You Are Not My People

Despite my best efforts, people generally take one look at me, or hear me speak, and immediately assume that I am a hippie.
It's sort of understandable, I suppose. I am prone to wearing moccasins, sandals; I burn incense; I wear flair jeans and embroidered tops; my hair is pretty long. Most of my toiletries I purchased from the health food store next door, so Kiss My Face has a notable monopoly over my bathroom, and I do prefer produce that I purchased at the farmer's market, rather than the strawberries at Stop'n'Shop that always make me think of guys pumped on steroids. A few of my beliefs could also be boiled down to the hippie standby of "Peace Love and Happiness." But it's more "Non-Agression, Community and Satisfaction." I just want to take a moment and point out how strange it is that if you believe in everyone getting along and working with one another, you're part of the anti-establishment and have to wear ridiculous paisley pajamas, stinking of patchouli.
When I took this quiz on Facebook about which Beatle or Rolling Stone I was, I had a moment of real panic and anxiety that I would be assigned John Lennon instead of Keith Richards.
So, the point is I'm not a hippie.
If I had any doubts about that, they were brutally, but swiftly and efficiently laid to rest this past weekend. A friend invited me to a music festival in Connecticut, Gathering of the Vibes. He showed me the lineup and except for Keller Williams, Blackwell Lewis and the HoneyDrippers and Primus, I didn't recognise any of the bands. Still, I love live music, and the scheme my friend presented me with didn't seem to cost a whole lot of money (it involved hippies in varying states of relaxation and reality, thus not keeping track of who was going in and out of camp site). I had also heard the festival advertised on my favourite radio station, Woodstock Radio.
There were many factors that set up this weekend to be one big FAIL: Perhaps you, Dear Reader, are a Grateful Dead fan. I'm going to try and not let that cloud my judgement of you, but it may be that the term "gathering of the vibes" is a whole lot more meaningful for you than it was for me. One performer, David Gans who was truly something... special, described this festival as a way for Dead Heads to continue the party. And, in fact, there were a lot of signs for Jerry Garcia himself to read and be reassured that people still love him and miss him. They may have been convinced that they could even see him.
I don't hate the Grateful Dead, I'm just not a huge fan of them. Their music leaves me feeling really apathetic and, quite frankly, bored. Obviously I've never seen them live, but if my friend had presented that opportunity for $90.00, I probably would have replied, "Thanks, but a friend invited me to their lakehouse that weekend."
This has nothing to do with the vintage of the Grateful Dead. At least once a week my mother takes a look at my itunes library and calls me an old soul. On heavy rotation is Otis Redding, Led Zeppelin, CCR, Rolling Stones, and Paul Simon, to name a few. But notice how most of these names imply some sort of structure within the music. I'm not saying they're incapable of going off on tangents at a live show, but they are less likely to get so caught up in their own improvisational skills that it goes on for 20 minutes.
The fact that it was called Gathering of the Vibes, whatever my obliviousness to the significance of that, meant I should have known there would be adults with intense dread locks and smelling of the aforementioned patchouli, trying in vain to mask the scent of a few other substances.
My friend hadn't been to this particular festival for a while and, in his memory, you could basically do what you want since it was organised and run by Dead Heads who were on a trip of their own and thus not much use at enforcing any rules. However, that had been five years ago. Three years ago I had been to a music festival in Britsh Columbia and I distinctly remember it as being run by people who were far more interested in the money they could squeeze from all walks of life, than in any experience involving music and/or substances (and I am opening that term to a wide variety of definitions). Chalk it up to 9/11 and homeland security or the War on Drugs, but people running these shows have a pretty fricking tight system going. I had some serious doubts that I would be able to buy a day pass and then just walk on into the camp site to "visit" a friend." When he had first invited me to this party, he tossed out the figure of $250. That was for a weekend pass and it was way out of my budget. But $100.00, for a day pass seemed doable. I was still a little reluctant to go, but he pointed out that he would take care of food and drink, and also it was right on the beach, so there was the possibility of swimming (ocean trumps lake EVERY TIME). Another friend of his from college was coming with us and he too expressed some concern about this scheme. Our host said, "Dude, how can they keep track of us? The only way would be with your car and we've already worked that out." I had a few answers for that but was too sleepy, at the time, to formulate them into a coherent sentence.
