It all started with an accidental checking of the work email; a coworker had extra tickets. I jumped at the opportunity. Friday night came and I found myself anxious of the possibilities of what this music festival would bring.
After parking on what would turn out to be camping grounds, I walked through the fields toward the front gate of the speedway. I stepped into the upper deck, much like any sporting arena, and slowly made my way down the stands and onto the grassy field below. The sun was setting and I followed the text-messaged directions toward my friend.
First stop was the Ad Aspera stage. Ween was playing, first time hearing their name or their music, and I chatted happily as the Ferris wheel spun behind us with the setting sun. After their set, we crossed a sea of porter potties and made our way to a stage named Stageasaurus Rex. By the time we set out the blanket and plopped ourselves down beneath the stars, The Flaming Lips started up to an incomprehensive, mellow rock set. The images flashed onto the screen can only be described as creepy and psychedelic. I kept thinking that the stoners were having a grand time.
Children played with their glow sticks, drunks stumbled happily across, and I felt transported to another universe as I allowed myself to stare up at the expansive dark space above.
After an hour or so, we gathered our things and made the trek to the main stage, giddy with excitement, for Eminem’s performance.
Eminem. Indescribable. I am a fan of his music, but I wouldn’t go out and by a CD; I like his popular music let’s say. So when the stage lit up and the beginning melody of “Won’t Back Down” began to play, I was initially filled with euphoria and started banging my head to the song I had only heard played in the Mission Impossible 4 trailer.
Words were said, songs were sung, and after the singing/rapping along to the familiar tunes of “Love the Way You Lie” and “Like Toy Soldiers,” I nearly had a heart attack when “Lighters” featuring Bruno Mars began; for a moment I actually thought Bruno Mars was going to grace the stage. Instead, hundreds of lighters flicked on, one by one, amongst the massive crowd in front of us making it look like a sea of fiery stars had come down to earth. Enough with the imagery.
It wasn’t until the triple back-to-back whammy of “Without Me,” “The Real Slim Shady,” and “Stan” echoed through the night that my subconscious pushed the lyrics through my head, down my throat, and out of my mouth as if I were back in middle school. In that moment, pure epicness had ensued.
After another round of songs, both old and new, the music died down, the stage went black, a swarms of music lovers made their way back up the stands. My friend and I stood paralyzed, debating the existence of an encore. After all, Eminem had yet to sing “Lose Yourself,” what I believe to be an Eminem staple. Listening to our guts, we stayed, waited, and finally were rewarded with a haunting orchestra lit by deep blue lights playing the opening strings to “Lose Yourself.” This event truly made the night.
It wasn’t until one in the morning that I got my car out of the ocean of tents, through the gravel roads and dimly lit streets and back onto the highway headed home. Day one ended on an amazing note and the following day and evening would prove more interesting and entertaining on an anthropologic level…