Festivals are transformative rituals
akin to the cyclical and seasonal ‘holidays’ of antiquity and long before history
became a manicured manufacture of men tasked with the duty of retaining power over swelling masses;
increasingly armed with knowledge of self and ALL, increasingly defiant of their controlling elite
and proliferation of liberty-stifling laws and programmed social norms
instituted to pit masses of their own against self, so as to divide /conquer…
A list of many notable ritualistic festivals might be written with ensuing drops, but for now,
if you know nothing else of the topic, do know that celebration through music, fire,
drugs and alcohol related concoctions, and camaraderie have long been an integral part of human DNA,
providing release and gratitude for pain and power
through relaxing explosions of physical and creative expressions of self,
traditionally using said concoctions and creative arts as conduit for attuning more with and through spirit…
and sometimes these rituals just aren’t for everyone,
will almost never please all,
likely riddled with issues to someone,
a spiritual movement of moments to any willing to plumb the depths,
yet still transformative to all who engage with the process alone.
That said, this will serve as the complaint section of the Stagecoach review
given the magnitude of complaints manifested after a single day, swelling over the weekend and beyond
via the many of the Facebook groups,
highlighting both valid sticking points and overwhelming amounts of ridiculousness
predominantly attributed to folks that are relatively new to festival life,
reasonably unprepared for a desert festival, or ignorant slapholes who know very little of what they speak,
rendering ensuing judgments lacking in gravity, while fostering errantly, an ego with conviction of omniscience,
most notably in the artful science of how to human.
in particular, and arguably the most esoterically modern, deeply rooted in the traditional of which we speak,
a collection of pilgrimage, negotiating real life to get back Home each Summer’s cyclical end,
to celebrate self, connection with other, and alignment with the natural and the super natural
amidst outlandish and otherworldly art, beastly concoctionated mutant vehicles, and a spectrum of music
concentrated in the electronic symphonies and orchestral movements created by the digital age.
finds itself in the harshest of environments; a dusty desert bed in the middle of BFE,
seeded with humanity’s creative passions and wisdom
to blossom a city with genius logistical planning, collective and hive-collaborative influences,
and coursing through its veins those willing to dance & dare, wearing gear reminiscent
of Mad Max meets My Little Pony, prepared for battle against society & self as they burn, in effigy,
the ego, programmed reality, and attachments restricting life’s journey upward through vibration
into the etheric octaves of spirituality.
of sorts is rooted in 10 Principles, much like The Commandments,
though not enforced through fear, rather a sense of communal brotherhood and sisterhood
hellbent on visualizing heaven in the middle ground of Earth amongst matter and the material.
These Principles can serve us in any festival, especially Stagecoach.
Many complaints this year were quite ridiculous and creative
such as bands not playing songs wanted, bands “stooping” to play cover songs, musicless set changes,
warm, free water, and VIP area not as separate as should be, where I agree,
VIP should be more separate from us, hehe.
Offering perspective, we could house many other complaints under a variety of Burning Man Principles,
mitigating some pain from issues /complaints.
Naturally, Radical Self Reliance (preparation) appears to be the perfect place to attach most issues.
The heat, aside from offering more shade-providing infrastructure,
likely subtracting by adding to the desert landscape and aesthetics, seems to be an immanageable issue
for the hosting venue despite a fair inventory of trees, shaded benches, covered stages,
enclosed and air-conditioned vendors and communal areas, and water troughs littered throughout.
Yet strategically manageable for attendees armed with knowledge of the weather and environment,
and tasked with battle, given we could mitigate said weather to a degree with relevant clothing,
preemptive hydration and diet, scheduled shady rests and respites,
and regular intervals of hat/hair/bandana/shirt soppings in concerted effort
to negotiate with the desert’s number one killer.
“Too many people” and ‘high cost of goods’
easily vomited this week, though a part of the game we must agree to play,
considering the theoretical, yet nonsensical need for increasing profit margins, thus growth, as attendance
in previous years hovers near the 80K range and inflates around 5k annually
like costs ‘due to rising operating costs,’ countering profits.
