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Tales from music road

BY NICK FETTY | APRIL 27, 2009 7:26 AM

Second only to Hawkeye football, music festivals are the biggest passion in my life.

Your pounding hangover and unbearable heat inside the tent force you to wake up. As you step outside, the smell of marijuana smoke fills your nostrils and you gaze across the community of colorful tents. This is the atmosphere of a hippie music festival, and it is one of my favorite parts of summer.

The Woodstock Festival in 1969 is often regarded as the original festival. Today, there are hundreds of music festivals all across the country, even a few in the great state of Iowa. These events are always held outside and usually provide primitive camping for attendees. Groups known as jam bands are staples at these festivals. Jam bands are often characterized by their colorful instrumentation, danceable grooves, and jams that can last as long as a half hour.

The summer after I graduated from high school was when I lost my music-festival virginity. I went to the 10,000 Lakes Festival in Detroit Lakes, Minn. Every single aspect of the trip was a blast, and ever since, I have been hooked on music festivals.

My friend Ross and I departed for the festival in the middle of July. I had been looking forward to it since we purchased our tickets in May. We left for our 471 mile trip about 8 a.m. after loading the car with enough gear for our four-day debauchery-laced excursion.

After about four hours on the road, we stopped in Minneapolis to eat at a White Castle, a pleasure which neither of us had experienced. This ended up being one of the biggest mistakes of the trip. Let’s just say there is a reason they call their burgers “sliders.”

Then, with awful stomach aches, we continued truckin’ northward. Ross got tired of driving after awhile and let me get behind the wheel of his $40,000 Monte Calro SS. But after I nearly hit a cone in a construction zone, Ross took the wheel again.

Finally, around 10 hours after departing from West Des Moines, we arrived at the festival grounds. We saw people wearing tie dye, white people with dreads, and women with body paint instead of clothes. I immediately knew this was my kind of thing.

Because this was one month before I went to college, it was one of the first times I got to experience freedom. I loved it.

That night after going to the concerts, we went back to the tent and got a bonfire going. It gets surprisingly chilly being so far north, even during the middle of the summer.

People from all around the campsite slowly started congregating around our bonfire. We met the guy who set up camp next door to us, and he ended up being quite a character. This guy was more concerned about finding acid as soon as he arrived, and he neglected setting up his tent.

Consequently, he was left to sleep in his car.

The next day, we went into the town of Detroit Lakes to play a rousing game of disc golf. I’m sure that the residents of Detroit Lakes hate it every year when their quaint little town is flooded with hippies.

On one of the days we went to the Hunab show and that turned me onto the Iowa City music scene. We saw Hunab a few weeks later at Briar Batch, a festival held several times throughout the year at a farm outside my native Des Moines.

The last night of the festival was much like the last day of summer. I had met all these interesting people — all of whom I would never see again — and I knew that I would miss every aspect of the festival. I knew I would have to make it to a music festival every year.

Last year, I went Camp Euoria in Lone Tree, and I think I would say I liked it even more than 10,000 Lakes Fest. It was a smaller festival — only two days long with far fewer people. Despite these differences, though, it had the same feel.

Possibly the best thing about Camp Euforia that 10,000 Lakes Festival didn’t have was that you could hear the bands from the campsite. Also, the Camp Euforia bill consists mainly of local groups. Another cool thing about my experience with Camp Euforia was that the group camping next to us got a drum circle going late that night after all of the bands were done playing. Before long there were dozens of people surrounding our camp site so they could dance to the beats.

This summer, I am going to the Summer Camp Festival in Chillicothe, Ill. I am bringing a friend who is a music-festival virgin, and I’m very excited to introduce him to this counterculture. Unlike many of my friends back home who insists on going to 10,000 Lakes Festival every year, I prefer to try new things.

Also, I plan to go to Camp Euforia again. In fact, I hope to attend Camp Euforia for the rest of my time in Iowa City.

I advise all people to make it to at least one music festival in their lifetimes — they are guaranteed to see a lifestyle that they never knew existed.


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