I Hate Crowd Surfers // The Belated Firefly 2k16 Post

Let me tell you the really cool thing about adventures. Adventures start the moment you tell yourself that you’re going to “do the thing.” The moment you let the thought enter your mind and let it manifest into action. The planning, the journey, the begging of other broke millennials to accompany you. It’s all the adventure.

This particular adventure began while I was mindlessly scrolling through my Twitter feed one night in early February. It was the dead of winter, and lineups for festivals were being released left and right, promising plenty of live music, the return of sweat running from every pore, and over priced margaritas. If we are going to be honest about what caught my eye of this particular lineup were the three words that were typed across the top of the page. Kings of Leon. Then Florence and the Machine. Then…Delaware. Minor detail? I would be lying if I said I didn’t ask almost everyone I knew if they wanted to go on this cross country road trip with me, hoping to gather a tribe that would not only make gas cheaper, but share the excitement of a nearly perfect lineup in nearly perfect weather. In the end it ended up being a cozy tribe of three, myself, Piper (very festival experienced, introvert, soul sister), and Jacob (everyone’s friend, extrovert, resilient).

Even though this trip was planned pretty far in advance, it didn’t seem real until a few days before we left. Piper and I were sitting in the floor of her living room, making friendship bracelets to hand out to our future festival friends. We talked about the types of people we would give certain bracelets to, and how much we would cry as our favorite artists played. From there on, the excitement just kept building.

Delaware is really far away. Roughly 1,300 miles away, in fact. While that leaves a lot of space for adventures, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I slept at least 50% of the way there. (And 60% of it back?) This is the part where I will give a major shout out to Jacob. He drove hour after hour and drank cup after cup of coffee that he probably deserves his own award.

(Slight side note: The strangest feeling is waking up at 5 am (after pulling over to sleep at 2 am), driving for a bit, pulling over at a Hardee’s, and having to ask a random pedestrian what state you are currently in. I will never forget the look on the man’s face as he grinned, obviously amused, and then apologetically replied with “Virginia.” I swear we were in Virginia for 90% of the drive. In summary- I would be an awful truck driver.)

I know in my first post I bragged on myself for driving through Dallas’s insane traffic with ease, claiming to have earned my For Real Adult (or something to that degree) title. Well, a month and a half later and I am scoffing at the ignorant claims of this past Aubrey. I thought Dallas was a trip… Maryland gave Dallas a run for its money. Try 6 lanes of traffic, even scarier drivers, and The Bay Bridge (4.3 miles of bridge- which doesn’t seem like a big deal until you are actually driving across it and people are passing you because you are the only one following the speed limit). Jacob confirmed that I am officially expert level on driving, so NOW I am A For Real Adult- someone pass the black coffee and tax forms.

Although the drive seems slightly hell-ish, (it was, don’t get me wrong) it takes a special group of people to make that 20 hour drive across the country to camp around complete strangers in an unfamiliar and tiny state to see a handful of artists perform in potentially uncomfortable weather. I just want to take another second to acknowledge my little tribe that made the trip so fun and easy going. I couldn’t have picked a better set of people to experience sleep depravity and wonderful music with.

A big concern that I had for myself, and I know many had for me as well, was how I would survive three nights of camping. I am not going to sit here and say I enjoyed it, and I am not going to sit here and say it was easy (the man in the tent next to us snored louder than I realized was humanly possible, and the tent reached approximately 110 degrees by 7:00 every morning–ALSO I DIDN’T TAKE AN ACTUAL SHOWER FOR 6 DAYS) but I will sit here and say I survived and THAT is truly all that should matter. Even if survival was only achieved by trekking to the Home Depot across the street from the site to use the bathroom and take baby wipe baths and sitting in the air conditioned car for three hours before walking to the festival every afternoon.

One of the best things about Firefly was the vast array of acts featured there. About a month before we left, I found a complete playlist of all the artists that would be there and I quickly found two that won my heart. Boy and Bear is an Australian band that I actually ended up being able to meet because I purchased one of their vinyls! They signed the sleeve of it, I died, they were chatty and told me they liked my sunbeams that I had painted on my face, I died, asked where I was from, I died, and one of them even PUT HIS ARM AROUND ME in the picture. DEAD. Can you tell I am/was/will forever be fangirling about this entire situation?? Another new artist that was introduced to me by Firefly is named Jeremy Loops, and he is golden man-bun wearing South African with a voice and smile that will melt you into a puddle. He was at a stage called the Treehouse, and it was perfect because it was  was super small and designed for interaction between the artists and the fans. Jeremy was a DOLL and would talk to the crowd, take phones from people and do group selfies with everyone behind him, and I kid you not he took a bracelet out of my outstretched hand and put it on his wrist. Yes, we are in love, thank you for asking.

