I spent the last 5 days trying to wrap my mind around the lack of red, white, and blue of my 4th of July and readjusting to civilized life after getting back from Rothbury, MI for the 1st annual Rothbury music festival. Finally the music gods opened their ears and their hearts to Boutit and my pleas for a Michigan music festival. The only glitch in my almost flawless weekend was that Doc and I spent so much of our time trying to figure out how to put this experience into words when we got back (mostly for that sake of helping Boutit visualize and embrace the hippie music and lifestylez.)
Me and this whole festival thing didn’t get off on the right foot Friday morning. After a thunderstorm Thursday, I drove our rented Honda Element right into a deep mud puddle in the middle of the camp grounds Friday. This initial glitch turned out to be my first encounter of the other kind. Hippies. Out of the tents and canopies around the car came 10 or 15 people ready to push and pull the car out of the muck. Refusing to give up and make us pay $60 for a tow truck, they would not give up. Someone drove up with their 4 wheel drive SUV, another took the heavy duty rope from his hammock, and yet another guy brought a shovel over from his fire pit. They pulled us out of the mud and onto the grass hours before the tow truck arrived. We all sat down for a celebratory beer in the hammock. I was in awe of the stereotypes that were destroyed in that one hour before I even had time to put on my tie dye skirt.
Another stereotype that you can throw out with yesterdays cat litter. They aren’t lazy. See aforementioned Element of mud tale, as well as the plethora of washboard stomaches of the shirtless dudes (NOT that I was looking Doc. Nope.), and the fact that these people waste no time sleeping in or lying around where there is music and dancing to be had. When the sun shines in the tent at 9am and the car next to you turns up Umphrey’s McGee at 9:30 you really have no choice but to escape the sauna that your tent has become and venture out for some clean drinking water. There is yoga every morning at 9 and 11 and the turn out was always larger than any class I’ve been to. The whole scene was so normal and inspiring that I actually got Doc to join me for a class on Sunday (but I had to promise not to take any photographic evidence of his practice). After a morning of walking the 2,000 acre grounds, swimming in the dangerously murky lake, and shopping amongst the tie dyed vendors, its time for the music to begin and the crowds don’t seem to cease or even thin until well into sunrise the next morning. With this schedule, a person has got to be in top physical condition to dance for 12 hours straight. No slacker hippies here. Here’s a shot of one of the yoga classes at 9am:
The crowds are broken into a few general groups. There are the people like me and Doc and the boys that will go back to Chicago/Detroit at the end of the weekend to our 9 to 5 jobs and wish the rest of the world could be as carefree and happy as this little commune of music. Then there are the hippies for life, the original Deadheads here to see Phil Lesh at Sunday’s headliner show. They are distinguishable by their knee length dreads showing years of care and bees wax and the baby carrier on their backs. They are getting older, starting another generation of flower babies and music lovers as they tot their tots around the grounds. As awesome as it is that they are educating their kids to timeless revolutionary music, it was still a little weird to be drunk dancing around a 4 year old and knowing the kinds of drugs most of the crowds were on. Then there are the groupies that spend the summer festival hopping. You can pick these people out by their cardboard signs looking for a ride to the All Good festival and wearing their Bonnaroo 08 shirt. These are the ones that perplexed me to no end. Their looks fall somewhere between the dread locked hippies and the weekend warriors like myself. But what do they do for a living? What do they do that they can take the summer off and can afford the $200-300 tickets and gas and food money. My best best is temp jobs in the winter and Doc was probably close by saying they make their money working at ski shops at resorts in the Rockies and snowboarding contests. Must be nice. Here is a picture of a next generation Dead head at the Phil Lesh show and a true Deadhead with his Grateful Dead tattoos.
After getting over the lack of showers and required strong stomach to use the pot-o-potties, I started to embrace the camping and generally dirtiness of the experience. When 45% of the population has knots for hair and its acceptable for people to walk around with nothing but body paint on, I stopped putting any effort into what I looked like. Letting myself go like that without a care made me realize just how much of my regular day is dedicated to personal maintenance. I was ready to throw my razor and lotions away when I got back to Chicago until I realized just HOW dirty I was, or more so, how clean everyone else was. I had dirt still caked on my feet from trying to get the car unstuck 3 days ago and Doc’s sweat was actually starting to smell like herb…
I actually forgot it was even the 4th of July until the fireworks started going off at the end of the Widespread Panic show Friday night. Other then the odd red, white, and blue bandanna, there was no American Pride. And it was refreshing. Instead of making sure everyone knows your pride by the color of your star spangled shorts, we got together to celebrate our country for the peace, the love, the music. No need for outlandish confederate flags or singing of the national anthem. We not only celebrated America, but also the music from all over the world that shaped the rock revolution of our time and of times before us.