Sure enough, individuals were issued different coloured wrist bands depending on how much cash they had paid for this gathering and they had barcodes. So there were ample opportunities to track us. At the camp site there was a checkpoint with a sign already posted, "No entrance for Saturday passes," I had only just entered the line, hoping to glide on by with the crowd, when a staffer pointed to me and said, "no Saturday passes." These guys were on the ball.
The last factor to set this up to be lackluster is that I cannot stand Primus. My brother was the sound engineer for one of their albums, and it was only out of familial loyalty and love that I listened to it. I can see why Oz, my brother, worked with them as it is right up his alley, and I won't deny the intense talent they possess. But their music, their recorded music makes me want to drive sharp objects into my ears. Live, and at total liberty to just go on and on and on and on because they were the last act of the night, I seriously contemplated walking into traffic.
The question that should be running through your mind right now, Dear Reader, is "what the hell where you thinking?"
It's a great question, one I'm asking myself since I was invited to another friend's lakehouse. Why did I ignore all the signs that this Gathering was just not something I should join? I can only say I was hoping for the best, and trusting in the adventurous nature of my friend. To his credit he was extremely crestfallen that we would not be able to camp.
And in some ways I am glad that I went, I don't regret the experience, I just wish it had been better.
There seems little point in commenting on the music since it all sounded the fucking same to me; just one funk jam band after another. I will say this: It really irritates me when some fucking guitarist or bass player or drummer or keyboardist is so vain and aware of their talent that they just go off wandering in the music. Being stoned (and I'm not saying I was, but if I was, it was only in the desperate attempt to make this show more interesting) made it only worse, because I've "heard" that it makes time "expand". So a song that takes 20 minutes because some douche bag is exploring all possible chords, takes all fucking day! Jesus Christ guys, think of your audience! They've fallen asleep! They've grown beards and white hair in just this one set! Their children have grown up, gotten married and had children of their own! And the thing is, you are good, but you're not that good.
What was interesting was the variety of people attending this festival. There were families that I normally would have pegged for a Mets baseball game. There were people there who looked like they were planning to trek the Apalachian Trail after this show, there were people who looked like they had been at the first Grateful Dead concert ever performed, there were people who looked like they taught remedial math in my old middle school. I even saw a smattering of hipsters in wayfarer sunglasses. And, of course, the motherfucking hippies.
What is the deal with this animosity I have for hippies? It's not as intense as it's coming across on the page. I recognise that it's rather incongrous with my belief of everyone getting along. But, at the same time, I believe in personal space. I believe in love and good feelings, not so much "free love." So I think these differences are the root of my... frustration with Hippies.
Because this is the thing: They are so fucking insistant, at times, with these beliefs. Some people out there would call them weird and crazy beliefs, but you know what I say? You want to be off the grid? That's cool. You want to eat mushrooms that give hallucinations? Nifty. You don't want to ingest anything that ever breathed deeply? Alright. You want to engage in group sex to get that special warm and fuzzy feeling? Have fun. You want to completely swear off bathing and any forms of personal hygeine? Whatevs.
It's just that the moment I say, "hey, could you not bump into me, while your doing your crazy arms flailing dance?" Suddenly, I'm uncool.
Does anyone else find it weird that a group of people who just want to live the life of their choosing can't let other people live the life of their choosing. I have yet to meet a hippie, an active hippie that is, who hasn't tried to show me the light.
And these are fucking adults. It would be one thing if the path they recommended included something like fiscal responsibility, or how to feel at peace with one self, or forgive the person who badly screwed you over (I could go on, believe me). But usually, it just involves hallucinegenic substances, copious amounts of touching, flailing of the arms, and that godforsaken patchouli.
Oh I get it: You want me to look ridiculous!
I don't have a problem with drugs. I personally think across the board they should be legal. If someone wants to hurtle along a downward spiral, cramming every orifice and pathway in their body with chemicals and plants, that's their choice. I just don't want to pay for it, which is what I'm currently doing as a taxpayer (this, obviously, is a whole seperate rant). I have tried tripping on mushrooms once in my life, and I have nightmares about it still.
