#17: Crowd Control

June 6th, 2012

“Duck!” the tiny Mexican man in the camo jacket screamed in the face of his gigantic black friend.

When the nerdy looking Goliath in the Terrell Owens jersey got as low as he could, the little bearded one hucked his crushed PBR can into the crowd. A white girl three people behind him and 20 inches away laid a lazy slap on the small man’s shoulder.

“That wasn’t nice,” she slurred.

The little man threw his head back and cackled like a hen — he had gotten the reaction he wanted. And the band whipped us on in our shoulder-to-shoulder rebellion.

It’s festival season in Chicago, where weekend planners talk about streets instead of bars, where you chat with friends about doing Division, hitting up Mayfest, multiple Ribfests, multiple “Tastes of,” many Walks. It’s bands and food and crowds and runnings into people you didn’t expect to see (my tally for the week is five).

Festival season is when people come to hipstery Wicker to listen to hipster bands and complain about hipsters. It’s when they ask for lighter options at German food carts and toss out trash at Green events.

It’s when people remember that sun, sky and free music are all any human in any society has ever needed to have a fun day. It’s Brazilian Carnival, it’s Akan Odwira, it’s Roman Rosalia. Booze, food, tunes equal happy.

Of course, having Le Butcherettes helps.

Le Butcherettes are a three-piece punk combo made of Teri “Gender Bender” Suarez, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Lia “My future goddamn wife even though my friend Lorne didn’t understand why I wasn’t hotter for the more sexpotty Teri Gender Bender but I told him some people like pralines and cream ice cream which I don’t think he quite got but that Shelley girl standing by us seemed to understand” Braswell. Whip howl scream pound go band go.

If it hadn’t been an outdoor festival, they would have torn the roof off the place. That goddamn good.

We packed like pickled peppers on the closed-down Division Street, where Algren once found despair but would now see vegan options. A 20-minute side trip for the port-o-johns 50 feet away had left me stranded on the edge of the crowd, where the small Mexican man and the large black one talked about Ray Bradbury and that the small one was in fact from Mexico and wasn’t “Columbian or something.”

There were some of us who howled with the band, but with it being the last show of a long day, sun-tired nodders made up most of the crowd. Nod nod nod in time or out of time with the music — we’re too tired, drunk and happy to care re: tempo.

Come Monday, we’ll put on ties or name tags. We’ll sober up, pay our bills, get back to our regular duties of making up the city of Chicago. But under starry skies that Saturday night, we were something more powerful and more grotesque than the sum of our parts. We were a crowd. Yelling, nodding, hucking beer cans.

It’s not good. It might even be bad. But it just is and, since the first caveman said “Let’s cook up some mammoth and book Ug and the Oongas,” a summer festival crowd is something people just have to deal with.

Written in June 2012

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