I’d spoken with promoters for the End of Summer Rock Bash prior to the event. Based on the information I had, I believed things would go well. But I wasn’t 100% certain. The event had attracted more than it’s share of opponents and naysayers. Consequently, I wouldn’t let Mr. Smartypants attend.
I was worried the crowd might not be “appropriate” for an eight year old.
Turns out I was worried for nothing.
There were several young children in attendance, and they were so fun to watch with their stick-on tattoos and non-stop dancing. There were also more older folks at the Bash than I had expected. I’m counting myself and Tom Horne, my sidekick for all things rock-related among this group. Earlier in the day while the crowd was still thin (smart people didn’t start arriving until sundown) Tom and I (who weren’t as smart) sat around talking about the bands, what albums we had in our collections (uh-huh, vinyl ones) and complained a bit about the heat, which had to be a good 90-something-degrees in the shade.
We avoided having heat strokes by consuming Icees from the Shiver Shack. The folks at the Shack donated all proceeds from the event to the Cherokee High School Cheerleading Squad, who also manned a snack booth with help from parents and Coach Melynda Williams.
Nancy Barker and Joe Zook were in attendance. The duo spent the day flipping burgers and roasting hot dogs along with other volunteers for the Boys and Girls Club. ( There’s your proof that sitting on the board of directors doesn’t technically involve a lot of sitting.) Initially, I wondered why the B&G Club hadn’t scheduled some of the older club members or volunteers to work in shifts – then decided it was probably for the same reason I hadn’t allowed Smartypants to attend.
The fact was this event was a first. No one was quite certain how it would go or what might happen. The predictions had certainly been dire enough – but rather than write the opportunity off as too much work or something they didn’t want to be involved with because it was new, different, or controversial – Joe, Nancy and the rest of those volunteers rolled up their sleeves, jumped in, and supported the event (geared toward youth) while raising funds for a worthy organization.
Overall, it was an event worth supporting.
It was very well-organized. The stage crew was probably one of the best I’ve ever seen in action. The sound guy was no slouch either- and all security personnel looked appropriately menacing. You know, they had the “arms crossed, unsmiling, don’t breach the perimeter because I eat live chickens for lunch and fart feathers without wincing” look. No one would have ever guessed beneath those surly looks, they were nice guys.
I’m sure they all have mad scary kung-fu wrasslin’ skills, but there was no reason to display them at the Bash. Throughout the evening, their activities were limited to displaying the look and talking on their radios while they patrolled the crowd.
Even with ticket sales between 350-400 (not bad for a first-year) and a fair amount of people watching from outside the gates to avoid paying admission (I guessed over 475 people at the park, organizers say the number is over 500) the teenagers and young adults in attendance were phenomenal.
They were there for the music – excited about seeing the bands perform, collecting autographs or having photos made with various performers. In talking with some of the “younger” concert goers, I realized the “all ages” aspect of the event had great appeal. Many are too young to see the bands perform at other area venues, most of which are age restricted – so this was a rare opportunity for them and one they are hoping to repeat next year.
The bands participating all conducted themselves in a professional manner. They took the time to interact with the fans before and after their performances. Some joked about the no cursing rule. (The promoters had taped a friendly reminder to the stage.) And those musicians I did manage to speak with while they were wandering the crowd were incredibly nice – such as Juan Amato, the lead singer of the band Venejer. Their lead guitarist also impressed me by getting out, working the crowd, shaking hands and distributing business cards. Were it not for the mohawk, I’d have thought this kid was running for office. And I’d have voted for him if he were.
I also spoke briefly with Ben Graham of Since October. For the lead singer of a band, who has just signed with indie label Tooth & Nail, released a CD (“This is my Heart”) in May and seems to be on the cusp of fame, Graham is not at all what I expected. With his unrealistically gorgeous-in-an-insane way hair bound in a ponytail, he took the time to talk with fans while setting up the band’s merchandise table and baking in the sun. I suppose I didn’t expect him to be quite so humble or hard working – but he was.
You know for the bands, promoters and volunteers, a great deal of effort went into this event and for some – there was a lot riding on its success.
During the final show of the night, I watched along with Amy Southard as Egypt Central took the stage – and the crowd gathered around, dancing and cheering wildly. Amy (who is Wife of the Promoter: which is an official title meaning she does a lot of work and worrying without getting paid for either) looked tired and somewhat relieved when she announced:
“We did okay.”
Yeah, they did okay.
See, I had nothing to lose by predicting this would be a great thing. The promoters, sponsors and community supporters did. In their belief that Rogersville has room for growth, diversity and events for all sorts of people of varying age and interests – they took a risk and placed their faith in these kids with their colorful tattoos, beautifully strange hair, unappreciated talent and artistic vision – and all of those things, which rescue them from being plain, average and forgotten – and it paid off.
At one point during the show, Jimmy Southard announced to the crowd that they were making Rogersville History. In retrospect, I’m not sure this is accurate. I think most of us older folks were watching history be made – but those young folks were there grabbing the future and proving themselves more than worthy of holding it in their hands.
That, my friends, was an awesome thing to see.