Part 3.1: Heaven’s Amphitheater
(Yeah, yeah, yeah…. this is late. Like real late. Far later than it should be, for sure… On top of that, it was getting so long winded that I’m going to pull a Mocking Jay and split the last bit into two parts. Hate me if you want! <I’m talking to you, Annie!> That’s the biggest conflicting benefit of not having a deadline, however; the stress isn’t there, but neither is the impetus…)
<Refresh on Parts 1&2
Click here to read Part 1
Click here to read Part 2>
I was awakened the next morning at about 8 by a cackling laugh from a few campsites over. As quickly as I cursed them, I chastised myself. I’d put money on that we were just as annoying the night before to people who were trying to sleep.
Stepping outside of the tent and seeing the grounds in the daylight was a whole new experience. There was a general hustle and bustle that was about the camp, even at such an early hour, that let you know there was going to be a Dmb show that night. People were already milling about, cooking themselves breakfast, playing tailgate games, many even drinking morning beers.
The smell of bacon overrode my initial plan to have the fruit that I had brought for breakfast, so I walked up to the vendor village that had been set up between our grounds and Gen Pop. The vendor village had a bit of everything, a burger tent, one that had pizza, another with dumplings… In addition to food there was also various tents selling a smattering of wares; sunglasses, clothes, basic electronics, and such. I found a place that was selling the best breakfast crepes that I’ve ever seen outside of New York City. Happy with my discovery and with crepe in hand, I made my way back to home base.
We spent the day hanging out with our new neighbor friends. We cooked, ate, drank, played cornhole, and swapped enough stories to make Aesop jealous.
I decided to go into the venue before everyone else because I wanted to get a lay of the land and scope it out for best vantage points, plus I wanted to check out the openers to see if I felt they were worth checking out all 3 days.
The walk from premier camping to the venue was a solid 15 minutes, again making me question the venue’s use of the word ‘premier’ in referring to our campgrounds. I arrived and made my way through security, then followed another main path from the entrance to the top of the lawn of the venue.
There aren’t really words that can correct express the feelings of seeing the amphitheater for the first time. As you crest the hill and the stage and it’s backdrop come into view, it feels as if you’re looking at a painting. (As a matter of fact, I saw an artist at the top of the hill painting the landscape all weekend). If you have ever been to the Grand Canyon, I kind of compare it to the feelings that seeing that for the first time evokes.
After meandering through the venue a bit, I decided to hit the merch booth and get one of the venue specific event tees and some other stuff. The line, as always was super long, but I just wanted to get it of the way so I didn’t have to think about it the rest of the weekend.
The biggest surprise for me was the rabid fervor over the limited edition show posters. Each show, the merch booths collectively sell about 1,500 numbered prints of a poster made specifically for that night; also available was a whole weekend poster. People were lining up for when the gates opened each day of the weekend to try to secure a copy of that day’s $50 collectable. They invariably sold out pretty early in the day, so it wasn’t uncommon to overhear people trying to buy the posters off of people who had been lucky enough to get one…. for two or even three times their original price.
By the time I waited out the line and got my stuff the first opener, a band called The Lone Bellow had taken stage. The band was a folk based Americana act, but they honestly skewed a bit too much towards country music to hold my attention. Even though I was trying to maintain an objective attitude because I knew I was going to be writing this, my brain automatically regulated the music to background noise.
Annie and Matty Ice texted that they were on their way in, so I made my way back to meet them on the main entrance path. Somehow, I found them among the cascading river of people that were now flooding into the venue. Seeing the look of awe on their faces as they summited the hill was worth the early solo trip in.
After giving them the grand tour, (that hour and a half that I was in by myself clearly made me a Gorge expert!), we made our way to the front of the lawn on stage right, where Matty Ice had hometown friends. They were sitting next to a large pole, on top of which was a huge speaker. Because the pole obstructed view of the stage, it created a natural pathway for people to be coming up and down the lawn. This also meant that a steady stream of inebriated concert goers would be sauntering by like aimless cattle on their way to a watering hole.
For the most part, the evening went well. Opening with The Best of What’s Around into one of my favorites, Big Eyed Fish, was epic, but going into my friend Kelly’s favorite, Satellite, well, that just made it all too special.
The rest of night one galloped along at a breakneck pace, even the 20 minute jam out of Seek Up not weighing down the flow.
Somewhere towards the beginning of the set a kid who was clearly heavily under the influence of some sort of psychotropic drug came literally crawling through the crowd, almost squishing Matty Ice’s friend and her child that sitting on the ground in the middle of our people circle. Matty Ice spotted the danger before any of us, and quickly Don Corleone’d the situation, snuffing the impending crisis in the bud.
The only other extraneous excitement for the evening came when one of our camping neighbors texted that he ‘needed help finding himself’, as the full day’s worth of whiskey had gotten the best of him. Annie stepped into the role of ‘show mom’ and retrieved our wayward brother, and soon we were all back together, dancing like fools.
Besides Denver, all the DMB shows that I had been to had been east coast shows. I’m not sure if being in a different region was a factor, or maybe it was the fact that many of the people in the crowd had spent the day traveling, but there was a marked difference in the temperament of the crowd. The east coast shows that I had been to, especially at my home venue of SPAC, have what I can best describe as a rabid feel to them. The crowd sings every lyric and dances to every note, creating a palpable vibe unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. The crowd at The Gorge was different. From my mid-lawn vantage things felt muted. I saw many people sitting, many standing in what felt a stoic fashion, and very few people were singing along. I made a mental note to see how the rest of the weekend’s vibe was.
The rest of the evening played out, coming to crescendo with a killer All Along the Watchtower. As quickly as the evening had progressed, it was over. Not wasting any time, we made our way along the path back to our camp. We hung out enough to have a few drinks, and then crawled into our tents, slipping into the sweet oblivion of sleep.