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Jun. 13th, 2006 | 12:36 pm
posted by: deeply_seeing in grassrootsfest
Be cool, y'all
...Fifty-one days until the 2006 Grassroots Festival of Music, Art and Dance....
Yesterday, me and the mighty Bean drove out through twisting fields, past fallen farms and bails of hay that looked like giant, Dali-esqe cinnamon buns to the Trumansburg Fairgrounds. We drove right through the main gate and went down and parked behind the Grandstand. We walked through overgrown fields and combed through the Timmothy with our fingers, until we had arrived at what has become our favorite camping spot at Grassroots. Having both been affected with "the fever" since the real summer weather has hit, we both wanted to do something extreeme to hold of the proverbial shakes until our yearly fix in July. Extreeme? Probably, but Beaner and I have always been extreeme-kinda fellers.
We shared a bowl of top-shelf Chala and set up a groovy 'floor-plan' in our heads, and - since prime real estate at the festival is strictly first-come-first-served, we devised a top-secret plan of claiming the secluded swatch of sleepin'-spot before any other folks could get their grubby lil' hippie-mitts on it. Of course I will NOT reveal this plan to you....because, what if you are one of THEM??
....Fourty-five days and counting until the 2006 Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance....Fourty-five days...
I originaly typed "twenty five days"up there...and then "twenty six" in the second spot. Perhaps it was wishful thinking, followed by a bout of momentary retardation. Regardless of whether it's twenty-five days or fourty-five, Grassroots 2006 is hella-close to being here and by any standards will be over too goddamn soon for my liking, and then my chums and I will have to suffer another God-forsaken year in the frozen gulag of upstate New York until Grassroots 2007.
Last week, when Beaner and I waltzed around the Grassroots site in stoned-anticipation, we tip-toed through the verbal tulips - wondering aloud how possible and realistic it would be to go to either the fall or spring Grassroots festival in Silk Hope, NC. Attending either, or both of those 'roots would certainly help keep the withdrawals away - and hey - it would get us down to the happiness of western North Carolina, as well. Friends could be seen and Donna the Buffalo could be danced to. If you want me to be realistic about it, I think that going to the one next spring sounds more realistic than the fall. It would allow us enough recuperation from this one in July, and give us a three-month-prior fix. I'll start manifesting this to the universe now.
I'm trying to think of something else to write about, but all I ever get excited about at spring's end and summer's beginning is friggin' Grassroots. It's almost pathetic, really - that a thrity-one year old man suffers tunnel-vision about a four day music festival that happens once a year. Suffice to say that if you were in my shoes, you would feel and do the same. This strange cycle would affect you just as deeply every year. If, for four days, you were able to run amok with a few -thousand like-minded freaks and gentle souls - particularly in this time of spiritual crisis (the spiritual crisis being that a conservative Christian, fear-mongering, war-loving, child-killing, fag-hating, half-wit is in the White House), you would have a hard time not looking forward to it, too.
Regardless, what is better than dancing under the moon and the stars with a lot of your close friends to beautiful music and thick, summer night air? For real, what is more beautiful than love and music?? Love and music can save us, and is...
Fourty-four days until the 2006 Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance....Fourty-four Days and counting...
A side effect of "the fever" is that I visit the Grassroots website everyday - sometimes more than once - to see if they have yet posted this year's schedule of performances. I do this even though I know that they usually don't provide it until around two to three weeks before the festival. I logged on to the site today around two pee-emm, and lo-and-behold, they had posted this year's schedule! I was ecstatic. I sat and stared and ooh-ed and ahh-ed at it's revelations. I soaked up the knowledge of what neato-group was performing on which of the four stages on what day and at what time. I was surprised to see that John Brown's Body was performing only once during the four days (actually - the same happened two years ago) and even more surprised to see that that single concert was on Thursday night, the first, and - by tradition - least-attended evening of the festival. The upside to this, however, is that Thursday happens to be the night when the joy of Grassroots is running at it's most pure and giddy within the hearts of the die-hard. You see - the craziest among us arrive at the gates at 8 a.m. Thursday morning even though they don't swing wide until noon. We rush inside and erect our tents, and then skip about in happy-hippie, granola-strewn abandon while the strains of The Bubba George String band waft around the festivalon gossamer beams of sunglow. By the time most other folks are casually moseying through the gates for the first time on Friday, us Grassroots lunatics are just waking up and wrestling with our first nasty hangover, and have been stoned, tripping, and dancing for a good twenty-four hours, or so.
