no idea

Two stories, then some music.


The first music festival I ever went to was Bonnaroo, in 2012. My boyfriend at the time had gotten two tickets and planned the trip, for himself and an as-yet unchosen guest, before we'd even met. He'd been wanting to go for years and so had decided to go ahead and get two passes, and worry later about who he'd take. When things started to get serious between us, he invited me to join him.  "What's Bonnaroo?" I remember asking. I'd had no idea. 

Not long after I accepted his invitation, my dad got sick, then quickly died, and everything sort of went belly-up. I was a mess, handling everything on my own, alone in suburban Florida with nary a clue how to deal with the complicated estate that had been dropped into my lap. 

Those first two months were an emotional hell for me, overwhelming to the point of suffocation. And one of the things that kept me going was the thought of Bonnaroo. I was too busy with the estate to research the festival, to try and figure out what I was in for. But it loomed on the horizon like a promise, like oxygen to a drowning person. 

In terms of attendance, Bonnaroo is pretty big, with some 80k people attending. (Big, that is, relative to US festivals: UK's Glastonbury Festival gets around 175k.) Those that attend, particularly those that attend repeatedly, are less music fans than pilgrims making a sacred, yearly journey to their happiest place on Earth. I didn't realize how big a deal Bonnaroo was until I was smack in the middle of a 700-acre farm, surrounded by swarms of sweaty, ecstatic music lovers, plunged headlong into four straight 15 hour days of - well, of everything that a music festival is. Talk about baptism by fire.  

On the very first morning, on the shuttle ride from the hotel to the festival, we chatted up a pair of girls seated behind us. They were impossibly young, and positively buzzing with excitement. At nineteen years old, they were already Bonnaroo veterans. And they were music fans of a caliber that puts most of the 40-somethings I know to shame. They knew their shit. 

One of the girls was a massive Red Hot Chili Peppers devotee, which when I heard I sort of inwardly scoffed at, thinking she was much too young to know them that well. But no. It was soon obvious from the one-upping between her and my boyfriend (another big RHCP fan) that she was legit. Encyclopedic knowledge of the band, their repertoire, their instruments, and their personal lives type legit.  

The girls left a huge impression on me and not just because of their musical prowess. There was something about them that, at first glance, suggested mismatch (one was extremely pretty, perfectly made up, and outfitted in her closet's skimpiest offerings while the other, a plain girl, was comfortably chill in old clothes and not a drop of makeup) - but anyone could see how tight they were. I got the impression they'd been besties from grade school, and Bonnaroo was an experience they continued to commit to together despite the different paths they'd taken up. I envied and admired their connection. 

To this day I can see their faces clearly. Absolutely aglow with anticipation. Their energy infected me in the best way, setting me up with expectations so high only Bonnaroo could meet them. Because it does. And it did. 

In a funny quirk of fate, we happened to ride on the shuttle home with those same girls, the last night of the festival. We quickly fell to sharing stories and comparing notes on performances, and my boyfriend asked the Chili Peppers fan what she'd thought of the show. The other girl laughed, knowing what her best friend was about to say, which was what she'd probably been saying nonstop for the two days prior. 

"I can't," said the girl, her face suddenly serious. She shook her head at my boyfriend, putting up a hand as if to defend herself against too much emotion. "I'm not ready to talk about it." 

We laughed at her dramatic reply, but there was something in her expression that intrigued me, something deeper and more knowing than could be touched by our teasing. It was as if she'd tasted something none of us had, and she couldn't begin to explain what it had been like. 

A few months later, watching Explosions In The Sky perform at Outside Lands, alone and enraptured in a way I'd never felt in my life, I understood exactly what that girl had meant. 

To this day I can't talk about that performance without shaking my head, getting the chills, and being close to tears. I could write volumes about why it was such an intense experience for me, but here are the broad strokes: my dad had just died. my boyfriend and I had broken up. I was jobless and parentless and more lost than I'd ever imagined I could be...but listening to Explosions play feet from where I stood, I knew I was going to be okay. I believed in myself. I felt the full weight of my potential and independence and self-love, and I knew, despite everything I'd gone through, that I was going to be okay

Every time I hear Explosions now, I'm instantly transported back to that place - which isn't necessarily a good thing. That's a lot of feeling for, say, a Sunday run. Thanks to how incredibly affected I was by seeing them live, I now have to designate special times to listen to my favorite band. I know. Fucking weird. Listening to them is like drinking the strongest wine in the world - intoxicating and dangerous. Small sips are better.


Last month at a party I fell into conversation with a woman about music, politics, social media, and books. When I asked who her favorite author was, she paused, took a breath, and cocked her head at me as if deciding something. "Well," she started slowly, "It's Charles Dickens." 

"Nice!" I exclaimed, partly because I was impressed at how heavy a name she'd dropped, and partly to smoke-bomb my own ignorance, since I am so embarrassingly unfamiliar with his work. "What are the best three of his books to read?" I asked.

The woman smiled sort of sheepishly. "That's the thing. I've only read two of his novels. I'm saving the rest."

"What, you mean like...rationing them?"

"Yeah," she nodded. "Exactly. Crazy huh. I only read one every five years."

"No," I said. "I think that's actually sort of brilliant." We were interrupted by someone then and the subject got dropped, but I couldn't stop thinking about what she'd said, and how when I was younger I had a similar inclination towards John Irving and Margaret Atwood. Fear of consuming the best stuff too quickly, and being left hungry for a long time afterward.

A few days after the party, I was messing around on Spotify and came across a playlist with a number of tracks from an interestingly-titled band. Curious, I clicked play. Five seconds into the song, my jaw dropped. Ten seconds in, I clicked on the band's bio, frowning in confusion. Thirty seconds in, I clicked the pause button and sat back in my chair, rattled.

The music I'd started listening to and stopped so abruptly was so similar to Explosions In The Sky that at first I thought I'd misread something, or had stumbled upon a track of theirs that I didn't know. But no. I wasn't listening to EITS. It was another band, guitar-heavy, epic, swelling, instrumental music like EITS's - but not EITS.

I Googled them, needing to know immediately whether they were still actively producing. And touring. And if so, when I could see them. That's what thirty seconds of their music had done to me: made me frantic, excited to hear more but terrified to fall in love with something unattainable. 

They are an actively producing band. They are touring. They are accessible. Like EITS, they are a post-rock group from Texas (yr blogmistress, who prides herself on a decent bit of music knowledge, hadn't even realized post-rock as a genre existed), and they are my Christmas present from the universe.

And I am rationing them, because simple pleasures. One song at a time, soaked up and digested like something rare and exquisite, all the while anticipating the experience of seeing them live and feeling the indescribable joy I felt two and a half years ago in a park in San Francisco. Because apparently, post-rock is my jam.

I'd had no idea.