Elasticity, Drums and A Nerf Torpedo

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March 8, 2020, Phoenix- 

I drove down here, this afternoon, to take in the last day of a the three-day McDowell Mountain Music Festival (M3F), held in my former home base’s spacious Hance Park.  This is a time when I touch base, however briefly, with a hyper-energetic artist friend, Pam Mayer, who dances, with and without hoops, encourages young women to do the same and rivets the attention of many, with her irrepressible mien.  Today was more of the same- I may not be Pam’s favourite pest, but  do get in enough quips, and pitches for the Drum Circle that is M3F’s spiritual centerpiece, to get at least a few eye rolls out of the Valley’s most mature “teenage girl” (my term, not hers).  I don’t go looking for her, mind you, but if I turn around at the right moment, there she is, hoops and all.  So it was, this afternoon, at two of the five locations to which I wandered.  Good hoop dancing requires elasticity, which God knows I fairly lack and of which Pam has an abundance.  She’s a treasure.

The other riveting thing about this festival, besides the music, is the mass of humanity.  There was no climate of fear in this gathering- with people of every age, generation and ethnicity-in abundance.  I spent a fair amount of time bouncing along to both reggae and country rock bands, as well as taking in a show by a techno-pop DJ.  He calls himself Bardz.

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At the country rock set, Los Colognes, a band out of Nashville, kept us leaning in and bouncing along. They have not been back to their own homes, to assess any damage from the recent deadly tornado, so the poignant musical tribute to Music City was one of the auditory high points of the day.  I wish the guys safe passage home.

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In between the reggae set  by The Green, not pictured, as I was too busy bouncing up and down, and practicing my shaka (easier with the right hand, than with the left, for some reason), and LC’s performance, I took a brief rest, along the black mesh fence at the park’s northern edge.  There, I was captivated by two adorable children, who were tossing a Nerf torpedo back and forth, sometimes getting in the personal spaces of other concert goers.  Everyone played along though, and when the toy ended up in The  Green’s buffer zone, event security people gleefully came over and gave the torpedo back to one of the kids.

That brings me to the Drum Circle.  This time, I sat in on both of the sessions.  Hand drumming, besides bouncing along to the music, is one of my favourite sound-centered pastimes.  Today was no exception, and as I kept up with the drum master’s rhythms, it was enjoyable to also encourage a variety of people to join in.  A couple of  families were led by one or two of the children to sit in and a couple of elders joined the festivities.

The festival’s energy and vibrations were perhaps best summed up by a group of five friends, who clasped their right hands together, towards the end of Los Colognes’ set.  Even in this challenging month and season, with Coronavirus and the accompanying economic setbacks, we are together in this joyous thing called life.

 

 

 

 

 

A Desert Sort of Sway

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February 9, 2019, Chandler, AZ-

After my satisfying Saturday morning routine, I headed down here, to this bustling eastern suburb of Phoenix, to take in several hours of  Arizona Roots, a music and art festival that smashes the monotony of winter in the desert.  I was clued to this event by one of my friends from last Fall’s Convergence at Arcosanti.

I didn’t find her there, but I did find the sort of atmosphere that I experienced at Convergence, albeit a loving atmosphere, writ large.  Instead of dozens of gentle souls crammed into a room, there were several hundred crammed into the area in front of the Main Stage.

There were artisan ensembles, like The Clint Stevens Band, just getting together and having some laid-back fun.  Then, there was the mix of serious message and hakuna matata, from J-Boog and Rebelution, who did the Main Stage proud, while I was in its midst.

Although everyone there was a “total stranger” to me, it was easy to revert to Convergence dance form, and alternately bounce up and down, sway back and forth, and flash the Hawaiian thumb and pinky greeting at Jarell, whilst he was leading J-Boog, in a feisty 55-minute set of heartfelt reggae.

 

Here is one of their signature songs, about a lovely Hawaiian lady who makes J’s heart sing.

I felt none of the awkward “Really, old dude” self-talk that made me feel, initially, like a duck out of water, at Convergence. It helped to remember what a great time I had there, after letting that pointless crap go.  So, I enjoyed 3 1/2 hours of “anonymous camaraderie”,  that evokes what I probably missed at the great music festivals of the ’60’s and ’70’s.  I had a lovely time, without any recreationally-enhancing substances.  To be sure, these were flowing, and wafting, quite freely. I’m goofy enough on my own, and remember what a horror show I was, as a drunk and as a stoner, before 1981, and sobriety.  Here is the scene, as J-Boog worked their magic.

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As I was entering the grounds, Rebelution was in mid-set.  The mid-afternoon crowd wasn’t quite revved up, as yet.20190209_161757[1]

Next time, I know to check for Early-Bird ticket prices, in mid-November.  A scalper, in the parking lot, offered me a “two-days for one” deal, which showed desperation.  I did not have any intention of sharing my PI with him, or anyone else on the street, and I have other commitments for tomorrow, so I passed.  I hope to make it for both days, a year from now, as these sorts of gatherings are good for my soul-and this is, for good measure, the largest such event I have attended, without being spooked.  I’d say that’s a very good sign.