[Human” – Rag’n’Bone Man]

This is an image of my favorite wall in Fishtown. It’s at the corner of Hancock St. and Cecil B. Moore Ave. Whenever I have one of my lovely couch surfing evenings with my Fishtown friends, I make a habit of parking nearby so that I can watch and appreciate the artistic changes over time. I am a close follower of Philly street artists. Unlike murals (as much as I love those too), wheatpaste posters, plaster installations, and stickers are more at the mercy of the elements. These art pieces are readily subject to destruction and are therefore, largely, temporary. For that I appreciate them all the more. Not only do I appreciate them for their short-lived nature, but I also admire how they subtly beautify and funkify the ordinary into something worth noting. Something extraordinary. Mail boxes, defunct telephone booths, crumbling walls, chain link fences, bus stops, etc. They all benefit from these little accents created by artists who are truly talented and enthusiastic about their craft.

In that vein, and as we know, I like to dive into an idea and swim around a bit until my fingers are pruny. So, of course I have found a metaphor here…

The conclusion I have come to is that we are all this wall. We are all a crumbling facade, made beautiful by what is both physically and metaphysically applied to our existential surface. The art pieces we apply to ourselves are the people we surround ourselves with and the experiences we embrace. For good or ill, the experiences that influence us in this uncertain life may be temporary, or they may last. Regardless, they make an impact.

(Artists featured here include: Blur – a personal favorite -, Deer Jawn, Faithsfunn, and Inphltrate. If anyone can help me identify the others, I would greatly appreciate it).

Music Festival Madness

ANYWAY, this past weekend I was able to add to my (currently below OSHA standards but being steadily mended, reinforced, and decorated) wall and cross an item off of my 30 Before 30 List… I went to a music festival, Firefly to be exact. I am satisfyingly exhausted from spending a weekend (and then some) with good friends (old and new) and thousands of beautiful weirdos living their best, if not incredibly strangest, versions of their lives.

This past weekend embodied the “dance as if no one is watching” mantra… and then some. I saw a middle age man in a romper and cowboy boots aggressively hula-hooping to EDM while well inside our group’s personal bubble (all while studiously avoiding eye contact which made it even more uncomfortable), more glitter and sequins (the herpes of arts and crafts and now permanantly entrenched in portions of my camping gear for reasons outside my control) than any craft store could handle , women inexplicably doing gravity-defying tandem yoga during a blanket band set, American flag unitards, body paint, bandanas being worn outside a gang related setting, individuals decked from head to toe in glow sticks, and so much more. Top it off with seven of the most spectacular people you’ll ever meet (you know who you are) and you round out an experience that will not be forgotten. Five days of ebullient strangeness culminating in memories that will last forever.

I Have Feelings…

It should be obvious that I have a deep love of music but, introvert that I am, this weekend was big for me. All of that humanity in one place was even more overwhelming than I could have anticipated (hello vulnerability goals), particularly when it comes to the unfortunately necessary travisty of having to use porta-potties (don’t get me started on those small toxic squares of death – an apt phrase coined by a fellow festival friend). Naturally, the opportunity to dive deep into a band and let the music take me along with it was my absolute favorite part of the weekend. New bands were of particular interest to me. I danced enthusiastically to Cheat Codes; I threw glow sticks when the beat dropped and appreciated the sweet 80s sax stylings of Big Gigantic; I appreciated both the name and sound of Chicano Batman; I participated in TWO silent discos; I realized that I actually know and like Foster the People; and I discovered the absolutely adorable and talented Zeek Burse.

It was also a weekend of reaffirmed love for existing favorites. I sat with my lovely friends and debated how the sound, lyrics, and accent of Roy Graham (AKA Rag’n’Bone Man) made up for his unfortunate face tattoos. I actually laughed out loud when reading the commentary Portugal. The Man broadcast during their performance (things like, “We are Portugal. The Man, the band. Just making sure you are at the right stage…”). I unabashedly swooned a bit over Vance Joy and was overjoyed when he dedicated a love song to the adorable couple who became engaged while listening to his set.

But most incredibly of all, I fell asleep during Lord Huron. Now, don’t misunderstand, I was not bored in the slightest. For the first time in a long time (most surprisingly, in public) I was at peace. I was sitting between two new friends on a big blanket when the band began playing my favorite song of theirs, “Ends of the Earth,” when I laid back and closed my eyes, moving my hands and tapping my foot to the music. Soon after the song was over I know I drifted off in the sun for about 10 minutes. The warmth, the comfort of the blanket on the grass, the cold beer at my side, the slow and steady hum of their ever pleasant musical vibe… and I was out. It wasn’t for long but it was significant. I don’t sleep in public, not even on airplanes, and yet I snoozed soundly surrounded by strangers and woke up feeling more refreshed and happier than I have felt in a while. It wasn’t a nap so much as it was an awakening.

Perfection is a Moving Target

Of course, the experience was not all amazing all the time. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that a music festival is restful. It was hot, teeny-boppers were obnoxious, and food was expensive. Inexplicably, people brought infants and toddlers which made me strangely uncomfortable. I am ashamed to admit that I had a minor anxiety attack from the sheer number of people present just before Eminem performed. And most of all, I was disgusted by the amount of waste our neighbors left behind (seriously people, pick up after your damn selves and be responsible for your own nonsense…).

But that’s life. No experience is ever perfect but I want to see beauty everywhere I can. Truly, I saw deep worth in the absolutely and wonderfully strange experience that every minute of my Wednesday to Monday festivaling embodied. Almost inexplicably, I am a better person for having moved through this strange week. I loved, I hated, I laughed, I sang, I learned… I lived.

I’m only human, after all…


Lastly, in keeping with the tradition of the weekend: #mayornutterssummertipstobeattheheat #partyonthejawn #titleofyoursextape #firefly2018

Photo: E. Campbell (2018)
Fishtown, PA

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