Part 1 of 3
So it all starts with rain and shine and long drives and storms. Some are pushing recreational vehicles of all types racing to the hurry up and wait party. We make a wally-world rendezvous that almost ends in more tears than usual in that special parking lot in Virginia. The employees on that cloudy Wednesday night were lumpy and freakish. Strange deformities and grotesque shapes shuffled this way and that down the highly stacked aisles. Walmart bathrooms, I hope you never have to visit one, are full of smells and things you can’t unsee. Camping out waiting by assorted vehicles of all types to assemble the convoy and that’s where all the trouble began. The night reminded me of high school in so many ways, the waiting around the slightly rural vibe and of course being hassled by the Po-Po. We were just sitting in a Walmart parking lot minding our own business when the boys in blue arrived. John Law just knew we were guilty he could smell it in the air. So the fuzz comes in being real class A pricks, something they had obviously practiced at, with their tried and true routine. The pigs are asking us to just give it up, one of the bald-heads is bad cop the other pig is the good one. What a shake down these doughnut junkies waited on back up , threatened to bring a dog through. We were innocent I offered to show my un-bloodshot eyes to the blue meanie but he had some retort about new dope that doesn’t redden the eyes. I was about to ask him to smell my fingers but felt like antagonizing the bully with a badge might not have been the best course of action. Not that anyone I would know would ever roll dirty or otherwise have anything to worry about, but I think everyone felt better after 5-0 left. That is to say the Heat left after searching all of our vehicles without our consent and since the law is different with R.V.s they really had no right, our probable cause, to search. The oinkers padded us all down, even a pregnant lady. Now I do not want to besmirch the great state of Virginia but, some of the law enforcement needs to lay off the red bull and bull shit and go after some meth pharmy families instead of hassling Wallmart gypsies. Well they put the fear of the lord into us like they were supposed to and the Mimosa Mafia drank on. The lives of such Walmart gypsies as Ninja Betty and Xylophone Teeth would never be the same.
Day two begun with the reality of getting up at the butt crack in a Walmart parking lot to try the mad dash to hurry up and wait and get in to day one of festival life. Just get us to our temporary city, no dice even with a man set up on the inside our tattered convoy is denied. Cars and vehicles of all sorts along the sides of roads with no place to go. Turns out that would be the theme of the day. Tail-gating the big nothing. The day long hurry up and wait master-class had now begun. More life in the road in our dope ass convoy. So everybody is locked out of Lock’n with no place to go and a day to kill. We gypsies wanted a safe spot to set up camp and eat vittles and do massive liquor drinking to kill time. Back to a previously used Food Lion and with the help of some kind locals found free safe sanctuary. Then the rains came and the bourbon poured. After not drinking for two weeks and still being sick I needed the hair of the dog that bit me. Thinking about last night’s cop comedy, you had to laugh at their dickish ass jokes to feed their egos to make them go away. Lovingston and Lynchberg Virginia is for lovers and the honeymoon is over. So the gypsies sit packed in like sardines worshiping the precious A.C. in the one R.V. That has it. We met a nice hippie Steven King family from Wyoming and they are brought to our camp on the side of the road, minutes from our intended location, marooned in the mountains of Virginia. We meet and drink with the resident hobo. He tells us he was a navy sniper in Vietnam, being a huge sniper fan I make the mistake of asking how many confirmed kills he had. He gruffly demurred and I let the subject drop. He seemed cool in a rugged hobo way. I always try to learn from the cautionary tales.
Day three opens with the convoy getting up at the butt crack and finally getting into the festival grounds. Fingers crossed we wait in solemn predawn light in a long row of assorted vehicles. The V.I.Ps finally make their much delayed entrance. The site is big and configured around a racing strip, the small temporary city awaiting it’s inhabitants. Our convoy of vehicles sets up camp together except for the two of us in the car who go set up a dummy campsite in V.I.P car camping lot. The easy ups and assorted tapestry walls are soon popping up with these great standards flying, steal your face flags and crazy other symbols some denoting geographic region of the country the campers were from. We start the task of setting up our camp at the front of a long line of R.V.s. Showers in long trailers are eventually utilized as our base camp gradually takes shape. Tents go up and then are moved three or four times. We meet some of the neighbors and the sense of anticipation begins to rise, we are in, this is real, the Doobie Incident is going on soon. We had herd about the reason for the cancellation of the first day, the storm that came through and destroyed and dismayed. It was good to see things put back together and starting to get back on track. Our friend working was stressed and frustrated and it was good to see him and let him vent. So many variables in creating and maintaining a temporary city. The logistics alone were staggering, you throw in talent and volunteers asleep on the job and the stress becomes palpable. It was like getting a giant machine moving, the hard part is getting it started.
Life in R.V.s is amazing a portable college apartment on wheels, cramped but comfy. I had made some collage pieces to decorate our R.V.s specifically to make the whole thing look cooler. These were special gypsy vehicles for a few days and had to look the part. The difference a day makes is always amazing. The portability of the whole enterprise is always amazing. It reminded me of tailgating football games as a child and watching Wake Forest almost win and then loose over and over again. The excitement was partially in the anticipation the camaraderie and the refreshments.
Are you a hippie yet? The freedom to be and to gather for the love of music has always been important to me. Whether I was a punk rock kid getting picked up after falling in the pit, or feeling the spirit of acceptance and love at a Greatful Dead show, to those same feelings at early raves, I was hooked. Transcendence of the mundane through the communal enjoyment of music. Their is a specialness to the air that can’t be described. The being in bliss, at the moment, all sharing the unbridled love of the music. A true celebration of art, that the visual artist does not get in the same way. I am jealous of the adoration, it is something to strive for, to make that many different people feel something real, must be addictive. With great power comes great responsibility the fact that a lot of the artists on the line up had been killing it for years. The Dead, Santana, Robert Plant all living legends still doing it, still reaching people deep after all these years. It is something to appreciate and to strive for, that kind of meaningful longevity is not granted to everyone. To me it seemed a very Greatful Dead centric festival, it was their Jazz standers that were reworked and remixed. A true testament to the power of the original material. That so many could find so much, says something about true artistic legacy. Honky psychedelic folk blues done well. There is a level of faded glory inherent with any endeavor of this vintage. Like a rare an ancient wine with only so many bottles left. You were in the presence of greatness for one fleeting moment in time.
Back to the Doobie Incident, I want action figures of those dudes. So much guitar everything all weekend would be guitared to the fullest. A strong showing from the combined power of the String Cheese Incident and the Doobie Brothers. They blasted the festival open with classic rock fervor and angry mustaches. The collaboration seemed fresh and was a preview of the festival. We had herd rumors of all of their equipment being ruined in the thunderstorm that cost us a day of festival. Hearing them play, reminded me of listening to Rock 92 rolling hard in my friend’s Colt. The vintage rock classic-ness of the weekend seemed so familiar and comforting. The basic reworking of Greatful Dead songs by many involved with the band over the years gave me a wider appreciation of the source material. The honky psychedelic blues with forlorn rifts has become a comfortable faded soundtrack for our lives. The knowing smiles of enraptured fans says it all. Heads wearing tattered vests with a thousand pins stuck in special places all over. The people looked scruffy to yuppie. I was taking it all in it seemed like weeks since we had been trapped on the side of some redneck road. The full immersion festival experience was on.
Stay tuned for part two, coming soon.