Photo by Ben Kaye
With four albums under her name, including 2014’s excellent Are We There, singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten has pretty much become a go-to act for festival bookers and promoters. Last month alone, she wowed audiences at both Sasquatch! and Boston Calling with her brooding folk. Despite her all-star status, though, Van Etten hasn’t always felt comfortable in a festival setting.
In a new interview with the Guardian, Van Etten revealed that she almost died while attending her very first festival, a 1999 New Year’s event headlined by Phish. She wasn’t much of a Phish Head, but she tagged along with her siblings anyway. She was pretty floored by the experience. “It was at Big Cypress in Florida, where all drugs are legal because it’s a reservation kind of a deal,” she noted. “It was a shitshow.”
She said there was an abundance of odd characters, “dirty hippies,” and literally shitty bathrooms, but it was ultimately the sun that did her in:
“By the end of the first day all the toilets are full to the top, I’m walking around in direct sunlight and all of a sudden I realised I was swelling – I had these shoelaces tied round my wrists because I was cool or whatever. So I asked my brother and my sister: “That’s weird, right? That’s not normal?”
I started freaking out and they ran me back to where we were camping – because of course we were camping for three days – and they’re pouring cold water on me. And I was sat there thinking that I was dying and all of a sudden Phish start playing and my brothers and sisters leave me. So I was sitting in a camping chair, and I guess I had some heat exhaustion and Phish are playing and I’m surrounded by all these really tripped out people on a campsite and I literally thought I was going to die.”
Read her full interview here.
I Don’t Want To Let You Down is her new EP and it’s out now via Jagjaguwar.