Thursday is the day when we are so happy to finally freakin' be there that we can barely contain ourselves...when the greeting "HAPPY GRASSROOTS!!" is screamed by random people to no-one in particular every two minutes, and when strangers pass each other and share hugs and hopes for the comming days. Thursday is the day that we crazies are so overcome with the lving daydream that we can barely finish a sentance before we're running off to check out this band, or that. My point is, that Thursday night might just be one damn-good night to see JBB throw down some serious, love-soaked reaggae/funk and future riddims on the main stage, long before gaggles of dipshit high-school kids and testosterone-soaked jocks have pulled little-red-wagons-full of Jagermeister down Route 96 and through the maze of tents. This is a good 24 hours before the Future Soroirty Sisters of America/Future Stepford Wives of Southern California high-school girls have started doing body-shots of something disgusting in ghetto camping and magically transformed themselves into a real nightmare of the "drunk girl" skit from Saturday Night Live and then begun sullying the infield with their puking deep from their bulimic guts, and stepping all over my feet as I try to dance, and giving me dirty looks all the while, as If *I* were the half-wit, cum-dumpster that were spoiling *their* Grassroots experience.
...no....even these fake-and-bake, bleach-blonde, sperm-bank, Jessica-Simpson-loving, mall-rats can't spoil my weekend...
Fourty-Three days until the 2006 Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance...Fourty-three days and counting...
Last year, someone brought a chicken to the festival. Actually, they brought many chickens, and as the weekend wore on I would see them walking around and bobbing their lil' chicken heads in the groovy way that they are wont to do. On Saturday night, as we were all enjoying our last-night-of Grassroots Screamer, Amanda Aho developed an unnatural connection to one chicken in particular who seemed to claim our campsite and the environs around it as it's lil' chicken stomping grounds. The chicken - who we'll call Mr. Clucky - enjoyed walking up and down the ramp that led into the port-a-showers that our tent was right next to (perhaps the ramp brought back fond memories of it's chicken-coop at whatever farm good-ol' Mr. Clucky called home) and it also could be found strolling through the "living room" area in front of our tents, pecking-up crumbs from crackers and chips and whatever snacky-foods we ate throughout the weekend. It was a harmless, symbiotic relationship. We let Mr. Clucky eat our leavin's, and Mr. Clucky let us see what it was like to pet his chicken-feathers. Surprisingly, chickens are much, much softer than one might assume - if one has never before pet a chicken. I wou;dn't suggest making a chicken-down comforter - but I also stand corrected from my earlier assumption that chickens are rough to the touch. I can now empirically say that chickens are fun and soothing to stroke. (I'm way ahead of you on thinking of the Stroking my Chicken jokes, so don't bother pointing them out - unless you have a really good one.)
Anywho - Amanda Aho (yes, her last name really is Aho) fell in love with Mr. Clucky and decided that she was going to take him home and make him her own. I should point out that Amanda was quite drunk, stoned and tripping on mescaline when she arrived at this assesment. I believe that it is even more important to point out that when Amanda awoke the next morning in a more sober state, she STILL wanted to take the chicken home, much to her boyfriend Beaner's chagrin. However, all night Saturday night - actually, if you want to split hairs, it was ass-early Sunday morning...'round-about 3...4 and 5 am, Amanda was stumbling around our campsite scqualing at the top of her lungs: "Who stole my CHICKEN??" ad nauseum. I was drunk, coked-up and stoned, too - so at first, I found this quite ticklish to my tickle-bones. However, when three a.m. became 4 a.m., and more-so when 4 a.m. became 5 a.m., I found myself wanting to locate long-lost and much-lamented Mr. Clucky and shove him up his love-lorn adopters chocolate wizz-wag. Luckily, I fell asleap pretty flippin' quick, due to the critical mass of my chemical intake, otherwise - I may have become just as annoyed as all of our tent-neighbors were at Amanda's decision to wail and moan and lament Mr. Clucky's absence until 6.am.
By late next morning, Mr. Clucky had returned safe and sound, apparantly having chosen to take a late-night promenade about the festival grounds so as to better see what could be seen amongst 5,000 or so weird-ass hippies and, presumably, report this - what undoubtedly appears as magical and utterly mad to his little chicken pals back at the coop. When all was said and done, Amanda and Mr. Clucky never did start a new life together, probably due to Beaner putting his foot down. And I say good for him - I wouldn't want a fucking chicken living in my apartment, either, seeing as how they have a tendancy to make loud noises at the break of dawn.
So it goes.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but a good friend and wonderful human being passed away yesterday. Scott Palmer - the bass player for John Brown's Body finally conceded to what the horrors of prostate cancer were doing to his way-too-young-to-die, fourty year old body. I didn't find out until tonight at 9:47, when Christy sent me a text message at work. I was stunned and bitch-slapped into stupid, wander-about-in-an amnesiac-like-daze, sadness. I won't lie to you and say that we were best friends in the whole-wide world - but we had become close, and hung out at his home more than once, sharing our love for listening to and playing music, and smoking chala together. He was a fellow Libra and very kind, caring and giving person. He never took what he had for granted - and he appreciated how lucky he was to be able to travel the world and make music for people with his friends. One of his favorite things to do when he invited me over was to show me pictures of all of the places he had traveled to and the people he met. He could have a rough exterior and a sharp toungue at times, but I could tell that he had a gentle heart: besides being a Libra, so many of his pictures were of sun-soaked landscapes. These were the things that touched him, and I'm honored that he shared that side of himself with me. He may not have known that I saw it, but I did.
