So, in all mi vida loca, I had never attended a music festival. I had considered it on a few occasions -- especially something like Bonnaroo or Coachella. Heck, I'd even settle for Floyd Fest (Floyd VA, not all that far from me). But I just never had done it.
Well, when Soundgarden announced they'd be playing at Rock on the Range -- a 3-day harder music festival in Columbus OH -- heck yeah, sign me up. Two weeks later, I learned they'd be playing at Carolina Rebellion on an even EARLIER date -- only two hours east of me. I debated internally and decided ah heck, I'm only middle-aged once. I'm living my mid-life crisis, so sure - why not? I decided to get a one-day-only pass, because I'd be seeing all the acts again in Ohio, right?
Yeah. Then I found out they'd added some non-festival dates -- including Atlanta. Big salty tears, because that show was mid-week. I just couldn't swing it, so I was going to settle for my festival dates. At the last minute last week, an opportunity presented itself to see the non-festival show, to be held in west-central Alabama, the day after my one-day pass in North Carolina. Again, I'm only middle-aged once, why not? I'm still young enough to put in that much driving in a weekend and that much fun.
Well, I did a really stupid thing on Thursday evening: I took a yoga class. This in itself is not a stupid act -- but taking a class you never have done before, stretching and using muscles that haven't really been engaged and activated in a while....... You can imagine how I was feeling Friday morning, waking up early and driving to just east of Charlotte. I got to the festival parking site around 12:00, and began walking toward the edge of the parking lot, where I could hear the band pretty well. I then learned the band was across the road -- and back a few hundred yards. So I kept walking.
Keep in mind, this was a cold morning for early May for us. So I had put on my long sleeve Gamecock tee, and my thin black hoodie. I had packed a short-sleeved tee for later - you know, when it warmed up. And I kept walking in an overcast sky and began to stand in an interminable General Admission entrance line. I'm not sure why it took forever to get through -- the gates had opened at 10:30ish and here we were, well on 1:00 and past. I know this because the band that was screaming its lungs out was one of the bands serving as an opening act on Soundgarden's tour....... I pretty much decided that I wasn't crazy about their style.
I meandered around and found the merchandise tent. Nothing really interested me. There was a Soundgarden shirt that I knew I already wanted but it wasn't one of the ones on sale at the festival. They had all the shirts available on the LiveNation web site -- but having already waited three months on a tee I'd ordered from them (and then asking for a cancellation and refund)..... um, no. So if Alabama didn't have the one I wanted, then I would just have to order from the site, much to my dismay. I couldn't decide if I wanted a festival shirt or not. And there weren't many other knickknacks I wanted -- no keychains or koozies. Hmm.... I was going to have to decide which (if any) I wanted. But I had all day to do so.
I was going to meet up with several fellow Knights of the Sound Table (a FB group) who would be at the event. I found the first one during the Eagles of Death Metal concert -- by the way, EODM is really good! -- and we were waiting on some of the others. We wandered over to another stage and found a little punk trio named Radkey -- WOW! Punk is not dead! These guys were good and definitely worth another listen! Then I had planned to see Pierce The Veil, but I just watched them from afar - mostly waiting for the guys to come back from the portapotty lines. Wandered to another stage where a screamy-metal group was playing. I've listened to enough of that with my brother, so I put my poncho on the ground and took a much needed break off my feet. We then wandered over to see The Cult. That was phenomenal!! Their music was around during my high school and college years, so hearing some of those songs was a sweet trip down memory lane. Afterwards, part of the group (myself included) went to grab some grub. And the weather was brutal.
Remember that short-sleeved tee I packed? Yeah, I put it on -- on top of my long-sleeved tee and under my hoodie for a third layer. I was freezing!!! By 8:00 it was back in the 50s and so, so windy. We went to the mainstage for Soundgarden's show. The temperature only got better when more bodies joined in and whatever body heat we had began to commingle.
The show began and oh my God!!!! the dream came true. It was absolutely un-freakin'-believable. The music was spot-on, the crowd was into it (and heavy into bodysurfing), and to hear "Kyle Petty, Son of Richard" in the heart of NASCAR country....... OMG, unbelievable. (PS: if you are easily offended by language, don't even bother to click the link for the song.)
So festival sets are usually shorter (anywhere from 30 minutes for early acts to about 90 minutes for headliners) -- but even in a shorter set, they did not disappoint in the least. But better stuff was to come........
So I got up pretty early on Saturday and started going west toward Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I began to call this the #RoadWorkRoadTrip ..... because there was SOME slowdown or variation on construction in four different states. North Carolina had a holdup for 3 miles for literally no reason. It seems someone forgot to turn off the flashing sign that said "Left 2 Lanes Closed, Merge Right" -- we all got in the right lane for nothing. The construction crew was not there. I imagine someone in Raleigh sitting in a control room somewhere, laughing their asses off at us. South Carolina -- yeah, we have road construction in 3 or 4 places along a 100 mile stretch of interstate. Georgia -- one word: Atlanta. 'Nuff said. Even Alabama had some in various places.
