A few years ago, one of the most unique music festivals in Chicago, the Folk & Roots Fest, a multi-stage showcase of global styles that have defined American music, re-branded itself as the Square Roots festival, now merely a neighborhood block party that celebrates the city's two favorites pastimes: tasting craft brews and denying alcoholism. The economics behind the change are logical, as it is cheaper to purchase some local kegs than it is to fly in enough regional artists to perform over the course of a full weekend. While the sound of slurred speech echoing in the air may not be music to my ears, I can appreciate that the guise of art and culture was lifted to reveal the festival business for what it is, the rich kid in high-school whose parents are out of town for the weekend.
Back when it was still a music festival, Glen David Andrews performed at the Folk & Roots Fest on behalf of the city of New Orleans, and I made a point to go hear him play the trombone. Riding the wave of the television series, Treme, Andrews and his band played and sang its theme song a few times throughout the loose afternoon set, similar to a late-night showcase down on Frenchman Street. And once he had decided that he had played his horn enough, Andrews took upon the role of emcee and asked for the crowd to gather in front of the stage. He had to make a few attempts, in fact, until he simply ordered the crowd to do what he said.
And here is where it got awkward. What Andrews did not realize was that the unresponsive audience was not there to see him, but rather to sit out in lawn chairs and wear the red and white raccoon mask in the summer sun. But he was so determined to steal the show that he practically singled-out the four closest strongmen in the audience to "catch" him as he stepped off the front of the stage and "crowd-surfed."
Throughout the history of rock and roll, crowd-surfing has taken on many forms: the trust fall, the mob sacrifice, the crawl, the swim upstream, the grope, the security guard's toss, and even Wayne Coyne's "Bubbleboy's Day Out." But Glen David Andrew's version that day was different from all the rest that I have ever seen. Because of the lackluster crowd support, the surfer commanded his new porters to carry the sedan around the park while he posed like a flying Superman. And in that moment, Andrews revealed it to be not a display of unity but rather the moment when an artist's ego takes on a third dimension, its personification literally leaping offstage and into its audience.
They say that you should do what you do best. For some people this means playing the trombone, for others it means cutting out the middleman to profit off the drunks, and still for others it means forcing people to do things against their own judgement. For better or worse, if you treat what you do with honesty and integrity, whatever your best may be, then no one can fault you for it... except for those nit-picking bloggers.
Here is a YouTube video of Mr. Andrews with a far more willing audience.
Recommended Reading: The Martian by Andy Weir. Published by Crown Publishers.