With the summer concert season just around the corner, let’s be honest here – this is also the time when the hippies start to come out of the woodwork.
Personally, I’ve no idea what these long-haired leftovers from the psychedelic era do for the remaining nine months of the year — least of all, how they are able to support themselves — but come summertime, the freak flags fly high once again, and particularly so on the outdoor concert circuit.
You know the ones I’m talking about. They are most often seen during the festival season, at places like Bonnaroo, Coachella, and perhaps to a somewhat lesser extent at Lollapalooza in Chicago. The women sport way too much underarm hair, wear long flowing granny dresses (when they aren’t going topless anyway), and they do that inexplicable fertility dance thang that they do.
The guys? Well they go mostly shirtless, gray, and hairy as hell, with their braided ponytails batting you about in the face at right about the point you just want to see Sting singing about “Roxanne” during that first Police encore.
You know them. You love them. They are the concert hippies.
Here in Seattle at least, this year promises to be a particularly big one on the concert hippie circuit. Out at the Gorge Ampitheatre overlooking the Columbia River, we’ve not only got the annual Dave Matthews Band Labor Day shindig, there’s also a two-night stand with perennial concert hippie faves Phish, and a triple bill with the Allman Brothers, the Dead, and the Doobies.
The view will be panoramic, the music will be great, and the hippies – well, they’ll be there too. Why? Because we’re talking nothing less than concert hippie heaven here.
As a longtime concert veteran, I’ve been interacting and otherwise dealing with concert hippies for years. Generally speaking, they come in several varieties, but what I’ve largely found is that the stoner guys can be a lot of fun, while the drunk guys are much less so.
During a Rolling Stones show around 1990 for example, I had the unfortunate instance of having a drunk hippie seated next to me in my seventh row seat at Seattle’s Kingdome – a seat I paid some pretty decent scratch for I might add. The guy stank something fierce of the same sort of rotgut wine I drank as a teenager (Who besides me out there remembers Mad Dog 20/20?).
On top of that, he kept bashing his ponytail into my face, whilst flailing his arms madly about and singing along with Mick to “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” It was bad enough having to sit through the opening set by the Spin Doctors. The last thing I needed was this hippie jackass giving me a fucking encore.
Okay, so those are the bad hippies. There are also your good hippies. The thing is, the good hippies can be a lot of fun to party with. You do have to be careful, though.
One of my earliest memories of partying with the good hippies came in my pre-teen years during an early seventies outdoor concert called the Rainier Sunbust in Seattle. A group nobody reading this has ever heard of, called Bighorn, was the headliner, but the opener was a soon-to-be-famous Seattle band called Heart.
Unfortunately, I pretty much missed their set because I ate the acid that the nice hippies offered me and spent the next several hours trying to be talked off of a three-foot high platform I was convinced was as high as Mount Rainier. It was my first — and last — experience eating acid at a concert.
With that unfortunate incident several years behind me as an adult, I soon decided it was time for the ultimate acid test – minus the acid. I decided it was high time (no pun intended) for my first Grateful Dead concert.
I’ve never cared for the Dead personally, but much like Bruce Springsteen (who conversely, I like a lot), I’d always heard how the Dead’s concerts are must-see events, so I took the plunge.
What I remember most about the concert (and yes, I was both stone sober and straight) was a lot of really boring jamming that had me glancing at my watch often. This was the five-hour concert that simply refused to end. On the other hand, the crowd not only lived up to, but also totally exceeded my expectations.
For example, there was the girl offering to sell me a taco. I was actually quite hungry about the time she did, and at a buck a taco the price was right, too – but something about her sales pitch just completely ruined my appetite. There she stood, literally caked from head to toe in mud, selling her tacos from what to the best of my recollection was a greasy oil pan from a car.
Can you say “yum?”
So a few years after that, me and some friends decided to go camping out at the Gorge the same weekend as a Steely Dan concert. None of us had tickets, but we went anyway. And you know what? We actually had a blast partying with a bunch of concert hippies into the wee hours of the night. What I mainly remember is a lot of dust and flying tents once the wind kicked up.
I also remember one of my friends nearly falling face first into a fire; a lot of really bad music being played; some guy named “Nathan” screaming into my face at 4 AM when I was trying to crash; and one of “Nathan’s” junkie friends eyeing a can of pork and beans on our picnic table like it might be her last meal.
The next morning, I can also recall us high-tailing it the hell out of there at the crack of dawn. I’m not sure I remember exactly what the reason for the rush was, but who am I to ask questions?
While a lot of these memories are hazy ones, the one thing I mainly remember is that it was one hell of a party. I gotta admit that I kind of miss partying with the summer concert hippies – which is why I’m considering a trip to the Gorge this summer for Phish.
Do I give two shits about Phish’s music? Absolutely not, which is why I wont be buying tickets. And am I getting too old for this shit? Without a doubt – which is why I gotta do this while I still can. I can smell the stale patchouli oil of those old hippie chicks now.
See ya’ out at the Gorge this summer.