I'm in there somewhere. I'm the one sitting on the towel with my daughter. See me? No, not her - I'm over there, to the right, No no, my right, not yours....
Festing is great fun, but it is something done in the company of a whole lot of other people. 65 thousand of them, more or less. The aerial photo here shows one end of the park. Multiply what you see there by a factor of 5 (recognizing that 57 percent of all statistics are made up) and you get the general idea of the sheer volume, people wise, of the experience.
As to the volume of the music? Well, most of the people attending are in their 20s-30s. You know how loud people that age like their music? Multiply that by 8 stages and you get some idea of the sheer volume of the, well, of the VOLUME.
A quick side note here - yesterday as we first arrived we witnessed an impressively ominous plume of black smoke rising from a fire that started when some propane tanks for the food courts ignited. The fire was put out pretty promptly, but 4 ACL workers were injured, two seriously. I add my prayers to all others that their injuries will heal speedily.
Kudos to the Austin Fire Department and EMS who managed the blaze and the injuries in ways that did not panic or add to the potential damages from such a situation.
Pete Yorn's set was interrupted, but fest goers were appropriately patient considering what triggered the delays, and Fest entry lines were slowed but not stopped. Everybody we saw took this all with good humor, especially considering the heat, dust and then smoke involved. Austin, I am proud of you.
Yesterday we arrived mid-afternoon. Once managing the eternal sunshine of the clueless entry line, we were wrist banded and spent the next 7 hours festing.
I don't know if this gambit worked last year, but apparently some people believed that the staffers checking bags at the entry gates would somehow not sense that the additional weight in the center of a portable chair bag might indicate the presence of something "other than chair", like, say, 3-4 cans of beer. And it was Bud Lite at that. Observers in the lines around us agreed, not even worth stopping and drinking that before it was confiscated. Those people were saved from themselves.
So, safely in the park and all of Friday's Fest to go. For us, that included one stop for printed schedules (already out of date), one go-round at the misting station, two stops for cold beers, a food run for 1/4 pound hot dogs from the Hoffbrau booth, tea from SweetTea, potty breaks, and oh right, the MUSIC.
We heard more than saw the Peter, Bjorn and John set, but were impressed. Theirs is music we'll definitely be wanting to have around past Fest. After that it was on to hear Joss Stone, who rocked the stage for a great hour long set. Yeah, only thing hotter than the sun yesterday was Joss's performance. Catch her if you can - you won't be sorry.
Little break after that to move over and hear Andy Palacios and the Garifuna Collective. Andy, apparently a cultural minister for Belize as well as touring musician, thanked Austin for the honor of being the first Belizean band invited to Fest. If the boogeying around us was any indicator? They won't be the last. My daughter speculated that if her life could have only one type of music for it's sound track? Garifuna would certainly do.
After that we had a bit of a battle of the bands in our decision making. The Fest Wizards, for reasons known only to themselves, chose to schedule local darlings made big, Spoon, at the same time as Queens of the Stone Age. We'd meant to haul ourselves post-dinner across park to catch the Queens, reasoning that Spoon is more likely to be seen locally, but I got stuck in the park's slowest Potty line, and by the time I emerged it was only reasonable to amble over and catch the end of Spoon's set. Which was great, no complaints.
Life lesson learned? As I shared in an email with a young friend living in New York who hopes to get to Fest one of these years, "No diuretics at Fest". Except for beer, naturally. I lay the blame for missing Queens of the Stone Age squarely at the feet of my decision to get 24 ounces of tea with dinner. Stupid tea. Stupid me.
Lesson number two? Towards the end of the day the porta-potties at a music festival hosting 65 thousand fans plus however many additional volunteers and staff begins to resemble a second world situation. There are facilities, yes, but the amenities are over-taxed, shall we say. On the backpack essentials list for today is TP for the ladies.
Potty lines at Fest are a music concert correlate to the drive-through lanes at the bank. No matter which one you choose, it instantly becomes the slowest moving line. If you switch, so does the rate of progress. How that can be a universal experience for everybody in every line no matter where they stand is a mystery yet to be revealed. I can simply tell you for a fact that I was in The Slowest Line and yet overheard people all around me making similar complaints (as they moved ahead faster than I did).
Post-Spoon we were entranced, (along with several thousand others) as a two-level stage set-up revealed the all white clad Gotan Project, including a guitarist that looked a lot like (Sir) Ben Kingley. Their music is tricky to describe, sort of a Parisian Tango fusion, but we liked it. A lot.
The visually and aurally cool Gotan folk finished up in darkness as the sun finally gave up punishing music fan and non-fan alike. We realized we had fested ourselves out for the time being. We called ahead for my husband who was providing drop off/pick up services yesterday, and headed uphill for home.
Isn't that always the case? The way home from any delightful day of sun, fun and wonderful music always seems to go uphill....
Today we will be attending with no drop off services available. This will trigger a switch to a new parking spot in order to avoid spending half as much time walking as we would hearing music.
That is all part of being a smart Fest Game player. Choosing which bands to listen to, what food to get and when, only happens AFTER you have mastered the art of finding a legal parking space resulting in the Shortest Possible Walk. I have to admit, for the first time ever, my family's local connections in combination with a fascination with Google Map is really paying off.
We have the chance this year to borrow a parking spot at one of my daughter's co-worker's condo, with the enticement of a shortcut through her neighborhood to the Fest gates.
Will it prove to be a shorter, downhill, shadier trip to the entrance gates? Will we survive Fest as a Family Trio rather than our usual Mother/Daughter Duo? Who will we choose from Saturday's Schedule Snafu, Damien Rice or the Arctic Monkeys? Will we last long enough to catch my old favorites, The Indigo Girls?