Rocktoberfest Acht

So yeah, my friends and I, in a bout of total unoriginality, started this annual party called Rocktoberfest back in 2002. Rocktoberfest is a celebration of beer and friendship and meat and rocking until you break yourself. If that sounds childish and/or unimportant to you, maybe you should attend Rocktoberfest before you go judging things you don’t understand. Or maybe you’re humorless California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, who doesn’t seem to like anything at all, especially if it has ever a) been in a union or b) been poor. But I digress.

This year was the 8th annual Rocktoberfest (Rocktoberfest Acht in German. So Achtoberfest, as my pal Jom pointed out while quite drunk) and we held it at my friend Badier’s mostly former house in Menlo Park, which is dangerously close to Stanford University. Having a massive party in a house that is mostly empty is definitely the way to go. Less shit to break.

I’d like to think that everyone who attends  our Rocktoberfest recognizes that, like Hold Steady albums and good beers, the most recent one is always the best one ever. This year was no exception.

Somewhere in the haze of music, drunk, and smoke, I realized why Rocktoberfest feels like a holiday to those who attend it and, as a sort of bonus realization, why rock ‘n’ roll is not a terrible substitute for a religion (when it doesn’t suck, of course). Let’s deal with the last thing first: at its best, rock ‘n’ roll creates community. When you go to see your favorite band, you share in the pure joy of music with a roomful of strangers. The audience and the band are all plugged in to something much bigger than the sum of its parts. The potential exists in that moment to meet new people and make new friends. You don’t have to do that, of course, but you totally can. And maybe you should. Rocktoberfest is a celebration of an ever-expanding community that started with five guys in a house. Those five guys didn’t always get along by any means, but Rocktoberfest creates a unique present in which the past is mostly obliterated while people sing along to songs like “This Fire” by Franz Ferdinand (modified by us so that the chorus is now, “This beer is out of control/ I’m gonna drink this beer/ drink this beer”) and “Holy Diver” by Dio (we poured one out for Ronnie James Dio this year). Sure, it’s silly. But what’s wrong with being silly?

What happened at Rocktoberfest this year was what I  imagine happened around Joe Strummer’s famous campfires at Glastonbury. Old friends met new friends, some of us had wives to bring, others had kids to leave at home. But for several hours of a Saturday, everyone was cool with everyone. For my part, I was deliriously happy. You can do this anytime you want, and you should. Gather your friends and some drinks and some great music, and celebrate your personal community. Rocktoberfest Acht was a reminder of why I love music and – more important – why I literally love a majority of the people I know. It’s not prayer and it won’t save you from much besides boredom, but it could provide you with one helluva a great night.

So, in the great words of Mr. Craig Finn, “Let this be my annual reminder/ that we can all be something bigger.” Go forward, kids, be awesome to each other, and rock the fuck on.

Coachella Recap: Friday

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So I went to Coachella last weekend, which is why I didn’t post anything until the end of the day Tuesday – I came home sunburned and ass-tired. In fact, I’m still ass-tired, so if you don’t see this post until Wednesday, that’s why. I’ll assume my usual prolific postage in the days ahead (been listening to the Thermals – yay!- and The Boy Least Likely To – boo! – but more of that later).

My esteemed colleague and awesome drummer, Tim, accompanied me on the wild-ass adventure that was Coachella 2009. We had tickets to camp all weekend and festival tickets for Saturday and Sunday, so alas, I cannot tell you how awesome The Hold Steady was on Friday. You’ll just have to trust that they were awesome. Because when is The Hold Steady not awesome? I’ll tell you when: never. Exactly never.

There are two music-related things I can tell you about Friday. When Tim and I finally got into the campground (more on that in a second), we set up our tent to Paul McCartney ending, or so we thought, his set with a bunch of Beatles tunes. Pleasant enough and then some. But McCartney played until nearly 1:30 in the morning, after taking the stage at 10pm. His set was motherfucking epic, and a pretty nice treat for  Beatles fans who are too young to have had a chance to see them live back when, you know, they were all alive. Although “Helter Skelter” came off as pretty weak. But still – McCartney really gave the people what they paid for, and I tip my hat to him. Would’ve raised a frosty brew in his honor, too, but that was against the rules.

The other musical thing I know about Friday is something I read on the interweb today – that Morrissey, the all-high King of the Whiny Cunts, actually walked off the stage during his set because he was upset by the smell of meat cooking. He came back on and finished his set but whined about how he was sickened by the smell of cooking animal flesh. Because that’s the kind of whiny cunt Morrissey is – presumably, if he was so concerned that meat might be eaten while his Royal Whineness was performing, he could’ve called ahead to see if there was any possibility of meat being cooked and consumed at a massive, outdoor, springtime event. Or, he could’ve used common sense and realized that, yeah, probably some cows and chickens and pigs were gonna be eaten at Coachella. But Borrissey, in an act of douchebaggery that should make the boys in Metallica take notice, waited to be upset about the charred (and delicious!) flesh of those precious wittle animals until he could punish his fucking fans for something they couldn’t possibly have controlled. Let’s be clear – my beef (delicious pun intended) isn’t with Morrissey’s vegetarianism. My fiance is a vegetarian and she’s the love of my life. But, unlike Morrissey, however, she’s not a whiny cunt (Dr. Phil will never tell you this, but not being a whiny cunt is the key to success in romantic relationships and, indeed, in all of life). I’m fine with people not eating meat – it leaves more for me. My problem is that Morrissey, unless he’s even dumber than I think (unlikely), was fully fucking aware that animals were being cooked and served (I had a great pulled-pork sandwich on Sunday) at Coachella and he decided to punish his fans (as if playing his boring-ass music wasn’t punishment enough, har har) who had already paid a shitload of money to come out to the desert and see his humorless, whining ass.

