Another birthday is lurking around the corner for me. It has me recollecting all of these inevitable occasions to date and wondering which ones will stand the test of time to eventually become classified as the best of the best.
Easily, the last twenty birthdays of my life have been spent seeing live music. This time around, it falls on the second day of July. Since a popular summer holiday is always nearby, it’s always been pretty easy for me to get festive.
To date, there are only a couple of these celebrations that stand out as unforgettable. A favorite birthday of my childhood was at age 8. (My parents were 26 at the time). My father had earned a work bonus of a week’s rental of a cabin on a lake, choosingto use it over the first week in July. My parents planned to combine my birthday party with a July 4th party, so my dad carefully boxed up his Akai reel to reel and speakers into our 1968 Cherry Red SS Imapla, grabbed the wife, kids and dog, and we were off.
A large gathering of family and friends came out to enjoy the waterfront property and celebrate. As I recall, they were blaring the likes of Grand Funk Railroad, The Guess Who, Steve Miller Band, and Three Dog Night. Kegs were flowing and I can remember everyone really taking in the gorgeous day. At dusk there were not too many kids my age left at the gathering.
My younger sister and I were kicking back after a long hot day in the water and enjoying some potato salad when we looked up and noticed my dad's best friend was getting pretty loaded. We were giggling at how loud he had become and were mocking his attempt to communicate some “adult idea” he had.
Before we knew it, he entered and then came out of the cabin running, buck naked. He circled the entire parameter of the property with beer in hand and everyone was laughing with (at?) him for his choice to streak the party. I guess in 1974 that was a hip thing to do.
My six year old sister and I had never seen an adult do such a thing. It was hard to forget for the remainder of that summer, and more than once we laughed at the thought of his sunburned back and lily white butt running around, Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein" serving as a soundtrack.
After that, I think my favorite birthdays were spent seeing the Grateful Dead. Quite often July 2 would be near the kick-off date for an entire summer tour. The year I turned 23 was when I decided to hit the road and see an entire summer tour. (I did two more entire summer tours after that as well).
This first year stands out for me because I chose to fly – one way – from Minneapolis to Foxboro, Massachusetts and get myself home by way of ridesharing my way west to Alpine Valley in East Troy, WI. My college roommate met me there with my car and I drove us back to home to Minnesota. All rides that summer were, of course, arranged from the parking lot.
I vividly remember getting off of that airplane and feeling so open to whatever the road was going to bring me in the weeks to come. I met a lot of great people that summer and truly enjoyed the freedom of traveling solo, moving about as I wished and not really ever feeling alone a single moment of it. I had no trouble finding a ride from show to show and even less difficulty finding conversation from town to town.
The music that was played that summer was spectacular fun witness. There are few bands out there whose music helped define and shape my youth the way the Grateful Dead’s did. I feel honored to have jumped on the tail end of their career and experienced them live the way they were meant to be experienced. I intently explored their music with about as much passion as anyone could.
The birthday kick off show in Foxboro was one of my favorites of the run because of the company I kept that day. I remember thinking that Boston must be a really cool place to be in summer and vowed to come back. The single most random birthday oddity occurred at the end of the day and is something I will never forget.
I was walking out of the stadium floor area while talking with the random hippie dude who joined me for the second set. Suddenly, out of no where I got nailed with a hot dog.
Just like that.
A friggin big ol’ hot dog with ketchup (no bun) hit me right in temple.
Mortified, I looked at the hippie as he looked back at me and said “I hate it when that happens.” We looked up and examined the bleachers above where it came flying, and laughed hysterically for a few minutes, trying to pick out just which Jersey boy was guilty. We gave up, and parted ways. I never saw that guy again. I’m not sure if I will ever laugh that hard again in my life.
My next birthday lands on a Monday and I have to work. I of course didn’t let that stop me from planning a live music journey near the date. If there is one thing you can count on in Seattle on the fourth of July, it's rain. Being the summer celebrator I am, I have decided to hit the road, find some heat and get myself to Kenny Brown's Hill Country Picnic in Potts Camp, MS.
I’m hopeful the event will provide me with just the right amount of warmth, joy and celebratory libations to mark the year as special.
This year I anticipate some down home fun to call my own. I don’t think I will see any Southern streakers, and I sure hope I don’t get hit with any flying picnic food, but I know something random and odd will happen just the same.