A Summer Music Festival Prayer for Non-Attendees
Two years ago the family went to the Clearwater Festival in the Hudson Valley, a long way from our digs here in So Cali. I must admit to you right up front: I hadn’t been to a music festival for decades, unless you count some small, local bluegrass weekends in Old Town Temecula. I won’t bore you with the reasons, but lets just say that I had developed an expense account mentality from an overused corporate credit card, and camping outdoors in muggy weather and sharing my space with bugs and sweaty people just didn’t sound all that inviting. But the chance to spend a day and an evening with Pete Seeger (at ninety), Steve Earle with his wife and new baby, Sara Watkins, Guthrie family members, the Felice Brothers, Buckwheat Zydeco and a few hundred other musicians was too much of a lure to keep me away. And so we four went early on Saturday morning, before the doors were even open, and stayed until the final note rang out. Had a great time, no complaints. Life should always be this good. We spent the night in the air conditioned comfort at my sister’s home in Scarsdale.
But…I was thinking this morning that festival season will soon be upon us, and last year I sort of lambasted the thousands of blogs and posts and Tweets and status updates and Instagram pictures we’ll soon be inundated with. A firm believer that festivals are best experienced in the moment and at the event, reading about them causes my eyes to glaze, my heartbeat to slow down and my breath becomes short and shallow. Seeing pictures of people in the audience at a festival is an exercise in seeing otherwise good looking people appear drunk, crazy or both. Although, I’ll take a pic over a Tweet that says “Arlo Guthrie on the Sacagawea Stage doing Alice’s Restaurant!” or “Joe Ely just walked by drinking water from a recycled plastic bottle”.
Back to the beautiful Hudson Valley: We had come armed with only a blanket to spread on the ground, sunscreen, hats and money to buy stuff, like food. Only 45-50 minutes from Manhattan by train, I love how the city dwellers consider this going to the country. It’s actually suburban up there, but with more long haired women and bearded men, a term I also use to describe Unitarians. And there are also many one percent-ers who come in their limos, wearing Halston sundresses for women and the complete Polo line for men. Our blanket spent the day spread out at the main stage, on a small rise and under the shade of a large tree. We’d wander from place to place throughout the day, sometimes leaving the trusty blanket all alone.
In the evening before Steve Earle took the stage we went back to our spot to find that a group of people in their fifties and sixties (I mention age only because these were people of my generation) had taken over the area. They had neatly folded our blanket, put it by the trunk of the tree and erected a table for eight, complete with linens, chairs, candles, fruit and cheese baskets, many bottles of wine, sandwiches and beautifully crafted salads. Now I’m hardly an intimidating character, not that tall and not that strong. But when I stood there in front of them with my hands on my hips, and I took off my hat and shades, the look in my eyes must have spoken volumes. Without a word spoken, the table and chairs were moved, the blanket was retrieved and returned to it’s original home and we sat down. Oh how I yearned for some of those beautiful grapes and a taste of the hand-carved watermelon bowl in the shape of a peace sign , but it wasn’t offered.
That’s it…my entire festival experience in four decades distilled to a few paragraphs. Would I go again? You bet. Will I camp out? Never. Use my smartphone? I’ll turn it off. Limo and catering? Oh no. Now go forward, buy your tickets early and have a great time. Support the artists and get one of their personally hand painted t-shirts. Eat organic food and make sure your paper goods are recycled. Listen to the Occupy people and drop a buck in the cup. Sign a petition and buy those handcrafted beads. Keep cool, hydrate and love one another.
As for the rest of us who stay home, this is My Summer Music Festival Prayer for Non-Attendees: God….please help us make it through this season, and save us from the endless need for bloggers and reviewers to spell out every detail of every performance. May we never need to know about how much fun the jam was at the campgrounds last night. May we not hear complaints of the cost for every Coke, veggie burrito or french fry. Let us move through our lives without endless comments on Facebook that repeats things like “would have went but had to work this weekend”, “you are sooooo lucky to be there” and “hope you brought the mosquito repellent. lol”. And may we please not get talked into buying a $150 one-day ticket that entitles us to wallow in a field of mud for fourteen hours? Amen.
Here’s a great list of 2012 music festivals throughout the world: