I was 15 or 16 years old the first time that I went to Comfest. It was the Reagan ’80s, in a town perceived to be middling-to-conservative, in a generation that wasn’t supposed to care about anything. And yet here was a place where, for one weekend, you could find all kinds of politics and countercultures and live music and radical buttered corn and people who delighted in being odd. It was beautiful. It still is… now with value-added naked painted breasts!
Last year, Comfest was emotional and strange for me. It was the year when people approached me gingerly to ask me how my husband was doing in the final days before he was to close his business of nearly 20 years. The festival gave him its first “Patron of the Arts” medal for his many years of giving local musicians a stage. I got my brain picked by some gossips and some voyeurs and some armchair concert promoters who figured his club’s closing was always coming because they felt they understood his business better than he did all along. (Truly, he might as well have been working in politics, because there is at least one Bill O’Reilly/Keith Olberman-style pundit of music promotion for every square block of this city.)
But there were also people who came to me with tears in their eyes, sorry for our loss, sorry for the community’s loss and concerned for our family. And then there were a few who came to Dan directly when I was with him to say thank you and I’m sorry, whose faces puzzled as they met Declan and I and realized that Dan wasn’t walking off into some rock-and-roll bachelor’s retirement, but an uncertain future with a wife and two-year-old.
This past year has been hard. We moved to a part of town where we don’t know many people, a few months before the nexus of our social lives was cut away – some elements of our social lives had already peeled off as we eliminated alcohol from our menus and became parents . Dan jokes that we’ve been in the witness relocation program.
Who still calls and who doesn’t has been illuminating, now that there are no gigs or free concert tickets or drinks on the house that may result from friendship with us. Once you get past the sadness of that, it’s kind of liberating. Our lives aren’t any more certain now, but I do think that we’ve become more comfortable with uncertainty.
Comfest has this reunion quality for those of us who have lived in the local counterculture for a long time, and this weekend, it’s reminded me how lucky we are. I’ve watched my son worship and be adored by several of Dan’s closest friends. They are an oddball bunch. Less the cynics and know-it-alls so closely associated with the image the club had than men and women who do T’ai Chi and watch sports and read and play brilliant music and meditate and dance like maniacs and laugh really loud and have a soul love of music and volunteering and Declan. As he splashed through mud puddles and danced, they praised his spirit and his smoochable, nom-able cheeks.
And then there are the new vistas that this blog has opened up for me. On Friday, I found and met Amy of Doobleh–vay selling her elegantly crafted and playful wares in the street fair. I also connected with his family for a few sweet moments on the street. They are longtime friends of ours (his wife worked for Dan for many years) and their daughter Sophie is awesomely fun. I love that being online lets us better keep up with their lives.
And while Friday was a little rough on us because Declan didn’t get the nap he clearly needed, we had a few wonderful moments. He sat in his stroller and ate fruit and I sat on the curb facing him as he gesticulated and said “now.. how can I explain the Big Bang? Well…” Later, he nestled his face through tree leaves as he talked to the sweetest grandmother and granddaughter, who were dressed in matching fairy outfits, carrying anti-war canvas bags.
Our arrival yesterday was peculiar, as I found a sharp knife sticking in the ground near the pond that I picked up and gave to a volunteer to dispose of. That alarming discovery was quickly brushed off by a welcome from a large group of young and old people greeting festival-goers with handmade signs that said “Free Hugs,” so Declan and I each took one. This year, there seem to be a few families freestyling the message and spirit of the festival in increasingly adorable ways. (This year, the shirts say “Be the change.”)
A major storm hit by Dan’s third song with his band The Wahoos, but they played right through it, to an enthusiastic group of puddle-splashing dancers. Luckily for Declan, they performed his two space-themed songs first. In the aftermath of the rain, Declan splashed about with a group of fun kids during the Mendelsonics‘ set, and we had to drag him, literally kicking and screaming and unbelievably muddy, back home. And while the time once was that we’d be there until the park closed, moving on to Dan’s club afterwards, it felt good to leave as the drunkenness ramped up and come home to clean up and settle down together.
This morning, Declan told me that he caught a rainbow between his fingers. (It was the city’s Pride celebratio
n yesterday too, so rainbows have been everywhere.) He put in his hair, then mine, then daddy’s. And it stormed for a few moments this morning, but the sun seems to be out for now, and so, as crispy as we are, we’re getting ready to go for the last day, where we’ll see a little of them, and a lot of her, among other things. If it rains, we’ll probably just get wet.
Dan will be on Curt Schieber’s Invisible Hits Hour on CD101 from the site at 9 p.m. as it closes (Dan’s been his traditional Comfest wrap-up guest for the past few years).
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