Saturday, October 11, 2008

Rock Festivals

I was listening to KWMU’s local interview program that Don Marsh hosts last week. There’s a new book written by Steve Schankman and Dick Richmond. It’s the history of Contemporary Productions.

Contemporary was always The Enemy to me and Schankman and Irv Zuckerman were the big bosses. They took outdoor events to new levels of corporate control.

Richmond used to give my band favorable reviews in the 80s.

I never really blamed Schankman personally. I saw him as a carny. Money was his art. In the interview he confessed his crowning achievement was Pope John Paul II’s visit to St. Louis. His biggest disaster was the Axel Rose fiasco. If you’re not from St. Louis or don’t know Google it.

Corporate control of rock events goes against the very idea of rebellion. Just look at the Riverport dinosaur. No coolers allowed with alcohol. Draft beer is $8.00 and you have to rent lawn chairs if you want a lawn seat.

My first show was Joan Baez at Illinois’ Mississippi River Festival. What a great venue! I kept asking my mom what that strange smell was.

It used to be an outdoor festival was an instant counter culture city. A utopian existence defined by drug consumption and free love. We were young and thought we could keep our shit together. We couldn’t of course. Imagine a kid’s first apartment especially if they’ve never had to cook or clean up after themselves.

In 1974 three friends and I hitched to Camdenton, MO for a 3 day festival. I must have been 16. Imagine 4 tall long haired guys hitch hiking together. We had no trouble getting a ride. One of my friends had a father who owned a pharmacy. We had an endless supply of preludens. They were my favorite speed. I remember a loud thump as we stood on the highway. We turned to witness a huge dog spinning in the air. He had just been hit by a motorist. I imagined this was what a human would have sounded like.

I think Camdenton was a town of 2000 that we made swell to 20,000. There were no facilities, no drinking water and no food. We didn’t care much because we were speeding. The show was being held in a rodeo arena and we were herded through cattle stalls. It was appropriate. Young entrepreneurs were selling ice cubes. Wandering around the grounds at night people kept asking me if I’d seen Dave. “I’m Dave,” I told them. I learned this was how people sought LSD. The whole scene was total chaos. The only bands I remember were the 2 openers—Brownsville Station and The James Gang.

Years later my friends Annie, K and I went to a several day event at a place called The Armory. You could get in for canned food donations. Acid Rescue was always set up for kids that couldn’t handle their drugs. I still think this was incredibly humane.

We were tripping on something called Space Tabs. I have a feeling it was PCP. At one point we hitched back to Annie’s to steal a bottle of wine from her mother’s wine cellar. We didn’t have a cork screw so we brought an arrow we found in the basement.

We hitched back to the show. When we were finally exhausted we left. As we stood hitch hiking it began to snow. K still had the arrow in a pocket of her bib overalls. Annie and I watched as a laughing K opened her mouth wide and the arrow’s tip went up into her throat. The next stop was an emergency room.

I guess it was inevitable that society would clamp down on this kind of behavior. I miss it but have to confess I would never want my kids exposed to it.

Check out this list of banned Rock events:

I found the photo at flickr


tonypatti said...

I put these kinds of things under the category of supposedly fun things that aren't. Luckily our kids will always have much more genuinely entertaining things to do, because they don't have the older generation telling them they can't do anything at all.

Now it's just don't do the stupid things. I remember thinking "What do they expect us to do? Just sit at home and do nothing?" because there was nothing to do at home. Now there's too much to do at home.

Doggie said...

Yeah they do seem to reach more people from home these days. No adventure but no danger . Unless of course they find a way to hook up with some of these people they meet from home. My biggest fight right now is keeping my kids from posting their photos.