God bless socialism! (and lazy Sundays)

I’ve had a pretty busy weekend. In between working and spoiling Tina silly with a 14 course tasting dinner, I’ve actually had surprisingly little time for relaxation.. At a point in time where I probably really needed to relax. As a result, I, rather ironically, spent most of May 1st, International Worker’s Day, in bed sleeping the sweet sleep of the chronically over-worked.

It’s not that I didn’t try to get up, I did, my alarm clock first went off at around 8 AM but prompted nothing more than a “fuck this shit” from a sleep weary Johan. The next attempt to wake me came from Emelie who texted me at around 9:30 AM wanting to set up an dinner date later this week. Now, I’m generally not one to let invitations from pretty girls go unanswered, but I will admit to letting this one go for a while, as I actually fell asleep trying to write an answer. The third, final and successful attempt to rouse the sleeping Johan came when Tina texted me at going on 1 PM, thanking me for the evening before and enquiring as to whether I had had a good night’s sleep, to which I could only reply something along the lines of “yes, and a good morning’s as well, and early afternoon for that matter!”, before finally rolling out of bed and dragging myself up for a shower..

I had a shower, coffee and a breakfast of champions and eventually emerged out my front door at around the crack of 2 PM, ready to face the world. I really had no plans for the day except to do as little as humanly possible, so I thought it a pretty good idea to just go for a scroll in the spring sunshine with my trusty old iPod and see where my feet would lead me.

My feet, as it turned out, had pretty great plans for me as the took me first through downtown, through the parks, past several lakes and a few forests until they eventually landed me at a street lamp post not far from my home.. But not just any lamp post, no! This particular lamp post had a poster on it. A red poster, none the less, advertising the time table of the traditional May 1st celebration taking place each year in a park near to my home (which, strangely enough, my feet had not yet led me through). I read the time table without much interest until mine eyes gazed upon the final entry on the board: “Free concert with the E-Street Jam” .. “Wait a moment,” I thought to myself, “that sounds like a tribute to that there Bruce Springsteen person that I happen to dig quite a lot.. It begins in 30 minutes.. And it’s just down the street.. I should go check that out! What’s the worst that could come of it?”

Well, we’ll touch upon that last question later.. Ahem, anyways, so I set on off down the street, stopped by an ATM on the way to withdraw a bit of money, thinking that any event created to celebrate socialism, solidarity and workers’ rights would probably have a beer tent.. A suspicion I was to have confirmed very shortly as I drew closer to the festival grounds and started hearing the unmistakable sounds of live music, kid’s playing and adults arguing after one too many pints in the sun. As I grew closer still, I also saw the surprisingly common sight on a day like yesterday of middle-aged to elderly men in makeshift uniforms and red, communist star barets  staggering around blindly before falling over in the nearest bush, muttering incoherent nothings about traitors, selfishness and capitalism.

Moving onwards, trying to stay out of the way of more or less stinking drunk partygoers, I eventually arrived at the source of the commotion, a local park in which a makeshift stage had been erected, surrounded by beer tents (as I’d expected), hotdog stands, and a few tents and booths selling everything from psychedelic Hawaiian Leis to communist propaganda.  “This should be interesting,” I thought as I moved on towards the stage, checking my watch. The hour had struck 4:45 PM, the time at which the band was supposed to go on. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have been expecting an arrangement of this sort to be keeping to a strict schedule, but I was still a little annoyed to see no sign of a band getting on stage. Rather, I was seeing the unmistakable sign of a warm-up act starting to go off stage and dismount their gear. I sighed a little to myself in resignation and figured that since I was there anyways, I might as well join the other guests in doing what they had obviously been doing all morning and afternoon, having a beer. I located the nearest beer tent (the frequency of those seemingly being around two to every twenty square meters), ordered a pint of beer and were charged a whopping DKK 25.. Which was roughly 15 less than I’d expected and probably much of the reason why the patron standing at the counter next to me was swaying excessively from side to side, blaming a combination of the non-existing wind and the young whippersnappers of today for his less than impressive ability to control his own actions.

Having received my beer and feeling no need or desire to strike up conversation with the gentleman to my right, I decided to instead tour the grounds and take in the sights.. Which turned out to be not very interesting at all, aside from hotdog stands, beer tents and a booth selling crepes and popcorn, there was an inflatable castle for kids to jump around in (which, for whatever reason, I was banned from entering), representatives from various political parties and a booth from the Danish-Cuban friendship association which seemed to sell only two things, bracelets and Che Guevara t-shirts in a seemingly endless array of colors, save the most obvious choices of red with black print and black with red print. Stopping for a moment to pout at the lack of red shirts and another to ponder whether Tina would appreciate a pink Che Guevara t-shirt, I went on only to discover I had now come full circle and was back at the stage where, in the time I had been away, nothing much had happened.. Well, the warmup band had left the stage and the E-Street Jam band of which I had never heard had taken stage and started setting up.

