Tibetan Freedom Concert
Originally uploaded by tonbabydc
(Sorry for the delay in posting part II. It turns out that when your clients have a singular focus on invalidating your existence, you just don't take the same amount of comfort in going home and writing a blog about how much of a loser you are. Funny, that.....)
Back to the show.
This Tibetan Freedom Concert thing was was technically sold out, and close to everyone I knew was going to be there – all of us had field tickets. This was going to be fun, right? Fun! Indie bands! Rock stars! Beer! Sun! Women!
Ok, the plan that I was going to meet my friend Brian at the Rockville metro station in the morning, and we’d head down together and meet up with our other friends outside the stadium.
However, the first misfortune of the day was for Brian and I to somehow miscommunicate; as I waited for him at the Rockville Station, he was looking for me at the Twinbrook station (also technically in Rockville, hence the confusion).
We individually gave up on one another (this was still somewhat pre-cell phone era - more on that later) and headed down to the concert on our own, both believing that we’d somehow find one another on the field.
That didn’t really happen…..
I got myself to RFK Stadium and did a few laps around the ginormous pavilion of food, craft, clothing and anti-Chinese propaganda vendors, looking for my friends. But I was doomed to miss them in the veritable sea of 17 year olds, dreadlocked white guys and shirtless, sweaty people.
Undeterred, I headed into the stadium and onto the field, continuing to look for people I knew.
But it really was pointless. I had foolishly miscalculated exactly how many people can fit on a football field. I wondered in large circles searching for my friends as some old as some old rasta dude (Mutabaruka, maybe?) did his reggae thing on stage.
After that came KRS-1. Taken in by a short but intense set, complete with Omega-style stompers performing with him, I briefly forgot that I’d lost my friends. Maybe this day was going to be ok after all. And it was only like 12:30 or 1:00 in the afternoon by this time….I had all day to find my friends.
KRS-1 finished, then someone came out and gave a speech about Tibet or something. Then Live came on.
(Ok, so right here in my first draft of this entry, I wrote NINE WHOLE PARAGRAPHS about how much I hate Live. Seriously, I went on a fearsome tear about how totally lame they were and how utterly ridiculous 90's rock was when Ed Kowalczyk was considered to be a great big rock star, and how I considered the guy to be a totally pretentious liberal arts school pansy.
But a funny thing happened in the two weeks between drafting that entry and sitting down to post it. I heard Live on the radio like three different times, and I had to force myself to listen with an open mind.....and now that I'm ten years away from the complete radio and video saturation of those guys, they, you know.......they aren't all bad. There certainly was worse music out there back then.
So, yeah - sorry, Live. I just wish you'd have put your shirt back on and stopped taking yourself so seriously. Between Jim Morrison and that fucking tool from Creed, no one really needed you to fill the "Messianic rock star" void, you know??)
Anyway, I wasn't in the mood for Live, but I stood there and took it all in because I didn't have much choice: the stadium floor was starting to fill in, and I was slowly getting pushed forward and to the center of the field as more people entered. It was a feeling that I would need to accustom myself to as the day went on.
As hundred of high school students started rocking out to Live, I was more or less becoming miserable. Mostly because of the music, but also because of the emergence of a great many crowd surfers.
As Phil had prophesied, this meant that I essentially got kicked in the head every five to six minutes, and eventually I decided to just stop watching Live do their terrible thing and instead watch for crowd surfers so that I’d be better prepared to push them away before they once again clipped me in the ear with their Doc Martens.
(On that note, it’s not that my intentions were rooted in anything other than self preservation, but I still would like to point out that it was a total accident when I grabbed that teenage crowd surfer girl in the pink tank top by her left boobie. I was totally aiming for her back and she just kind of lost balance and flipped her tit on to my hand all of a sudden. Seriously, I didn't mean to squwoosh your over-sized bosom. What the hell were you doing crowd-surfing with your mams all hanging out, anyway???).
All during this clusterfuck of headkicking, boobgrabbing and bad music, the field continued to get more and more crowded.
And it was getting hot. I mean hot as hell. At 6'3", I was at least a head taller than most of the crowd, and I could barley get any breathable air at all. I had no idea how the people standing at armpit level were coping with the situation.
The real bummer was that when Live finally finished up, things didn’t get any better. The field didn't clear out one bit, and I was pretty much stuck in the middle, about 40 yards back from the stage. Between myself and the exit, there were a couple hundred kids I'd need to wade through if I was going to get out of there before Dave Matthews started his fucking abortion of a set.
And it was ultimately hopeless. The Dave Matthews Band took the stage and I was trapped there in the middle of all the goddamned frat boys and rich kids and their 17 year old girlfriends.
(I'm not going to give you nine grafs on why Dave Matthews can blow me, but rest assured that I would gladly camp out for Live tickets before I ever again see the DMB. And that's no joke).