I’m certainly in the ‘profits over people’ is a bullshit business practice mindset,
but in the age of greed and investors needing to be coddled by profit,
I don’t foresee this complaint moving many minds despite being cool with its increased utterance
in hopes of manifestation, though a more immediate and effective patch
is preparation and acceptance.
Pre-eating, pre-gaming, packing reasonably unvisible snacks,
or buying a Resort Band to facilitate In/Out privilege with access to food in the car
can be excellent munitions countering these issues, removing gravity of its affect.
‘People standing in front of me’ or ‘smoking near me’.
I completely understand and fuck if it’s not annoying as all hell,
but we are at a festival, not an assigned seating concert giving you rights to a small plot of ground
though still without such rights to the view above or to your front.
In festival world, there is no guarantee of perfect view nor is any space around you reservable
as others paid what you paid to have access to any ground not occupied
and given the complexity and grandiosity of festival venues,
managing people catching a drag off their vice during battle is a near impossibility.
That said, Burning Man Principles: Communal Effort or Civic Responsibility are employable tools
where on the occasion you are stepping in front of someone of shorter stature late in the game,
a simple courtesy can mean pardoning or apologizing, tucking close to the side of someone to your front wings
while offering a tunnel for those behind, when possible.
When smoking, simply try a breezeway or meadow separated as far as possible in an attempt at consideration,
likely quelling frustrations.
‘People bumping and passing as they try to get closer’
was quite the grumble more prevalent this year and not much of a remedy to be found,
other than public complaining or literally reprimanding, blockading, and impeding paths at a festival
where the ground you stand is the only you have sovereignty over, again, because this a music festival,
and more often than not, there is space beyond you and unbeknownst to you
of which, all have right to fair access
and bumping will happen no matter, but there are always jackasses lacking in consideration or awareness,
when simple pardons and apologies soften the blow,
and of course, the real assholes moving at light speed without acknowledgement of people on their path,
likely mimicking their own lives, where they will find their karma, releasing from us, the duty of inflicting penance.
Let ‘em be, aside from egregious acts of terror…
Not an exhaustive list, but enough for the moment
while reading them spewed across 4 Facebook Festival Fan Pages after waking up
near 7:00am to the 2nd day of Stagecoach.
(side note: I have published a ROUGH GUIDE to help plan and prepare for many a festival, specifically designed for Stagecoach HERE
complete with tricks and super pro tips,
and will be updated with additional learnings from this past year.)
Apparently, Day 1 had been a bit rough on the housemates as the 5 of them agreed to a later start and arrival,
translating to a 45 minute, solo Uber from Palm Springs to Indio,
of the mentality that I’ve paid for the experience of going through hell to be in heaven
and mismanaging a few performances when manageable, seems silly,
when they have taken time to share their art with us.
I hold no other to this philosophy,
just offering perspective.
still missed 5 artists
arriving only a little over an hour after Noon gates.
Make it 6 as I jog into the Palomino just as Tre’ Burt closes his set, bummer.
So around the wheel, counterclockwise, I go 3x in the next 4 hours
from an energetic and rambunctious, deep-voiced Cooper Alan on Mane Stage
back to the Horseshoe to again, catch Leroy From the North, a truly cool sounding brand of roadtrip Americana
behind a killer mustache, long, straight hair, and a seemingly introverted personality (like my own)
destined to pass along his magic through his music.
A short break in the paddock behind the Horseshoe where Compton Cowboys reside,
catching a breeze in the face, some horse smell & dander in my veins and under my American Flag inspired nails,
and time shared with furry, four-legged friends,
then back though the Horseshoe again amidst the light, 80’s pop feel
wrapped in Americana and soft country rasp vibing through Lola Kirke,
fueling me into Keb’ Mo’ on Palomino then Corey Kent on Mane, both of which,
provide entirely different sounds.
