We arrive at 3 PM. Everything was positive at the outdoor venue. It was a scenic area. Lots of trees and green hills. The signs were really cool, too. They were all suited for the concert; the security signs read like they were from a Radiohead album insert or from 1984, and the signs even had crying minotaurs all over them. Within the performance area itself there were Radiohead touches; free water via the huge "Hydration Station" and a free bag check. Centreville, Virginia, made its own touch via a trio of fellas with mullets. Everything was kosher for nearly an hour after we arrived at the venue. We waited for DC natives Thievery Corporation to take the stage for their slated "marathon DJ performance"... I waited for you but you never came. Pre-recorded jazz music (including Charles Mingus) played until about half an hour after the duo was slated to begin performing. A little bit before the half hour mark it began to rain hard. Real hard. Someone came to the stage and asked us to all go back to our cars so we could "wait it out". Did I mention we were dropped off? Nearly everyone drove, but we were dropped off. By the time we walked off with everyone else, Greg and Yousef had separated from us to get food and it'd be hours before we saw them again. Nick and I were stuck with two nameless friends of Yousef; they didn't come with us, but we saw them at the show. So Nick and I followed them out of the venue when everyone was going to their cars; I thought it'd be easier for them to find us if we were four instead of two. Anyway, those two kids looked around the parking lot for their two cars (by the way, they told me they had "no seats"; two kids, two cars, you do the math... it equals to they are dicks). They couldn't find their cars (or one of them), that or they wanted it to look like that. Because as soon as Nick and I turned our backs on them for a minute they disappeared, never to be seen again.
So then Nick and I were just stuck, in a torrential downpour while everyone else was in their cars. Nick was freaking out about being hit by lightning. Not one person rolled down their window and said "hey, come sit here." Apparently Greg and Yousef asked or were asked by someone who did that for them. But Nick and I just wandered around forever in the thunder storm. He ruined his good shoes and pants, I probably ruined my two week old kickass blue Nike lo-tops. We both wrecked all the contents of our pockets, including the receipt for the tickets (does this give away the ending of the story?). After a long, long while we saw a Ryder truck open up and people were helped in (so they wouldn't die outside). Packt like sardines in a crushd tin box. People side by side. In a metal truck. People were still pretty optimistic though, including myself. I thought the show would go on. Even though, and I didn't mention this yet, it was flooding and the water was shin deep. Anyway, the rain finally slowed to a drizzle and we all filed out of the truck. Splish, splish, splash. There was so much water on the ground I could've swam. I felt like it, too; I wanted to emulate the "Pyramid Song" video. Another thing I didn't mention was that the whole time Nick was blaming Thom Yorke for the storm and the resulting delay and ruining of clothing and belongings. It was Radiohead's damn fault! (Nick was, of course, just teasing me.) Everyone headed back into the performance area. Only they wouldn't let us in. They told us to keep waiting. So we stood around for a while more. Then at 6:30pm the show was pronounced canceled and thousands of people were extremely disappointed. Probably at the forefront of that was me, since they're my favorite band and I paid for tickets to both concerts (there was one scheduled for the next day). Besides the fact that there was over a foot of water on the ground in some spots, lightning had apparently struck the stage and some equipment was damaged.
Life really is cyclical. I went to the Tibetan Freedom Concert 1998 in Washington, DC. Radiohead were set to headline Saturday night's performance with a 90 minute set. This was the infamous day where some chick on a stupid cell phone got hit by lightning (she was ok afterwards) and the rest of the day was canceled. Even though the tickets said "RAIN OR SHINE". De ja vu, baby. These tickets did, too. Rain or shine. And it was canceled. So there were kids shouting "RAIN OR SHINE!", just like in 1998, the last time they came here.
A fire broke out in the distance. We saw a long string of thick gray smoke in the air and a bright orange spot at ground level obscured by trees. I'm pretty sure it was some place where lightning struck rather than some sign of protest. As ateaseweb.com put it, "Everyone was bummed, but nobody did anything stupid."
Everyone stormed out to their cars and tried to get out of there. My mom was set to pick us up at 10 PM, however. We still had three and a half hours to go. For the next half an hour, Nick and I walked around trying to find Yousef and Greg. It rained even more. Everything was muddy. Clothing and articles were further wrecked. I was given my third unique Astralwerks sampler. It was a miserable experience. Finally, as there was almost no one left in the field, we found the guys. They were talking to a couple junior staff (one was Yousef's guitarist in his band). They were lucky enough to see the band soundcheck, though they only knew or remembered two songs they played: "I Might Be Wrong" and "Paranoid Android". I went to a bike cop and used his cell phone to call my mom. Naturally she didn't pick up the phone (she was asleep). I left a message. Between seven o'clock when I called and the time she left the house to pick us up, she never listened to the message. That's just like her. Anyway, we decided we now had to make the best of the next three hours in the rain.
