I need a vacation.
Uncle Crappy and The Wife returned home from the Gathering of the Vibes late Sunday, a bit crispy, a bit soggy, a lot tired and a lot happy.
After a short wait at the entrance, we set up in Quieter Camping — which mostly was — right next to Meg and Wendy, two wonderful ladies annually make the short trip from Troy, N.Y., for a girls’ weekend out. We talked with them a bit, drank some beer and headed up to check out the Huge Shakedown and the GD movie fest they had set up Thursday evening.
After recovering from our respective hangovers — and showering in the smartly rigged open-air showers — we were ready for the start of the main event.
As it should be, the music was the highlight. I was rendered speechless by the first band we saw, Scarecrow Collection — well, by the band and by the contribution of May just before we walked up to the field. We saw lots of fun stuff Friday, capped off by Assembly of Dust, which was probably the best band of the weekend.
Friday was for bands we’d never heard and bands we’d never heard of; Saturday, however, was for the big boys. We took in a bit of David Gans, but he seemed a little too pissed off, in a musical sense, for us to really enjoy. So we set up closer to the main stage and got ready for the onslaught: Keller Williams, Hot Tuna, the Rhythm Devils and Ratdog, all in a row. Weir, ever the musical slut, sat in with everybody in the lead-up to his own band.
And that, boys and girls, was exceptional:
Jam>Jack Straw, Little Red Rooster>Bird Song>Odessa, Friend of the Devil, Victim or the Crime, Just Like Mama Said>Mississippi Half-Step>The Other One>Stuff>Standing on the Moon>Bird Song>One More Saturday Night (encore) U.S. Blues, Ripple.
And the music was thunderous. Ratdog is at its core a big nasty rhythm machine, and that was crystal clear on Saturday. Plus, we got the added bonus of hearing Donna Jean sing backup on many of the Dead songs in the set.
Yes, she was even on-key.
There was still another band to come, but the showers that had come and gone throughout the day suddenly became a thunderstorm, so we headed back to the camp.
There was so much more good stuff that’s a little difficult to go into any detail. Here’s a few:
- Watching the tripping guy dance to the movies on Thursday; The Wife tried to talk to him and all he could do was smile.
- The local cat wandering through the campground Thursday night, very confused by all the tents and people set up in his mouse fields.
- New York pizza vendors.
- Two versions of Lovelight, one by the North Mississippi All Stars (speaking of thunderous music) and one by AOD/Martin Sexton. Whoo-hoo!
- When the back tarp of the showers collapsed while The Wife was showering.
- The biker check guarding the ladies flush trailer.
- Without cell service, we were blissfully disconnected all weekend.
- The glowstick war at the start of Ratdog’s set.
- Mike Gordon and Steve Kimock with Rhythm Devils. Holy shit, that was hot.
A few gripes, and none of them were music related. Many of the younger ones still show an alarming failure to grasp the basic things that made this scene years ago: They don’t pick up their trash, they don’t have any concept of respect for others. There were too many tents and shelters set up on the field during Saturday’s rain, making it nearly impossible to see the stage. And there were a few idiots who thought it was fun to run around the campsites at 4 a.m. Sunday trying to wake everyone up.
(Our personal Wake Up Guy got his the next morning, though. It got pretty breezy on the back side of that storm Sunday morning, and while we were starting to pack up, we heard a crashing noise and shouts — all of which came when the same guy’s tent collapsed all over his sleeping self. Justice.)
The assholes were greatly outnumbered, though, and we met a ton of really cool people over the weekend. The best were the aforementioned May and Wendy, along with the rest of their group. We had an interesting group on the other side of our campsite, mostly college kids from New Jersey along with two dads who seemed to be marginally in charge. I was worried that they would be out of control, but we had no problems with them at all. And there were others: Jimmy from Brooklyn via Florida; Rob from Philly; the guys from Massachusetts who shared their shelter during Saturday’s rain; and that guy who danced next to me during Ratdog’s set.
I guess there were also monumental problems trying to get people into the venue, although we didn’t experience this directly. Eight hours? That’s waaaaay too long. Our entry was pretty simple: There were only two cars in front of us, and we waited about five minutes to get up to the checkpoint. Once there, we uncovered our coolers, since that seemed to be the bikers’ main concern. While they were going through our stuff, I chatted with one of the staffers about our “toaster,” her name for Honda Elements. And then they gave us a parking pass and sent us on our way. It took 20 minutes, tops.
And the title of this post? Hm. How to explain … Anyone who’s been to Dead shows will remember little snippets of conversation or t-shirt slogans or random small, odd incidents while walking through lots, that tended to add to the ever-shifting sense of reality one experiences in that setting. The best one of the weekend came just after hitting the tent Thursday night. As I mentioned before, we were close enough to other camping areas that we could hear some of the partying going on in those places … and we both heard someone discussing the benefits of Gold Bond medicated powder when on tour. Cooling, chafe-prevention … lots of stuff like that. We’re both avid Gold Bond users, but we had never heard of it referred to, at the top of someone’s lungs, as Gold Medicated Butt Powder. We sat in the tent and giggled for about 30 minutes.
The upshot is that we would do this again. There was a fair amount of stuff to be annoyed about, but it was far outweighed by the rest of the experience. I just wish I had gotten some rest.