Keb’ Mo’, a cool, blues country kinda cat, singing sung stories with poetic flair and deepest of souls,
Corey Kent, a dirty blond, good looking dude belting out Nashville radio-played potential hits
on his way to being a leading man in Country Music.
Closing the circuit again as I rush back to the Horseshoe,
long looking forward to Kathryn Legendre’s brand of true country Honky-Tonk sound
while inquiring with her audience about any impending smoke sesh they might offer an invite to,
being a citizen of the great state of Texas, absurdly still in the group of states calling for freedom
while harshly punishing its citizens who choose to smoke a naturally grown, medicinal plant…
And another mentioning weed on stage and we must be in California or Colorado,
playing Country or Hip-hop, or Alternative Music at a festival. And Nikki Lane, curator of our Yee-Haw tent,
branded Nikki Lane’s Stage Stop Marketplace and Horseshoe Stage,
the “Highway Queen” herself rides in on confident swagger and floats through her solid set of honky-tonk,
country rock, poetic anthems like “First High”, “Born Tough”, and “Highway Queen”.
And finally, over to Mane to again catch some Morgan Wade,
though this time a world away from the Troubadour’s intimacy, and still a kickass listen from deep in in desert
behind fields of quickly-filling paddocks as festival goers billow in right on cue at the 5:30pm mark.
I track back to Palomino for a few nostalgic Mary Chapin Carpenter classics
before changing at the locker into the night attire.
Littered throughout this merry-go-round of stages were memory-filled stops in both speakeasy bars,
one located in Guy Fieri’s Smokehouse whose complex is filled with shaded tables and food vendors
while the other lesser known secret bar and cold oasis
will remain unspoken as I was asked, Please Don’t Tell.
Both providing tasty and more than refreshing concoctions in cozy, but chilly spaces,
powering me around the wheel including a hike up the rainbow lit, air-conditioned Spectra Tower
to capture the best, bird’s eye view of the campus and cattle-prone crowds
resting in Spectra’s silhouetted-shadow,
a photo shoot through the newly added Yellowstone Dutton Ranch Barn,
and another venture into Guy Fieri’s Smokehouse
spotting Guy and Niko Moon create, cook, and eat the largest burger
(maybe ever, didn’t quite catch, though did catch a great action shot of Niko digging in).
Now our locker, a great perk at a premium price,
was located on the entrance-facing foyer of the venue
where I sat the ground to eat prepacked PB&J sandos, fruit bars, and apple sauce in my underwear
during rush hour,
netting a great memory I could never have planned, given the exchange for this option
came when not arriving with the group as I wouldn’t know where the car is parked in a molten sea of cars…
Refill my RMV Rodeo koozie with a warm Calidad roadie,
replace empty crotch whiskey with full, steaming crotch whiskey,
stuff the shirt in my back pocket, toss the black felt on, slam the locker and hustle over to Niko Moon on Mane,
where again, jam-packed and humming now,
onlookers and land-stakers begins to fall in love with sincerity-laden party anthems
like “No Sad Songs” and newest drop, “Heaven Has a Bar”.
Quickly back to Palomino to once again share space with a couple legends,
Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives and Bryan Adams rockin Palomino after Marty,
a five-time Grammy winner and Country Music Hall of Famer as he shares vintage classics
like “Badlands” and “Hillbilly Rock” and recent ditties like “Sitting Alone”.
Between Marty and Bryan, I finally had a minute to meetup with some friends,
grab a group shot at the Dutton, introduce them to the speakeasy, sharing a few cold ones,
a few more snaps, great conversation with solid folk, and back into the fray under the Palomino
to dig into that 80’s & 90’s nostalgia that only Bryan Adams could offer
with Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ ballad, “Everything I Do”
and the global, timeless “Summer of ‘69”…
Can you believe someone actually asked me who Bryan Adams is?
What a beautiful way to really set into our halfway point and the last movement in the 2nd Day Symphony.
