Return to the Speaker
I thought this trip was about a return to nature, but remember what thought does – it makes a fool of you. It has been about nature, that can’t be disputed. My fingernails have housed the earth, my lungs have captured wild air, my legs have become stronger from all the morning squats as I fertilize hidden spots of grass. So my expectation was accurate, and not hard to surmise when planning a trip to work on farms. But a gem was uncovered on this trip that I did not predict, and that is my love affair with speakers. Not persons who talk publicly about a certain topic, but the boxes used to amplify bass and music – those speakers.
This love affair is not new, but it was a little forgotten. It all began in a random field in Southwest England. I was 15. There was a white party tent pitched; in it a likely local electro lover with DJ skills offering up sounds that poured out of a pair of speakers and gushed through a bunch of bodies. I was given a little yellow pill, I want to say it had a smiley face on it but I could just be getting carried away. An hour later the tension and inhibitions I typically carried with me had floated away and I just danced.
As a family, we danced a lot. The mother has a healthy obsession with disco, and the father was often happy to take a break from the blues to demonstrate his knee-slapping dancing abilities. I was more than comfortable shaking a leg around the house as a youth. As a teenager though, parents had separated, teen angst had soared through me, and by 15 I was generally just trying to find the groove in a rizla to lay my weed in. I found family in a group of friends. Yet, I was still painfully self-conscious.
For a few hours in that random field, I didn’t care how I looked, how I was perceived, I just cared about convulsing to the music. I very well may have looked a twat, but I wasn’t alone. For the next couple of months I found myself in a few other random fields, necking pills and shaking legs. Just as I was finding a rhythm in the lifestyle, I was rudely awakened by a knock on my bedroom door. The father came and told me something about moving house, and a week later the mother was telling me I’d be coming to live in her house in the States. I found one more field to dance in, said goodbyes to the family I had become a part of, and moved to the suburbs.
Fields are hard to find in the suburbs. With the help of my sister though, we found some speakers. Denver and its surrounding areas had, and I believe still has, a bustling rave scene. I dove right in. After a few years, a handful of candy bracelets, enough little colorful pills, and a heart felt lecture from the mother about respecting our bodies, we drifted from the scene and found other leisurely activities to explore. Hers was hiking. Mine was drinking. It still lowered my inhibitions, and I still found speakers at concerts and attached to dive-bar juke boxes. I don’t discriminate against speaker size – it’s not the size that matters but the motion of the drunk girl swaying with her eyes closed. From fields to concert venues, I could always be found near the speaker. The deeper the bass, the closer I was. No dance partner necessary, or wanted (usually); it was just me and the speaker. One night, at some concert that promised a good beat and heavy bass, I drank so much, danced so hard, was so comforted by the speaker, I fell asleep leaning on it – front left of stage. This can be laughed at, or scorned at, either way it happened. It took a few more years for me to resolve my drinking issues, and with that resolve my relationship with the speaker dissipated. I have of course remained a live music lover and contented dancer, but the distance between myself and the amplifying sound boxes has grown.
That is until last weekend. Like I said, I thought I was just out to spend 2 months getting up close and personal with nature, but the universe had other plans. Since leaving the second farm early, we found ourselves at a third farm stay in the Slocan Valley of BC. Our host informed us when we arrived that we had landed in the best part of BC. I told him the scenery on our drive was lovely, but he meant more than that. The people, the energy, the community, these are the things he was referring to in addition to the breath taking landscape. We were also informed that there was going to be a music festival in town.
I’ve been to a few music festivals in my time. To name drop – Coachella, Wakarusa, The Hangout, Telluride Bluegrass. Large events with big name artists, ferris wheels, selfies, overpriced beer, waterfalls, extravagant lightshows, gulf beaches, towering mountain peaks. Unity Music Festival in Slocan Valley was none of these things – set on modest lake beach on the edge of a small town with not one artist I’d heard of. Decorations were simple, alcohol was prohibited, views were charming yet phones were not out to capture them, and activities consisted of paddling, socializing, and face painting at this family friendly event. Cam and I danced to a funk band, admired a violin centric hip hop trio, enjoyed smoothies and extreme grilled cheese sandwiches, laughed at the naked child gleefully bouncing his way around an inner tube, and did some rug cutting (or rather sand kicking) to a latin fusion DJ. The final set of the weekend was delivered by Ganga Giri, a didgeridoo dub musician with a seriously deep voice. To match his subterranean vocals was equally deep bass booming from the speakers. Cam joined me in more dancing before retiring to seated spectating. Amid the most authentic free-spirited, arm waving, hip gyrating, energy transgressing hippies I ever did see, my eyes fixed on a speaker front right of stage. Not yet tired enough for a nap on the sound box, I shimmied my way up there, ditched the flip flops and inhibitions (sans alcohol – well, I did have half a beer two hours prior), and attempted to summons my aboriginal roots like the man on stage. Being of English ancestry, those roots were hard to summons in just a few songs, but I did my best primal dancing anyway. Eyes closing long enough to lose myself and opening long enough to maintain some sort of orientation, as if practicing a meditative blink, I let my legs and arms loose to flail as they please. All the while, letting my long lost lover send music thundering into me.
Replenished and reminded of that fond relationship, I returned to Cam and we scampered off back to our cabin. Perhaps I’ll make a point of attending more intimate concerts in the future, or perhaps I’ll buy a great big subwoofer and do my sun salutations on it every morning. Which ever way this rekindling blows, I’m just glad for the reunion.
Unity Music Festival, Slocan BC