Days 48-51: Gulfport Music Festival
The run to Gulfport from Austin was the definition of a beeline drive. We had driven a few hours the night before, so there was only 8 and a half hours left on our gps (which translates to about 10 hours Man on Earth time). Trying to make minimal stops, we rolled into Gulfport just after dark.
We stopped in at Jones Park, the site of where the festival was being held, to check out the stage setups and locations. No one was on hand to greet us (or stop us!), so we just walked straight in, unannounced and undeterred. The site was sprawling, with our stage set up right in the beginning under the entrance pavilion. Just past that a mini carnival was set up, with rides, games, vendor tents, and the like lining the walkway that led to the main stage area. After a few minutes of taking it all in, we returned to our bus.
We wound up heading over the Hard Rock Casino with the intention of killing a little bit of time before we decided where to park the bus for the night. Nate and I went to the casino’s restaurant to get dinner while everyone else just floated around. While at dinner we met tons of people who were in town for the festival, including the owners of one of the sponsoring radio stations, so most of our time was spent promoting. We all met back up at the bus after dinner and the decision was made to park for the night at one of our radio station friend’s house, so that our bus’s power system could be plugged in and not have to idle it all night.
The next afternoon was the first day of the Gulfport Music Festival, so we headed down to the park to spend some time checking out the other bands and also to promote our show the next evening. There was tons of big names attached to the festival, including Sublime w/Rome, Third Eye Blind, The Pretty Reckless, 311, Ludachris, Kid Rock, The Violent Femms… to name a few. Our set was on night two, headlining the second stage during the set change between Ludachris and Kid Rock. Almost as soon as we got there, Nate and I went to find our radio station friends from WCPR so that we could get the rest of the band backstage passes, especially since Mochello REALLY wanted to see Third Eye Blind (and had been trying unsuccessfully to for quite some time). On our way back stage to find the WCPR people it started to sprinkle. Not wanting to run the risk of a wet cellphone, Nate got us a couple of rain ponchos from the merch tent, then we headed to the security checkpoint.
Our friend Jeremy, from the band Candlelight Red (who is engaged to Riley, one of the WCPR radio hosts), met us at the gate and brought us all backstage. When we arrived there all of the people responsible for putting on the show were frantically trying to pull up the weather radar, as it seemed the looming storm that had been threatening to rain on our parade was actually changing directions and headed our way. The thousands of people at the festival were clogging up the cellular network, making it almost impossible to get a full data connection on any of our phones. When someone was finally able to connect we saw the huge storm was indeed changing course and heading straight for Gulfport. As the drizzle intensified to a full on downpour, the decision was made to postpone Third Eye Blind from taking the stage for an hour (I thought Mochello might actually cry at his string of bad luck whenever he tried to see the band!). Lightning strikes and rolling thunder grew ever closer, and with them came the possibility of having to cancel the rest of the bands for the entire evening. Worried faces of event coordinators were abundant in the backstage area as the rain continued to fall in buckets, runoff from the main stage field creating a steady 4″ deep river as it flowed by and dumped back into the Gulf.
The nail in the coffin came when a blazingly bright bolt of lightning struck the ground about 50 yards away from us, in the area where the main stage crowd was still milling about. The strike was so close to us that the smell of ozone was almost overpowering. (If you’ve never been close to a lightning strike, the massive electrical spike produces ozone, which is an enriched pure oxygen containing three oxygen atoms instead of two. The smell of ozone created by lightning is the same as the smell emitted from photocopiers, which is also ozone).
Fortuitously, the strike was in a large empty section of the field so no one was hurt, but it was the final word on the issue of whether or not the show would continue for the evening. (In case you didn’t get the subtle hint, the verdict was, in the famous words of Chloe O’Brian, ‘Shut it down’)
We stayed under the backstage pavilion until the rain subsided a bit, and then made our way out of the park. At the main gates we met up with Scot Fox, the music director for WCPR and a few other of our Mississippi friends. Along the way we also ran into a few of the people we had met the previous night while promoting at the Hard Rock casino, including the bartender from the restaurant. Hanging with Scot was Mr. Mike McCabe, our genius of a mechanical wiz of of friend. We briefed him on the concerns we had with our bus, and he told us to stop by the next day and he would give it a look over.
If we weren’t soaked before, the walk back to the bus finished the job. After getting changed, we floated along the flooded roads to Scot’s house, as he had invited us to spend the night at his place so we could have access to power for our bus all night and showers in the morning.
The next day came fast, and after everyone was set to head back to the park we found out our bus, yet again, was refusing to start. We called Mike McCabe, who said he’d be over shortly.
Root and I decided to ride down to the festival with Scot’s wife, because all five of us standing around was counterproductive, as we had to get our guest list in and secure our artists passes for the day. (Also, on a selfish note, I really wanted to see Sublime w/Rome, who were set to play at 12:30pm after having rescheduling from the following night due to the thunderstorm).
We arrived just as Sublime w/Rome started their set so, after taking care of the necessary band business, I went to watch the rest of it from the sound booth with Root. The next band we wanted to check out wasn’t until 4pm, so we spent our time walking about talking to people about our show that night. (And also eating some killer BBQ chicken at the WCPR R.V.)
The phone call came that Mike McCabe had diagnosed a possible glow plug issue, but he had Macgyver’d the bus to start with a paperclip, a hair tie, and a piece of chewing gum (ok, in reality it was a can of wd-40 and a screwdriver, but same difference!). The guys took the bus over to his shop where he set up a temporary fix to get us through the day that that involved a piece of wire that was held on to the battery while someone turned the engine over. Once that was all ready, everyone met Root and myself at the park.
The rest of the day was spend promoting and preparing for our set. There was no sign of storms in the days forecast, so there was a lot less worry in the air. Show time seemed to come quickly, and soon we were up on stage, set up, and ready to go. I was manning Nate’s camera, pumped and primed to get some video of our first festival show ever. (Until the battery died, at least!)
The guys played with a ferocity and intensity befitting a festival stage. In the crowd, our WCPR friends all stood, watching intently. For them, it was viewing another step in the Man on Earth evolution, from playing a hole in the wall bar the first time they saw us, to now headlining the second stage at their huge music festival.
They say time flies when you’re having fun, and it couldn’t have been a truer adage then on that day. It seemed like mere seconds from the time I hit record on the camera to the final notes of “Bang Bang Bitch”.
That moment is where I’m going to say our Spring Tour ended. I’m not going to bore with unnecessary details about getting our bus worked on again the next day or the exhausting drive from Mississippi to NYC. No, the story of our spring tour ended the moment the lights went down after Man on Earth finished their second stage headlining gig at the Gulfport Music Festival.
Now, ten days later, it’s time to head out on The Breakout Tour w/our good friends Dive. Here we go again….