For those of you who read my post about the Lumineers show, or even saw a post on my Instagram, you would know that I got right to the front of the Lumineers show (*hair flip*) so my expectations for the festival shows were incredibly too high. Lucky for me, one of my best gal pals and an actual literal concert pro, Piper, was by my side through it all. She actually sat out in the hot Dallas sun for about three hours before running with me to the front of the stage at the Bomb Factory. She’s been prancing around festivals since infancy so she is a concert/festival saving grace. What I am trying to explain is she gets it. Tip- surround yourself with people who are willing to stand with for hours-HOURS- on end, bodies pressed against one another-and a thousand other people- Now, Kings of Leon is a little bit of a different situation than Lumineers. This show at Firefly was their first show of any kind in 6 months, and they were one of the big headliners for the entire festival. An estimated 50k of people standing shoulder to shoulder to watch these Oklahoma boys sing their hearts out (and play guitar with their tongue SWOON) My little tribe started making our way to the front of the stage during the middle of Fitz and the Tantrums (very fun, very fab), scooted our way between teenyboppers during Ellie Goulding, and eventually charmed our way up/pushed our way up to the third row of Kings of Leon. Out of almost 50,000 people? You know I am not complaining.

There were a lot of tears on this adventure. Some were due to watching the love(s) of my life playing in front of me, and some were due to the raw, oozing blisters that were formed from the single pair of Chacos that I brought along for the trip. It has beena month since Firefly and I have not dared to slip those demon sandals back on to my tootsies. Call it want you want: trust issues, dramatics, simply overly pampered feet- I DON’T CARE. Those Chacos are going to have to win my love and trust back and it is not going to be easy. I actually ended up wearing thick mix matched socks and tied down the front strap of the Chacos the last day I was there just so I could hobble over to the single stage where I would be standing in front of for 4 hours. If we are being honest, I thought I was going to die in front of that stage. It was the hottest day of the festival, my feet were bleeding and oozing from underneath my Pacsun socks, I hadn’t showered in five days at this point, and we were smack dab in the middle of a rowdy bunch of 90’s kids who were eager to see Blink 182. A recipe for certain death.

Before I go into greater detail of what this final Firefly episode entailed let me tell you this: I would do it all over again because this was my lovely Piper’s dream. That angel got right to the front of the barricade and sang every word to every song and cried actual tears and that is all I ever wanted for her. So. All worth it.

Okay, so let’s set the scene. Two sunburnt chicas. One sunburnt Jacob. Four blistered feet covered in knit socks and bandages. One top knot so huge and red it could be seen from outer space (Piper’s). The lineup at the Firefly Stage went: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Grouplove, and then Blink-182 (followed by Mumford and Sons who we weren’t staying for but a lot of people were waiting exclusively for). We caught the last half hour or so of Nathaniel Rateliff and used about half of that time marching through the crowd, trying to get as close as we could. There was an hour and fifteen minutes between each set, so we spent an abundance of that time discreetly pushing through the crowd. Then we stopped. Complete stand still. At this point we lost Jacob (or he had retreated to get a better view of The 1975-understandable) so it was just Pipes and I standing in the tightest, hottest, (like heat hot, not attractive hot unfortunately) most uncomfortable positions imaginable. I honestly thought we would be stuck there until Blink. I know that is very unfaithful of me, but seriously NO ONE was moving. After standing in the same spot for about 45 minutes, something amazing happened. Someone moved. When that one person moved, the crowd shifted and opened up just enough for Piper to turn around, grab my hand, and pull me through the dazed crowd. Let me just tell you, we covered serious ground on this shuffle to the front and before we realized it we were about five rows back from that magical barricade. By this time GroupLove had made their way on to the stage and people were going wild. By a quick assessment I could tell that about half of the people in front of us were there just for GroupLove, meaning we could haul our sun burnt tootsies straight to the front if we were lucky and HUSTLED. It was all fun and dandy for a hot minute. Lots of singing. Lots of Dancing. Lots of crowd surfing. That’s when it stopped being fun for tiny lil sunburnt Aubs. Even though Piper and I weren’t at the front row for Grouplove, we were center stage. If you have ever been to a show with crowd surfing you’ll understand what this means. Crowd Surfing Central. Honestly the rest is a blur with lots of kicking and butt cheeks.There was a beat with no crowd surfing hooligans, but before I knew it, Christian Zucconi- the lead singer, was surfing through the crowd himself. I was significantly less upset about this. I even touched his Converse.