Looks like the Friday Recap is gonna be my complainy post: Coachella was hamstrung a bit by lack of organization and, more offensively, patently stupid fucking rules. First off – the lack of organization. When you get into Indio for Coachella, you follow the signs until you hear the music. Tim and I rolled in a little before 11pm on Friday, and we cruised in to the sounds of Paul McCartney. All was pretty right with the world.

Until we tried to get into the fucking campground.

We drove up to a traffic cop and asked him where to go and he pointed down the street. So we went down the street to a driveway where a cop informed us that, no, we actually had to use another entrance down the street, turn right at the stop sign. I repeated this pattern about four times before I finally told one of the cops, “Look, I paid to fucking camp here – one of those camp spots is mine and intend to have it.” I even showed this poor cop my ticket, as if he knew what the fuck it was all about, and he finally let me through. See, the thing is, simple walkie-talkies could have prevented all of this. The cops could have radioed back and forth, keeping each other informed of which lots were full, et cetera et cetera. But there was simply no communication. One cop suggested I leave and come back to check in at 3AM. Of course, the guy didn’t know the campground check-in ended at midnight because none of the event people seem to have told any of the cops any of that shit. You know, the shit people who were trying to get in might need to know. For their part, most of the cops didn’t seem to be inclined to do anything other than motion with their flashlights and tell me to “keep it movin’,” which is the last thing you want to hear when nobody will tell you how to get to where you’re fucking going.

We thought we’d save a bit of money on food by packing in some sandwiches and stuff, but that was a no-go. Coachella says you have to buy their overpriced foodstuffs because 1) you can’t bring in outside food and 2) you can’t leave the fucking festival once you’ve gone in, even to go back to your tent in the adjacent fucking campground. But surely we could bring in some water, right? Wrong. The rules state that you can’t bring in bottled water and you can only bring in empty nalgene bottles. That was a relief, because I happened to have a nalgene bottle and was sure I could fill it up for free. Technically, this is true, if you wait in line at the only working water fountain on the festival grounds. Otherwise, you have to pay a dollar to fill up at a booth or buy a five dollar Coachella water bottle that you can fill up for free. What this amounts to is Coachella forcing you to pay to stay hydrated. In hundred degree heat. In the fucking desert. Dick Move.

The last rule I’m gonna bitch about has to do with the beer garden. There are two problems: First, Heineken was the main sponsor of the event so it was the only “beer” you could get at any of the beer gardens. Isn’t that fun? Heineken apparently fears competition, but I’ll tell you what Coachella should do. They should have two Heineken beer gardens and then, because Coachella is supposed to be this big indie-artsy thing, let’s have a Ninkasi Brewery beer garden. Just one. Hear me now, Coachella people, if you let Ninkasi come to Coachella next year, I will not only attend all three days, ne’er complaining even once about your shitty rules, but I will also start a grass roots fundraiser – now, today- to help them transport themselves and their delicious, delicious brew to the Coachella Valley. If you, my readers, think I’m not going to suggest this to the Coachella people in a lengthy email, you obviously haven’t been reading Bollocks! very long. The other shitty beer rule involves something I call Massive Drug Hypocrisy. You see, I bought some water to fill up my nalgene bottle and then Tim and I hit the beer garden for food, shade, and a reluctantly consumed Heinie. As I was leaving, an event staffer, whom I’ll refer to as Fucking Fascist Dickhead, told me, “You can’t leave hear with that.” As the “that” to which he was referring was snug in its holder in my backpack, I wasn’t sure what he meant at first. I asked him and Fucking Fascist Dickhead (FFD, his friends call him) said, “Your water bottle.” I was incredulous. “I just paid four fucking dollars to fill it up!” I protested. “Why can’t I take it out?” “Because I don’t know what’s in there,” Fucking Fascist Dickhead said. “There’s water in there!” I shouted, quite exasperated at this point. “I don’t know that,” replied Fucking Fascist Dickhead, a man who doesn’t know much, I suspect. “Taste it,” I said, holding it out to him. “I’m not gonna taste it,” he said, recoiling as if I’d just offered him a cocktail of menstrual blood and anthrax. So Tim and I had to pound all 32 ounces of my water bottle before FFD would let us out.

Are you confused? Me too. The thing is, they were trying to make sure no one smuggled booze out of the beer gardens and distributed it to the kiddies. Who would’ve refused it anyway because of all the readily available drugs that were fucking everywhere at the festival. You see, while I couldn’t take a beer out of the beer garden to enjoy while a band played, I also couldn’t avoid the smell of weed at every single show I went to (every. single. show.) nor could I avoid offers of adderall from every other person I bumped into. So the festival staff was very concerned about me sneaking vodka in my water bottle but completely indifferent to underage kids smoking weed and popping pills on the festival grounds.

Don’t worry, kids – the Saturday and Sunday recaps are filled with enough musical awesomeness to wipe away the memory of Morrissey’s utter cuntiness and FFD’s utter stupidity. Stay tuned to find out how hard Dave Sitek thinks I rock and how Henry Rollins spoke for an hour and solved all the world’s problems. I’ll give you a hint: it involves funk music and The Ramones. Now that is fucking awesome.