story by Jason Anfinsen photos by Jennifer J Dohner
No sleep. Well, not much. Woke with that taste in my mouth from car sleep, that crispy after spittle of raw bland death. Plenty of Bob Marley, Sublime swirling through the camp site but most tents in the area strangely streamed Tom Petty. It was remarkable how the Canadian with the acoustic guitar sat in his rusty Volkswagen van and played "Last Dance With Mary Jane" while we heard "You Don't Know How It Feels" coming out of a portable tape deck.
I'm without my watch today, which is a terribly bad sign, forcing me to use my god awful cell phone in the middle of these pacific northwest mountains, which is almost a sin. Different vibe already felt today. No black attire anywhere. Goth kids flew back to their caves. This lineup equals the H.O.R.D.E. Festival from brain cells passed.
"We bring rock & roll." Parents with kids, old burners whose spark hasn't been completely snuffed by American capitalism. Gomez stuck to the script they published as How We Operate. Good representation of foreign countries: Gomez - Southport U.K., Him - Finland, and The Flaming Lips - Mars, Oklahoma.
Weird vocodor lyrics on "Devil Will Ride" as the sun comes out for a warm wink. Obligatory shirtless guy sleeping on the grass. He passed out on some other dude's blankets. They are politely trying to evacuate this tub load of drunk from their premises. His jeans fall down, boxers is the answer to the 64,000 question, I feel for that poor future felon...
Marijuana is for delinquents and dropouts.
The birthday kid wears, wait how do I know its his birthday you ask, well he's dressed head to toe in wrapping paper that clearly states "look at me it's my birthday and I'm a colossal assface" with a pretty red bow on his burnt head.
"Do you have a doobie to sell," asks this Abercrombie spokes model.
"A doobie?" I smile back.
"A doob, joint, spliff."
"Marijuana is for delinquents and dropouts," I reply with two ounces duct taped to my nut sack. Why duct tape you ask, because you only live once.
First time over on the second stage now, Wookie stage to keep with the Sasquatch theme, for Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks, which was a rather late edition to this three-day festival. I anticipated the Jicks' set, I adored the Pig Lib album and still rock the Slanted And Enchanted double disc of forgotten goodies every once in a while. I found a spot hidden in the shade by something called Rockstar Lounge, an eyesore billboard building which did not exist in 2005. The Yaksaba Noodles place is sure to offer chicken and vegItarien according to their mispellink sine.
Malkmus looks like Spize Jonze, a real goofer, throwing out free t-shirts, doing bits with the Grandaddy & Modest Mouse clad crowd. Songs popped out from the album Face The Truth. I notice a sweet ass neighbor of mine, we've never spoken in our own space, so why start here? "Dark Wave" starts up as I leave to check back on the main stage. Thanks for the appearance Malkmus, it was nice seeing ya Summer Babe.
Caught the tail end of Sufjan Stevens, something I never encountered in my seven years of living in the windy, before or after my time? They were the first to acknowledge Memorial Day and threw inflated Superman dolls out into the crowd to go with their holiday take on whatever patriotic song they just played.
Iron and Wine
My man Sam Beam must be shrinking underneath that ferocious beard. His sister joins him on the second song, then the full band slowly but surely aids their bearded brother. Florida reprazent! It's balls hot. Sub Pop records has a posse; Iron and Wine, The Constantines, Band Of Horses, The Shins. Here come some clouds behind the dude with the enormous marijuana tattoo above his navel.
At this time things begin to get hectic. I traveled over to the 107.7 The End mobile broadcast vehicle to do an interview with The Shins and The Flaming Lips. It's around 4:45. The clouds begin to open up and raindrops fall down fast. I quickly leave the station van and head back to the hill, guard my belongings. I brought tons of stuff kid, Mexican blanket, rations to last for days, change of clothes, and tons of exotic drugs. As the rain turns into a full-fledged storm, I park it under the cover of my double umbrellas, sitting tucked in a warm nook, when I hear a voice, "can I join you?" "all right," I said, making room for this little pixie whom I created to help me through the stormy madness.
Her name was Rita, she was studying environmental science in Bellingham, and is originally from Massachusetts. Her hair was short and curly red, her labret was pierced and her light blue eyes were something. Neko Case, bless her loveable soul, was playing her first song when the downpour came. She continued to strum through the wave of water that drenched us all, and eventually threw in the towel... which she quickly picked up and used as protection from the thunderstorm.
"HAIL," shouts someone and yes yes kids, we're being pelted with dime size bullets of frozen ice. These fuckers hurt skin. Pow bang bap. It's coming down hard now, all those without umbrellas or cover are severely screwed. I thought about running back to the station van, but shit, this was a once in a lifetime event. I had never been through a hailstorm, let alone one with 10,000 friends at a music festival. This one would have to be experienced.
