I’m not a big fan of the sun, temperatures over 100°F (38°C), large groups of people, or walking miles and miles in all three, yet I went to this:
Months and months ago, when it was cool outside, a friend of mine sent me that flyer in a text. My response was, “ooh.” It’s rare that you see so many bands on a list and like more than half of them, wouldn’t mind seeing most of them, and are at least passingly familiar with the remainder. There were only two bands on that list that elicited an “ew” instead of an “ooh,” and a couple that I had never seen live before.
I’ve never really liked festival shows. They’re expensive, usually held outdoors, the bathroom facilities are of the portable persuasion, and they have entirely too many bands and attendees. Inevitably, two bands you want to see will be playing at the same time on opposite ends of the event, while you end up sitting through a few you don’t care about at all.
I saw The Casualties and Voodoo Glow Skulls yesterday, because I really didn’t want to see Me First And The Gimme Gimmes. As a friend said yesterday, the only thing original about that band is their name. All they do is covers. How you become a headliner at a punk festival by performing mediocre karaoke is beyond me.
Anyway, I don’t really like festival shows, but I’ve been to a lot of them. I’ve been to Ozzfest and Lollapalooza and the one that was a benefit for the guitar player from Social Distortion’s family after he died. I’ve sat on the grass with my butt getting uncomfortably numb. I’ve been in pits and temporarily lost hearing. I’ve frozen my tits off at Ozzfest in Boston when it was unseasonably cold. And now, I’ve nearly died in 106 degree heat at It’s Not Dead in San Bernardino.
So, why, you rightfully ask, did I go to It’s Not Dead Festival? Because, amazingly, for a misanthrope who’s becoming more hermitic by the day, I still have friends, and four of them flew into town to go to this event.
The last time we were all together was Male’s memorial service. That was not a very fun event, so I didn’t want that to be the memory of the last time I saw my out-of-town friends anymore. I wanted to replace it with something a little less having to do with the death of the love of my life.
Still, I didn’t consider that it would come up anyway. Male loved punk. We lived parallel lives in different cities before we met. This is him back in the day:
Being around all of my closest friends, who are also his closest friends, was harder than I thought it would be. He should have been there, too. If he was still alive, he would have been. I broke down and cried the night before the event. That the show would turn into a makeshift memorial hadn’t occurred to me when I signed on to go.
One friend was especially maudlin about it. I told him I just couldn’t go there yet. He said he understood, but kept prattling on about Male anyway. Mourning is hard and we all do it differently. I understand that that’s his way, but it is not mine. I miss him too much.
Anyway, back to the show and the heat. Oh, the heat! I am of northern descent. I’m almost as pale as an albino. I can say this with scientific certainty, because the maudlin friend I mentioned is an albino. My skin is only a shade or two darker than his. I do not tan; I burn. I slathered 70 SPF sunscreen all over myself at least a dozen times yesterday.
I do not do well in extremes, neither extreme heat nor extreme cold. It was 106 degrees in San Bernardino yesterday with no shade. I was out in it all freakin’ day.
We were unaware that for merely $20, we could park in a lot that was right down the hill from the venue. I might have paid $100 to park in that lot had I known it was an option. Instead, we parked in the general parking lot and hiked about a mile uphill to the venue with no shade in 106 degree heat. I would have hated that hike if it was only 72 degrees, but at 106, I barely made it.
For some reason, the Glen Helen Pavilion doesn’t have permanent light fixtures. Instead, they have trailers with solar lights on them parked sporadically along the way. Thanks be they did, because every time I saw one, I detoured under the solar wings of the trailers just to get out of the sun for a minute before proceeding.
By the third time I did this, I knew I was overheating like an old Ford. If I kept going, I would pass out and nobody wants that. Meanwhile, my albino friend was faring even worse. By the time we got to the gate, security didn’t want to let him in. They almost called an ambulance. After 10 minutes, they said they would let him in if he went directly to the cooling tent.
So while everyone else went to go see G.B.H., my albino friend and I made our way to the cooling tent, which was stupidly situated as far as you could get from the main gate and still be in the venue. We ducked under any shade we could along the way. I felt like a soldier under fire, taking cover, and ducking from tiny shade to shade.
When we got to the cooling tent, we realized that it was a bit of a misnomer since it was just a tent with some fans. It wasn’t any cooler than anywhere else, but it had better air circulation and sweet, sweet shade. The very nice lady who attended to us told us that they had two swamp coolers, but neither of them were working and the ice hadn’t been delivered yet. All they had to offer was warm water, shade, and folding chairs. It was better than nothing.
We sat there in the shade, drinking warm water and cooled off a bit. During that time, one person was taken away in an ambulance for heat stroke, and another guy in handcuffs was escorted in by two police officers kicking and screaming. Apparently, he had been injured in the pit and he was clearly on drugs. After he came in, we were treated to the dulcet tones of G.B.H. accompanied by death screams.
After about a half an hour of shade and screaming, we decided we were cool enough to attend the show. Somehow, we found our old punk friends in a sea of old punks, two of whom had the foresight to bring very large blankets, and we caught the tail end of G.B.H. Yay.
The rest of the afternoon, we sat there in the sun, baking and liberally applying sunscreen on the regular, in the hopes that, one of these hours, the sun would finally decide to fuck right the hell off. Eventually, it did and it was glorious. My albino friend did have to visit the nice people at the “cooling” tent several more times, but I was much better after I no longer had to hike uphill.
There were pits! I couldn’t believe that anyone, let alone old punks, could be in a pit in the sun in 106 degree heat, but there they were in all of their decrepit punk glory, including some of my friends. I was too overheated to do anything but sit on my ass.
Almost everyone there was at least 35 years old or under 10. Most of the bands on that list have been in business for decades. The Adicts, who had an amazing set yesterday, first formed in 1975. I am a second wave punk; I missed the first wave altogether, because I was a child. Yet, these old farts were up on stage giving it their all in the same 106° heat we were baking in. It made me happy to see that punk, while geriatric and balding, is not, in fact, dead.
The next time my friends fly into town for an outdoor punk festival, I’ll skip the festival and hang out with them the night before. It’s Not Dead will probably be the last festival I ever attend. I am too old and too pale for this crap.
I do intensely love my new G.B.H. hoodie though.
P.S. to The Buzzcocks: thanks for playing Harmony In My Head.