Sound on Sound, Day One
Saturday, September 24 2022
location: room 401, Motel 6, Milford, Connecticut
This morning I woke up a little before 8:00am, got dressed, and went down to the lobby with my work-issued laptop. There was free coffee down there but no food. But the coffee was pretty good, and I drank a lot of it while visiting all my usual internet haunts and listening to the comings and goings of motel customers as they checked out or left for the day. Someone (it turned out to be Joanna from last night) had a couple dogs with her and had offered the front desk $75 if they could be walked at some point today. Later a woman dressed in a chain restaurant uniform came down from her room in a hurry and wanted to pay for another day in cash. But there was a misunderstanding about the negotiated price, and as that was being worked out, the woman called her boss to say she'd be a little late. I wondered what her story was, that she was forced to pay more than $100/day to live in a hotel while working a shift at a shitty restaurant. Why didn't she have friends with a couch she could crash on? Had she moved to the area with her boyfriend and then experienced abuse or a messy breakup?
Back up in room 401, I urged Gretchen to get up at around 9:00am, and we killed nearly two hours playing Spelling Bee and doing other things (including, for Gretchen, Duolingo and Wordle). Eventually we went down to our car to unload the bicycles to make room for Joanna, and as we did so I discovered that the bungee cord I'd used to hold the hatch down had done something bad to the latching mechanism into which I'd hooked it. Now the hatch wouldn't latch; it just ricocheted off the steel bar it was supposed to latch onto with a hard unforgiving dink. But with some poking with a screwdriver, it only took a minute or so to get it working again. We locked the bikes on the cabling running to an outdoor heat exchanger.
Joanna met us in the lobby at 11:00am, where I filled my travel mug (which still contained a fair amount of kratom sludge) with lobby coffee for the road. And then the three of us drove to the festival. Joanna, who looked to be in her early 70s, told us about all the music festivals she'd been to, most of which take place in New England (she and her husband live in Brookline, Massachusetts). She said she's a retired professional photographer and would be sneaking a fairly good (but non-professional) camera into Sound on Sound. It turned out that she likes most of the music Gretchen had wanted to see, so that was a thing in common, though from what she said it was clear she had an completely unenlightened diet. She also told us about her dogs, which tended to be purebred golden retrievers. When we said we had dogs, she wanted to know what kind, so of course Gretchen said "rescue pit bulls."
VIP parking was in a lot near Total Mortgage Arena, and from there we still had to walk two thirds of a mile to get to the festival, which was happening down at Seaside Park on Long Island Sound (thus the name of the festival). There wasn't much of a line to get into the festival, though we'd been told we couldn't bring much of anything. And anything we did bring would have to be carried inside a transparent backpack (which neither Gretchen nor I had). We also had to dump out our mug and water bottle before entering. But Joanna had no trouble smuggling in her non-professional camera inside her transparent backpack. As we went through the metal detector, I realized that it would be easy to smuggle in small non-metallic objects (such as small bottles of booze) if I hid them inside my socks. I'd filled such bottles with gin for this trip but hadn't remembered to bring them this morning.
Having had an occasionally-miserable experience at Bonnaroo back in 2008, Gretchen had decided we should spring for VIP at Sound on Sound. And when we got into VIP area it seemed really nice, with tents and padded couches and VIP-only air-conditioned bathrooms with flushable toilets. This area opened into its own separate area right in front of the festival's two stages. As we were considering these things, Joanna was acting like we'd be spending the whole day together, something Gretchen was aggressively implying would not be happening. And when she went into the air-conditioned VIP bathroom trailer, Gretchen and I made a break for it. We hurried out of the VIP area and then made a tour of the nearby food concessions to see what we, as vegans, would be able to eat. As we were beginning that tour, I heard an unusual bird call up in one of the trees, and when I eventually saw the birds making that call, I was astounded to see that they were some sort of parakeet. And there were lots of them flying around an enormous elaborately-woven hanging nest. Evidently they were escaped pets who had survived the relatively-mild winters along the Connecticut coastline.
As for the food, we became increasingly dismayed at how few vegan options were avaialable, which wasn't what we'd been told. Since we hadn't been allowed to carry anything into the festival, we were utterly dependent on the food concessions if we wanted to eat anything. But nearly everything that didn't have meat in it had some sort of cheese sauce. Initially it was looking like all we'd be able to eat would be fries and some sort of dismal eggplant thing (which, for Gretchen, would be impossible). But eventually we found a place selling tofu wraps which could be made without the cheese sauce. And, further afield, on the far side of a fenced-off pond, we were happy to discover the bright red TryVeganNJ food truck. They didn't have a lot of options, but by then I was very hungry and ordered the burger wrap (probably made with chunks of something like Impossible Burger). It was pretty good, but not great. For her part, Gretchen got their hummus wrap.
