July 19, 2006
Some of them wore hotdog hats, and some of them wore beanies. Some sported the high, pointy fantasia-type hats, while others had top hats lined with neon glow around the rims.
They wore capes, both made out of cloth and of patent leather, serving as an outer layer to their peasant everything. I mean peasant skirts, peasant tank tops, peasant long-sleeve and short-sleeve shirts. Their hair ranged from none at all to 15 different shades at once, to dreadlocks as well as ankle-length waves.
And who were these people constituting this entirely separate breed of mankind, you might ask? The answer is not surprising: none other than the 6,000 insane music fans who packed into Manhattan's Radio City Music Hall last Thursday night to watch the former Grateful Dead vocalist and guitarist Bob Weir play with his band, Ratdog. Opening was the modern day west coast jam band the String Cheese Incident, and the combination of the two bands caused the Big Apple to enter a cultural time warp dating back to 1970.
I decided to attend this concert weeks ago while searching the Web for up-to-date information on the String Cheese Incident, a band I have listened to for some time, but not followed religiously. So when their summer tour dates with Bobby popped up on their homepage, I was more than excited to be able to attend the New York show with my brother, who at the tender age of 14 had never before attended a concert. And was he going to start his concert career off with a boom . . .
We first began to feel the concert's aura at Grand Central Station, where our evening began with a humble slice of pizza. The hungry customer behind us on line, decked out with his dreds tucked under a hemp-cotton hat while sporting a hemp thread necklace with a gigantic glass bead in the middle, was also headed to the concert. He ordered no other than the "Earth Mother" slice consisting of green leaves on bread, while my brother and I shamelessly devoured our pasteurized cheese, chicken, and tomato sauce.
As we embarked on the short walk to 50th and 6th, home of the venerable Radio City Music Hall, which has housed performances by some of the biggest names in music since its opening in 1933, it did not take us long to find our place among the ever-so-distinct crowd of concert attendees. It was the combination of people who were asking for "a miracle" (a ticket), sitting cross-legged on the city sidewalks begging for ear plugs for their small children, and the hordes wearing tie-dyed apparel, ranging from shirts and socks to bandanas, that instantly transformed the Avenue of the Americas into San Francisco's Haight-Asbury Street.
Just when we thought the combination of hippie deadheads in the city-chic Manhattan setting was a bit too much, we were wrong, because the sight of them sprawled throughout the once black-tie Radio City was even better.
They were badgering the poor ushers, harmless beings just trying to do their jobs, by dodging through blockades between different sections of the auditorium. They were downing strangers' half-empty drinks left on cocktail tables and rails around the main entrance way. They were sitting on the fragile railings of the mezzanine sections, structures built with pure aesthetics in mind, not the capability to support the full weight of the increasingly heavy American man. And they were dancing.
Or "dancing" I should say. As the night progressed, this physical movement that some might consider dancing took turns leading even the most open-minded and unassuming person to question the nature about what was going on. People were practicing full-body gyrations with hips swinging, arms flaying, heads nodding, and legs twitching. They were circling around one another, while somehow managing to let people pass them in the narrow auditorium isles. And they were not afraid to bust out their own interpretive dances, which started with the first note of String Cheese's first song, and continued through the entire duration of the concert, regardless of whether there was music playing or not.
But these eccentric fans, possessors of mannerisms most people couldn't even be trained to master, brought only love to the concert. Love for the music, love for the bands, and love for each other. And it's a passion like this that these music fans are lucky to have, and most of us can only hope to find.
Sarah Singer is a third-year intern at the Independent. She is a sophomore at Cornell University where she studies philosophy and government.