My wife (Amy) and I weren’t planning to return to my hometown of Milwaukee for this year’s Summerfest, but the lineup – which includes Pearl Jam/Tom Petty, Kings of Leon and Wilco – was just too good to pass up. The ten-day event, which was founded in 1968, now draws more than 900,000 visitors, making it one of the largest music festivals in the world.
The day began as it usually does, by catching a Wisconsin Coach Lines bus down to the fairgrounds. The fare is $7 roundtrip, which is a pretty nice deal, since you don’t have to worry about fighting traffic or parking. Unfortunately, our 5:35 PM bus didn’t arrive until 6:00 PM and, at that point, there was more people at the park and ride than could fit on the bus, creating a situation where boisterous high school/college-age kids pushed and shoved their way onto the bus. We discovered that there was a three-hour power outage at Summerfest that afternoon, and that they were working to restore the power, which might have been the reason for the delay.
Next thing I know, we’re on the bus, sitting next to one of the aforementioned high school/college-age kids who decides to dip (slang for sucking on chewing tobacco) without a spit cup. He simply spit onto the floor of the bus. The girls around him told him how disgusting it was, so I just tried to pretend that it wasn’t happening, telling Amy, “This is our last Summerfest for a while.” It was our three-year anniversary, and I didn’t exactly want to spend it watching tobacco spit dropping to the floor. Blink-182 was right: nobody likes you when you’re 23. Or 22…or 21. Really, all the way down to 17.
I heard a guy behind me say, “I’ll give you a hundred bucks if you can name the #1 pick from the draft last night.” I let his friend think about it for a while and then I said, “Andrea Bargnani.” I glanced back at him and he gave me a smirk for ruining his game. Later I heard him say to his friend, who was trying to get the $100, “I asked you, not him.”
Getting off that bus was a great feeling, not unlike how immigrants must have felt when they arrived Ellis Island. (Different circumstances, of course – but the same feeling, nonetheless.) By the time we arrived, the power was back on.
Our plan this evening was to catch the Pearl Jam/Tom Petty show at the Marcus Amphitheater. I’m a member of the Tom Petty fan club, so I was able to secure third row seats to the show. I’ll submit a proper review later, but suffice to say, the show was great. It was very cool to see two bands of this magnitude on the same stage.
Amy had a couple of interesting conversations in her travels to the beer line and to the bathroom. While waiting for a brew, a young(er) girl asked her if she had ever seen Pearl Jam before. The conversation continued like this:
Amy: Yeah, I saw them in ’94 in Indiana.
Girl: Is that an amphitheater?
Amy: No, I saw them in 1994.
Granted, Amy looks younger than she is, but the girl was obviously surprised that she was attending a PJ concert twelve years ago, when the girl was probably still in grade school, waiting for her boobs to come in.
And, of course, there is always drama in the women’s bathroom. Amy was in the “Women In” line and there was another line coming in from the “Women Out” door and one of the women (late 30s/early 40s) started giving Amy crap about standing in the wrong line:
Amy: We’re in the right line.
Woman: Oh, really?
Amy: You’re in wrong line. You’re in the “Women Out” line.
Woman: Thanks, I can read. I’m illiterate. (indistinguishable pissiness to the girl behind her)
The people around us up front were great until the final third of the Petty show. During an intimate, acoustic rendition of “Learning to Fly,” a guy behind us was yelling loudly on his cell phone. Then he hung up and continued to speak loudly to his buddy, who seemed more reserved than his drunk friend. Both guys were old enough to know better. I hesitated to say anything, but I turned around and indicated to the not-as-drunk guy that maybe they could keep it down a little. He was very cool about it and nodded, saying something to his friend about keeping his voice down. This, of course, didn’t go over well, and I could see the drunk friend making gestures at me behind my back. I let it go until he started pouring beer behind our seats so that some of it would splash onto our feet. I turned around again and gave him a “I-dare you-to-f*ck-with-me-one-more-time” look and his friend took his beer away from him and they switched places. He spent the rest of the night on his cell phone, but wasn’t as loud as he was before. Unfortunately, for the remainder of the concert, I was worrying about what this a-hole was going to do next, and I didn’t have as good of a time as I should have. Thanks a lot, a-hole!
Getting out of Summerfest is always a challenge. For some unknown, inexplicable reason, Wisconsin Coach Lines doesn’t load multiple buses at once, so everyone has to wait – buses and customers – while each bus is loaded individually. It was a 45-minute wait to get on the bus, when it wouldn’t have taken more than 15 minutes if it were set up correctly. This is very frustrating for a guy who used to be an industrial engineer, an industry that specializes in efficiency. Once in my seat, I breathed a sigh of relief. Day one is done!