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"Mama, Mama, Make me your boy.
I'm 300 pounds of Heavenly Joy.
This is it. This is it.
What you get."
---Big Smoo and the Trailer Park Kings, at the Main Street Music Festival
I've been trying out a few of my old Grand Unified Thumb Rules for Misanthropic Camping this trip. Foremost among them is this: "Camp in the country on weekdays. Come to the city on weekends." I pulled into Lake Benbrook on Thursday, spent Friday on my annual pilgrimage to the museums in Ft. Worth. (Weekdays are better for Museums also, absent the occasional mobs of kindercritters on field trips.)
Saturday dawns. What to do, what to do? Well, as it happens there's way too much to do. There are 3 separate art and music festivals in the Ft. Worth area alone, and another up in Denton. Not to mention an interesting party I heard about in Muenster, though now we're talking close to Oklahoma, which is a trip in itself.
Why do they schedule these things all at the same time?
Being equally ignorant of all, I opted for the nearest, dragged on my old cowboy boots, and set off for downtown. Maybe, after a few beers, I might remember how to polka. Somewhere in my hindbrain, I may have even contemplated a priapic moment. Shame on me. The idle id is a dangerous thing.
What I got was the usual assortment of $4 turkey legs, cotton candy, $5 canned beer, nowhere to sit, parking lots filled with too many people standing around or slipping on the oil slicks, diesel generators belching smoke, and lots and lots of art without craft and crafts without art.
It was cool.
But "free" music festivals are slick, serious business, no doubt about it. No effort is spared to wear you out and make you spend money on stuff you don't need. What a deal. I came to regret my boots, and long for some cushioned loafers. Fortunately this was still downtown, with a couple of regular bars still open, where a man could rent an air conditioned seat from time to time for the normal price of a draft beer.
The city closed off 9 blocks of Main Street, rented out space for several hundred booths in the center facing out, and by the time I got there the Trinket Treadmill was in full swing, an inordinately slow shamble of thousands of people with glazed eyes, south from Weatherford to 9th and back again. Counterclockwise, round and round.
I made one circuit, just to be sociable. I was looking for a belt. Would you believe in all that mess there was not one belt booth? Just as well, they'd probably have wanted $100 for it.
The music was free, split between 3 stages, and occasionally not too shabby, though you had to be either patient or opportunistically pushy. Whichever worked.
The real entertainment came not with the headliners, but in odd moments in the afternoon, in front of bands I never heard of. Like 4 Way Street, a classic rock band. The 60s are still alive in those old songs. The Dave Alexander Band did a creditable tribute to Bob Wills. Big Smoo and the Trailer Park Kings played some laid-back, trashy, neckpoppin' happy blues.
And there was one wonderfully insane moment with MASS Ensemble. (www.massensemble.com) They made some difficult to classify but definitely interesting music on electric fiddle and a variety of drums. But the center of attention here was the Earth Harp, an electronic instrument whose physical manifestation began by stringing 15 wires from the top of a building a block away, and drawing them down to the stage. Sound was generated by grasping these lines firmly and pulling along them. They are rubbed, not plucked.
I managed to get onto stage between sets and tried it out. You have to wear gloves. It's very physical, and generates a lot of friction heat. The musical effect is a tuned droning, much as if an pipe organ had been made from a stringed instrument. A member of the band told me that sometimes they run this thing from a mountaintop and across a river valley. Miles of wire. Visually dramatic, and something worth hearing.
Sunday I went up to Denton to see what they could do. The venue was much more relaxed, in a park with actual grass, under shade trees, on the TWU campus. You could buy a beer there without having to stand in line somewhere else to get tickets first.
Sunday was Jazz night, mostly played on the blues side and too loud, heavy on the keyboards. But again there were moments. An unamplified quintet kept me smiling for an hour playing old quiet ballads on trombone, bass, and saxophones.
But I left early. I was camped at Lake Dallas, and had to get back before they closed the gates at 10pm. COE camps are pleasant, but they do have this unfortunate idiosyncrasy.
Looking back over this...whatever it is, report... I may seem overly critical. Actually I had a pretty good time this weekend.
And I'm glad it's over.
Me for a beer and a book and a quiet morning by the lake. It's Monday, and time to get back to work at being retired.
I've said it before. Sometimes I just can't get the smile off my face.
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