Sept. 20--"Yeah, I don't know even what that is."
So it went Saturday morning as I pulled into the parking lot at Montgomery Park in Baltimore. I was trying to find somewhere to leave my car as I ventured into The Shindig, essentially the second installment of the Charm City Music Festival, which took place at about the same time last year. The top phrase was the response I heard some radioed-in voice say to the self-important man working the parking lot's gate. He told the person on the other end what I told him: At about 9:30 a.m., I drove onto a road reserved for vendors and asked the man at the tent where I should park because I was with the media. I had already made the proper contacts to ensure credentials, and more excitingly, arranged a pre-show backstage interview with Jimi Haha, the lead singer of the band Jimmie's Chicken Shack. The man at the tent told me that I could go across the street and park at Montgomery Park.
So, I did. Mr. Self-Important, though, told me I could park only if I had $20 to give him. That's not what I was told, I said. He radioed the faceless voice and said this: "We have a Colin McGuire here from The Frederick News-Post. He says you sent him over here to park." The response?
"Yeah, I don't know even what that is."
Click. The man on the other end disappeared and I had nowhere to park.
So the street, a place I was specifically told not to leave my car beforehand (Carroll Park isn't in the most welcoming of neighborhoods), was my only option. I had a 12:40 p.m. phone interview with Mike Love from the Beach Boys. My date with Mr. Haha was set for 2 p.m. At 6:30 p.m., I would begin saying goodbye to the festival because the FNP doesn't want to pay overtime wages and the 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift would already be too much to justify to the editors who didn't seem all that keen on me driving to Baltimore to cover a music festival, anyway. Plus 6:30 was about the time the Mighty Mighty Bosstones were scheduled to be done. And really, who could POSSIBLY follow that?
Much like I did last year, I kept a diary of the day, complete with time-stamps and unfunny, snarky comments. So behold a recount of the second annual Charm City Music Festival, or the first annual Shindig Music Festival, or the last annual Music Festival I Ever Cover Again. Take your pick. Any of those are accurate. Onward and upward ...
9:04 a.m. Having spent the night at a friend's house in Columbia, I get into my car for the short drive to Carroll Park. I back up. I hit the front of a red Honda with my bumper. I look around. Nobody is looking. I put the pedal to the floor.
9:18 a.m. There's the exit. OK. I make a left and it should be down the road. Wait. What's that? Did I just see Bubbles from "The Wire" selling hats?
9:20 a.m. Row houses.
9:20:30 a.m. More row houses.
9:21 a.m. The park! OK. This has to be it.
9:23 a.m. "Hey, I'm with the media. Where should I park?"
9:29 a.m. "Yeah, I don't know even what that is."
9:36 a.m. I drive into a fenced-in parking lot across the street that would be vacant if not for a single white Chevrolet that looks like it hasn't moved since 1987. Can I park here? I turn my car off. Wait. Look to see if anyone is in the Chevrolet. I can't tell.
9:37 a.m. Still can't tell.
9:38 a.m. Wait, did something just move inside it?
9:38:28 a.m. Turn the car on and head back toward the park.
9:54 a.m. After driving loops around the neighborhood, I extend myself too far and ... whooops. A guy is selling car stereo systems out of his van and I'm at a red light. This has gone from "The Wire" to "The Corner."
10:09 a.m. There's a spot. It's kind of near a fire hydrant, and there's some dude who literally just shut down his car in traffic, got out and went into someone's house. I park my car. I turn it off. I instantaneously hear two car alarms blare through the chilly morning once my vehicle shuts down.
10:35 a.m. I walk from my car to the press table. I ask the man whether I can pick up my credentials. "Yeah," he says. I pause, waiting for my credentials until he looks at me 20 seconds later and says in the exact tone you think he said it, "At noon." Whoa. All right, then.
11:23 a.m. I go back to my car. It's still there. I feel like I won the lottery.
11:34 a.m. I try the Burger King french fry burger for the first time. See Food section.
12:08 p.m. Back to car.
12:38 p.m. My phone rings. "Hey, Mr. Love," I say as fake-happily as possible. "This isn't Mr. Love," the voice says. Oh.
12:39 p.m. "Hey, Mr. Love," I say again, not even trying to fake happiness anymore. We speak for 20 minutes as I sit in the passenger's seat of my car, furiously taking notes. At one point, a skinny man dressed in clothes that couldn't have been cleaned since March begins eyeing my car, walking around it meticulously as I hear the Beach Boy list his band's hits, as though I have no idea who he or his group is. Midway through the talk, a car pulls up with the bass of hip-hop music so loud, I can't hear Mike Love. The car sits there. Love keeps talking. I give up.