We spent the first hours in a "hidden place". It was just an abandoned concession tent. At this point we were the last people on land, as far as the eye can see. There were two tables in the tent (which was really just a tarp with no floor, not that it would've kept out the flood anyway). The table legs were more than half submerged. But they were cool cos we could sit on them without having our feet in water for the first time in hours. Yousef went to see if he could take a Radiohead shirt since they were mercilessly charging $30 per shirt and they were probably just lying around. But there were people back there. So basically we just chatted and played with the abandoned masking tape. Yousef and I went up to an open Pepsi truck (which wasn't being attended to) and took a soda for everyone. Yousef and Greg had already done it before, so it was okay. Though right after I took it I saw someone in a yellow slicker; immediately I asked, can we have one? She didn't answer, so I came closer and saw she was a girl my age and her yellow slicker said not "STAFF" but "Radiohead" and had little symbols on it. It's a commercially available slicker. She wanted to know about refunds, so I told her: place of purchase. The way a security guard put it, what was more important to look after, a few thousand dollars worth of drinks or multi-million dollar stage equipment? This was the same guard who was nice enough to give us chips, and later he and another guard gave us abandoned umbrellas as "parting gifts" when they asked us to leave our spot after an hour. As I left, though, I grabbed a very expensive Gore-Tex Varsity rowing team raincoat someone had left on the table. Everyone was jealous.
We were told to wait at a different tent, this one a bit up the road so that anyone driving in could see us and vice versa. The one we were already in was way out of the point of visibility. So we sat down at the tent. After a few minutes the sun went down and a couple girls came to the tent. Apparently they were already there. So we ended up hanging out with them for an hour. It's not as cool as you think though. Yousef will tell you that one was really friendly and nice, and she was, although she was definitely the less attractive one (lots of eye shadow, or just naturally baggy eyes). This one really liked Yousef, too. The other one, though a bit better looking (neither were hot, so none of the guys but Yousef really cared about them), lost points for being really slutty. I mean, they both lost points for being dumb. They were both crass, too. But this one girl kept saying the most slutty things. I guess she was bored and desperate to make her day better. We hadn't met them earlier in the day, so we didn't know them at all. She starts telling her friend, Kelly, about how much she wants to go shopping right now. All night shopping. Later on she says, without being provoked, "shopping is our nice term for wanting to have sex." Out of nowhere (literally out of a three minute silence) she says "I picked the wrong pair of underwear to wear today". Nick and I, who were alone sitting with her (along with Greg who had his eyes shut), both said "Uhh, okay." After that, prompted by something Yousef said (talking to Kelly, not the slut), she said that she could really go for an orgy right then. "Very rarely do I ever have anything better to do than an orgy." She also tried to play with Nick's hair. He wouldn't let her, so she immediately started playing with mine. I promptly told her that I don't have "Jonny Greenwood hair", because a half hour earlier she said Nick has hair like the guitarist. At one point Nick asked me what time it was, and I tried to answer but the girl said it's "naked time". I tried again and she said the same thing. So finally I said, "It's naked time, AKA 8:45." Not in the slut department, I talked to her a little about Radiohead and Billy Corgan. She was a pretty big fan of both bands. While we were all just sitting around, a white van with tinting (except for the driver and front passenger seat windows, which had two white males I didn't recognize) drove right in front of us into the private backstage trailer area and drove out a few minutes later. As it rolled out of the driveway, a staff woman told us it was Radiohead. We kids were pretty miffed they didn't say hi to us, but maybe they thought we were staff. About half an hour later the two girls left, not before the slutty one offered to let us rub our hands ("or whatever") on her towel that she had wrapped around her body (she got it from the car that picked them up). We declined.