By this point, a woman named Charley was performing on the smaller of the two festival stages. Sound on Sound had cleverly arranged the acts so they would each appear on one of two stages with no overlapping performances. One act would be setting up while another performed, and would be ready to start the moment the performing act finished. Then the crowd could flow over to the other act (if they weren't already there to secure a spot). The first act that Gretchen was excited to see was Trampled by Turtles, a bluegrassy folk band featuring mostly acoustic instruments. We secured a good spot to see them from, and they gave a good performance, though it wasn't really my kind of music. Immediately following them on the other stage was Jenny Lewis, who gave a charismatic performance of music that one might call alt-country rock. Following her on the main stage was Band of Horses, which Gretchen has loved for many years now. (When I'd first heard them, I'd thought they were so derivative of My Morning Jacket that I'd wondered what the fuss was, but I've since come to like them.)
In any case, their performance came close to what I most want out of a live music experience, and I enjoyed them about as much as I expected to. I was feeling unexpectedly good, probably because of the kratom sludge that had been at the bottom of my travel mug.
After that, I spent most of the rest of the day standing in lines waiting to get either food or booze. I'd gotten hungry again and returned to the TryVeganNJ food truck while the Revivalists and Caamp boomed in the distance. But the line was long and slow-moving, and occasionally ground to a halt due to power failures. Gretchen had gone back to the stages, so I found myself chatting with various strangers, mostly about the painful logistics we were enduring. People at music festivals are inherently friendly, usually assuming that they have something in common with you, which is largely true. But, truth be told, this was a very mainstream and very white audience, many of whom had come just to see Dave Matthews (who would be closing the festival). There wasn't an abundance of piercings or even tattoos, and the only countercultural signifiers in evidence were in the form of flowy, witchy outfits worn by the women clearly there for Stevie Nicks, who would be performing last tonight. Of course, anyone looking at me would've been particularly unimpressed with my counter-cultual bonafides. After it got warm enough to strip down to my teeshirt, it turned out that I was wearing one given to me as schwag by the private-equity corporation that employs me. It features the name of that corporation (a meaningless portmanteau) and, on the back, a groan-inducing slogan about the concept of "next." But at least when I smiled, there was a note of menace in that missing tooth, whose demise (as we know) traces its origins in a mosh pit back in the early 1990s.
In contrast to the almost-entirely-white crowd of people who had paid to attend the festival, the employees working the festival were mostly black. This was the reverse, Gretchen noted, of her experience in the prison, where the employees are nearly all white, whereas the inmates, the people "paying" the price for their crimes, are mostly black and Hispanic.
When I finally got my falafel wrap, Caamp was off in the distance pounding through a cover of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs." Some people behind me applauded my success at finally getting my food, and I delighted them with a heavy-metal salute.
Back in the VIP area, I needed to go for my second piss of the day. But by then lines had formed even at the bathrooms in the VIP area. There were also port-a-potties there, and the lines for those seemed to be moving faster, so I stood in one of those. A woman who used one of the port-a-potties a little before me emerged saying that it was disgusting in there and that she had nothing to do with that. That ended up being my port-a-potty, but I kept my focus on just the urinal area and did all my breathing through my mouth. I would've gladly peed on the grass instead, but it was next to impossible to get the required privacy, even for an instant. Meanwhile Gretchen had initiated a trend that seemed to be continuing of women using the VIP men's bathroom trailer (the air-conditioned non-port-a-potty option). Before she'd done that, the women's trailer had developed a long line and the men's trailer had no line at all.
Now I needed a drink. I'd already had two, though I'd been trying to space them out because of how expensive they were (the market not being a free one, a sixteen ounce IPA cost $16). So I got in line and proceeded to wait in it for something like two hours. Mind you, the line was only about fifty feet long. But it moved extremely slowly. For a good half hour there at the beginning, I don't think it moved at all. People gave up and abandoned the line both in front of me and behind me. To pass the time, I played Spelling Bee, finding that none of the words found this morning by me and Gretchen were remembered. So I had to play it from scratch. We'd been well beyond genius, but now, doing it a second time, I was only at amazing. Later I saw a middle-aged guy in front of me also playing it. He was also at amazing.