12:57 p.m. I hang up. Little did I know that Mike Love would be the single nicest person I would speak with all day. Say what you want about how he's ruined the Beach Boys, but at least he has decency as a human being. As we wrapped up, he asked me what the story was for, and when I told him that it was for this paper, he seemed to perk up at the thought that the article would be in a newspaper -- not a magazine or website. I told him I would see him Friday. He pretended I didn't say that. The vehicle had warmed up so much that I was sweating. I put the phone down and headed for the Shindig.
1:04 p.m. Wait a second. Look at this line! There's only one entrance into the whole thing? And it's for everybody?! Hold on, this is bad. I have an interview in less than an hour. Am I even going to make it?
1:14 p.m. I get in line.
1:39 p.m. I finally get to the table where I am supposed to pick up my credentials. Yeah, you know how this ends: "Wait, who are you again?" a volunteer asks. "My name is Colin ... ." She scans the list. Once. Twice. Nothing. "Who did you talk to?" she asks. "Kevin," I say. As in Kevin Hock. As in, the promotions/marketing director for 24-7 Entertainment, the organization putting the whole thing on. As in, the guy who put me on the list last year. As in, the guy who wrote the following words in an email to me on July 25: "Hey Colin! Approved for a pass. Thanks for reaching out."
1:40 p.m. "From where again?" she asks.
1:40:20 p.m. "Wait. Where?" she asks.
1:40:47 p.m. "I'm sorry, but from where again?" she asks.
1:41 p.m. She asks one more time where I'm from so I give her my photo ID for this paper. Confused, she tells me to just head on in and "not to worry about it." And that would be fine ... if I didn't have a backstage interview lined up in 19 minutes. With no physical credentials on me, what could I do? Don't get me wrong -- I've spent many a day talking my way backstage at many a concert, but this time? Not these guys. The list of tight security apparently goes like this: 1) The President of the United States. 2) The Shindig. No laminate, I walk in the gate, knowing the day is a lost cause (My hope for this story was to profile that band, instead of offering up what you're reading now. Yeah, we all lose.).
1:45 p.m. Wait. There are no schedules here? What?! How am I supposed to know where's what and who's who?
1:49 p.m. It's Bad Seed Rising. Wait. It's Bad Seed Rising! You know, that band of children who do uncomfortable rock music? We profiled them on this very page not too long ago! Wow. They really do look like they're 7. So weird. So, so weird. Snare drum sounds phenomenal, though. They aren't really that bad at doing what they do. It's just ... whoa. Those guys are 7. How does that even work?
2:03 p.m. I plant myself near the stage at which I think I was supposed to meet Haha. I make my intentions clear. Nothing. Not a chance.
2:05 p.m. Where do I get a schedule again?
2:08 p.m. Wait. Did I just see Red from "Orange Is The New Black"?
2:17 p.m. I tweet this sentence: "Wow, this is the worst day of my life."
2:28 p.m. Something called the Kelly Bell Band takes the place of something called Larry and His Flask and man, they are good. A blues/funk thing with skin-tight grooves. At one point, the singer explains how they once backed up Bo Diddley and I believe him. Great stuff.
2:38 p.m. Presumably Kelly Bell says the single funniest thing I'll hear all day after his guitarist plays an AC/DC riff: "I get it. White people like AC/DC." Mr. Bell is African-American. That sentence was funny. And not wrong.
2:47 p.m. A woman who looks like she should host a show on Fuse approaches me with ... a schedule! "Would you like one?" she asks. "Sure," I say, knowing what's coming next. "And would you be interested in buying this five-dollar CD sampler of all the bands here today?" she continues. "No," I say flatly. I walk away.
2:49 p.m. So ... here's another reason why fate hates me: The stage I tried to con my way backstage at to get my interview? Yeah, that was the wrong stage. This is what happens when the manager's emailed instructions were only "backstage in the setup/staging area. Jimi is very reliable and punctual so I don't anticipate any problems." Yeah, but what if ... .
2:58 p.m. Jimmie's Chicken Shack hits the stage. And THIS was why I wanted that interview. He's wearing a Frank Zappa shirt and immediately says into the microphone, "Balti-morons. We are Led Zeppelin."
3:03 p.m. The first song ends and naturally, Haha says this: "Thank you. See you later." The crowd is eating it up. "We are giving away CDs after the show," he continues, "because we are bad businessmen." "God love him," some man next to me says.
3:10 p.m. "Sitting with the dog. I follow a backwards god," is still such a smart lyric, decades later.
3:16 p.m. A marriage proposal! Some dude brings his girl onstage and asks her to marry him. Inappropriate jokes ensue.
