Sasquatch! 2009 - A Memoir: Part One
Posted: June 8, 2009 – Seattle, United States
Dirt under my fingernails, dark outlines, flashes of people in the distance. Dry grass beneath my feet as I half stumble and trip over an empty beer box. My headlamp tracks dance music to my right and lights up group of mud wrestling girls, some in bikini bottoms, some in nothing, all dancing like Jefferson's Airplane is about to take off, their arms and legs all disjointed and mechanical, like the first toy ever built.
I'm headtracking on the path again, and I hear the low rumble of a bongo, reminiscent of sounds of headhunters coming through the jungle. But this is no jungle, this is Sasquatch, a forest of people where they are the only trees. All arms stretched toward the moon like bony branches. I crack my fourth beer, there's a sweat on my lip, I push my way through a crowd of euphorically induced young bodies who sweat on one another to a drowning house beat. I can still hear the bongo, and if I am right, the man attached will ensure my passage into a party where there is no beginning and no end
The bongo tent looks like a dirty martini; two parts South African shanty town, one part Mad Max, with a twist of glowstick. The entrance to the tent is draped in cloth, recalling the days of freak shows at Coney Island. Moon, the man I'm searching for, a home brewed soul surfer displaced from Hawaii to Portland, sporting the kind of Rasta hat you'd find on Papa Smurf in a K-hole, sits at his bongo, making charged, deft movement with his hands, like a musical chef fileting a cornish game hen on a chopping block. Finding Moon is like discovering a 1970s porn rolled up in an old sweater hidden in
the trusses of your garage. If music were sex, this man could command a harem larger than the British army. I contain my excitement and crack another beer, sitting on the tailgate, speaking to no one.
A second man, more SoCal than Maori, sits on the ground at Moon's feet and adjusts the bongo so that it is positioned between them. He lays his fingertips on the edge, and listens for a few moments, as if he were Helen Keller reading braille. Moon's hand slices through the air to chop the tight flesh of the drum, and the other man hits the bongo and responds to what is now a conversation.
Zzzt, zzzt, let's rewind. There are fields of tents, dust clouds gather along a road that echoes a constant crush of rock and rubber and on the horizon you can see the heat rising, ripples of air breaking like acid etched waves. Somewhere just beyond the last bend awaits a hungry beast holding civilization ransom and the only way back is through a dark tunnel where sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll are handed out like free passes to an amusement park ride.
I have my ticket to freedom, I've waited in a line of cars being swallowed by this month's mecca, I'm on consecrated ground now, a place where a man can be free to squeeze out his peach yoghurt until his tongue can't reach the last few dents in the plastic. Spoons are for the civilized. If I am going to survive I must become the beast. I toss my yoghurt into a army green garbage can, making a perfect three-pointer from the parking lot, my container finding home the way Chris Webber made March Madness look sick. A voice behind me rises, "Let's roll." I give the man my ticket and he slaps an electric green paper press bracelet around my wrist and the ride begins.
We are all strangers here as we walk this dusty path. Like a pilgrimage to the stage, I am speechless from the dry heat. I think how we are all here in a different capacity, but the days ahead will help mold us into something more than a perfect R1 on the credit scale. My mind is flashing between thoughts of hunger and sleep, and the whet anticipation for day-break. Kings of Leon is hours, years, eons away from what is now. We have to fight our way through a trillion other bands, and take a million other chances. Johnny Cash is reincarnated before us in the voice of a young boy who, to the Man in Black, is comparatively a child before us. A mobile of clouds hangs in the sky like paper cut-outs; the slightest breath could knock them to the ground, shattering deep in the valley below me.
It's all starting to happen as The Decemberists pound the gas pedal into their set. The drummer pops the clutch and slams it up one more gear. We've hit the powerban. There will be no more breaking from here on in, only an endless gear box into overdrive. Music is heroin, the drug that brings a crowd together, pulls back the plunger, finds a vein and we all feel the rush as we watch two people meld into one another atop a cliff the way a skin graft takes hold. While thousands watch their public copulation, the black and white stark lines of those on stage is contrasted against the flowing green gown of a siren singing an epic tale of the dangers of love. Security guards high above pull the two lovers apart in a strange sort of messy, ironic coup.
I cough, and swing my lens back to the microphone, capturing a pinnacle moment of energy and sweat. The voice of the singer is idyllic, forming words and tunes that mesh together with the vibrations of the bass, the clangs of the drums, and the buzzing of the electronic synthesizer. My camera falls to my hip and I'm taken over by the sheer awe just before a coma. That awkward feeling inbetween, where my skin is crawling and I want nothing more than to touch my chin to my collar bone, as a sort of dumb comfort.
The set breaks free. Bodies loosen like melted toffee on the centreline of Route 55. A dissipating crowd in my wake moves as if a mirage from a future not long away. Like a puppet show, the sun falls out of the sky and the stars are pulled up as if they've been stuck on with white Elmer's glue. The heavens are once again a black sequined dress.
Continue reading with Part Two.
Sasquatch! 2009 Day One Photo Gallery:
Video: "This Soldiering Life" by The Decemberists