Let me tell you, the other side has itself one hell of a thunderous, bottom-feeding, nut-rumbling, chest-pounding, infectious-riff-writing bass player on their hands, now. Please help me and his undoubtedly heart-broken mother by manifesting that his spirit finds it's way to where-ever it is supposed to be going.
Fourty-two days until the 2006 Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance...Fourty-two days and counting.... Six weeks from tonight, my friends and I will be playing together in the dreamland that is 'the roots'. My fever has died down to a subtle anticipation - but I'm sure that it will wax and wane countless times betwixt now and then. For the past few days, I've been entertaining internal monologues about whether or not I may be a little unbalanced to focus so much on the upcomming festival, as I do every year. I always come to the same conclusion, though: I'm not the only one. Every few days, I meet another soul who is giddy with Grassroots anticipation. It brings so much joy to so many people. As well it should - the whole festival was birthed by the host-band - Donna the Buffalo - as a way to raise money for a friend who they loved that was living with AIDS. The festival - to this day - is a non-profit orginization who donates all of their proceeds to AIDS research and art in public schools. So you have this four day gathering of music, art and dance that - in and of itself - generates an indescribable sense of inclusion, joy and community - and gives the fruits of it's labours to philanthropic causes. I am nothing but proud to be excited about such a thing. If you would like to know more about why they exist, and where their money goes - visit www.grassrootsfest.org.
A few days ago, they released the official schedule-band-lineup-thingie. The schedule informed us that JBB will be playing only once during the festival on Thursday night. At first, this struck me a strange, because they usually get a prime slot on Friday or Saturday night on the infield in front of 10,000 or so happily-bouncing folks. Eventually, my pals and I decided that this might actually turn out to be super-groovy, because Thursday belongs to the die-hards and is the night when moods are running at their most pure. I have no choice but to believe that seeing JBB throw down their love-energy within the festival's first few hours will only serve to create a sense of ecstatic, boundless euphoria for the collective Grassroots conciousness. We will be dancing on clouds of love and untiy Thursday night, my friends. You should join us. The human race needs as much unity as it can get, right now, in the midst of dictator Dub-yah.
Ok...off to Dreamland for me. I'm gonna smoke some chala and listen to 10ft. Ganja Plant. Scott can play me to sleep with his soothing bass.
Fourty-One days until the 2006 Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance...41 Days and counting...
I drove by the festival site again, today, but I didn't go there to walk about again or take pictures on my cell-phone, as I have in weeks past. I actually was just on my way past while driving home from a shopping trip in Ithaca. And is Trumansburg on the way home from Ithaca to Watkins Glen? Well, yes...it's the second-fastest route and it only takes five minutes longer than the quickest route. So I guess, in a way, I went by there on purpose. Call me crazy - you'd be right.
Fourty Days until the 2006 Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance....Fourty days and counting...
Fourty days and fourty nights it rained and rained just like cats and dogs
drowing humans just like rats, it was a parable for an angry mob
join our group for some militant peace - where violence as an issue is purely mute
we'll lay around, drinking tea and waiting for spirit to tell us what to do
with a love so real, it'll change the way you think and feel
with a love so strong...lip the switch and turn me on... There is a drum circle every year at Grassroots. Before the festival begins, a bunch of people get together and build a dome that must be thirty foot high over top of it. They take the time to decorate it with prayer flags and weave simple little scenes out of bailing twine amidst the structure. It is all very peaceful, comforting and inviting; you can tell that the people who spend their time erecting it care about getting you off, aesthetically. I guess the same can be said for everyone who does or creates something at the festival - they all want you to get off in some deep and wonderful way. Actually, I suspect that the ultimate goal is to get us all off as a collective body and mind. Anyone who has spent a few days at Grassroots will tell you that it is a journey to the center of a collective conciousness. Everyone that wants to, gets on a magic carpet woven of cosmically delicious musical goo and a sense of purpose that emenates from everyone. Everyone becomes the most simple, open, joyful, smiling and creative version of themselves - if only for four days - and by Saturday evening everyone is shoelss and living on good vibes.
