Feed the Animals

December 21, 2009
We knew that his real name was Gregg Michael Gillis, and that he grew up in Pittsburgh. We knew that he looped different songs together on his laptop, and that he created the most energetic, enjoyable, and amazing concerts that anyone had experienced this side of 1969. We knew that his new album, Feed the Animals, had been declared the best album of 2008 by several very wise groups. We knew this, but we had no idea what to expect. And as we approached the dreaded Wookie Stage on our third and final day at Sasquatch Music Festival, the three of us wondered if this had really been worth staying for.
We had arrived late, so nearly a thousand sunburned spectators separated us from Gregg rocking out on his laptop. I convinced Gavin, who has experience playing left tackle, to push and shove a path through the crowd, but we made it less than halfway to the stage before the throng became too dense to navigate. Surrounded by hundreds of half-naked, generally intoxicated young adults, Sini and I gestured at each other that perhaps we should try another band. We turned to leave and abruptly realized that breaking out of the dense mass would be impossible, even with Gavin’s help. We hardly had room to breathe, wedged as we were between unshowered bodies. Out of options, I advised Sini to “pretend you’re having a good time.” She smiled and rolled her eyes, then ducked as a flailing crowd-surfer almost kicked her in the face. I felt guilty for dragging Sini and Gavin into this hot sweaty mess. No one seemed to be having a good time, despite Girl Talk’s stellar reputation. Then Jesus appeared.
He arrived out of thin air, over 6 foot 6 and heavily bearded, wearing a plaid flannel shirt despite the 100° heat. I knew him for mere seconds; I never even learned his real name (although I guessed with confidence). I knew him only long enough for him to say one of the most beautiful words anyone has spoken to me. “Up,” he mouthed. “Up.”
“Me?” I asked in response, pointing stupidly to myself. Jesus nodded. He did not give me a choice, but I did not want one. I thrust my cell phone at Sini and quickly, before anyone could change their minds, stepped into Gavin and Jesus’ waiting hands. They boosted me seven feet into the air, and then they were gone, left behind as the wave carried me away.
I have yet to find a way to describe crowd surfing at Girl Talk, but I will try: It is awesome. It quite literally filled me with awe. My view, which seconds before had consisted of the backs of several heads, expanded into the picturesque Washington Gorge, a cloudless blue sky, and thousands upon thousands of smiling faces. In that moment, every ounce of loneliness and unhappiness inside me melted away. I have never trusted easily, but as I soared weightlessly towards the stage, I trusted everyone, I loved everyone. These people I would never meet did everything in their power to avoid dropping me, to deliver me safely to my destination. And as I reached the front of the crowd, bracing myself for the security guards to haul me off for the illicit act of crowd-surfing, the hands that had carried me deposited me gently into the swarm, three rows from the stage, making it impossible for security to reach me.
This new section of the crowd was far denser than the place I had left, although I wouldn’t have thought it possible. I knew no one around me, but I did not feel alone. The shirtless sweaty bodies around me were friends I had never met, dancing and singing and bouncing to a bizarre mix of Lil Jon’s “Get Low” and Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” I felt at peace with the world. My life seemed 99% perfect, but I worried about leaving Sini behind.
Suddenly I heard my name. Looking around wildly, I realized that my beautiful Finnish sister had suddenly appeared less than a foot away from me. She yelled phrases of explanation: the bearded stranger had said, “Are you next?”… he had sent her my direction and disappeared… she had lost her flip-flops but she didn’t mind… eventually we gave up speaking and clung to each other, refusing to lose one another again. Laughing and sweating and dancing and trying not to die, we let go only when the music stopped and the magic faded.
Looking back, I don’t know which was more beautiful, riding the wave of strangers or strangely finding Sini standing beside me. They are two separate but equal miracles that will remain with me for the rest of my life. I don’t know what happened to our bearded friend, nor do I know what song played during my surfing adventure. But I do know, with complete certainty, that Feed the Animals is the best album of 2008. Thank you, Jesus.





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