Rita and I were cold chilling, literally, on this blanket which was now covered with wet freeze. Giant globs of rocket snow were pilling up around us. Thousands of screaming fans covering up, running wildly, technicians pulled the plug on the power and shrouded the exposed equipment. We start smoking a bowl and talking as if nothing else on Earth but us exists.
Minutes after the fury, the cascade of marble sized ice rocks stopped. Cheers from the victorious humans echoed through the canyon at ear piercing volume. We beat nature...for a moment. Just when we thought it was over, the Gods sent the second wave of shock and awe down upon us. We were ready. Cold, wet, worried, but ready. This blast was much more powerful than the first. My umbrella began to get heavy, our butts were sopping wet, and everyone around was wondering if the show would continue or if they should high tail it for the parking lot. This was a battle between man vs. nature and we would not be defeated. All people in attendance were down for this necessary rumble. We would not go home, no no, some of us traveled from Vancouver, Portland, even California to spend our holiday weekend together with music, friends, and...shit it's coming down hard now. Like machine gun fire, unstoppable force, the freeze is making it impossible for us to stay put, we're slowly sliding down the hill, slippery when wet and Bon Jovi ain't around to save our shivering asses.
The second blast stopped and once again the crowd, crazed with battle cry eyes, wooed at the sky, "we win, we win." It was a celebration for the kids, parents, and stoners who made the pilgrimage. Together we hugged, cheered, and danced in the puddles of ice. Kids began to slip slide down the hill. Parents grabbed their children and exited with caution. There was nowhere to really hide as the nearest town is Ellensburg (about 40 miles outside of The Gorge).
Rita and I cooled out in our makeshift hideout. Neighbor Wes was nowhere to be found. We listened to someone on the loudspeaker. "Ladies and gentleman thank you for being patient as we let mother nature do her thing. We are going to fire the equipment back up and get you some music real soon. Thanks for being so awesome."
Wow. That was something. Absolutely no way I can accurately describe the intensity of the hail which pounded our wobbly heads for nearly an hour, maybe two. Time stopped spinning. Clothes were damp, bodies were bruised, and still we "weathered" the blast and sat there patiently, waiting for more rock. Neighbor Wes eventually found his way to our base, Rita and I still chilling, talking small talk underneath the umbrella fortress, in need of warm clothes and a hot bath.
The Tragically Hip eventually came out and I'm not sure what their deal was. Lead singer was an insane person. Of course they made mention of the storm, how could they not, we all just sat through the natural terror. Instead of taking the negative approach, we all looked at it as something we conquered, together. A family of one - concertgoers defeat mother nature!!!
The Shins came out and did their set, which consisted of most of their catalog; Oh, Inverted World and Chutes Too Narrow. The new song, from the forthcoming Sub Pop release, sounded like The Smiths. The keyboardist for The Shins is a real comedian, he kept the crowd entertained as Mercer sang old favorites "Caring Is Creepy," "Pink Bullets," "So Says I," and more. I was in no mood to scribble down every song in the set, which at the time, was nowhere near as invigorating as Hailstorm 2006!
I was fastly checking out. My brain was toasted, nicely toasted, as was my skin from the sun's devil rays. The Honey Bucket port-o-potty was calling my name. Walked way back to the line of poop closets and found an empty one. Inside I was rocking back and forth, nodding off nonexistent, then snapping back to the present time. The day had done severe damage to my desirable body. I needed to escape at once, but The Lips, I must wait another couple of minutes and catch The Lips.
"Ladies and gentlemen, due to something, Ben Harper will be playing next and THEN The Flaming Lips. Sorry for any inconvenience, thank you." Um what? Did I just hear that correctly or am I tripping? Fuck! I couldn't last. Neighbor Wes and I checked out during the first number of Ben Harper and began the long trek back to the campsite. My paces were wide and inaccurate. I was sure to fall down at some point. No need of medical attention, just the cozy front seat of my car will do. After getting lost in the dark, sploshing through the mud and grass, we eventually made it safely to the faithful car-car.
Day 2 is over. Nature always wins.
May 27, 2006
Jason Anfinsen was born in West Palm Beach Florida 1977. He is a professional noisemaker who has created weirdo kkkomedy for the past decade on stage, radio, and in print. He has performed improvisation around the world at comedy festivals and theaters in London, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Toronto, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle. Jason is a contributing writer for The Tripwire, Redefine Magazine, documentarian for the BellEvUe mENtal HosPitAL series, and author of the book Stab At Sleep. His loudmouth voice has blasted 103.1 The Buzz in West Palm Beach, Virgin Radio in New York City, and can be heard screaming on 107.7 The End.
He lives in Seattle America 2006.