Swore I wouldn’t go to another festival after going to the 2009 Hard Rock Calling to see Neil Young, mostly because of the immense crowds and lousy sound but partly because of Seasick Steve. Then I went to a big music festival in Holland to see Bruce Springsteen and paid dearly with the huge crowds and Seasick Steve’s performance of precisely the same material as three years earlier (right down to the faux folksy patter, faux-ksy, for short). And so it came to pass that I went to see Paul Simon, Hugh Masekela and Ladysmith Black Mambazo at the 2012 Hard Rock Calling this past weekend.
Their opening act was Alison Krauss who may be a decent performer but can go get fucked for all I care. About 10-12 years ago at the Dahlonega Bluegrass Festival she was the headline act but the fest included Ralph Stanley, Jim and Jesse, and — better than anything — Bill Monroe all of whom have boots she is not fit to lick. So, while these legends performed their asses off during the shows then stayed up through the night jamming with impromptu clutches around the campsites, she hid out in her touring trailer with a 50 foot perimeter guarded by State Troopers, complained that Bill Monroe’s show went on too long before hers, then had her Storm Troopers set up a security area in front of the stage (at a bluegrass festival) before she was brought on for a short and shrill set. At Hyde Park, we went to another stage to watch Big Country instead.
(Let me say that I owned a Big Country album but let a girlfriend keep it because it really wasn’t worth arguing about when there were actually GOOD records in the pile. Let me also say that the band aged well and do a pretty good live performance, considering. Sorry about letting that record go, in retrospect; not too much but some of the ones I do still have from that time are dogs.)
So we were left wondering, as we noted that so many people left the Big Country tent early what was going on and how fucking rude everyone was being…later, after we realised we missed Kodachrome due to the empty space left by a really short and apparently unworthy of comment Alison Krauss set that prompted Paul Simon’s 3+ hour set to start early, we also noted that far too many of the folks there at this bloated venue were so hermetically attached to their electronic devices that hundreds of tests and tweets must have reached the exodising Big Country fans that the Graceland concert was starting that they were compelled to march Morlock-like to the muted mainstage area.
There are many music and other reviews of this fantastic sound scape, like this one and this. But, in the interim we came up with some new, we hope, international sign language…I have really poor and deteriorating hearing due to years in bars and nightclubs, an explosion incident during a carpenter apprenticeship on the MARTA construction sites I worked long ago, and many years in labs supported by noisy vacuüm equipment: as a result, conversation in loud situations is impossible.
So, things we want to point out to one another to have a laugh require a bit of shorthand. For instance, if we want to point out stupid footwear (usually, but not always, unusually high heels on otherwise inappropriate shoes) we do the walking fingertips using the pinky to point along the line of sight:
If some one is too old and/or fat to manage a shirt they are displayed in we pull a cheek (originally both cheeks but efficiency rules):
And, bald guys with a ponytail get one of these:
Or new one is the sign for “too drunk to be out in public.” You can do it by crossing your palms in front of your face but it has already morphed into the one-hand version with crossed fingers in front of your nose and the pinky pointing at the offender. The cross is the Cross of Saint George, the vertical/horizontal bits of the Union flag representing England and the English. Get it?