Is it better to rain in hell or serve in purgatory?
Every July I make my pilgrimage to Briggs Farm for the annual Blues Fest for
a weekend of blues and booze surrounded by a couple thousand like-minded
people. Everyone brings a chair or two and a cooler filled with their
favorite fluids -- and after they find their spot they proceed to sit in the hot
summer fun and listen to the best blues artists in the country while they quaff
vast quantities of beer, wine, rum, and coolers and watch the other inhabitants
of this musical farm field mill about and have a good time. Naturally, the
longer you stay, the happier you get, and the better the music sounds.
The sad part is even this happy gathering can be overly secured.
In July of '04 I noticed security wasn't as invisible as it was in other
years. There seemed to be a rather large number of people wearing security
T-shirts, carrying radios and milling through the crowds. There has always
been a rule about glass containers at Blues Fest, and for a very good
reason. Glass cuts and messes up the grounds. Everyone instinctively
knows this, so they keep their glass bottles under cover and they take them with
them when they leave. We're all pretty cool about that. After all,
it's our place, so we have to take care of it. Besides, you don't always have a choice of glass or plastic when you go to the liquor store, and sometimes
it's just not convenient to convert to plastic.
One year I was on my way to Briggs and just didn't feel like shopping for
booze before I left, so I got an almost-full bottle of Seagram's 7, added equal
amounts of sweet and dry vermouth and a few dashes of bitters, and made a bottle
of perfect Manhattans. A jar of maraschino cherries, some toothpicks,
go-cups and a chest of ice and I had my selected, portable bar. I set up
my lounge chair with the footrest and twin cup holders, initiated my
bar and began to do the one thing in this world I absolutely refuse to do ever
again... Drank a whole bottle of cheap Manhattans in the hot summer sun in the
middle of a farm field until I lost my mind. To add insult to injury,
Alicia gave me a bottle of wine halfway through my Manhattans, which I also
drained. From what I remember, I had a blast. The rest of the night
came back to me in bits and pieces the next day, by way of witnesses who
considered my actions equal in entertainment to the blues guitar player standing
next to me doing riffs while I was ranting like a lunatic at invisible
demons. Could be sheer twaddle for all I know, but there were people
behind me who e-mailed saying the same thing, so there must be some truth to it.
Hey, we all do stupid things from time to time. That's what makes us alive
humans, instead of apathetic robots.... which is what the point of this
thing is supposed
to be about in the first place.
Anyway, in my drunken stupor my glass bottle was always secured, as was
So why were these '04 "security" characters going around inspecting
people's packs to make sure they didn't have any glass? I could see
the lead security guy with his radio telling his underlings where to fan out,
how to approach and mill through the crowd and zero in on suspected baggage that
might contain the dreaded contraband glass booze bottle. Campers entering
the grounds were searched, and the in-your-face presence of this goon squad was
beginning to look like a microcosm of a police state.
When you have such a cool group of people in a place like Briggs, doing
nothing but enjoying the tunes and laying back, you don't need a bunch of cop
wannabes looking for problems at your fun's expense.
I've been told that other places pat you down before you get into the outdoor
festivals, charge you $80 to get in, confiscate your party materials and food,
and have a definite police-like presence, and there are thousands who not only
accept this treatment but expect it, as if this was the norm.
People....... WAKE THE FUCK UP!
Are you so apathetic that you'll allow a police state to gain a solid
foothold? Or are you just so fuckin' stupid and blind you can't see what's
happening? My guess is both.
It was getting
toward the end of the night, and
Joanna Connor was kicking
ass. She was getting off on us as much as we were getting off on her and
her guitar kept us in a state of high level euphoria. She was feeding off
the crowd, and translating that energy into pure, penetrating blues, and the
people responded by sending the energy right back. It was a perpetual
motion energy machine, spiraling on a vortex of music with no end in sight.
The more she played, the closer to the edge of the stage she came, until her toes
were almost on our hands. She wasn't the Beatles, and we weren't insane
fans. We were all simply grooving on each other as two first-time lovers.
