Everything I needed to know about why we can't have peace on the planet I learned at a music festival.
Not just a music festival...the Austin City Limits music festival. This is no fly by night event...this is 70,000 people savoring 3 days of deliriously premier rock and roll, and meandering through the most magnificent consecutive October days anyone planning to be outside in Texas could imagine. ACL 2010.
My weekend began in the spirit of Texas tradition with Asleep at the Wheel at noon on day one...was driven to the edge of fainting joy with Balmorhea opening day two...and ended with none other than The Eagles sending us out the exit almost airborne on day three. It was...to borrow a phrase from a generation one or two behind me...epic.
This kind of thing works in my city because we are cool. My favorite piece of evidence to support that statement is the unwritten rule of Living in Harmony that allows the spreading of a blanket on the ground to represent a reserved seat. This happens wherever you go in Austin. If it's an outside event that begins at 8 PM, a blanket can be placed at 8 AM and it will be where you left it when you return at 7:55 PM. It's the Law of the Live Music Woods around here.
I told you we were cool.
So yesterday, knowing we would want a decent spot to see our beloved Eagles at the end of the day, on the festival's biggest stage, the Peace Papa and I arrived an hour before the gates opened to dash for a spot under a tree to spread our blanket. The plan actually served two purposes. It gave us shade to rest in when the day started to wear on us, and eased our worries about pushing through the human stew to try to catch a glimpse of Don Henley & Co. at 8 pm, when every festival stage but the headliner stage went dark.
We were not the only old folks with this idea. In fact, by the time we got to the sprawling oak at 11:02 AM, it was almost packed. But we got a spot. A good one. Within 5 minutes, even more 50-something music fans showed up and began spreading out in front of us. The security guard on duty let them know they'd be the front row of the chair and blanket bunch. We were all pleased.
Except the people who'd been designated "front row" apparently spent their day enforcing the status they worked so hard to earn (?) while the rest of us went about our business enjoying a day of music. Everyone who tried to sit in front of them heard this: "We got here at 11 this morning. This is the front row." And if folks didn't move, as commanded...these entitled grumps got security to help them out. I'm not kidding.
It gets better.
We were all in our places at 8 PM...and of course the area had, um, filled in. (see above mention of 70,000 people)
Did I also mention our coveted tree spot was right in front of a long wall of porta-potties? Needless to say, a few of the music fans who had worked hard to stay hydrated under the Texas sun all day (thank you Budweiser) decided it was time to visit the potties. But the music had begun, and our friends on the front row would have NONE. OF. IT. Seriously. Imagine a sea of people and camping chairs and blankets and coolers and backpacks and water bottles - and three nasty bermuda-shorted seniors standing with their arms straight out in front of them to block the path to the bathroom. When arms out didn't work...they wagged their fingers in kids' faces and said, "Go back. You can't go through here. WE'VE BEEN HERE SINCE 11." I was sure someone was going to get slugged.
These people chose this approach instead of taking one step forward to get out of the traffic flow. They did this instead of enjoying the music. They did this until they finally packed up their gear and left. Really. While The Eagles were on stage. While the music they had spent the whole day planning to hear was playing.
Apparently someone forgot to tell these music lovers that - yes - a blanket and a couple of chairs holds your space. But - no - it does not give you any rights beyond your 4' x 4' square. And, honestly old timers...it's a music FESTIVAL, not the ballet. There are no reserved front rows at a music festival. I'd venture a guess that even if these folks had held their noses on the floor of the stage all day long, someone with a little more spring in their step and a few less inhibitions about propriety would have managed to wiggle in.
It was a music festival!
So, there it is. We humans are ridiculous. Even at a music festival, where everyone shares a common interest in what's going on, and there are no obvious philosophical, political, or religious differences between us...
Even under these circumstances we feel a need to protect what we believe we're entitled to. And we'll fight with someone to do that if we have to.
I give up.
And as much as I love The Eagles, I have to tell you, I was longing for just one sweet song from The Youngbloods.
C'mon people now...
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