OPINION: Salida Music Festival Musings from a One-Armed Mute

The Salida Gentlemen of the Road Music Festival, which ran from Thursday August 20 through Saturday August 22, has come and gone.

VandaveerStage

The accolades are out there in media-land. It went very well. Such a pleasant surprise! For me it was definitely an adventure.

The weather could not have been better. Not one drop of rain fell during the entire festival.

I’ve never seen 15,000 visitors as nice as the Stopover crowd was. It was refreshing to see so many young people in town. The power to make or break the party was theirs, and they came through in spades. As did the town’s businesses. The free and fabulous Street Fair was the most festive I’ve ever seen F St. It was great fun just to be in its midst. Kudos to the businesses for going all out and decorating their stores and manning tents with all sorts of merchandise and food.

You can view my photo gallery of the festival here.

I had my dog Bodie with me, and he received many pets and hugs from the visitors who had to leave their own dogs at home.

Bodie and I meandered down to the Entertainment District, which fenced in a good portion of downtown from First St. to the river. I showed my official GOTR wristband to enter, in lieu of paying $5.

IGOTRwristband

I asked security, “Can I bring my dog in?” After a moment’s thought, he said, “Sure, I like dogs. Bring your dog in.”

Salida was hopping on Thursday, due to the Street Fair and Entertainment District. Thursday was coined Locals’ Night, because there was no entertainment at the main festival site on Vandaveer Ranch. There was also an abundant number of visitors.

Plenty of good music played at the Rotary Amphitheater in Riverside Park. I especially looked forward to the band Paper Bird. My only wish was that the sound was more balanced between the vocals and the instruments. Still, it was great to witness the evolution of Paper Bird’s music since I last saw them two years ago.

Friday I woke up with laryngitis, probably due to my fall allergies playing havoc with my throat. I decided to ignore the fact I had laryngitis, and talked as much as I wanted to during the Friday festival. Even though I’m sure I sounded very bizarre.

Saturday I woke up with no voice at all, which I deserved after ignoring the situation the day before. Then, to add insult to injury, or injury to injury, I badly sprained my wrist Saturday morning. It was extremely painful. I couldn’t hold a feather in my right hand, much less hold a camera.

I went out to Vandaveer Ranch anyway, as a one-armed mute reporter, to listen to some good music at the GOTR festival site, and to observe.

The festival site security was nice, if not thorough. As I put my open back pack down on the table to be searched, the security person said, “Why don’t you search your back pack? I don’t want to put my hand in there, in case there’s a knife, because I don’t want to cut my hand.”

I kid you not. I thought it was funny. My backpack never did get searched.

My next stop was the First Aid tent. I peeked in to see about five bored medical staff. That’s a good thing. I asked if they had an ace bandage to wrap my sprained wrist, and they happily wrapped it.

The festival site was bare bones. Two lines of white identical tents formed the sides, and offered merchandise, food, and drink. Except for some picnic tables at the far end near the campground, there was no seating at all, except to sit on the ground. The ground was covered with hay. Why the 10 acre festival site was irrigated with city water, and then covered with a thick layer of hay, is a mystery to me.

But let’s get to the music – the reason for, and heart of, the festival.

I got to see just four bands – Dawes and Flaming Lips on Friday, and Tune-Yards and the Vaccines on Saturday. My wrist was throbbing by the end of the Vaccines, so I missed Jenny Lewis and Mumford & Sons. I could still hear them somewhat from my porch, where I sat with an icepack and a glass of wine.

Of the four bands I saw, Tune-Yards was my favorite. This girl band put on a professional and well-designed show. Their drum-driven music was captivating and unique, and their beautiful harmonies complemented the instruments. Tune-Yards was a class act.

The band Dawes was also sound-perfect. They were fun to watch, and their Americana brand of music was pleasant to listen to.

The Vaccines were straight up rock and roll. They put on a good show.

Which brings me to Flaming Lips.

Disclosure: I was not on drugs, which may have influenced how I experienced Flaming Lips. And I left after three or four songs. But I wasn’t the only one streaming out of the festival site early.

The Salida performance of Flaming Lips has been called, by other media outlets, crazy or quirky, or other such innocuous terms.

A more accurate description, from my perspective, is crude and crass. Flaming Lips offended every one of my senses.

To begin the assault, lead singer Wayne Coyne had no voice. His vocals were so bad I doubt he would have made it into a high school talent show. I would have been embarrassed for him except for the fact that he seemed like such a jerk. He did everything to make it “The Wayne Coyne Show”. The rest of the band was no more than a prop to the pompous Coyne.

Coyne’s stage banter was made unbearable by the fact that he couldn’t get through a sentence without inserting the f-word into it. Cute.

What the Flaming Lips lacked in vocal performance was made up for by gimmicky stunts. I will say that Coyne expertly manned the confetti guns, and the confetti was a pleasant distraction from what was going on onstage. But the awkward long moments while huge mushrooms and rainbows and other clunky props were shuttled onto stage were, well, awkward.

And I can’t forget the “F-yeah Salida” overly-bulky metallic prop that inspired not just Coyne, but Governor Hickenlooper as well.

Flaming lips had layers of electric and other lighting effects that had little design but were interesting nonetheless. Unfortunately, they were not enough to save the rest of the show’s shortcomings.

As I made my escape from Wayne Coyne through the literally thousands of people standing behind me, I wondered why Flaming Lips was chosen for the the “family friendly” Gentlemen of the Road music festival – no less as Friday’s headliner. I wondered what the moms and children in the crowd were feeling.

Flaming Lips display at the local Salida toy store.

Flaming Lips display at the local Salida toy store.

The Flaming Lips was my one bad experience throughout the entire festival weekend, if I don’t count the circumstances that led to my being a one-armed mute festival-goer, who could neither sing nor clap along. I could, however, observe. It was an amazing experience to not feel claustrophobic in the middle of this gentle, happy crowd of 15,000.

Salida was blessed with this music festival. A friend of mine who did not partake thinks the festival was unsuccessful because ticket sales were half of what we were told they would be. However, I think the festival was so successful precisely for that very reason. 15,000 visitors seemed to be contentedly absorbed by all that Salida offered them. To double that number of visitors may have led to a different situation.

If you’d like to view a professional photo gallery of Salida’s Gentlemen of the Road Stopover, click on this link:

Cynda Green

Cynda Green is an investigative reporter who enjoys writing about various and sundry topics, least of which is politics. But someone has to do it. Contact: cyndagreen@gmail.com