The annual Summer Solstice Festival in Fremont (a small neighborhood in Seattle) is well-known in the PNW because it is a kooky gathering of strange people celebrating the longest day of the year. How is it celebrated? Well there is the street fair, and a concert, and a parade, and…what am I forgetting? Oh yes, the part where a few thousand people take off their clothing, paint their bodies, and ride naked through the streets of Fremont.
This was my first Solstice Festival but if you live near Seattle you know about the festival because it is covered annually on every news channel. Why is it news? Well, it isn’t really, but if you take a big camera to a parade of naked bike riders you probably don’t look like a pervert, but having spent a little time in a newsroom I can say that is exactly why it is covered each year.
I was not in Fremont to see naked people I was there to see the concert because I am a cultured and responsible member of society. Did I accidentally see naked people riding on bikes? Yes, I tried not to look, and I tried not to take pictures, but somehow it still happened. Will I post pictures of the naked people? No. Okay, I will post one.
I was expecting about 50 naked people who would zip by pedaling like they were chasing Lance Armstrong but that did not happen. There were hundreds and hundreds of naked bike riders pedaling like grandmas on a Sunday afternoon, maybe even thousands, most of them with elaborate body paint jobs, but there were also a few old dudes who put on a Viking helmet (and only a Viking helmet) and just started walking down the street. These old guys didn’t seem to get the whole point of the parade and I’m sure haven’t looked in the mirror in about 25 years. (If you feel the need to be naked in public do everyone a favor and eat a sandwich while standing naked in front of a mirror. If you can’t finish eating the sandwich, then you should put some clothes on and never expose your body to the fresh air.)
I don’t know how long the parade lasted, but since everyone was crowded around the parade route we (yes, I took my daughter to the parade because I am an excellent parent) figured this was the perfect time to get something to eat before the concert started and avoid the long lines at most of the food booths.
With our bellies full we headed to the main stage area to watch the opening acts. My daughter headed to the front row barricade and I found the beer garden was a great place to kill time.
Cascadia 10 opened the show. How would I describe Cascadia 10? Jazz? I think jazz. I don’t know, there was no singing but there was music so I guess that means it was jazz. My attention span was challenged so I started watching the sparse crowd and this is where I decided that Cascadia 10 was a good jazz group. (Who can really tell these things?)
See the guy in the green and yellow shirt? This guy was dancing the way everyone wishes they could. It wasn’t beautiful dancing, it was joyful dancing. The music was flowing through him and he let himself go. I have never been there, the place where your body says, “We are dancing, stop thinking and just dance.” When I dance, which is not often, my brain is usually concerned with telling my body what to do, and then it is also saying, “You look ridiculous moving this way. Move your arms less. Try a little swaying. Just stop. Please, just stop!” Maybe it is me, but I don’t think so. We spend our lives controlling our impulses so allowing our bodies to be released to the wilds of the id feels unnatural. I was a little sad when Cascadia 10 finished up their set and this guy left, but as John Keats wrote, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” I am happy right now by just looking at pictures of this guy.
The Flavr Blue (I am sure they know that blue is not a flavor and that flavor has an o in it) was next on the main stage and I was looking forward to hearing them. I have never been a huge fan of the synthesizer/techno music even back in the 80’s when everybody else was listening to Flock of Seagulls, but there is something fresh about The Flavr Blue’s music. Hollis certainly can belt out a tune and the energy of the band got most of the growing crowd moving. About halfway through the set I began to wonder what sport Hollis plays. This may not be what musicians want audience members thinking about, but there are people who just move like athletes and there was something about Hollis’ jumping around that made me think she would be a good athlete. I decided after some consideration that Hollis is probably a very good tennis player. Her footwork looked strong and I imagine she can cover the net like a boss. Her overhead game probably needs some work, but that is what tennis lessons are for. Hollis, if this singing thing doesn’t work out, I suggest joining the USTA and winning some Grand Slam tournaments.
It is difficult to put a simple tag on how The Flavr Blue sounds but they are a fusion of electric, hip-hop, and pop. What does that mean? Go here: http://theflavrblue.com/ and see for yourself. Do your ears a favor and download some of their free music. Hollis’ vocal range reminds me of Kate Bush and that is about as good as it gets.
The Physics took the stage as the sun started to finally dip in the sky. If you live closer to the equator, you really don’t know how awesome summers in the mighty PNW are, but let me say the summer day exchange rate makes one Seattle summer day worth four summer days in LA. (This does not mean that I want more people to visit Seattle in the summer. It just means I am lucky and you should stay home and not make it hard for me to find a parking space.)
This was my third Physics’ show and they did another fantastic job, in fact, this was my favorite show so far.
I recall how confusing everything was the first time I went to a rap show (you can read about that here) but these days I know a little more about what is going on. (I still have no idea what the computer/DJ guy does, but mysteries like that should never be solved.) Thig Natural is a great lead showman and by the time the sun set he had run through a pretty tight set of seven or eight songs. There is a lot to like about The Physics, but I like their R&B backing sound best. (What does that mean? I’m not sure but you can listen for yourself here: http://thephysicsmusic.com/blog/) There is something Motownish about the their music, but there is also a modern twist that mixes the synthesizer and rapping that doesn’t really sound like anyone else I have heard.
Once The Physics wrapped up their set I turned around to see that I was no longer standing in the back of the crowd, I was surrounded on all sides. Maybe people were waiting for the sun to go down so they didn’t have to slather on sunscreen, or maybe the crowd knew that the Blue Scholars had not performed in Seattle in over a year and did not want to miss the show.
What makes the Blue Scholars great? For me, music with a social consciousness is always better than music about pouring sugar on people, and the Blue Scholars have intelligent lyrics that challenge the status quo. Art must challenge people’s thinking and that is what the Blue Scholars do.
DJ Sabzi and Geo took the stage and put on a fantastic show. I don’t know enough about rapping to enlighten readers about what makes Geo’s style appealing, but here is what I do know, Geo writes poetry that can be rapped. There is a natural iambic rhythm to his lyrics along with creative rhymes that are backed up by DJ Sabzi’s beats and samples. It is everything music should be.
The show had a hard curfew of 11PM (which was too early for those of us attending the show but I suppose the people who live in Fremont 11 was about right). I was left wondering why these two guys are not more widely known. Maybe the lyrics are too PNW-centric, maybe there are things I don’t know about music, but in the end I cannot understand why the Blue Scholars are not famous and Kim Kardashian is.
It was a long day (therefore the extra long blog post) and well worth the hassles with parking, long lines at the bathrooms, and naked people.