Sunday, June 18, 2006


"There's No Gravity on the Moon!"

I haven’t been to many concerts featuring big-name artists. Attending an event such as this requires several concurrent factors: 1) at least a handful of monetary bills adorned with Andrew Jackson, 2) the patience to mingle with tens of thousands of people determined to enforce the artist’s worst stereotypes, and 3) acceptance of the fact that several monetary units featuring Andrew Jackson won’t necessarily buy a good view of the artist, or, for that matter, any view at all.

Once these three ingredients are in place, a fourth component is usually required: at least one friend with the same first three components and similar musical taste. These requirements have rarely convalesced in my case, but this summer was one exception.

This summer I realized that the annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival would be taking place during my two-month sabbatical from teaching English in Korea. So, I said to Ryan Thomas, my best friend of 12 years, that attending would be a good way to mark my time at home and possibly make some new memories. It was important that I tell him this before I discussed what the tickets cost.

Upon hearing the ticket prices, he sighed, cast his eyes at an unidentified distant object behind me and said, “We’ll see.” I’ve encountered this response from him before; I’m pretty sure it means “I can’t, but this just might save me the trouble of having to say so.” I, however, would not be deterred: I offered to pay for both tickets.

“We’re going to make memories while I’m here,” I said, “even if I do have to have to pay…to pay… (I’m sorry, I can’t type it. I thought I could, but not without crying).”

I was convinced of its importance, and still am, because there are some things you simply can’t be educated about in school; at least not at the Extremely Christian University of Sheltered Learning that I attended. Having attended Bonnaroo, I can now say that there is one area of life in which my knowledge has increased at least 10-fold: hippies.

I’m sure you know that hippies wear colorful clothing made of inexpensive vegetation, support the ideals of peace and love (as opposed to those who support the ideals of uproar and indifference) and were at their most fashionable in the late ‘60s. During the weekend, I saw two separate categories of hippies: those who were born 40 years too late, and, even worse, those who weren’t.

As I said before, concerts tend to attract those determined to enforce the worst stereotypes of their genre. I can tell you firsthand that not every person who listens to hard rock wears black all the time, smells like methamphetamines and perspiration, and considers indiscriminate crashing into random strangers after a running start their idea of quality recreation time. However, I can also tell you firsthand that these are the only people who attend hard rock concerts.

Likewise, not everyone who listens to contemporary Christian music walks like they have a steeple lodged beneath the seat of their baggy jeans and says things like “We’re going to have a phat time praising God!” These are, however, the only people I’ve ever seen at a Newsong concert.

Beck and Radiohead were among the headlining artists at this year’s Bonnaroo, and I suspect that their fans are those who respect the ideals of the ‘60s but found the movement ineffectual and were put off by hippies’ cavalier use of their natural assets, by which I mean their brain cells. Most of those who attended the actual concert, however, spent much of the day passed out on environmentally friendly blankets, or, in at least one case, attempting to swim to the moon.

I’m not kidding about that last one. My most vivid memories of the evening involve seeing a young man about my age in a red bandana totter next to me and Ryan. Perhaps inspired by Radiohead’s atmospheric sound, he was practicing his freestyle stroke while his friends offered words of encouragement such as “There’s no gravity on the moon!” We found him so amusing that we both took pictures, to which he responded, “No more flashes, I’m gonna fall down.”

Radiohead gave a great performance, or at least I think they did; I could only see them on monitors beside the stage. For all I know, the entire concert was recorded elsewhere and those in the first 100 rows were told that those who didn’t play along would receive a visit from the DEA. At any rate, they sounded good enough that Ryan and I left for home Sunday morning, even though there was still a day full of music ahead.

We both concluded we’d heard enough music and made a sufficient amount of memories to placate us for the next year.

Besides, we both needed to shower; we still smelled like counterculture.

Good times, man. Good times.
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