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Escape From Wisconsin '99, Part II

We fight for the setlists, and don't score on that front, but Florence manages to score the handwritten lyric sheets (and insists on giving me one later, causing me to go completely speechless and tears to spark into my eyes). I suddenly am very tired. And cold. And hungry. And I notice that my feet are very, very wet. Jessica and Paris and Angel and Mike walk down and we are all experiencing more or less the same thing, so some of us decide to go find food. Oh, yeah, and call Jean and see how much of the set she actually got to hear (I kept checking and just kept hitting redial over and over and over and over.) We find a corner of the main building at the top of the hill, and we're all sharing notes and filling in what to me was [mumble] and Paris keeps saying, "TELL HER ABOUT THE WINDMILLS". I have to call her a few times to make sure she gets everything, as people's fazed brains bring up more details. ("Jean, Ed did a lot of windmills during 'Patriot'." Jean: "Yes, I got that, it seemed to be important to a few people").

We are walking around, looking for food, running into friends everywhere we go. The food lines are now horrendous and we just say "fuck it" and pick one and stand there for 30 minutes, waiting, while talking a mile a minute and don't even notice. We find a patch of dry pavement and eat our $8 gyros or burritos (or whatever it ends up being - it was FOOD). Jessica has to take care of some things, Mike is heading back down to see what's left of Live's set (we kept commenting during lunch, "Isn't this the EXACT same set they did in 1995?" #$%@ journalists had no problem with THAT, now did they). With Paris in tow, I am off to look for prayer beads and prayer flags and just generally skip around and enjoy the SUN and the atmosphere.

seated crowd in grass

Now, I hate festivals. HATEHATEHATE festivals. Short sets, less than optimal conditions, $8 burritos, you name it. (Last festival I did was Lolla '96, and that only worked because I brought my own food, found a good viewing spot, didn't MOVE the entire day, and left the second Soundgarden came off the stage.) All I have to say is, this was *fun*. Considering they had one stage to work with, things moved fast; considering the amount of bands, they were running close to being on time. They staged it well - you really did have time to get up and walk around, unless you absolutely HAD to see every single band that was performing. And, the most incredible thing to me, was what we called "the monk tent" - at other TFC's, it was indeed a tent, but here it was the upstairs of the main building, where they had non-stop chanting and sacred dancing, where the energy was totally different, where you could sit and recharge and actually LEARN something. If you didn't go upstairs in the main building and check this out, you really missed the whole point of the festival, not to mention really missed out on something special and moving.

crowd and clouds

#1 on the list of people who missed out on this experience was Mr. Vedder, who walked up after his set to TRY to go upstairs, but was completely MOBBED by people grabbing, touching, running after him - he couldn't even get upstairs, and ended up having to be escorted back to the backstage by a cadre of no less than 10 security guards. Come on - did you (whoever "you" is here) REALLY have a life-changing experience because you shook Ed's hand for three seconds or ran after him? You couldn't have let the guy alone and let him dig the festival? Ah, it was sad. I saw him being escorted back down the hill (as I was waiting in the interminable line for lemonade before running back to my seat for Blondie's set), looking kind of bemused and resigned, surrounded by big burly guards. Sorry, Ed....

Highlights from the rest of the day:

Well, effectively, it's over. I hug Jessica and Paris goodbye, and run out of the pavilion to the pre-designated meeting space. I would have loved to have said goodbye to everyone, but I love the idea of getting sleep before driving back to Chicago the next morning more. Back to the car and the parking lot nightmare, which ended up working out because of 1) our fear of getting into the car and sinking into the mud, and 2) a forward-thinking individual in a SUV who moved some barrels and created an exit where there was really NOT supposed to be an exit. If we'd been sitting exhausted in the car, waiting, we'd probably still be sitting there; as it was, it only took us about 20 minutes to get the hell out of that parking lot (which I am informed is some kind of new record). As it was, we didn't get back to Morris until 2:30am, I'm asleep by 3:00, and up at 8:00am to drive back to the airport.

And it was worth every single second of it. For one of our few (maybe only?) Pearl Jam adventures this year, it was certainly a worthy one. Thanks, Ed.

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TAPING UPDATE: Despite security busting countless tapers, there are at least 4-5 good audience recordings from the show. THERE IS NO NEED TO BUY THIS SHOW! However, yes, you will need some patience in finding this show. If someone wanted to organize a tape tree, the tapers in question would probably be happy to seed it for you; ask around (but *don't* ask us). Additionally, there are at least two video sources, one incomplete, one complete.

MORE thank-yous: Florence (you know!), Angel ("Did anyone else in this car get kissed by a rock star today? I don't think so!"), Kathy Davis ("Hi, nice to meet you, let me spill red wine on your stuff"), Ray ("Your reindeer is falling over" "It's a MOOSE!"), the rest of the slumber party pj gang, Family Stinson for taking my extra ticket off my hands, Bob and Mike for getting the damn show encoded so quickly so I didn't have to rely on my memory and my notes to get the quotes right, Jessica and Paris ("Oscar") for sharing notes, seats and everything else, and everyone else I met when I was way out of it and didn't think to ask what your email address was so I could figure out it was *you*...(Lynn!)

Copyright © 1999 Caryn Rose