- Donna the Buffalo
yes, there's a certain vibe that's circulating in the air
cast from all the energy that emenates from everywhere
oh, such a lovely truth beginning to unfold
as our brothers and sisters all come on in from the cold...natural once againSo there is a beautiful drum circle with a beautiful dome over it, and every night of the festival, a big group of folks gather within the hay bails that form the perimeter - (they need something to muffle the noise at 4 a.m. - 150 people all banging on oversized djembes and djun-djuns and whole flock of different oversized african drums will make one fuck of a noise.) - and they make a rhythm together, and they dance endless, sweaty circles in the dirt around a campfire that crackles and seems to dance in time to the rhythm. Those who aren't playing are dancing. Those who aren't dancing are playing. There are those that come to stand in a cirlce that forms around the music-makers - and those ones stand in awe and float in states of hypnotism. Some sleep against the inside-wall of the haybails and claim that the sound help them sleep.
They start drumming around eleven or midnight and they drum until the sun rises. Sometimes they don't let the sun stop them. Sometimes they play the music that the sun is shining. Most times, when you stand in the drum circle, time loses it's relevance and three hours passes like 3 minutes.
- Donna the Buffalo
It's disgusting, really. I can see how someone might read this and think to themselves: "Fuck me - this sounds like an excuse for a bunch of n'er-do-well left-wing goofballs, granola-farmers and burnouts to get together, twirl in circles, smoke joints and take LSD."
Tune in, turn on, and drop out, daddy-o.
Nah. It's nothing like that. This is not frat boy's converging on a Phish concert, en masse' so that they can pretend that it's 1969 and that they were at Woodstock, and then they smoke a joint and run around making screaming asses out of themselves. This is people that don't have to try to be what they are. Ithaca and Trumansburg is just that kind of place. It's full of old-school, forward thinking, healthy-food-eatin', book-readin', tea-drinkin', hyper-intellectuals who work at one of the four universities in a thirty mile radius. For whatever reason, handfulls of hippies settled in I-town after the sixties, and it's maniacal, wandering spirit god old and started to do Yoga and drink chai - and Ithaca was the place that it kicked up it's woolen-socked heels. These patchouli-farmers mated and bred baby-hippies, and those babies grew up to be the musicians, artists and business owners that make this place what it is,today.
This is not sixteen year old girls in tie-dye t-shirts and silver peace-symbol earrings that they bought at Claire's. These are folks raised on macrobiotic farms and communes. This is the nitty-gritty. It's for true.
Fuck, I gotta get some z's.
Thirty-nine days until the 2006 Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance...Thirty-nine days and counting.
There's gonna be a few things to get used to at this years 'roots. Two, specifically. The first is the sobering fact that Scotty P. is no longer prancing around this particular astral plane with us. Granted, he hadn't been playing with JBB since January, or so, and I don't even know the name of the person who has been filling in for him on bass: either way, Grassroots will be my first time seeing the boys without Scott creating the rumble since mid-2002.
Secondly, This will also be the first time I will see Sim Redmond Band without Uniit Carruyo on vocals. I don't even know what to think about how it will sound to hear this new girl - Jen Middaugh? - singing the songs that Uniitt wrote. I guess it's just as well, since I really shouldn't be making any preconceived notions about what to think. I don't want to take away any unnessessary credit that this amazing group undoubtedly deserve.
Thirty Eight days until the 2006 Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance....Thirty-Eight days and counting...
Yes, this is where we can all assemble and employ the unity that Grassroots has given us all. If you're here, it's because you've been to the festival and you know how it brings us all together. Let's use this space to share stories, find rides to the fest with each other, trade Grassroots shows with each other - (my collection is getting impressive) and whatever else we decide to do. Just no negative bullshit, please. There is enough of that out there, already.
I am officially starting my annual countdown to the Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance. Sixty three days from this very moment, I will be pitching my tent among forest and field and four stages to enjoy four solid days of music and dancing with a few thousand other like-minded folks who have the tendancy to smile and hug. Call me a communist if you must, and I suppose - in some bastardized version of the word - I will be for those four days, but Grassroots has been one of the more important aspects of my every year since I was but a wee, impressionable lad in High School.
Yesterday, I made the first pass of what seems to have become an annual pre-Grassroots tradition. I drove the twenty-five minutes out to the Trumansburg fairgrounds and drove the perimeter of the festival site. I saw the empty fairgrounds and let my imagination fill in the blanks. I saw a miasma of tents in my mind's eye, where they should have been. I saw the colorful flags and balloons pointing high into the sky, as they always are that third weekend in July. I saw a sea of people twirling and smiling - and still others lazing about in the shade of trees. I saw people making paintings on huge canvases leaned up against the art barn, and I saw the spherical sculpture of the drum-circle dome, looking as if it had risen from the earth,itslef and then had been puked on by a buhddist monk.
I am certain that this was not the last of such passes that I will make between now and July 20th, when the gates open at noon. I may be so crazy as to do it once a week betwixt now and then - it seems to get me through the dregs of being a poor, working schlep.