Oh, did I also mention this weekend was Talladega? Which is on the road I was on? Yeah.
Because of Talladega ..... and 'Bama's graduation in Tuscaloosa .... and graduations at UAB and Samford in Birmingham, there wasn't a hotel room to be found anywhere along the I-20 stretch. Even the Motel 6 in Tuscaloosa was going to be around $100. Sorry, but I'd rather sleep in my car. It's safer and certainly more hygienic! As luck has it, when I got the ticket for Tuscaloosa, I booked a room in Birmingham. It's only an hour away, I can deal with that. The hotel called me right before I crossed the state line to ensure that I was still planning to come and use the room -- YES! I couldn't scream it loudly enough. As it turns out, when I got to the hotel, the clerk explained that a couple of the online booking sites kept taking reservations even though they were at 100% capacity. She'd had to call them to explain that all the rooms really were taken.
Okay, so I got to the room, took a quick nap to alleviate the tiredness, and then headed over to Tuscaloosa. It was being held in the Amphitheater along the river front, and you could not ask for a prettier venue. We ended up as second row along the rail, and the opening band came on...... same screamy-metal band from Friday afternoon and they're not my style. I cheered for them and for their hard work, but I won't be rushing out to buy their album.....
Forgot to note that before the show, we did go by the merchandise booth and YESSSSSSSS they had the shirt I wanted!! While there were plenty of other designs on the web site -- and at the venue -- this is exactly what I wanted all along. And I love that they used a lyric from their 1989 song "Loud Love" -- and so apropos.
So anyway, it was time for the main act -- and I was so psyched. They started with a song from their 1988 LP that was recently remastered and reissued. It was phenomenal to hear again! They also did one of their earliest songs, which I think came from a demo in 1985 and eventually ended up on their first record (an EP from 1987).
Of course, they played a lot of the hits from years of recordings. Thirty years' worth of music trying to be distilled into 2 or 2-1/2 hours is hard, but they did a great job!
I was especially happy to have heard two songs, one on both nights and another just at the Tuscaloosa show. I have what I call the Big Three by them -- "Fell On Black Days," which I've heard live twice by them and once by their lead singer on a solo acoustic tour; "Blow Up the Outside World" (same - live twice now by them, and on the acoustic tour), and "The Day I Tried to Live" -- which he did not do on his solo show, but which I heard both nights here.
Let me state up front for the record -- if anyone ever tells you that any activity or hobby saved their live, they aren't joking. You best believe them. Music has saved me -- constantly throughout my life, and again in very key moments. That song saved my sanity in December 2015 -- so hearing it live and done so well was very nearly a religious experience.
Then one of the other songs from that time frame that made me happy at a time when little else did: "Burden In My Hand" ...... it's hard to explain because the song is dark, the video is slightly odd, but for me, the song is absolute delight and joy. It makes me want to pull my car over, get out and dance and sing along. And to hear that........ I sang right along, heart full to near-bursting.
And then -- the same closing from the night before: An extended version of "Slaves & Bulldozers" from their Badmotorfinger CD from 1991. The original itself is near 7:00 -- this clocks in around 11:30ish. There's an extended jam in the middle, coupled with some lyrics from "In My Time of Dying" that match the rhythms of S&B. I wish I had gotten video of it, but I was just enjoying it way too much. Which is kinda the whole point of the show......
So then Sunday morning, I got up, checked out of the hotel and went to church (thank you, Catholic guilt - HA!). Then I bummed around Birmingham until that afternoon to meet friends for a late lunch/early dinner. I found some of my beloved Diet Buffalo Rock, the spiciest ginger ale that I absolutely adore! Hung out at B&N because I wanted to check out some books on quilting..... but nothing that really screamed "YES" at me. Much like many crafting projects. I need to just start designing stuff for women like me!
Met my friends and we had a grand time laughing about a lot of things. Then it was time to head back -- remember that little race going on east of Birmingham? I was heading that way just as the race wrapped up. God bless the state troopers and other traffic enforcers because they have that exit strategy down to a science and an art form. There was no delay at all on I-20 E at the speedway. Bravo, Alabama - you do this right.
Back through the hell that is Atlanta traffic and then WHAM! 3 or 4 major slowdowns between Lawrenceville and South Carolina. At least there was a relatively smooth drive once I crossed the state line.
So........ 950 miles. 14 hours round trip. Two AMAZING events. Feet that still ache. Hammys that need to be stretched out. My chiropractor is going to have a field day on Wednesday.
Oh, and Ohio? Welllllll......... as much as I want to go, real life kicked in and I am very sadly giving up my opportunity to go. I'm still going to use the time off (partly to recuperate!) and I am going to live vicariously through others -- just as others did through me this weekend. It sucks but I'm choosing to be an adult about it.