Friday, May 30, 2014

Confessions of a Neon Desert 2014 Attendee

I wanted to write this post earlier in the week, but I got caught up in other things. I think perhaps it was better because the feeling I was left with after the two day music extravaganza was a mixed bag. Now that it's simmered and I've had some time to reflect I think I may have the right balance. The right words.

I love music. Every part of live music. The anticipation before seeing a band you love. The drive over. The chatter in the car on the way to the venue. Walking over. The buzz in the crowd. Everyone is amped  to see --insert band name here--. Standing in lines for beer. Getting a little pushed and shoved as you try to get a viewpoint of the stage. The heat as people squish together a bit and sing off tune to their favorite song. I love that. I love the live experience of music. There are people who get this and people who don't. If you don't get this at all don't read on.

I had all of this on Saturday at Neon Desert. I was amped. I was happy as I walked to the gate and got my blue bracelet. My friend Sarah and I strolled and took pics at 104.3 photo booth. We walked some more and found a row of local artists nestled near the corner of Mills and Mesa. We walked back to the shopping area near San Jacinto Plaza and found them to be little sparse, but we were still optimistic. Ultimately, we were bummed the Plazita along with much of downtown was still under construction, but I was going to see Wiz and Red Man/Method Man. This is all I cared about.

Until Red Man/Method Man went on stage. Without many things to do in between sets people seemed to guzzle faster. Lines for beer seemed infinitely long with people propelling themselves to the front regardless of who had been waiting. RM/MM hadn't been up on stage for 10 mins when the first of two fights we witnessed during their set happened. A poor staff woman in her neon green t-shirt ran over and flashed her flashlight back and forth on the crowd while people shoved others standing on the small surrounding San Jacinto wall out of the way. We backed further away. People started to crawl on the bus stop. More flashlight. Another fight. More flashlight. Finally two cops popped out from somewhere to help security.

When Wiz came on stage, we had a great perch by the Jack Daniel's trailer.People shoved some. A guy spilled his beer down my back, but hey, I'm at a packed show. It's a given. Then a fight broke out next to us. A guy had his girlfriend pinned against him. She was crying. A young neon clad security guy was trying to separate them and escort him out. They shoved and pushed. People yelled. Two shirtless soldiers tried to help. The girl continued to cry. Finally, they were separated. Ten minutes later pushing and shoving ensued as two guys got angry that they bumped into one another. I kept thinking, really? I just want to see Wiz, people!

By Sunday, everyone seemed less tolerant, drunker, and ready to take out even more frustration on each other. Partiers partied too hard and vomited in trash cans while police asked if they'd taken anything. A guy punched a girl in the face during the first part of MGMT. I was knocked down (landed on my feet) from the small wall surrounding San Jacinto plaza because people wanted to shove through at any cost. I just wanted to see MGMT.

Neon green t-shirts were seen sparingly. Tiny flashlights were seen flashing everywhere as people used their cell phones to mimic security, so people stopped paying attention. Half-naked girls complained that guys made vulgar noises at them. I wanted to believe that it was organized mayhem, but really it just felt like mayhem. The level that was just a bit too much, for everyone it seemed because they shoved and pushed, yelled out "Dick!" and "Bitch" at one another like a greeting.

I came for the music, but left shortly after MGMT because their show seemed stiff, or perhaps the mayhem had just become too much for us. As we walked back to our car a couple walked in front of us holding hands. A guy walking toward the festival yelled out, "Ugh, gay!" "REALLY?!?!" popped out of my mouth before I realized it. Sarah had bowed out the day before and it was just my husband and me. We both looked at the couple in front of us, and I wanted to apologize.

We passed the back part of the Budweiser stage on the way to the car, sad. We came for the music, but left with an ick feeling. In the car I asked, "What happened?" and we couldn't come up with an answer. We tried to think of things. The space was odd. It seemed too full. There wasn't enough non-drinking activities we'd seen at previous festivals. There wasn't enough security. Enough stages. We went on as we chatted at our local bar, but still couldn't figure out what happened. All we knew was at moments it seemed more Lord of the Flies than music festival.

The closing question as we walked out into the warm night air, "Do you think we'll go next year?"

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