Apparently, the lead security guy saw a problem with this, and sent in his
underlings to form a line in front of the stage to keep the masses from getting
too close. The energy transference was blocked as
if a wall of lead was placed between the patient and an X-ray machine. The music
was still there, but the magic was gone. Instead of an unobscured view of
Joanna's frantic blues fingers playing endless riffs, there was security between
us, watching the crowd watching them. I could see the lead security on the
side of the stage actually looking pleased, as if he alone had the power to
limit the pleasure of the crowds and you could tell he was having his twisted
revenge on these happy people, because he'd much rather be at the monster truck
rally than having to be here listening to music he doesn't even like. This
6-foot, 250-lb., ball-cap wearing, tobacco-chewing, "Deliverance" cousin was in
control, and he knew it.
When it was all over, I couldn't take it anymore, and climbed on my soapbox and
went off on a rather loud tirade about how pissed off I was, seeing a police
state invading the passivity of this very cool collection of blues artists and
law-abiding folks by checking bags and playing cop wannabes and putting a
serious damper on the positive energy of the whole place. Among the crowd
that gathered, besides the people I was with, who tried their best to settle me
down, were a few members of security. Sure, I'd had a few drinks, and was loud
and abusive -- but I used that directed aggression to point out that I would never
be loud and abusive if I wasn't provoked by such asshole, redneck, Nazi wannabes as the goon squad
assigned to "maintain order."
When my rant was over, the lead security asked my friend, Jim, if he was
supposed to be there. Their feeble attempt to disperse the crowd proved my
point, because Jim had a very visible wristband that showed he SHOULD be
there. Well, I was outta there, but before I left, I made it perfectly clear
that they won't be seeing me next year if Briggs insisted on having Gestapo
rednecks police us, and they can count on many of the annual regulars going some
place else instead.
'05 Briggs was a different scenario.
Mary and I cautiously showed up on the last day to see if anything
changed. Our friends were all there, and security was surprisingly semi-nonexistent. What security people I saw were wearing cheerful yellow
and beat-up straw cowboy/farmer's hats with semi-visible radio gear in their
ears. The guy next to me -- Dougie -- was having a blast, and asked me if I had any
papers. You know I do.... As he was rolling his joint he yelled
SECURITY! A yellow-shirted, cowboy-hatted youngster came by, and this guy
cheerfully shook his hand while holding his pot with the other, and turned to me
and smiled, as if to say, "it's cool, bud." Jimmy Christman, the show's MC,
made an announcement about the dangers of glass, and said if we have glass
containers we can bring them up and they'll give us plastic. That said, he
encouraged us to be cool about it. Meanwhile, there was a couple right in
front of me drinking Chardonnay from stemmed glassware -- and the occasional
SECURITY! from the guy next to me wanting some papers. Jim told the story
of my rant of last year, and said it's very likely my soapboxing had a lot to do
with the laid-back attitude of security this year. That, and a lot of
other people were pretty pissed about it -- and probably got back to
When people heard Big Jack Johnson
to be at the Blues Fest in '05, as a personal favor, the attendance swelled to
the point that Briggs might have actually made a profit this year.
This guy played like a 20-year-old looking for a name. He needed help
getting on the stage, but once he started playing, it was hard to keep up with
My point isn't just to rant and rave about the blues, or to
bitch about security at a concert.
My point is simply that we're all being
duped into thinking more security is better to protect our freedoms.
Assholes...... It's the other way around. Anyone who gives up their
freedom for security deserves neither. We're bringing up a generation
brainwashed by M.A.D.D. and DARE, and teachers aren't even involved with teaching
Aren't you getting a little tired of being on closed circuit
TV everywhere you go, as if you and everyone else should be watched in case you
try to rob a bank, steal a pack of gum, or smoke in public? Does zero
tolerance exist, or is it just a control tool?
You all have a choice. You can wallow in apathetic
mindlessness and pretend this emerging police state is nonexistent, and go on
with your inane drone, robot, sleepwalking lives, or you can stand up and prove
you still have freedoms by bitching a blue streak until you hear the slave
Sing it brothers and sisters..........
I'M AS MAD AS HELL AND
I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE...
Security is mostly superstition. It does not exist in nature nor does man as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or