Monday, May 16, 2011

A Rockfest veteran's take on Kansas City's biggest one-day festival

Posted By on Mon, May 16, 2011 at 9:01 AM


After last year's filthy, muddy and miserable rock festival at Liberty Memorial, I vowed the next Monday at work that I was done with 98.9 the Rock's Rockfest.

"Fuck that mess. I couldn't even walk around. Everyone was ankle-deep in mud," I explained to my co-workers. They smiled and nodded, knowing that I would return in 2011 because, for punishment like that, I am a glutton.

At the time of my first Rockfest, I stood in awe of the pure volume of people. It was a feast for the eyes: exposed skin, trash, trashy tattoos, drinking, and people writhing on the ground, on their ass from the heat and possible psilocybin use. This weekend, though, it felt a lot different. I guess I'm getting old and jaded, but the whole thing felt a little -- well -- off.

A major factor in my decision to attend was that I would usher my co-worker Elke Mermis' virgin voyage into the sea of Midwestern depravity and folks hungry for butt-rock and tits. Yes, small, pert underage titties. They are there, all around, along with the dirty old men who whip out their cell phones to document such novel scenes.


Walking up to the gate, our quick pace was slowed by a woman girl in 3-inch stillettos and skinny jeans (we would see her again later on, barefoot). With a flask of Jim Beam secured tightly in the waistband of my beloved True Religion jeans (complete with a large hole in the butt), I offered up my purse for the woman at the gate. She looked strangely at me and said, "I don't look through bags."

Elke and I scheduled our arrival around the time of the Rockfest wedding. I was rather curious about what kinds of folks would make their nuptial status permanent at such an event. But there were few brides to be seen -- if any at all -- prior to the ceremony, which was to be held on the second stage. It would later turn out that we completely missed the Rockfest vows because of my own carelessness. This year, there were no festival workers passing out schedules. Possibly due to litter concerns? (The wedding was supposed to go on after Red Line Chemistry, not before.)

Red Line Chemistry
  • Red Line Chemistry

After procuring our first drink of the day, we made it to the second stage for Red Line Chemistry. We thought we had decent sight lines, until slowly but surely, we were edged back to the outskirts of the crowd. As a KC music reporter, I've done my best to listen to Red Line Chemistry a few times, but the band just doesn't do anything for me. I am always wary of a frontman who plays no instrument.

Brett Ditgen worked the crowd to the best of his ability. "Let's play a game. When I say 'rock,' you say 'fest,'" he told the steadily growing mass of rockaholics. It was at this time I noticed the small circle of young men sitting on the ground, excitedly smoking weed out of a metal pipe. It was precious.


We were spit back out into the general population, walking toward the main stage. We saw panties hanging in trees and turkey legs all over the ground. They were everywhere, gnawed bones under our feet. I scolded myself for the fourth year in a row for not trying harder to get VIP passes.

Look closely: yes, that's a dick.
  • Look closely: yes, that's a dick.

After Alter Bridge came on, Ron Jeremy came onstage with two women. As one could imagine, he looked like he was having a great time. Around me, the crowd was in full effect. Next to me, two dudes and a girl debated the validity of "two in giney, one in the hiney" and a large woman with a pipe shaped like a glass dick (yes, the balls were the bowl) hanging around her neck was texting someone. People were on the ground, scattered about on blankets. It really brings things down a notch for me when I see folks lying on filthy baby blankets -- Winnie the Pooh doesn't belong at Rockfest.


Alter Bridge is made up of past members of Creed. Though the sound at the show was good, it was still hard to tell what Myles Kennedy was singing. Was it the WWE wrestling theme song, "Metalingus"? We don't know, but Elke and I agreed that the crowd was more engaging.

Thankfully, concertgoers were nice to one another. Perhaps the cooler weather chilled out tension. It was certainly nice to see most everyone with their shirts on. We could have pushed our way up farther, but it didn't seem necessary, especially when Papa Roach came on. We were standing close enough to a screened shot of the stage to see Jacoby Shaddix diddle his nipple. "This is like smoking crack," he commented about the performance. "I am so high right now."

But we weren't high. Just drunk, dirty and deflated as our personal bubbles had been broken for the past four hours. On the way out, I thought to myself, Rockfest really isn't about the music -- it's about hanging out. In the past four years, my fascination level has gone from "Oh my God, did I just see that?" to "Oh shit, why was I staring at that?"

Perhaps next May, I will take this Saturday off, reflect on the value of personal space and listen to Rockfest on the radio.

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