First off, I apologize for leaving everyone hanging this weekend, though it was pretty funny when rumors started spreading that I had died. Thanks to Delsyd and the other mods and regulars for keeping that going.
So where was I? I was at The Big What? music festival in Prospect Hill, NC, a rural area near the North Carolina/Virginia border. I hadn’t really planned on going, or at least, I didn’t think I was going to be able to go until just a few hours before I left, which didn’t give me time to schedule anything for the weekend. I thought I would update from the road and from the festival, but I didn’t think about there not being any cell access, let alone data access for putting stuff on IHC. So instead, the site stopped updating until Delsyd stepped in to post some stuff and fuel rumors about my early demise.
The Big What? ran from Thursday to Sunday morning, though I was there Friday night until Sunday morning, though essentially I was only there until Saturday night. Blame the rain (so much rain) and my crappy camping skills. I really suck at camping. That’s going on my list of things to get better at some day.
The festival started on Thursday, but I didn’t arrive until late Friday night. I had originally thought about going Saturday morning, but I wanted to stay all day and possibly the night, so I wanted to set up a tent as a place to snack, nap and crash. I figured that Saturday would be the biggest day, and by that point, trying to find a spot to camp might be impossible, so I arrived late on Friday to try and snag any last spot I could to pitch my tent.
I did find a spot. On a hill. Squeezed between two other tents, my tent jutting out into a walking path. And I had to put up the damn tent in near pitch black with a flashlight. Only like a dumbass, I didn’t actually examine my tent before I left to make sure I had all the pieces. The tent went up fine and then I realized I was missing a crucial part— the rain cover that went over the whole thing. And when you’re camping, you know damn well it’s going to rain at some point.
This was my tent, once it was up and stuff stowed inside, minus rain flap. Yeah, it’s dark and you can’t see shit:
So my next task was to acquire a tarp, because as nice as it is to sleep under the stars, waking up to a torrential downpour is a real bitch.
I asked my friendly neighbors. They had no tarp, but I was offered a bit of weed, which became helpful in lubricating my socializing skills. Everyone at The Big What was incredibly friendly. The whole place just buzzed with a tribal community vibe, which isn’t much different than many other music festivals, but this festival wasn’t some big corporate event. No big name bands, no Mountain Dew themed refreshment tents or Red Bull sponsored bungee sports. Just local people who love local music who wanted a place for like-minded individuals to get together and have a good time. The Big What celebrates and showcases local North Carolina bands and brings in people from all over North Carolina and Virginia, so it was one of those places where you could easily bump into people you went to high school with that you haven’t seen for years, all now part of the dirty southern hippie 2010s counterculture collective.
After asking a couple friendly vendors, I met a woman who had a tarp, only she wasn’t a vendor at all. She had accidentally spilled beer on a display of bumper stickers and agreed to wipe them all down. I helped her wipe beer from the bumper stickers and in return, she would go to her car and get her spare tarp.
I don’t know what she might have been on— just life maybe— but she flitted barefoot down a long crunchy gravel road, covered in glow stick lights while I lagged behind, lantern in hand.
Got the tarp, thanked my new friend, put it on the tent and voila. It fit. About 90%.
And then it started to rain. And rain. And rain. I had gotten a glimpse of the stage earlier, with the old hippies and new hippies and thirtysomething rave kids and freaks and weirdos in lights and glow sticks and tie dye and mud and bare feet and cowboy hats and bunny ears and stuffed animal backpacks and long hand dyed skirts dancing to the rockin’ sounds of Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band.
And then it rained, but the music never stopped. It had rained the night before, and the stage had tarps over it, and the amps and the electronics were well-covered in plastic, and not rain nor lightning nor thunder was going to fucking stop the music. Even as I sat in my leaky tent, watching water slowly trickle in, I could hear the music still going, the dancing still going.
This is a better shot of my tent in the morning, after a shitty night’s sleep. And some beer:
There was also a small vendor village, where most of the places had weed related names, such as Dank Eats, Kind Goods and a hot dog/hamburger stand that had things like the Sloppy Jerry and the Ozzy Dog.
I don’t know what was in this place. I don’t know why I didn’t go in here. What the hell was I thinking? I should have gone in here:
There were artists creating paintings on pieces of board, a guy doing body art and a glassblower creating glass pipes right on the spot. Like an idiot, I didn’t get a picture of any of these things.
I took pictures of the long fucking road between parking and the festival grounds. Because that’s what it seems like what occupied so much of my time when it wasn’t raining. Walking.
And then it rained again. Not like “Oh, this is cool, I’m gonna frolic in the rain” kind of rain, more like the “Oh shit, I’m going to drown and I’d better build an ark if I hope to get out of this alive” or “I really hope lightning doesn’t down a tree right next to my tent and kill me cold” kind of rain.
Once I managed to stop most of the leaks and tried unsuccessfully to take a nap, I took some pictures from inside the tent. A couple of these are from when the rain started to let up, and some are of people enjoying beer and cards in the rain because they had the forethought to bring canopies and chairs. And a giant stuffed rasta banana.
And eventually, the rain let up and I made my way down to the stage, through the mud, through more mud and stumbled upon more mud.
This guy was rave-swinging glow sticks in broad daylight, but more power to him, because he was having a great fucking time like nobody was watching:
Also, surprisingly clean bathrooms. That’s just rain water. Mostly.
On Saturday night, the headlining band, just as it was last year, the festival’s first year, was The Big Something. I had never heard them. I hadn’t heard of any of the many bands that were at the festival, but I didn’t really care. The music was fantastic, the mood was incredible and it was just a shitload of fun. Summer music festivals have become a regular thing for a while now, and all over the country there are hundreds of music festivals big and small. I’ve been to the big and the really big, and this one was pretty diminutive in comparison, but I think I prefer it like that. Pretty much everyone I met was from either North Carolina or Virginia, and everyone knew someone, even if you came alone.
North Carolina is a state mixed with both urban and rural, redneck and hipster, geek and hillbilly, and there was a little bit of all of that at The Big What. Torn from their desk jobs, from their day jobs, wearing neck ties and nice shoes and rigid schedules, they were landscapers, teachers, programmers, retail employees, desk clerks, paper pushers, doctor’s assistants, warehouse managers, supply logistics coordinators, bankers, tattoo artists and Monday through Friday nine-to-fivers. But here, they were dirty and nasty and drunk and shirtless and barefoot. No one looked at their watch or surfed the internet on their cellphone. Men in skirts, women in little more than underwear, sunburned shoulders, matted hair, clouds of smoke rising from the crowds. Hands covered in paint, faces covered in paint, clothes covered in EL wire, babies openly being breastfed, and always the music, and nothing but community for a few days, living if just briefly, like human beings.