“The Concert. Like So Many Times Before.”
July 19, 1994
We left for the concert while the sun still bathed us in light and heat and when we reached the site, it was teeming with life, 55,000 strong.
The parking lot was full of no rules or police but there were cars, trucks and all manner of vehicle from every state in the nation parked every which way and when pulled in and stopped, we were sure, we would never get out. Cars, new and old, of very make and model with some painted with day-glow paint in some crazy pattern which did not seem to be anything recognizable and some painted in an amazing and beautiful landscape mural and Volkswagen buses from the 1960's which would make any car collector happy to own and converted school buses, campers and huge recreational vehicles. And in between cars, in what was supposed to be traffic lanes, were tents, lawn chairs, beer coolers, small and large BBQ grills cooking away and Grateful Dead music coming out of the rear of every other car or men and woman on guitars singing out some song. Flags were everywhere flying in the breeze, sticking out of roof tops of cars or tied to tents: Grateful Dead, Confederate, state, it did not seem to matter.
Vendors were everywhere the could find a spot large or small enough to host their wares. Some had canopies and large displays and while others were selling only a few custom smoking pipes or beaded, braided, wrist bands on a tie die bed sheet placed on the asphalt. Books, bumper stickers, tie-dye this or that, sample music CD's from some small band, custom drawings of the band or photographs of the band taken at some previous show, lutes, drums from Africa, balloons of laughing gas and dope deals and whispers of acid all over the place. You name it and it was there somewhere. And to be sure no one went hungry, BBQ grills or old Colman camping stoves served up grilled cheese sandwiches which was always, always for sale at all shows although I never had one, hot dogs, subs, "wraps", veggie this or veggie that and from coolers or just plain old bags of ice, bottled water, soft drinks and beer, lots of beer.
There were old folks, teenagers, and every age in between and strapped to many, in chest packs or in back packs, were babies and infants. There were young, slender, barefoot, girls in shorts or a gypsy skirt and a halter-top or Grateful Dead t-shirt and women covered from head to toe in tie dye or looking like they had just come from a business meeting, straight to the show. Woman with gray hair, long hair, pigtails, purple hair or no hair at all. Men in shorts with no shirt, or wearing a t-shirt and all sorts odd hats from zany Doctor Seuss "Cat in the Hat" to some baseball team logo. Men with gray, braided, long, short and everything in between, beards. Boys, with their eyes wide open not believing what they were seeing and obvious to all that this was there for time with the tribe, being at the show. And everywhere fingers raised into the air, the tribal sign that one ticket was needed for today's show as many had come to the parking lot without tickets to get inside the stadium knowing that if they did not get a ticket, the parking lot and all that was going on there, would probably be more than enough.
Drums were everywhere, of every shape and size, in gatherings of drummers from 10 or 20 and they hand beat out tribal rhythms which never stopped as drummers came and went and although no one seemed to be the leader or in charge, the rhythm would shift and slide and it seemed all the drummers were on the same page of sheet music somehow. And the rhythms of one group of drummers would bang its away to where another groups of drummers were under some shade tree or under a bridge or out in the parking lot and all groups seem to be communicating in some, hollow log, African night way. And where there were drummers, there was a crowd with girls whirling and men gyrating in some ancient Asian mystic way or others just shaking their bones. As with the drummers, folks came and went and past around water or offered each other a toke on a joint or some other sharing.
And wound in and through this chaos of cars, vendors, drums, people, noise, were dogs on leases and dogs running free and smiles and the feeling of a good time just perfumed the air.
When it came time to go inside the stadium for the show, the concert, we joined the flow which made its way through tunnels, across roads, around fences and we listened to the laughter and stories and felt the excitement and expectations. Once inside the stadium, it was alive with voices, beer sales and fans going in every direction and we walked out into the stadium infield and marveled at the stage and the magnitude of the production. For there in front of us, was a four story high stage made of metal tubing and multi-color nylon stretched like sails on some giant sailing ship and mountains of speakers and row after row of music power amplifiers and in the middle of the stadium two huge video projectors sat ready to send fractal images to those sails when darkness and the band had over taken and we thought and talked of all effort to coordinate and erect.
Finally, we made our way up off the crowded, hot, teeming body, infield and found our seats and instantly made friends with those around us and shared water and stories of where we were from and other shows we had seen and what we hoped we would hear and we could only look around and be amazed and be happy to be a part of the gathering for it was like an extended family come to a jubilee.
Then as the sun set and long shadows began to form, a cheer rose up from the crowd and the band came onto the stage and sounds began to flow and for a while, everything was right with the world.