Then came the best part of the night, perhaps. We still had an hour to kill, so Yousef and I went backstage. It was an outdoor venue so it was more of a ring of various trailers and tents. But it wasn't well guarded and it was dark so we were mostly okay. First place went was on stage. There were people on stage setting up (or taking down?) the equipment, but they didn't notice us for almost a minute. Then a fat guy with a British accent asked me if he could help us (obviously not in a straightforward manner). I said we were just walking around. So he asked if we could walk back down the steps because people weren't allowed up here. Then he talked to the local venue employee (he was obviously employed by Radiohead) to not let anyone else up here (actually, we didn't even ask him if we could go up, we just did it; I had asked him if he thought the next day's show would go off okay). After we were asked to exit stage right, we walked around the trailers more. We spotted Kid Koala's dressing room trailer and the door was actually ajar. Yousef wanted to go in, but I figured it was the DJ himself in there and I didn't want to disturb him. Then we found the Beta Band's trailer, which was empty but the windows were full of stickers and clipped out things pasted to the windows. Next we found mecca itself: Radiohead's private area. It was fenced off, and the sign said "restricted, laminate bearing personnel only". So naturally we went right in. No one was anywhere, so no one stopped us. In case you forgot, this whole time we're a foot deep in water. Straight ahead was Radiohead's "Quiet Room" trailer. We couldn't see too far inside, but we saw boxes of Coronas, their apparent beer of choice. They have good taste. The door was locked. Yousef wanted to try to get in a window, but I told him that was probably a bad idea. We considered taking a really cool sign on the door that said "Radiohead Quiet Room" and had all the minotaurs. It was on regular paper printed from a computer, it wasn't an expensive treat like the big signs the other concert goers stole (did you look at the picture site yet?). But I told Yousef we should leave it because I was still optimistic there'd be a Sunday concert. The next place we stopped was the submerged Radiohead refreshment tent. It had about seven coolers full of stuff. Two had water; Yousef and I each took a 1.5 liter bottle of Evian spring water. Yousef called it his "Holy Water" for the rest of the night. I also took a smaller bottle of water which I am drinking right now, made by a different brand. Besides water they also had a couple more coolers full of Coronas, plus coldcuts. They even had a roll of French bread from a local Safeway. We didn't take anything else. The water was cool enough. We then walked around some more. I thought I spotted a couple limousines drive into the venue and Yousef figured the band had come back. So of course he ran out to greet them. But they didn't stop by the backstage area, just kept driving all the way. They never came back. So I put the water bottles back in the tent and sat down for a short while. I think another van came back, but it looked a little different than the first. But regardless, Yousef trailed it to the backstage area pretty quickly. After a minute I decided I'd join him because if he gets to meet the band, why shouldn't I? But it must really have been them because security beefed up. I was stopped by a guard I had made friends with an hour earlier. Then I tried walking around to a part of the fence he couldn't see where Yousef and I had entered backstage earlier. More guards! Somehow the guard that caught me a few minutes earlier knew what I was doing because he came out and called me back to the tent. I never went back there again, and a few minutes later Yousef was tossed out, too, and he didn't get to see anyone from the band. It might not have even been them. A few minutes later we were finally picked up, over three hours after everyone else left the park.
As a group we then went to a very slow ghetto McDonald's in DC. We then dropped off Greg and Yousef. Nick and I looked for videos to rent but there weren't many choices, and Nick's seen almost all movies ever made anyway. I got Eyes Wide Shut for my own viewing pleasure and CB4 for us that night. Then we came home and walked my dog and watched SNL and CB4.
I woke up the next morning and checked FMA News. The staff person who gave us chips yesterday put it this way: "Everything that could possibly have gone wrong did." FMA announced Sunday's concert was canceled because "Apparently the stage was sinking and the water was still knee deep." I tried to bring the pair of tickets I had bought in person to the place where I purchased them (the other pair I bought online and the credit card will be refunded automatically). However, the Ticketmaster window at PG Plaza's Hect's store (where I worked 2 years ago) is incompetent as ever. They didn't believe me that I had bought the tickets there, and they claimed that the tickets didn't have the right code on them saying that they were purchased there. They asked to see my receipt, but unfortunately it was in my pocket in the storm and the receipt was ruined completely. So I am coming back tomorrow to talk to the supervisor because that's what they told me to do. They stood their ground. "Dis ain't bought here; you ain't bought dis here." In addition to this, Nick and I tried to see Rush Hour 2 and it was again sold out. What crummy luck I had this weekend. Anyway, at least the backstage adventure was fun.
The whole experience left me feeling pulled apart by horses, and W.A.S.T.E. announced that the shows are officially canceled and will not be rescheduled because of time constraints (even though Radiohead have said before that they have no plans between their last overseas show in October and Christmas when they go back in the studio to record). Supposedly DC has "priority" on the next tour.
return to August 2001 Do Not Read