Grateful Sunday #24 & #25: Spontaneous Serendipity & An Overdose Of Awesome (Music)

The past few weeks have been abnormally fun and just generally positive for me.  I spent much of June sweating the cash situation on whether or not I would be able to scrape enough together for a ticket to the one music festival I hoped to attend this summer…and this past weekend I was able to indulge in said celebration of music and culture.  AND, the weekend before that…I was magically gifted a free ticket to see (for the first time ever)…PHISH at the highly esteemed Saratoga Performing Arts Center!  This show was a great overall experience, in particular because I got to spend some good time reconnecting with my cousin (who brought me along) and out-of-state friend (so cool to discuss fatherhood & his newborn baby!).  It has truly been a blessed couple of weekends of live music featured upon grand, outdoor stages.

Carini had a lumpy head!

For both outings, I was for the most part in the company of persons I was only loosely acquainted with, who did not necessarily know/understand the full scope of what my recovery program means to me.  That said, it has really become a non-issue in potentially ‘dangerous’ settings with slightly less aware groups of people.  It’s often as easy as a simple “Nah, no thanks” when offered a beer; but I’m finding that almost just as easily, I can give a basic explanation of why I don’t drink, and from that point forward the alcohol becomes much less a focus, for both myself and those around me.

I’m really most comfortable when everyone proceeds as they normally would – it just so happens to be the case that personally, I won’t be taking a drink, thank you.   So that’s pretty much how I handled it.  Over the weekend of camping I was offered a few drinks out of sheer politeness, my companions having forgotten my sobriety…but it was no matter, I passed and no big deal was made of it.  Honestly, to that end: it’s very interesting to watch others struggle with social cues and mores, in new and unpredictable situations (such as camping among tens of thousands of strangers for a weekend).  People generally tend to feel a bit more confident after a few cups (or cans or shots or what have you) of ‘liquid courage.’

Available in HD.

There were multiple occasions, however, where the tension was palpable (as novel experiences are wont to be) – and was really only eased when I stepped up to diffuse/alleviate any perceived awkwardness (as I have a habit of picking up on and absolving).  When I was out drinking I had always been particularly fearless with a bottle in hand (my quick wit and sharp tongue had the qualities of both a blessing and a curse, in those situations); but as it were, I am perfectly adept when lucidly sober.

I’ve been attending summer music festivals for about five years now, and this most recent affair at Camp Bisco (‘Bisco’ being slang for ‘The Disco Biscuits’) was both different and progressive, for a number of reasons.  Firstly, partying sans alcohol – I was able to remember all the great acts I saw – and I saw a lot of them.  Not being completely tackhammered for three straight days also meant no worries of dehydration/alcohol poisoning…nor did I have any nagging fear in the back of my mind that I might present a safety concern to anyone around me, thus avoiding confrontation with staff and/or security.  Secondly, at this point myself and my core group of friends are well into post-grad life, and accordingly are all at any number of varying points in adult life.  Thus, this summer has seen something of a fragmentation of properly orchestrated trips and parties; not because we’re drifting apart, but more so because you take life on life’s terms, ya heard?

The background track featured in this one is a remix of one of my favorite artists (Disclosure) by another of my favorite artists (Flume) and is full of feels. Really captures the essence; recommended viewing.

For this reason, I was without any of my clan of brethren, who are usually right there next to me in the dusty mud, fighting and storming our way through the crowds and natural elements.  This did not present a problem for me, in terms of my sobriety…but it was definitely not the same, comfort-wise.  A huge, underlying part of the festival experience (for me, anyway) is connecting on deeper, more intimate levels with the human psyche.  I just couldn’t quite reach those levels with the people I spent the weekend with this year (very nice people though they were).

Indeed, I found this most recent festival experience altogether more isolating, in certain respects, than any previous.  I love meeting new people in the front row of any given set of inspired music, and then consequently discussing said music with them.  However, I just could not seem to make those connections this year.  I believe this could be for a few reasons: 1) potentially I was more introspective than during past events, without alcohol to bolster my venturous spirit; 2) the scene has become much more mainstream/less underground in recent years, and thus has attracted a fair amount of poseurs and substance abusers; 3) I am simply getting older, and am craving more “adult” interactions.

As does this one, though.

So, I found myself standing solo for a good handful of sets over the weekend (finding a cluster of three people among some 10,000 is unsurprisingly tasking).  I can be totally and completely content doing this, but at the same time…I did find myself wishing I had a companion.  And I think, I’ve come to realize, I yearn for more than just a group of good friends to accompany me in during concert outings.  No, what I’d really like is to be able to share these magical experiences with a significant other…and one who reciprocates my appreciation for the scene and culture, at that.  Here’s hoping that by the time I again have the disposable income to invest in a camping festival, my search has borne fruitful results.

