Last week on a whim I purchased a ticket to UMS, which does not actually stand for Underground Music Society, but rather, Showcase, a festival in Denver where all of your favorite local bands and their friends’ bands and their friends’ friends’ bands play in some of your favorite venues in Denver.
So yesterday afternoon I left work, took a shower and a disco nap then went to a music festival by myself, a somewhat life-long dream that became even more pressing as I’ve recently come to look forward prospect of dying alone and figure I should at least practice doing fun stuff without other people while all of my organs are functioning. I had the concrete goal of seeing 3 specific bands, a couple others if the timing was right, then driving home. I also had a more nebulous goal of making out with someone.
I had not realized that it would be possible as an adult for me to recreate that feeling I had so frequently in college that I am weirdly nostalgic for, of being in a place and feeling introverted, inadequate and uncool. It turns out that to recreate this feeling, all you have to do is go to a music festival by yourself in a city you don’t live in where you only peripherally know 5 people.
This is how I felt as I walked down South Broadway, silently cursing myself for blowing every opportunity I’d ever had to get a tattoo. My friend Cate and I were going to give each other stick-n-pokes senior year – why did I let her bail out? Why did I listen to my friend Evan when he said about tattoos “You wouldn’t put a bumper sticker on a Porsche?” I’m not a Porsche, I’m a Volvo at best, and even if I owned a Porsche, I’d stick a big Defend Appalachia sticker on it because I like bumper stickers okay? (These are all thoughts that were running through my head real-time as I walked the span of a couple blocks. Turns out having friends around you eliminates the need to overthink).
Another thing I notice right off the bat is that as a lone female, I am prime target to be hit on by men old enough to have fathered me outside of their teenage years. It’s like they can sense that one has been removed from her herd, and is therefore in a weakened state and more likely to get stuck in a conversation with them.Which is fine, I’ve been dealing with this since I was like 10. But the beauty of coming to a show alone is that it gives you the impetus to stay alone, so it’s easy to escape from these situations. Throughout the night, even when I’m chatting with acquaintances or new friends, I found myself wandering off after awhile. Despite my anxiety, I was in no great rush to stop flying solo on this particular adventure.
My worries were soothed when I entered Skylark Lounge, the spot of the first shows on my list, as well as the least crowded, most convenient bathroom. Have you ever entered a place feeling like you’d been there before, but knowing logically that you hadn’t? Well I felt that way at Skylark.
At this point, we will deviate from my anxiety to tell a miraculous and true story. I am a huge fan of a Denver-based honky tonk band, Casey James Prestwood and the Burning Angels. The first time I saw them, last September, I was broken-hearted. After a song or two, I knew that things were going to be a-okay, as long as I kept doing my thing and playing and loving and working hard. Throughout the fall I went to their shows and felt myself heal. This sounds corny and unreal when I write about it, but I’m not a good enough writer to sufficiently capture the ways in which seeing this band has changed my life for the better. They played UMS at the Skylark Lounge, and it was a big part of me deciding to go to the festival alone. I am at a point in my life again where I’m in need of some healing and honky tonk is more effective than yoga or Jesus for me.
Now is the part of the story that sounds totally fake. Suspend your disbelief because it is not. I buy a Miller High Life and walk outside, because I’m killing time. This is the shortened version of the story, but basically, I “Like” a lot of Casey James Prestwood and the Burning Angels’ posts on Facebook. Turns out that the first person I see on the Skylark Patio is not only the bassist for CJP&TBA, but also their Facebook administrator.
He says “Hi, what’s your name again?”
I say, “Janney.”
He says, “You’re in a band, right, Henscratch?”
I say, “Yes, how did you know?” Mentally I should note that I am simultaneously rejoicing and panicking
Well, it turns out that because I “Liked” so many of their Facebook posts, the bassist had done a little Facebook stalking of his own. And now I had a new friend. In my favorite band.
I could go on some more about the highs and lows of the night, sheer joy, singing along to Okie From Muskogee with an old man in a wool suit, befriending a dude in the line a 3 Kings, befriending a friend of a friend, finding a second person for my all-female country band (even though she rejected the name “Cuntry”), realizing that 24 ounces of PBR is actually a lot of PBR, feeling rejected, dejected, turnstiled, junkpiled, railroaded too, nostalgically texting a college crush, texting “These folks are so hip I could puke” to multiple friends and sitting in the corner chugging water so I could safely drive home, but I won’t.
Here’s what I’ve learned from my time alone at a music festival. Sometimes, if you are enough of a Facebook creeper fan, your favorite band will take notice and befriend you.* Going to a festival alone is cool, but it would have been more fun with a friend. Don’t go for the 24 oz. PBR. And fucking go to a festival alone if you want, because #yolo but also, miracles can occur and you’ll feel like a total badass the next morning.
*This probably won’t work for One Direction