Grouplove ended. Piper and I hustled. We found ourselves second row to the barricade. Thirty minutes pass. Piper has her hands on the barricade and I am smooshed right behind her and there are lots of happy tears. More waiting. The bouncers were actually really kind and kept throwing open bottles of water out into the crowd, providing brief showers of refreshment and a community drinking supply. Lucky for me, Piper looks like an actual walking Irish angel so the bouncers repeatedly would give her her own bottle, which she would pass back to me, which I would pass back to one of the thousands behind me. While passing one of the many water bottles back, it dawned on me that we still had a hefty amount of bracelets left to hand out to festival friends.As I handed off a bottle to a friendly set of girls from California I casually held out a couple bracelets to them and asked if they would like one. The reaction I got was completely unexpected. They were thrilled. They took the bracelets and were making such a fuss about them that a dude next to them looked at me and asked if he could have one, too. Before I knew it, I was throwing these suckers into the faceless mass of hands sticking out of the intimidatingly huge crowd behind me. I kid you not, the crowd started chanting, “BRACELET GIRL! BRACELET GIRL! BRACELET GIRL!” and then after one of the California girls asked my name, “AUBREY! AUBREY! AUBREY!” Honestly, I am still in shock. I managed to snag a quick SnapChat video of my moment of fame, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t go back and watch that video when I am feeling blah.

The concert started and it was wonderful. Everyone was screaming the words at the top of their lungs and there was a lot of jumping and pushing and it was just fab. And then. It happened. The crowd surfers started coming…one after the other…the bouncers barely had time to grab them. I was getting stepped on, kicked, fallen upon. Luckily I was surrounded by generally nice guys that would step around me accordingly to save me from being crushed. I am eternally grateful for a guy not much bigger than me, wearing an open Hawaiian shirt, singing every word while simultaneously saving me from a crowd surfer MUCH too big to be relying on sun dazed millennials to carry him. He would occasionally look at me, ask if I was okay, and then continue to rock his skinny heart out. bless. Piper would turn around and apologize like it was HER fault I was getting kicked in the face because she’s too sweet. This went on and on, and the crowd got more and more wild and I was so smooshed I couldn’t move my arms, and I looked up at the bouncer and could distinctly see three people being crowd surfed coming right behind me in the reflection his glasses, and just as if he was reading my mind he shouted “You guys should just keep your hands up, they just keep coming and coming!” As the surfers kept coming (and oh, it was relentless) the crowd pushed harder and I was legitimately picked up by the crowd every few minutes and carried further to the left. I would kick and elbow the faceless mass that shifted me against my will, and I distinctly remember screaming in frustration twice. By the end of the show, I was pushed against the far left barricade and was trapped with my arms in the air because there was literally nowhere for me to put them down. An older looking man saw me, and I’m sure I looked horrified, because he looked over at me and yelled, “Are you trying to get out?” He ended up going back and forth with one of the bouncers, trying to get him to pull me out of the crowd like they had been with people earlier. Apparently his boss told them they had to stop because people weren’t moving out like the were supposed to, but this man was not going to take no for an answer. “Look how small she is! She can’t move and she is all alone!” True. I couldn’t say much, but I locked eyes with this bouncer, who shot a look at his boss over to the side, who shot a look back at me, and nodded his shiny bald head. The bounder reached over, pulled me straight out of the crowd like he was picking up a baby from the ground, and sat me down. I honestly would have given him a hug but a woman over to the right shouted at me to move it along.

As I walked to the open  area behind the stage, I became extremely aware of how soaking wet I was (90% of this was other people’s sweat- I SWEAR) and how I was plastered in pink confetti. After a long game of phone tag, Piper and I reunited at Pole 4. The top knot that had been on her head had completely disappeared and her cheeks were pink from I’m guessing all the tears, screaming, and heat. “I look lost.” were the first words that came out of her mouth, followed by delirious laughter/crying. We were messes. But we were alive and Piper had been just mere feet from the men of her dreams. Worth it.

After this near death- but actually extremely fulfilling- experience, Piper and I hobbled over to The 1975, watched as Matthew Healy smoked a cigarette as he sang into the mic, and then we took a final trip to our campsite where everything was packed and ready for us to start our 1,3oo mile trip back home.

I think I’ll take this moment to apologize for this delayed post, also for how insanely long this is. Props to you for making it to the end, and I am so incredibly happy I could share this little adventure with you guys. Here’s to many more. xx

Aubrey

 

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