In any case, I had an absolute blast. I did end up running into some old Rochester acquaintances (including my one of my former employers), which I was kind of expecting but also kind of anxious about…but it was no big deal, really; nothing was brought up about the past (i.e., me vanishing from their scene without a trace when I left for home/rehab), and they were genuinely glad to see me.  Camp was precisely the mini-vacation I needed.  Time to dig back into reality, refreshed and reinvigorated by my participation in a collective of my favorite styles of music, art, culture, and life.  Here is a (roughly) chronological photo account of the weekend; enjoy!


Had my 7 months around my neck the whole weekend, standing vanguard against potentially hostile territory.


Wristy Bisco!  Textile bands are where it’s at.


Dark Side of the Van.


The anticipation is killing my carpool friends.


Arrived to the festival GPS coordinates: ~8:30pm.  Arrived inside the actual camping grounds: ~4:00am.


<3.  My boy Danny (whom I met & bonded over music with in rehab at Tully Hill) takes a break from driving to snap a photo with his girl.


Car in front of us in the line to get in knows what’s up. #SoStupidLikeAG6


Opted for tea & vitamin water instead of booze for the weekend.  Teabags get the idea.  Also note my sunburned-as-the-devil’s toes. #OUCH


First set of the weekend (Thursday, about 2:30pm).  I actually worked with/ran promo for these guys (known as ‘The Manhattan Project’) a few times in Rochester.  They killed it!


Biggest crowd they’ve ever played for, too!  Inside the BIG Tent.




No doubt that you are, miss.  These are called “rage sticks” or “totems,” and are used as identifiers when among massive throngs of concertgoers.  I put up with them because the bands do, but more often than not I find they just obstruct my view of the show I paid good money to see (especially since I stand oh-so-tall…it’s these long dancer’s legs I’ve got, I just can’t help it).


Australian DJ Nick Thayer, whom I’ve been a fan of for years, getting some big recognition and destroying the Thursday afternoon crowd with his electro set.


::DJ arms-raised pose::


‘Cosby Sweater’ feat. Joel Cummins of Umphrey’s McGee on keys, laying down some saxy beats.



Bustin’ out the e-sax.


Campsite neighbors put in WORK on the road to be here.  Props.


Breaking down racial barriers at Camp Bisco.  People love to get weird out in the sticks. #progressive #kinky


Brendan Bayliss of Umphrey’s McGee trying hard not to be distracted by the bi-racial…uh…”celebration” taking place before him.


Umphrey’s McGee feat. David Murphy of Sound Tribe Sector 9 on bass (their own bassist very recently had a baby with his long-time girlfriend, and thus was back at home).


Bassist Marc Brownstein of The Disco Biscuits also sat in.


Guitarist Jon “The Barber” Gutwillig also joined the superjam for a rendition of the Biscuits’ staple fan-favorite “Home Again.”



My favorite rage stick of the weekend.


Keytar duel!  Joel Cummins of UM vs. Aron Magner of tDB.  My favorite shot of the weekend (this is Thursday evening, by the way).


Sound Tribe Sector 9 takes the stage with some very heady LED visuals.


They also brought in an absolutely magnificent sunset with them.




Things started to get a little weird when we ran into our Minnesota neighbors back at the campsite, taking a break between sets.



…so there’s that.


Com Truise. Rich, crunchy ’80s-influenced synth breaks accompanied by a live drum kit.  Like a deep-tissue brain massage.


And then we have Squarepusher.  If Com Truise is a brain massage, this guy is a musical lobotomy.  He did some inhuman things with the low-end bass frequency.



Over to Boys Noize (late night Thursday) for some straight party in the BIG Tent.





Back over to Squarepusher in the Label Tent, where he treated us to some live bass guitar to accompany his crazy-elaborate live DJ setup.





Dawn approaches as I charge the ol’ iPhone from the hill, where some standing outlets were conveniently located.


Graffiti at the art sculpture was on point.




Live violin over dubstep beats.  Purrty cool.


Dude’s name was ‘Govinda,’ I believe.




Toro Y Moi, who were synth-funky as hell.


Body painting in the middle of the main stage field.




The BIG Tent was, well…BIG.


Brahcques Cousteau crowdsurfing an inflatable whale.


My boy MOON BOOTS laying it down so smooth and sensual. Mmph.


Stepped out of the tent Friday evening to another glorious sunset.


Lotus blows the lid off the BIG Tent late-night Friday.


Faces = melted.




Fiya jugglas.


‘bloon chain!


Gramatik = big beat samples + live guitar riffs.  Crunch ‘n’ funk.  The good stuff.


My camping pard’ners!  With the Biscuits’ outlandish $75,000 light rig blasting away in the background.


And finally, the ever-funky BoomBox (or rather their silhouettes) to close out late-night Saturday.  What a long, strange trip it’s been.

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