Last summer we embarked on our first jam band journey, driving a mere three hours across Michigan to attend Rothbury. Within hours of our arrival, we were hooked on the camping festival vibe and by the time we left, we had vowed to attend again in 2010. Unfortunately, Rothbury had to take a hiatus this year due to the venue’s bankruptcy sale. Apparently this process dragged on long enough that the promoters were not able to book a high quality lineup, as bands had already committed to other festivals. This was actually a blessing in disguise, as it forced us to find another festival to attend. And we found two: All Good, in Masontown, WV, and Hoxeyville, in Northern Michigan.
I was hesitant when I heard about Rothbury. Isn’t that the festival the Dead‘s playing this year? Where you…camp? On a ranch? Near the woods? With a shit-ton of tripping Dead Heads? Seriously?
Yes to all of the above. I’m not a camper, never really liked the Dead, entered and exited the jam band scene quickly when younger (Phish), and I still had more fun at Rothbury than I’ve had at any non-camping festival.
Why? It largely comes down to freedom. We may, technically, live in a free society and do mostly as we please, but of course there are the norms of society to consider, along with our own self-imposed behaviors that we use to “fit in.” This is why there’s nothing like being in the midst of huge crowds of people all simultaneously freaking out in one way or another. You can pretty much do whatever you want, it’s a level of freedom that is punctuated by the population of craziness going on around you. It’s a chance to let your freak flag fly; it is empowering to be immersed in a community that celebrates weirdness instead of disdaining it.
Writing a summary of Rothbury is kind of like explaining the Lord of the Rings trilogy to my 4-year-old daughter. I can give her a broad overview of some of the plot points and make some specific comments about some of the characters, but there’s just no way she’s going to understand without so much extra exposition that it’s pointless to even make the attempt. Not to mention that there’s just some stuff you’re not going to go into regardless.
That said, let’s delve into just a few details that should help set the Rothbury scene:
1. Rothbury is dirty in every way imaginable. (Not to mention literally; showers cost $10.)
2. Everyone is getting fucked up pretty much all the time.
3. I don’t know how you could have more fun at a concert — I never have.
To put that last point in perspective, consider that I am 36 years old and have been to well over 100 big-name touring act shows in the past 23 years since my first (Springsteen). I can’t even begin to estimate how many bar shows I’ve attended in that time. I have seen damn near every classic rock icon, plenty of indie rock, lots of metal shows, and even a handful of legendary jazz artists. So for Rothbury to compare this well to my better-with-age memories of Lollapalooza 2, Clash of the Titans, or some of the old-school Pine Knob shows when nobody cared what you brought in to the show, well, that’s saying something.
The Rothbury Schedule is up.
I’m sorry, but this looks like the worst festival schedule ever foisted upon the general public. Three and a half hours of unavoidable String Cheese Incident on Friday? Four hours of the Dead on Saturday…with nothing else going on during those four hours? Good god, at least give people an alternative! Hopefully, there’s a nice “chill tent” at the Double JJ Ranch.
The GLONO posse will be well represented (probably over-represented) at Rothbury, but you guys better hope security is cool and nobody confiscates your stash.
MP3: The Dead – “Gimme Shelter” (Rolling Stones cover, live at the Shoreline Amphitheatre on May 10, 2009)
The Dead at Allstate Arena
Rosemont, Illinois, May 5, 2009
I didn’t know what to expect heading into the The Dead’s Spring Tour. I had last seen the Grateful Dead back in 1991 — yes, during the Bruce Hornsby era — and to cut a very long story short, let’s just say I was a Skeletons/Touch kind of fan back then. Today I’m a full-fledged Dead Head, thanks to the wonder that is the Live Music Archive. So I was excited to get my mail-order tickets, but like any fan of the band, my emotions were a bit confused. No Jerry means a whole lot of things, but sorting out exactly what those would be this time around was anyone’s guess.
If you see me at the Rothbury Music Festival over the Fourth of July weekend, I will no doubt be stumbling around in my tie-dye, sunburned and babbling, trying very hard to stay on top of my buzz. I will be having a great time reliving the glory of what my wife calls my “salad days,” when I didn’t have a lot to do other than imbibe, play disc golf, and rock out at concerts.