5000 Hippies Dancing
I got a call from a promoter who asked me to go play a gig in Nelson Ohio. He said it was a small town and someone would pick me up at the airport and then drive me for a couple of hours to the gig. We talked for a while about the usual stuff, money, transportation and all that. He just kept saying "Yeah" and "Sure!" He was really... up. A really, really nice positive guy. He knew all about me and he said yes to everything right away and it was set that we would talk again later. So I went on the road and when I came back we spoke again. Again, he was so agreeable. I told him how I have a special diet that I have to stick to. That I try to only eat organic foods and if I eat fish I like to have it grilled. I also love sweet potatoes and fruit. "Yes" he kept saying and "Of course we will get you whatever you want". He said that they were into all that too, and grow everything in their own gardens. He said the gig was outdoors and called Nelsons Ledges. That it was held in a national park on a couple of acres and that he had been doing concerts there for a few years.
It was set that I would play on the main day, which would include the Sun Ra Arkestra and also Mickey Hart. Mickey would be last and I would go on right before him.
The Sun Ra Arkestra, which if you don't know is really... out there, really outrageous. They play all kinds of stuff. Sun Ra is no longer alive now buthe was very popular in the 60's and 70's and he used to say he was from Mars. Anyway, this band still plays and has good players and everything. Mickey Hart is, of course, from The Grateful Dead.
So anyway, I fly to the gig and a really nice interesting guy comes to get me at the airport. As we are driving to the place I start to see horse drawn carts. The guys are all in black and there are no phone poles on the side of the road. Then I realize that I'm in Amish country. We drive through a few small villages and there is no electricity and everyone grows their own organic vegetables and sells them at the markets. I had never been in the middle of all that before, it was amazing!
So we finally get there and it is beautiful. The hotel had electricity and everything, but still it was a bit like going back in time. The rooms were great with big windows, and there was a nice restaurant. I ran over and did a quick sound check, and then I just wandered around digging the whole place
We were on about 50 acres of land with a beautiful lake and a forest, but as I walked around I did not really see that many people. Most of the people I did see were young hippies and Deadheads. Eventually I had this great dinner. Everything was great here! The people were nice and genuine, the food was prepared and served with care and the sound people did a good job. I was having a nice time. I walked around some more and listened to the music for a while, and then when it got dark I went back to my trailer and waited for my time. I found out later that everyone had been looking for me. That when Mickey Hart showed up he wanted to see me and nobody could find me. Eventually I headed over to the stage because I could hear that the Sun Ra Arkestra was just ending and I was next. I was so surprised when everyone started shouting "There he is!" and asking where I had been.
Anyway, I was about to start when I realized there were about 5,000 hippies there, all of them dancing. They were enjoying every moment, really having an amazing time. Then I was told to watch this guy in the audience, so I see this guy...way far away, just burst into flames. It was all part of the show but I had never seen anything like it. He was a big ball of fire for like two minutes. Then suddenly I'm back on stage starting my thing. There were so many people now, and they were coming out of the woods near the lake. I could see little campfires everywhere and people with their cooking pots and pans. It was so great to see this because many festivals used to be like this, before they were commercialized before negative people got involved.
So I began and played for an hour and a half. I started with this percussion instrument that this friend of mine Peter Engelhart made for me, and they all went wild. I did some free style bird calls and chanting, my tambourine solo, then moved to my trap drum set and did a bunch of stuff there. The energy was amazing! They just had a great time and I did too! I was high and spacey without doing anything. I felt like I was in a different world next to this beautiful lake with the moon shinning down on it.
Now that I was done Mickey Hart was coming on and wanted me to stay and sit in with his band. I ended up playing the whole set which lasted almost two hours. It was like there were two leaders because we were both at the front and I did not know the music so I was running around from instrument to instrument. It was very creative, very free.
At the end of the show the guy who drove me there said it was kind of a tradition to walk around the lake afterwards, so I walked around the lake with him. You had to walk in the forest because that was where the path was, but it was incredible. All these people inside the forest doing their own thing. Bicycles and motorcycles. People were camping, people were cooking, drinking, whatever they wanted to do people were doing and every once in a while the guy I was with would say "I can't believe that I am taking my walk and you are doing the whole walk with me!" We laughed and finally when I got back my percussion and stuff was all packed up. They even gave me some more great food to take back to the hotel. I loved it in this peaceful place and I was emotional about leaving. I did not feel one negative vibe. It was freeing.