have to wait in line very long.
Con: The performers during the time slots it rained did not get a different time slot to perform. It was unfortunate, but not much could be done about that considering the extremely packed schedule.
Items you are allowed to bring in with you.
Pros: You are allowed to bring a clear bag, towel or blanket, phones, sunscreen, hand sanitizer etc. Pretty much just use your good judgment.
Cons: The bags MUST be clear. They cannot, and will not, accept a bag that is not clear. I learned this the hard way last year and had to throw my bag away to avoid traveling all the way back to the hotel.
And finally, I want to mention that there is a system they have available where you can register your credit card to your wristband, so that you don’t have to carry any cash or credit cards, which was extremely convenient. The only downside to it… you end up spending more money than you think you are, since it is so easy to pay with the wristband.
Overall, the experience this year was very nice. Aside from the line up not being the greatest, we still had a really wonderful time, and we most likely be returning next year for the 4th summer in a row.
Written by: Jessie Masters