As lame as Dave Matthews was, he somehow became the least of my concerns before long: the entire sky became covered in storm clouds over the course of his set, and the humidity was unbearable. At least one girl fainted and had to be carried out of the field during the set, but we were jammed in there so tight that it was nearly impossible to get her evacuated. As she was finally carried out, scores of kids were pressed together and nearly dragged out with her.
This was getting scary, and no amount of extended solos, happy ass songs, and lame covers of “All Along the Watchtower” made it any better. The afternoon had become downright unpleasant.
By the time Matthews had mercifully ended his set the sky was dark in that way that happens in D.C. right before a summer storm. I watched another limp girl get carried out, and took advantage of the opportunity to inch closer to the field gate. But it was honestly impossible to move faster than baby step pace.
By this point, I had forgotten all about my friends.
I stood there – stuck – as Sean Lennon got on stage and gave a pretty thoroughly condescending speech to the crowd about some monk who was there with him. He came off like a total douche.
Then there was Herbie Hancock. Fuck.
You don’t have to tell me why Herbie Hancock is important. I know all about the stuff he did with Miles and Stevie and Wayne Shorter long, long before he did that RockIt stuff. (Which, incidentally, was all the rage with me and my friends back in grade school).
But in a deathly crowded and humid stadium field, its safe to say that no one was feeling it. It had started to rain ever so slightly, but not in any way that brought us relief. And I could have sworn that I heard thunder rolling above his music.
And then, midway through his second song, a sudden BOOMing sound ripped across the stadium floor, scaring the poop out of basically everyone.
Suddenly - almost immediately - Herbie and his band got the fuck off stage and someone got on the PA to tell us to get off the field. All several hundred of us. Right. NOW.
But we were stuck. I mean totally stuck. Must have taken ten minutes to move the fifteen yards to the gate. One again, I saw a girl pass out and get taken out more or less in a crowd surfing fashion, as there literally was no room to carry her any other way.
Rumors were circulating that someone had been struck by lightning. Someone said something about a bomb. Event workers instructed us to take cover inside while the storm passed, and explained that a girl had been struck by lighting while talking on her cell phone.
I finally got under cover and climbed to the upper level of the stadium to grab a seat to take it all in. It poured down rain for about fifteen minutes, and a bunch of hippie kids ran around in the infield in a ring-around-the-posies type of dance, despite repeated warnings from the PA that they were in danger of getting themselves struck by lightning.
I waited there in the 300 level, knowing that the storm would roll through in a matter of an hour or less, when all of a sudden the PA announcer informed us that due to the lightning, the event had been canceled, and that they would resume with a full day on Sunday.
Well, this wasn't as I'd planned. I was not going to see Sonic Youth. Or Beck. Or REM.
Nope. I'd just paid $30 to see Live and the Dave Matthews Band, which was basically everything I was trying to escape at this moment in my aspiring hipster life.
Soaking wet, exhausted and grumpy, I got up and trudged down the walkway at RFK Stadium, occasionally stopping to peer over the wall and survey the crowd of similarly bummed individuals. And lo and behind, one time I peeked out and who did I see but that singer from that band, REM.
Now, I'm not actually a big REM fan or anything....but I'm pretty sure that celebrity sightings were pretty rare for me at that time, so this was kind of the highlight of the day.
He was talking to one of the event organizers, probably saying something like "Oh, shit, the rain just stopped and the sun just came out, and somehow there isn't a cloud in the sky all of a sudden. What the fuck are we going to do now that we've told all these kids to go home??"
That's when some idiot next to me shouted out "STYYYYYYYYYYYYYPPPPE!!!!!"
Powder looked up at us, started for a moment, then scurried back in his tent to eat some baba gonoush and meditate or something. (Lest you forget, he has an innate fear of lightning).
So, yeah, suddenly it was an absolutely gorgeous summer day, and the fucking concert was canceled. God only knows where my friends were.....maybe they'd been struck by lighting while talking on their fancy cell phones.
On top of everything else, the Stadium-Armory Metro station was jam packed, so me and 80 of my new best friends dragged our wet asses up to Eastern Market to get on the Metro there.
An hour or so later, I was at home, telling my hip new roommates about the day's events. (They were so hip, in fact, that they didn't attend this concert. That's how it works, you see?)
The next morning I awoke to learn that Radiohead had played a surprise gig Saturday night at the 9:30 Club, and upon arriving at work on Monday, my friends told me all about the awesome show on Sunday, when the Chili Peppers had returned to old school form, and REM killed, and the Beastie Boys were awesome, and Wycliff Jean played and women on the field all instantaneously started taking off their tops and showing the world their breasts.
Me? I spent the rest of that weekend at home in the outskirts of Olney-fucking-MD.
God was trying to tell me something about this agenda of mine to try and become hip, and how it was ultimately a hopeless idea.
But I just wasn't listening, no matter how clear it all is now.....