But I have found that drugs generally make people more boring than they could possibly imagine. People tripping or in their own pot-filled cocoon are locked tightly within themselves, focused solely on their own experience that they only come out literally every five minutes to point out the most insignificant shit in the history of the world. If you're high at the same time, it might be funny, or you might not have even heard them. If you're sober, you might be noticing that a church revival is more exciting and entertaining than your friends right now.
It's just that... from people who could be my father.... I expected better.
Dear Reader, have you ever had to take care of a parent who was drunk while you were sober? I don't mean the harrowing experience of your parent being an alchoholic; just that you and the fam went out to dinner, and mom had one or two too much and now you've got to get her to bed. It's really trying, isn't it? Because your parent is supposed to be the responsible one. They're supposed to recognise the boundaries, and prevent you from breaking them. There's something exhaustive when the roles become reversed, and when you're surrounded by about 10,000 of them and you look around and realise that not only are you the only sober person there, but you're probably the most responsible... and the music, while not terrible is just not your thing: it makes you want to just flop down on the ground and fall asleep.
Which is actually what I ended up doing. I slept surprisingly well on the ground and woke up about two hours later. It was about 5:00PM and another 9 hours of kicking around this park loomed ahead of me.
And no prospect of good music.
Actually, that's not true. Keller Williams and the Rhythm Devils were wonderful. The friend of the friend, on the car ride down, had pointed out the differences between and good jam band and a jam band that isn't so good. I think it's akin to being a good sports team, and a not-so-good sports team. If I may go off on a tangent here (it's loosley related): For the World Cup this year I bet on Spain taking the win over Holland. They had good teamwork going for them. On the pitch during the final game I never saw one lone blue shirt in the orange wilderness; they moved as a team with superb passing skills. This isn't to say Holland was crap. They were obviously good footballers, but they weren't working together. You'd see one orange shirt, maybe with no blue shirts surrounding them, but still, it's hard to do much completely on your own. You need to know when to pass the ball.
This is the difference between a good jam band and a not-so-good jam band. Both have talented players, but the good one knows when to pass and end it, and not play their audience into a catatonic state with whiplash from nodding their heads to the beat for an hour and a half. The not-so-good jam bands have a vague idea when the solo is over, mostly dictated by the bleeding of their fingertips.
This is a roundabout way of saying that the Rhythm Devils with Keller Williams was Spain. It was so soothing to my poor, bleeding ears, it was medicine to my musical soul, and totally unexpected. I heard them advertised on WDST (Woodstock radio) and often had to change the station because of the weird, inharmonious high pitched singing. Live, that wasn't the case. They were a delicious blend of funk, Grateful Dead, and rock. They could have played for the next four hours as far as I was concerned.
What came on next was Primus and the only reason I didn't scream like an animal for someone, ANYONE to just kill me and put me out of my misery was my state of extreme exhaustion, and my friend had waited all day to see this set.
Two mind numbing hours of bass slapping and drum tangents, plus some weird, vaguely melodic noises from guitar. The guys in front of us suddenly became strangely possessed (they were definitely not hippies, they were definitely your garden variety drop out drug heads). They began punching the air with a certain amount of gusto and enthusiasm to the point that even my friend suggested we walk back a few paces.
Thus we landed in a nest of weekend love and peace warriors who were having a very good time. They were in the midst of a friendly dispute as to who won the best desert. Tired as I was, the unfestive thought of slamming their heads into the ground and making them eat dirt kept crossing my mind. My friend may have picked up on it, because he once again suggested we move.
If only I somehow could have put it all on mute. And found a bed, from which to watch the scene before me. It was beautiful. People had all sorts of light makers that made pockets of the crowd glow and pulse like a dream. It was a symphony of light with all the lit hula hoops that spiraled in a tantric dance around these beautiful girls, and the light sticks that were occasionally shot in the air, looking like fluorescent fireworks. They were having such a good time, it was heartening to see. If Primus had only shut up for five minutes; these might have been my people.

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