Seriously, I’m not sure. The All Good Festival is a place to make wonderful memories and forget them just as quickly.
I consider myself a festival veteran at this point. I’ve been to dozens of smaller outdoor music festivals and I usually feel very safe and comfortable. All Good made me feel like it was my first time. And everyone remembers their first time a little differently than the rest, don’t they? 😉
My usual routine for a festival is to either take my car and a tent, or take my motorhome, my Nikon and Nathan and have a good time. This has always served me well in the past, but for some reason, I felt compelled to go to this one a little differently. After all, Nathan and the rest of my crew were either too busy working, not willing to pay $200 for tickets, or simply in need of a quiet weekend.
I don’t do quiet weekends.
So I searched for people on the Blue Heron Facebook Page that were going to All Good, and I made friends with Amanda. After some polite conversation about Heron, music, and the state of the universe, I forwardly asked if I could roll with her group that weekend. Just as you’d expect from one idyllic neocounterculture soul to another, she warmly invited me to rage.
I wanted to do this right. No car. No air conditioning. No RV refrigerator, generator, shower, or toilet. So I loaded up my Kelty Coyote backpack with the bare essentials:
- Sleeping bag
- Change of clothes
- CLIF Energy Bars (so damn good)
- Blue Diamond Almonds
- Clove cigarettes
- Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Thats it. No Nikon. No cell phone charger (I actually did bring a little solar charger I bought at Walmart for $20 which failed in 5 minutes). I hopped on my motorcycle and hit the road. I met up with Amanda and her group in complete shock. I had been to festivals, but I’ve never seen 32,000 weekend warriors before. Every type of hippie, jam-packed in to one enormous plot of farmland.
It’s easy to describe All Good in terms of the types of things you see and do… but the hard thing to describe is the pure scale of it all. Every festival has its stage-front dance pit, its drug scene, its vendors, its art installations, its music talent… and so does All Good, just on a massive scale that needs to be witnessed to understand. Friday night I wandered down to the stage and found myself in a sweaty, raging, dance party, clamoring to get to the stage, hundreds of feet from the performers. It was just a massive, rolling wave of people – moving to music, drinking and smoking and touching each other (some more than others). It was as if every festival I’ve ever been to was combined on to one plot of land.
AND IT WAS AWESOME.
Not awesome like “Whoa dude, Phish is awesome!” or “I just had an awesome slice of pizza from Mineo’s”. Awesome like aweinspiring, glowing, raging, swirling, covered-in-glowstick-juice out-of-control awesome.
I wanted to describe the music in this blog post, but it is tough to do. Obviously, with a line up like Furthur, Warren Hayes, Yonder Mountain String Band, Primus, and about 100 other amazing artists, it was sublime. But I reflect and find it all a bit hard to describe. I remember very specific, important things about all the shows, but now what you might think. I remember the guy in the cowboy outfit that tipped his hat to me at the Furthur concert just as about 100 Chinese lanterns got released in to the sky. I remember the serene sound of Yonder Mountain as it reached the hill side I was laying on while basking under the sunshine. I remember the guy in a purple velvet pimp suit playing saxophone along with the funk band at the Grassroots stage. I remember the pounding trance pulse of Pretty Lights as I got splashed with glow stick juice.
I remember the independent harmony. It wasn’t like Blue Heron, which admittedly feels like more of a family reunion to me. Nor was it like Ledges, which is small enough for you to almost meet everyone twice over the course of the weekend. This was the type of festival where you could make a friend, and vanish just as quickly. For better or for worse, attending a festival with 32,000 people means that everyone behaves with a sense of anonymity. People are reckless in both glorious and regrettable ways, and I felt much as I think I would have felt at Woodstock – small, free, and reckless. You could meet a stranger, fall in love, and jump on a bus headed for Chicago just as easily as you could throw a punch and vanish in to the crowd before security could ever show up. That free, anonymous mentality is pervasive, and everyone feels it.
That mentality may have contributed to the Sunday morning tragedy when a car rolled down a hill and killed a woman sleeping in a tent. It happened only a few hundred feet from my campsite, where the screams and crash noises woke me from a deep sleep. After the events unfolded, I decided to leave on early side and pack up – having a sensory overload for three days had finally caught up with me in a very sobering morning, and I knew I had to digest everything.
I only got a few photos from this weekend, but I was lucky to meet up with my great friends Heibel and Addie, and in such a large crowd, with a dead cell phone, that was very fortunate. I’m attaching my crappy point’n’shoot photos. I had a rocking, rolling, out of this universe time and I’ll be returning ad infinitum, though next year, I’ll be taking the RV, my Nikon, and of course, Monsieur Bober.