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Apps for summer music festivals

Use these apps to make your summer fest a success.

Summer is upon us, and so is music festival season. Hundreds of thousands of people  flock to music fests all around the country, and for some, summer just wouldn't be the same without attending one of these mega events. With beautiful weather (most of the time), comraderie with other attendees, an interesting array of food and art, and of course killer bands, there's a lot to experience.

However, getting organized for a major festival involves some thinking ahead, especially if there's travel or camping involved. I attended the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, California in 2012, and relied on my smartphone to help me plan and navigate. Here are some apps that can make your summer fest a success.

Plan ahead

To start, download the festival's official app. Most major music festivals have their own apps this year, which is crucial for planning which bands to see and staying on top of schedule changes on the fly. (Without the official Coachella app, I would have missed one of my favorite bands had the app not notified me of a last-minute time change.) These apps often include maps of the venue, food options, schedules, information about artists, parking reminders, news, or updates. Some festivals with official apps include: New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Sasquatch, Outside Lands, Bonnaroo, Summerfest, Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, and CMJ Marathon.

Unfortunately, lots of people in a remote location can often lead to an overcrowded cell network, so your connectivity might not be ideal. Notifications were spotty for me. I'd also suggest making a list of must-see acts in a simple to-do list app like Clear  ($2, iOS). Set the time, stage, and day that the artist will be performing, and cross it off when complete.

Get organized

If you're off to a multiday festival, or will be traveling out of town, use a packing app to help you get organized. Packing Pro ($3, iOS) breaks down what you probably need based on the number of days you'll be gone based on sample lists, which you can then customize by adding individual items. Items are sorted into categories, like Essentials, Clothing, and Accessories, and you can specify the number of each type of item you'd like to pack. Check items off as you toss them into your suitcase to track what still needs to be done. Packing Pro also lets you share lists, so you can create a group packing list to eliminate dupes and overpacking. If you're camping, check out a camping-specific packing app like Camping List Pro+ ($1, iOS).

Keep an eye on the weather forecast--you'll want to dress comfortably and bring the right gear, lest a rainstorm interrupts the day's headliner. Forecast.io (free; iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8, and BlackBerry) is a Web service optimized for mobile devices. Install the bookmarklet on your home screen to get an up-to-date forecast for the next seven days. Forecast.io shows what the weather will look like over the next hour, day, and week. You can watch a map with local weather patterns to see an overview.  

Because festivals are all-day affairs, look into food options before you get there. I spent a fortune on food at Coachella--meals on the festival grounds and groceries at the festival campgrounds' general store were not wallet-friendly. If you're camping, bringing your own food is a good way to cut down on costs. (Just check the campground rules for what types of items can be brought in. Glass containers were a no-no, for example.) Coleman's Classic Camping Cookbook & Meal Planner (free, iOS) is a handy app to have for preparing campsite cuisine.  Select recipes by cooking method (campfire, grill, none), type of meal, or available ingredients for yummy suggestions on things you can make yourself.

Not all festivals have camping options--many of them are in metropolitan areas where camping is close to impossible. Hotels can fill up fast if the festival brings in a lot of visitors, so if you find yourself stuck in a city with

no place to sleep, Airbnb (free; iOS and Android) can help you out. I used Airbnb to find a place to stay during South by Southwest in Austin earlier this spring. Airbnb is a network of hosts who have opened part (or all) of their homes to travelers. You can browse the available listings, select a room to rent, and communicate with your host directly through the app.

Stay connected

Festival venues are massive, and when you add thousands of other festival-goers to the mix, it can be hard to find friends and organize a meeting spot.

While you should always be wary of using location-aware services that broadcast where you are, they can be helpful in noisy situations where cell service is jammed. For iPhone users, there's Find My Friends, but for a more-inclusive offering, try Ban.jo  (free; iOS and Android). Not only can you search for friends' exact locations on Ban.jo or get a notification when friends are nearby, you can search other activity nearby. Ban.jo collects posts from a variety of social networks and curates them based on location, so you can make sure you're not missing out on any of the action going on at other stages or tents.

Another great way to keep in contact with friends is GroupMe  (free; iOSAndroid, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry), a multiplatform group messaging system. If everyone in your party installs this free app, you can create a group just for your fellow festival attendees. Using GroupMe can be more efficient than a group text through your phone's native client. It uses data instead of cell signal, and offers a wide range of features. Broadcast your location, coordinate a meet-up, and check in with your friends throughout the day.

Multiday festivals can be pricey if you're attending from out of town, so it's best to keep track of who is paying for what if you're sharing a hotel room or campsite with friends. One big plus to GroupMe is the app's Split feature, which lets group members keep track of shared expenses and send funds to friends who have picked up the tab.

Enjoy the show!

Once you get to the festival, remember to play it safe. Keeping hydrated is essential in the summer heat, and I'm not talking about alcohol. WaterIn (free, iOS) is a simple little app designed to help you remember to drink more water throughout the day. WaterIn will remind you to drink water at regular intervals throughout the day. When you take a drink, log the amount (a small glass, large glass, or bottle), and watch your chart fill up.

There will be lots of photographic moments as the festival progresses, so make sure your smartphone has the best app possible to make the most of its built-in camera. Camera+ ($1, iOS) is an excellent choice.

This app offers more features than the iPhone's native Camera app. Before taking a photo, select your scene (like Night or Landscape) to get some presets for the best shot based on your location. You can then set exposure and focus separately, and try a variety of shooting modes. The stabilizer will come in handy when you snap photos of bands. Finally, use Camera+'s in-app editing tools and filters to give your photo the final touch.

Festivals are the perfect place to discover new music. While you may love what you hear, learning the band name can be surprisingly difficult. Some stages don't have an updated schedule or indicate who is currently playing. You might be too far away from the stage to see the band's name, or you may have missed the introduction. In this case, use SoundHound (free; iOS, Android, and Windows Phone) to fill in the gaps.

SoundHound is a great recognition app that listens to a song and matches it to a track in its database. The app will identify the band and the name of the song that the band is playing. It will then display more information, like where to purchase a recording of the track and the song's lyrics. It has singing and humming recognition, so it should work well in a live setting.  

You might want to consider recording video of moments you won't want to forget. For a solid all-in-one video recorder and editor that's easy as pie to use, try Givit  (free, iOS) Givit lets you stitch video clips together, so you can share a collection of video highlights with friends instead of sending off a long reel of unpolished material. You can even record footage from directly within the app, and then add special effects like a music soundtrack or slow-motion replay, among others. If you've recorded a particularly long clip, you can trim it down to highlight just the good stuff. A recent update to the app now lets you embed still images as well, which makes Givit a great tool to help you document your festival experience.

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