Props to huge festivals like Bonaroo or Coachella, but there's just something unbeatable about the small-scale music festival  experience that you can't find anywhere else. Whether it's the music you'll hear or the bizarre things you'll see and probably ingest, a small fest offers a particular type of musical intimacy that makes the experience personal and wholly unique.

Props to huge festivals like Bonaroo or Coachella, but there's just something unbeatable about the small-scale music festival  experience that you can't find anywhere else. Whether it's the music you'll hear or the bizarre things you'll see and probably ingest, a small fest offers a particular type of musical intimacy that makes the experience personal and wholly unique.

So, in praise of the small fest*, here are nine things that happen there that can only happen there.

*Small, as in under 20,000-ish people.

1.The side shows sometimes the best shows

Being at a smaller festival means you might not know the obscure Icelandic wind-chime metal band that's about to go on; so other methods of entertainment are needed to keep you from boredom-crying. Enter side shows, arguably one of the best parts about smaller festivals.

We've seen a zombie-paintball course at the LA Horror Show and Music Fest, an amateur boxing ring at Riot Fest where drunk men went to angrily hug each other, and a clown singing a metal version of "My Heart Will Go On" at First City Fest to an audience of terrified children. Sure, large festivals have well-orchestrated, highly entertaining side shows, but are you really telling us that a six-foot-tall clown waded  into the crowd and bellowed Metallica's "Master of Puppets" into the faces of twin 6-year-olds two feet from your face anywhere else? Please. Only at smallish, esoteric festivals will you witness the kind of depraved non-musical entertainment that flies under the radar of popular culture. And if that doesn't build character, kid, nothing will.

2. The front of the stage becomes your new mailing address

One of the best parts about smaller festivals is how easily you can get to the front of the stage. We can't tell you how many times we've almost been dropped by a territorial superfan with curiously strong elbows as we try to weasel our way closer at a regular show or large festival … and how many times we've wound up within licking distance of the bassist's shoes at a littler one. At a smaller festival; you can get right up close to the stage and stare lovingly into the lead singer's knees as he air humps two feet from your face, and the only proper noun that's stopping you is the girl hula-hooping up a storm near the front.

Or, if getting up close and personal in the front row doesn't float your boat, you can lay down and let the acid hit on the grass just a few steps away and still be close enough that you don't have to watch the entire show through the zoom lens on your iPhone. Being able to get close gives you an entirely different perspective; you get to see how the instruments are played, the kinds of arcane, outdated midi boxes and pedals they're using, and that the guitarist has a shocking mole right next to their lips. Just by virute of being physically near to the band, you become that much more of an expert on them, and that's what impresses Tinder dates and prying mothers. Bam.

3. You talk to the artists and maybe … just maybe … become their latest one-night-stand

Most artists that play smaller festivals are so excited to be playing a festival at all, that they left their bodyguard team and $3 million luxury trailer at home. And because the closest thing to a green room at a small festival is usually a chicken coop stoked with Capri Sun, artists are often found wandering the festival as opposed to lurking reclusively backstage. As a consequence, it's easy to run into them and make out with them — sorry, "strike up a conversation."  You'd be amazed at how approachable they are when they blend into the crowd, and how open to talking about the weird pain in their shoulder they are, because stars: they're just like you.

That's actually how we ran into Sam Herring of Future Islands. Read our impromptu interview about how Jay-Z ruined hip-hop with him here.

4. You see shows in historic, or otherwise unique locations

The small size of lesser-known music festivals makes it possible to put them on at really special venues. First City Festival goes down at the Monterey County Fairgrounds, site of the iconic 1967 Monterey Pop Festival where a young Jimi Hendrix famously lit his guitar on fire. The Austin Psych Fest has recently been held at Carson Creek Farms, where one of the stages is an outdoor ampitheather that overlooks a river and a canyon wall. And as we're sure you know, festivals like Arise and Wakarusa are thrown in crazy little mountain towns where you can enjoy nature and the molly you smuggled in at the same time.

Larger festivals like Bonaroo and Coachella are awesome in that entire towns are made out of concert goers, but nothing beats hearing your favorite band on the same stage Jefferson Airplane played on before they were famous.

5. You make friends with food vendors … and gain 20 pounds

Less people at smaller fests means less people in line for food. which makes it a lot easier to talk to to the food vendors there. And you know what happens when you charm the quilted apron off the cooks? Free dinner, baby.

Plus, the smaller venue and the more obscure list of bands at smaller festivals gives you more time to entice these food-bearing people with gifts of beer and wit, ensuring that when the night's over, the 10-15 corndogs you're speed-eating are on them.

6. You buy things that make you wonder why you bought them

There's almost no limit to what vendors can sell at small music festivals. Whether it's pine cone magnets, circuit-bent guitar pedals that make music sound like alien interference, or t-shirts that say "Hail Acorns," your every craft desire can be indulged by the vendor lineup at a small fest. Almost nothing that's sold at a small fest is useful, save for maybe the soap made from Robitussin, and almost everything is "made locally with hemp." It's like Etsy, but in real life; you can't find the shit they sell at small fests anywhere else in the world.

7. You expand your musical knowledge and taste

There's no better way to expose yourself to weird and different types of music than to see the lineup at small music fests. From electro-psych gospels to marimba rap outfits, the more unknown the band or genre is, the better. You learn so much about music and what you like and don't like from seeing these weird, non-famous bands, and even if you hate it, you can at least say you saw a band of tiny Japanese women covering Prince songs using instruments made of fruit.

And, it's so exciting to see artists who haven't made it big yet; you might be witnessing the next #1 hit being played live for the first time, or you might be head-banging to an Australian band's first show in Colorado. Either way, at a smaller fest, both you and the band have an experience you probably haven't had before, and it makes memorable.

8. You get drunk like it's your job

There's pretty much one guy working the entrance at small fests, and he doesn't have the time, energy, or remainder of weed brownie to pat every single person down or find their secret hidden purse compartments. Consequentially, smuggling booze into small fests is usually as easy as strapping a flask to a garter on your leg or putting some Ziplocs full of tequila in your bra (true story). Plus with less security, tossing a bottle over a fence or filling your Camelback with beer is no obstacle. Sure, you can sneak booze into larger fests if you're a bona fide professional, but the increased security and frequent police presence makes it slightly harder to shoot jello shots in the middle of M83.

9. You invariably make out with someone dressed as a fairy

Let's … not talk about this one. Sorry, mom.