I should’ve known something was up when it took several phone calls, the last one just a few days before my arrival, to figure out how I was getting from the airport to this outdoor festival. At first, the organizer told me I’d have to find my own transportation. With the small fee she was offering I didn’t have the dough to rent a vehicle or take a cab (even if I could get one to take me to the middle of nowhere) and I didn’t know any locals. Finally, the organizer reluctantly agreed to send someone.
Most of the locals were camping but it would be difficult for me to bring a tent and sleeping bag plus guitar, recordings and other gear on the plane. After the third phone call the organizer consented to renting a condo about a mile from the festival for several of us musicians. She insisted that we pay for half of it.
I arrived at the small airport, gathered my luggage and walked outside. My ride screeched to the curb, stuck out her hand and with a wide grin introduced herself as Lead Foot Mary. She proved her name as we careened from intersection to intersection, empty Bud cans rattling from behind the seat.
She dropped me off at the condo. Some of the other musicians were already there, four of them plus equipment, squeezed into a rented sedan. I dropped off my suitcase then smashed myself into the car for a ride to the event. Everyone was friendly and when a festie goer named Doris found that several of us were stranded without a car for the three-day festival, she lent us her 70’s era Buick.
That afternoon several of us showed up for our sound check. We found one overworked sound tech and no support staff. In the broiling sun, we made sure the mikes worked then came back that night for the show. Since there wasn’t any stage crew, each act set up their own mikes, amps and drum sets. I was asked to emcee so I figured it was just a step further to stage manage. That meant it was up to me to keep the show running. I made sure that the next act was ready as the one before finished up. Fortunately, there were no divas booked and everyone worked like champs.
Most of the audience stayed in their tents. (When you’re comfy inside with your girlfriend and a case of Bud, why leave?) We couldn’t see them, so it was like playing for an applause track. Fortunately, it was a loud soundtrack.
It’s too bad one woman didn’t stay in her tent. All through the first half of my musical set, she stood at the edge of the high stage, looking up at me longingly with blood shot eyes and slurring, “Hey! Hey! Wanna go out with me? Hey!” I tried all my tricks. I looked directly at her, exclaiming, “It’s MY show.” I gently talked with her off mike. I offered the audience a prize if they’d cart her off but there she stood, doe eyed and clutching the edge of the stage while shouting in the middle of a ballad, “That’s pretty!” My buddy and fellow musician Sue Fink gently put her arm around the pest and guided her away. If I ever have kids, I’m naming them all after Sue.
The next evening was more of the same except at one point, all the lights went off. One of the performers got on her knees and followed cables while I stood on stage and asked if anyone could help us. After 15 minutes I heard a voice exclaim, “Someone tripped over the extension cord … again.” The lights miraculously clicked back on.
The last night at the festival our condo group got a bit loopy. We sat up late, shaking our heads over all that had happened. One of us drained the last drops of an almost empty bottle of vodka and tossed it in the trash. Everyone else had soda and something to eat including a couple of sandwiches that were wrapped in foil. One of the musicians busied herself making little foil animals as we talked into the night. We laughed ourselves silly then ambled off to bed.
I sleepily arose the next morning, packed and spent a couple of hours looking for a ride. Unfortunately, the band with the rental car had already left and I couldn’t find Doris’ Buick. The organizer sent someone to see if we’d checked out yet and she gave me a lift to the festival. I’d hardly stepped out of the car before the producer started screaming that I was costing her another day of rental because I left late. I tried to explain that I knew nothing about a check out time and generally, I respond better when things are taken down just a few decibels. She couldn’t hear me.
I asked around for a ride, nervously wondering if I’d get to the airport in time. I finally found a volunteer. I threw my possessions into the back of the stranger’s truck. Thanks to my ride’s skillful avoidance of our nation’s finest, we made it to the airport just an hour before my flight left.
I found out later that when cleaning the condo, someone found the empty liquor bottle and bits of foil in the garbage, had proclaimed us drug addicts and banned us from future festivals.
I never did pay for the condo.