3:31 p.m. In somewhat of an unexpected yet very touching turn, the band toasts to Josh Burdette, the 9:30 Club manager who died recently. "He was one of the best souls in the world," Haha tells the crowd in a rare moment of candor and honesty. "I know he's floating around here right now, so cheers." They then dedicate Fugazi's "Waiting Room" to Burdette.
3:35 p.m. "Check us out online at davematthews.com."
3:45 p.m. After closing with "Milk," Haha once more reminds fans that they will be giving out about 150 CDs after the show if anybody wants one. Then his final words are such: "The name of this band is Kajagoogoo."
3:54 p.m. Let's check out the other stage. Who do we find? The Hold Steady.
3:55 p.m. I just fell in love with a girl. Her name is The Hold Steady.
4:03 p.m. No, but really. I have never seen them perform before. Aside from the Kelly Bell Band, this is the best takeaway from the day. Lead singer Craig Finn is impossible to ignore. He's like a more twitchy Elvis Costello. I want to walk away, but I can't.
4:21 p.m. And how on Earth had I neglected this for so long?! The Ripley's Believe It Or Not Stage. It's tiny and has about 30 people watching it, but it's here. As I walk over, I see a woman dancing weirdly in a gigantic feather-heavy outfit.
4:25 p.m. She stops and the guy next to me turns to his friend to say something about ecstasy that is laugh-out-loud funny: "That was like a bad Truth commercial."
4:30 p.m. I think I just walked by Kid Rock.
4:32 p.m. Whoops. While promised "no bands would overlap one another," it looks like the Rev. Horton Heat is taking the stage while The Hold Steady are still performing. Surprise -- the organizers lied.
4:38 p.m. Wow, the Reverend's drummer is good.
4:43 p.m. "Bikinis," a man yells, while looking at women in bikinis and simultaneously holding his girlfriend's hand. I'll let that sit by itself.
4:49 p.m. I sit down because I feel like death. Two minutes later, two women sit next to me. One talks about vodka. The other talks about how they "haven't drank this much since ... ." I get up to leave. "We don't bite," one of them says to me. "You don't have to move." Yes, I do, actually. Yes, I do.
4:54 p.m. Back to Ripley's. Because, duh. Now, there's a funny-man/magician. He makes fun of someone in the crowd by calling him "the guy who brings the kids to the adult thing." Oh, that works on so many levels.
5:06 p.m. The Rev. covers "Johnny B. Goode." And there is not a single person in the state of Maryland who is surprised.
5:33 p.m. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. I was once told that you can't find a better festival act, and I have no reason to disagree. Hit the crowd with your best 30 minutes and get out. On a bill with such heavy hitters as Joan Jett, Dropkick Murphys and The Gaslight Anthem, no doubt the Bosstones went overlooked and that's a shame. Energy. Angst. Competence. All you could ask for.
5:38 p.m. They kick into "The Rascal King" and ... wait.
5:39 p.m. A man is kneeling down, rolling a joint beside me. His friends are blocking everyone around him. And ... wait.
5:40 p.m. A mosh pit is forming around me. And ... wait.
5:40:30 p.m. A man just notifies me that him and his buddies will be lifting their friend up to crowd surf. This is bad, because my hands are holding my notebook. I tell the man in front of me who was rolling his joint. And ...
5:41 p.m. BOOM! I take a shoe to the head. His friends already lifted him without letting us know. My glasses fly off my face. It's nothing but blurred-out globs for me. I feel like my head is bleeding. A kind older man ropes off people and right before someone steps on my glasses to crush them, he grabs the foot. I owe him something more than my life.
5:44 p.m. I pick up my glasses and race to get away from the front of the stage. It's not that I haven't been in mosh pits before; it's just that I'm a 29-year-old dude with pens, a recorder and notebook in hand who is already feeling like a better life decision would have been lying in a bed of burning coal for the day. This is it for me. Get to "The Impression That I Get" and I'm off.
6:24 p.m. "The Impression That I Get."
6:32 p.m. "Can The Gaslight Anthem make me stay?" I ask myself.
6:34 p.m. I head for the door.
6:50 p.m. I find my car. It's still there! I immediately turn it on and head toward I-95.
6:55 p.m. I get on I-95 and as I'm merging, I notice that the sunset is completely blinding me. As in, I-literally-can't-see, I'm-disoriented, oh-my-God-what-am-I-going-to-do blinding me. I finally make the shift onto the road. I immediately hear a loud horn honking furiously at me. Finally the sun subsides and I see what kind of vehicle I cut off ...
6:56 p.m. ... A red Honda.
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