Late getting back over to Mane for headliners Old Dominion and Kane Brown
coupled with not knowing where our camp was setup, having not ridden in with the group,
then shit on all that with a new layout and traffic pattern, clusterfucking all plans
by anyone trying to move from fringes to inner workings in what appeared to be
the Venue’s plan to alleviate traffic density within the perimeter,
when in reality, more traffic is pushed into standing and sitting spaces
not needing or meant to endure more traffic while adding a mile walk, daily,
to an already brutal marathon.
Giving up hope for the recipe and resting during the headliner portion of the night,
I swung into the Honk-Tonk, danced under blacklight lasery to house thumping DJ Blake Horstman,
then making my way back through a thick, raucous crowd,
passing no less than a half dozen couples fighting about one thing or the same damn other.
A scene you undoubtedly find at every Stagecoach and most festivals, typically the girl yelling at the guy
for being some form of an asshole, likely pulled to fruition, milked by overabundance of booz,
fun in the sun, and a lot of lady skin showing round these parts.
Beware, Stagecoach spent over 3-5 hot, dirty, sweaty, and tiring days in a cramped room, RV, or tent
will be a great definer of one’s relationship, friendships most definitely included.
Ah, and you’ll also likely find the dudes who are egregiously “Pro America” to the point of reductio ad absurdum,
which again, whatever…
Finally, I spot David and our chairs
where I rest a bit before Kane Brown makes his way on stage
as I plan to leave mid set again, swing through the Honky-Tonk for Dillon Francis and some house,
before scoring good ground at Nelly, the Late Night session act of the evening on Palomino.
The line getting into Dillon Francis had surpassed ridiculous for me, nixing that from the plan
and David was bound for Cancun at 6am so he decided to adult and leave just as Kane Brown came on,
which meant I could pack the chairs up early and bolt quickly
when I felt it necessary to not get stuck near rear
of what I knew to be one of the best parties of the weekend with Nelly.
Half of a solid showing by Kane Brown and his wife, Katelyn
and I was on the move.
here’s where I complain just a bit about the sound quality on Mane Stage this year.
Paying full respect to this production every year, I claim boldly, that the sound at Mane,
no matter where you are, whether deep in the back or off on the wings, is superb,
creating an environment you are contented to be even if the artist is but a speck of dust in the distance.
This simply wasn’t the case this year.
Plain and simple and I’ve since heard that it may have been a symptom of the design and setup,
not having enough manpower, thus time to change configurations
from Coachella to traditional Stagecoach patterns,
which is certainly understandable and most definitely excusable
though still worth bearing the brunt of the complaints so as to make note of its exponential cost/benefit
given that having great sound throughout the footprint is a make-or-break factor
between decent and solid to great festivals.
Not only throughout Mane was the sound subpar,
The Saloon areas which are considerable upgrades to GA, which I’d come up on the next night via gift,
are stage adjacent and sincerely lacked in party-atmo sound,
which I personally regret trading a full session under a vibrantly packed Palomino
with the otherworldly Tyler Childers for,
thus learned from at great cost; spiritually, as the sound quality in the Saloon area was muted
and felt like watching a concert from your couch but on a neighbor’s TV though y’all’s windows.
Again, we could apply Communal Effort and Civic Responsibility Principles with the responsibility of the host
to provide safety and feasible value, when possible, despite financial cost
as it is our responsibility, civilly to accept reasons reasonably and takes a communal effort to make due, despite
while giving grace to those we may blame, as it merely provides more catalyst for pain, thus growth.
acknowledge, accept, forgive, adapt, grow, learn :teach
Burning Man Principle: Participation
Transformative change rarely occurs without some form of participation in a catalytic event
and sure, just engaging with Stagecoach late in the evenings, catching a few headliners,
and braving extreme temperatures, crowds, dust, and costs
are enough to provide one with a transformative experience
and sometimes quite sufficient, given the point on the path for many,
but for those who tip toe through a festival then pronounce their opinion as proclamation,
I think it necessary to give your opinion little gravity as it is more judgment than a qualified assessment,
considering the relative lack of participation in much of what a festival has to offer.
