Tuesday, August 4, 2009


The trip was timed to coincide with my attending the third and final day of the All Points West Music Festival, an all day music extravaganza at Liberty State Park on the New Jersey side of the Hudson, overlooking the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline. It was pouring rain when I got to Battery Park to catch water taxi across the river, gray clouds showing no sign of letting up.

Combat deaths are down
But casualties still mount
Suicide rates rise

Alone in the dark
Prison of isolation
She's thrown out her key

Entry into the festival was delayed due to weather, canceling several of the early afternoon performances. But it cleared up by mid afternoon and the gates were opened. The pile of people pushing to get in was good because security failed to do a careful check of those entering, allowing me to slip in my canteen of tequila.

The rain both that morning and over the last several days turned the festival grounds into a swamp, mud and pools of standing water everywhere. I went straight for the main stage to find a place right up front. Once the music started, it was common to see people dancing in pools of water, caked in mud. Since I was intent on staking out a place before the stage for the whole show with no bathroom breaks allowed, I relied exclusively on my canteen to keep me "hydrated."

Afterburners on
He's going supersonic
Leaving Earth's orbit

Five, four, three, two, one
Countdown to oblivion
His turbulent ride

Four performances on the main stage, the one I came for being the Liverpool band Echo & The Bunnymen, act three. By then the sun was setting and the view of the Manhattan skyline above the sea of faces was phenomenal. The Statue of Liberty’s golden torch was also lit up with last rays of reflected sunlight. But it was the music on stage that I was there for, one great performance after the other. I was on my way to heaven by the time The Bunnymen took the stage and I heard the first sounds from Will Sergeant’s guitar and Ian McCulloch voice when they began the set with "Lips Like Sugar". The draining canteen ensured a rapid stratospheric ascent, releasing me from the bonds of reality. People all around were jostling and dancing in the mud on this warm and humid summer evening, grooving on the music. Cold Play closed the festival with a nearly two hour performance, their song "Yellow" accompanied by the release of large yellow balloons into the audience. After five and a half hours of standing before the stage, it all came to an end, the crowds turning and finding their way home.

Eyes looking outward
To the distant horizon
Thoughts looking inward

I brought with me a copy of The Bummymen's 1979 "Pictures" single, their very first record, only 4000 of which were pressed with "The Revenge of Voodoo Billie" scratched on the run-out groove. After waving it in the air for a few songs, I threw it on stage. All I remember was the guy next to me saying "Good shot". With an address included in the plastic sleeve, I was hoping it would be mailed back with a pair of autographs. Crazy notion.

Fortunately a friend who lives upstate acted as my designated driver, fearing what would happen if I took the ferry back and was dropped off in Manhattan in my state of mind. He arrived later in the afternoon when I was already holed up in front of the stage, meeting him only after the show came to an end. We drove back to his home in Poughkeepsie where I spent the following day catching up on the events of our lives.

Listening to the Bunnymen’s performance on YouTube the following day caused me to ask "Is this the same concert I went to?" I’ve since downloaded an excellent quality soundboard recording of their show, confirming that Ian’s performance was not one of his best. But that did not matter. Ian sounded so sweet to me that evening because of the excitement of the live performance, my love of the band and the golden glow of the alcohol. One Saturday night in the coming months I will pop their bootleg recording in the CD player, put on the headphones, cigar in one hand with a flask in the other, and relive the wonderful experience of that warm summer evening.

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