As the line slowly advanced, I could see what the problem was. The woman working our line was terribly disorganized, having to run all over the concession tent to find things and often coming up empty-handed. Why didn't she at least have all the wines and beers right there? I'd been waiting so long that by the time I got to the front I ordered not one but two glasses of cheap red wine ($14 each!). I immediately dumped them both into my travel mug to avoid the risk of the expensive fluid being spilled.
Meanwhile Gretchen was enjoying the middlebrow folk rock of the Lumineers. She was along the side of a peninsula jutting out from the stage, and the members of the Lumineers were performing right above her, even (in one case) dropping a pick for her to save as a treasure (assuming she was a superfan). She'd sent me a message from there asking if I could get her some food. But by this point all the standing I'd done today had destroyed my lower back (which normally is fine) and I absolutely had to remain seated, especially if I wanted to be able to see Stevie Nicks. So when the Lumineers were done, Gretchen went off to try to get some vegan dumplings in a line that would, she would later say, took an hour and a half to convey her to the front. Meanwhile, I struck up a conversation with a handsome guy about my age from Washington State who works somehow in the selling of diesel product. We actually started out talking about Iceland, with me saying that geothermal electricity is so cheap in Iceland that bauxite is hauled there from half way around the world to be refined into aluminum. He then wanted to know if I worked in the energy sector, which of course I do not, though "energy does interest me." By the end of our conversation, he said he and his hot girlfriend were starving and he was wondering if I could message my wife to get more of whatever she was ordering and that he could Venmo me whatever it ended up costing (something we'd actually done earlier today to get an order of fries without waiting forever in line). But just as I was getting ready to message this to Gretchen, she appeared with two orders of dumplings. She'd started out in the line only wanting to get one, but after waiting in line so long, well, of course. She said we had to go immediately to see Stevie Nicks, who was about to start. I don't know what my new diesel-industry friend ended up doing, because I never saw him again.
Earlier in the day, Gretchen had arranged with another couple to hold a spot for us on the side of the stage peninsula, and it was to that spot that Gretchen wanted to return. But the density of the audience kept getting higher and higher as we approached from the back, and at some point we arrived at an impenetrable wall comprised of the backs of tall white men. Gretchen tried to exploit possible gaps between them, but breaching proved impossible. So we spent most of the Stevie Nicks performance trying to look around these men. Gretchen, being shorter, was having a much worse time than me, and she didn't want to look at Stevie via the huge screens on either side of the stage because she looked "crazy" from all the plastic surgery she'd had. (Stevie Nicks is 74 years old these days.) Somehow, though, we were able to enjoy the music, and Nicks gave a good perforance. She seemed to genuinely love the members of her band, and she put a good effort into singing even if her voice isn't what it used to be. She even twirled a few times, causing the crowd to erupt at her signature stage move. But, she told us, there was no way she was going out on the "catwalk" as she called it. Some of the songs (such as "Edge of Seventeen") had been given long intros, giving her a chance to rest and change into a different witchy outfit.
Gretchen loves and respects Stevie Nicks, but she absolutely hates Tom Petty, and that was a bit of a problem during tonight's performance. Stevie not only did a famous duet with Petty ("Stop Draggin' My Heart Around"), which she performed tonight mostly as a non-duet, but she apparently loves Petty so much that she also did a cover of his song "Free Fallin'."
The scheduling at the festival was so tight that none of the bands could do encores, but since Stevie Nicks was the last act of the day, the rules were a little different. And she'd yet to perform "Rhiannon." So of course she ended with that one. Throughout her performance, the stage behind her was lit up with video clips, which added enormously to the overall experience, particularly during "Edge of Seventeen" and "Rhiannon" (that last one having a slightly-sinister late-October vibe).
After that, we met up with Joanna at the pre-arranged spot, and the three of us flowed with the human river back to our car 0.67 miles to the north. It was great to finally be seated, if only in a car seat. And that was good, because it took awhile for us to creep through traffic and get on I-95. Joanna told us she'd had a wonderful time today and was very thankful we'd been able to drive her. She did, however, express profound ignorance when she interrogated us on what exactly it means to be vegan. "Do you just eat salads?" she wanted to know.
Back at the hotel, we said goodbye to Joanna and climbed immediately into bed. By then it was nearly 1:00am, and the ventillation system was blowing cigarette smoke on us from somewhere.
Joanna with Gretchen soon after we entered the festival grounds.
Trampled by Turtles. Click to enlarge.
Gretchen liking Band of Horses from the edge of the "stage peninsula." Click to enlarge.
Us in the VIP area. I blurred out the logo on my teeshirt, sorry stalkers.
Stevie Nicks and her band.
For linking purposes this article's URL is:feedback
previous | next