This isn’t to knock those who choose this level of participation
as many are fit for this level and no more,
rather it’s to add contextual truth to the relative truth and half-truths shared by many
who lack full understanding, compassion, and experience,
yet purport their tales as trials of truth and tribulatory conviction.
Extrapolate much of this to life, especially in exhausting, overly dramatic battles of political material,
and the veil between those who have a decent handle on truth and likely wisdom
and they who merely play the game as pawns of programming and ego-manufactured emotionality
becomes quite clear.
I personally see nothing wrong
with coming to a festival or hop-scotching through life to catch the big names,
moving about in only the necessary manner, and fostering a disdain for those around
who swim at different speeds and flow with different currents,
but I do see so much more positive and benefit in acknowledging the war,
accepting the pain accompanying such, preparing for all possibilities, come what may,
and dancing in the fire as long and as hard as possible, plus a bit more,
so as to gain a transformative experience and grow,
adding color to butterfly wings and texture to life.
This comes in the form of sharing time with names you’ve never heard of,
standing amongst uncomfortable crowds of algorithmically different strangers,
embracing the bouncing off one another as you jostle and dance to vibrating waves of matter,
created from pain and with love,
offered as an expression of one’s self, meant as a fractal of ALL selfs,
with the esoteric virus of compassion-laden DNA
meant to create knowledge and understanding in the collective consciousness
without need for direct experience by each.
maybe you’re not doing festivals as they are meant to be done, yet, there is no wrong way,
just less complete ways that should be understood as such before gravity is given to an opinion based on such.
“They ain’t Country, they shouldn’t even be here”
“I wish Country was still Country”
‘blah-titty blah, etc…’
BM Principle: Immediacy:
(awareness of connections and relative benefits)
These complaints are tiresome at this point and heard across the nation and about nearly every Country act
aside from the ones certain people deem “Country”,
though it’s quite telling of the hypocritical irony in the masses
that lack understanding of the outlaw and progressive roots of Country Music
while condemning and relegating progressive and outlaw branches of the very same genre.
Think we could extrapolate again to life and politics?
Luke Bryan serves as our “too poppy” form of Country while Nelly and Trixie Mattel
offer us the other end of the complaint spectrum where they are misunderstood as not country at all…
Luke Bryan, shares and performs his brand of country
for those who engage in the party aspect of Country Music,
serving anthem after anthem of loud, fun, inflated productions
to assist crowds or a solemn listener at home with full immersion into the music and emotion itself,
much like booze helps gray the inhibitions, the pop coerces our reservations to relax a bit
and let our bodies move as they are meant to.
And again, if it ain’t for you, fine, but pump your dried out brakes
before speaking for others or for a genre you partially understand.
Nelly, well hell,
1st, he is billed as a Late Night Session performance which should speak for itself,
assuming you understand these type of shows are for those looking for a party,
an offshoot of the typical, and a release session to dance out the day’s tiring aches and pains.
Secondly, and realistically most importantly,
dude has half a dozen hits with country artists like the arguable King, Tim McGraw,
(King George still King)
party-heavy Florida-Georgia Line, and tonight’s headliner, Kane Brown,
without mention of massive chart-topping songs anchoring his expansive career as a Hip-Hop artist.
.that damn near everyone knows lyrics to
That said, Nelly’s performance late Saturday Night, hands down took the day
with his ‘brother’ City Spud by his side most the night,
little known as the reason Nelly wore an iconic band-aid on his cheek all those years ago,
and DJ Trife, his personal DJ since the beginning, on the decks, center stage.
A mid-show, special appearance of Breland to note
and Nelly, at 48, crushed through each of his well-known bangers
from “E.I.” to “Country Grammar” and “Shake Ya Tailfeather”, delighting to say the least,
every sardine-packed person under and outside Palomino for 40 minutes
until curfew hit and his last song, “Dilemma” was cut short,
effectively killing the buzz and inciting “Nelly” chants the next few minutes,
but that would be it and we’d ride that buzz out the venue..
Boy, would I love to end on a high dagger of a note
like Nelly stealing the day at the largest Country Music Festival,
but I’d be abrogating truth if I didn’t mention some of the more ridiculous behavior
exhibited by immature and ignorant humans, highlighting their lack of humanity in the form of bigotry.
Each year, there are always some who claim Stagecoach is becoming more like Coachella
due to bleeding lines in music, which is a natural progression of, well, anything,
but more so because of the ‘outfits’ and fashion expressed at Stagecoach
reminds many of Coachella and Burning Man attire, though with a little bit of understanding of life
and a dose of Burning Man Principle: Radical Inclusion,
we could gather that country folk are finally realizing what other genres have likely known for quite some time,
that we are free to be.
Be who and what you want,
when you want,
for whatever reason
and how this tends to be expressed is though clothing, hair, and nails you share
with the rest of us at festivals. Embrace the fun in life by using your body as the canvas it is,
secure in the liberty of freedom to not give gravity to judgements of others,
and to offer many still hiding in their shell, a light in the direction of their future self,
released from the programming of encoded normality.
While these sorts of comments are the lighter, fairly inane side of egregious acts of ignorance and hate,
the uglier side reared its obnoxious face this weekend
as the Bud Light drama played itself out throughout the venue,
where gay and lesbian couples were met with slapholes yelling “BUDLIGHT” at them;
another ‘clever’ dogwhistle, much like the many chants of “Let’s Go Brandon”
conveniently spewed at performances such as Nelly, Kane Brown, and Trixie Mattel.
Look, I take no issue with folks boycotting a product for advertising decisions
or a leader of a company or nation, even if truth is grossly misunderstood or programmed so
by circle-jerking cacophonies of echo chambers meant to purport truth to sew yet more division,
but to then, while claiming freedom as your primary principle,
infringe and belittle the freedom of others in their decisions and lifestyles
through fear and hatred, very much seems like the scariest and most disheartening example
of ironic hypocrisy that no one could have made up if it weren’t reality.
In the end,
I’m just content that my American Flag painted nails
survived unscathed throughout the entirety of a battle-filled weekend.
Leave No Trace is another of Burning Man’s Principles
which is severely ignored at most festivals where attendees forgo cleaning up after themselves
knowing someone is paid to stay until 3-4am in the morning, picking up cans and food receptacles,
and I get it, though we can aim higher in this area of festivalling,
though my inherent thoughts of Leave No Trace relates more to the idea
that we all are battling the factors at a festival, we are all beat at the end of each day and weekend,
and we are all so miserably tired and maybe annoyed which translates to disdain, anger, frustration,
and pain passed on to others along the way
where my hope is that we can leave no trace of our own issues on the souls of others
as we make our way through battle and through life, as our scars are not meant for others to endure,
rather as an alchemist,
we can transmute these scars into love and creative ideas for others to take with them.
.leaving a different sort of trace
So, when we’re at our weakest, when we are tested the most…
we can choose to trade the ease of judgment and disdain
for the exponentially powerful acts of love, kindness, smiles, and helping hands…
These are the little, but mighty gifts (BM Principle: Gifting) we can share with others:
the gift of joy without want for return,
as difficult as it may be and while very easy and justifiable to complain a little,
whether about the heat, the dust, the bs, the blisters, the costs, the sound, the aches, the smoke,
the long walks, the traffic, the people, the lines, the rudeness, the schedule, and the music…
try turning those complaints into positive and practical catalysts for growth
because you need not know anything about a festival to be transformed by one,
but you must be willing and open to allowing the battle to create beauty
as it long has, since the beginning of the game and battle of life.
oh, and a Chipotle (or other) burrito in an ice chest for the ride home,
2 and a half hours of sleep,
and the final leg will find us.
Born city, raised country, west coast to east coast and back again. B.A., M.B.A., then back to LA,
lending to a love of capturing moments given any lens, and the adoration of all music, especially experienced live,
where this moment-capturing poet jives and thrives.
work in progress, y’all
[a part of the Founders Yonder Collective (FYCmoments)]