Long, excruciatingly boring story short, the band, backed by the most incompetent sound engineer I’ve ever laid eyes upon (and I’ve seen a few) launched into an almost 45 minute long sound check which was only interrupted by dissatisfied cries of “Hey, are you guys being paid by the hour?” from the audience and frustrated cries from the engineer every time he messed something up anew. I killed the time very slowly draining my beer and looking around at the motley crew that was the crowd: I spotted everything from drifters over strung out junkies to Tina’s exceedingly schizophrenic neighbor who for whatever reason had planted herself smack dab in the middle of a rather large crowd sitting on a line of benches watching the action.. I even spotted local Springsteen cover act “The Boss”, standing around at a raised table, scouting the competition with what looked like equal parts bemusement and contempt.. I guess there’s a fair amount of competition on the Springsteen cover band touring circuit..

When, only some 50 minutes late,  the band finally kicked into an almost embarrassingly over-enthusiastic cry of “Are you ready to rock, Kolding??!”, you could literally feel their hearts sink as the crowd completely failed to muster any kind of response. Regardless, though, they kicked into their opening song which never so much struck me as a timeless Bruce Springsteen classic, as it struck me as the most horribly mixed live sound I have ever heard.. Evidently, the sound tech took this as a clue to stop drinking beer and talking to his girlfriend because he pretty quickly flew back to the soundboard where he started twisting and turning dials and pushing buttons in order to make the sound good enough for the band to perform an impressively off-key, out of tune version of “Surrender”.. “The shit’s really starting to hit the fan now,” I though, before I was interrupted by a 65+ year old lady who danced provocatively into me and started grinding and grooving by my side, starting to strike up conversation as much as she possibly could before I fled the scene quickly, cursing the fact that I seem unable to go to a Springsteen cover band show alone without some elderly lady or another making a move on me.. Goddamnit, I swear before God almighty, I’m bringing one of the girls next time!

Making a hasty exit from stage left to stage right, trying to dodge my new female admirer, I paused and chuckled a bit at a sight which had completely stolen the attention from the band, a three year old kid jamming along on a baby-sized acoustic guitar.. “Note to aspiring rock bands,” I thought:  “If a three year old steals your thunder, it’s probably time to shape up a bit..” – “You guys need to shut the hell up!,” some drunkard in front of me yelled.

To their credit, though, despite a non-caring to hostile crowd, they carried on like there was no tomorrow: the lead singer screamed, jumped around stage, jumped off stage, chased audience members with the mic, jumped back on stage, screamed some more and finally posed the ever-important question: “Why is everybody always so much more up for this kinda thing on a Saturday night?” I’m not sure if the question was meant to be rhetorical, but at any rate it didn’t spawn much in terms of an answer. Their hard work did pay off, though, after almost an hour of egging the crowd on and my watching in horrified fascination, something magical happened: Their three-year old rival ceased playing, the drunken source of Tourette’s-like outcries fell over and ceased whining, another drunken guy rose to his feet on a bench some 100 yards from the stage and started pumping his fists, screaming along to their cover of “Born in the USA”, a group of young skater punks showed up and started dancing in front of the stage in what was probably intended to be a mocking manner.. And slowly, ever so slowly people started catching on.. Heck, suddenly even Tina’s schizophrenic neighbor was head-bopping along, stomping her feet and slapping the rhythm on her thighs.

“This is so weird,” I thought as I stood there looking around at the madness unfold in front of my eyes, “this is the best worst concert I’ve ever been at!” .. And with that I went and ordered myself another beer. As I was busying myself watching a youngster pour me another beer, something even stranger happened. The band played  a song without either sucking at it or seeming entirely out of place.. And not just any song, no, they played the single best Bruce Springsteen song EVER: The River!

Now, I happen to be working on a scale on which I judge any aspiring Springsteen cover band by their version of The River, and if my new scale is anything to go by, then forget all I just said, because in that case this band was actually pretty rocking indeed! And, musically, they just got better from there.. They actually started playing a pretty rocking show which kinda made you feel sad that they’d played most of the really rocking Springsteen songs early in the set.. Why on earth couldn’t they’ve played those when they were all warmed up?

I didn’t have much time to reflect, though, because just as I took a closer look at the spectacle, thinking that this couldn’t possibly turn into a more surreal experience, I noticed none other than my morning bus driver, Flemming, crouching around in front of the stage with a huge camera with an even huger telescopic lens, snapping pictures of the band, the fans and the weirdos.. “What the hell?,” I exclaimed as Flemming took notice, waved, got up and walked over, slapping me heartily in the back in the way that only a surprisingly fit middle-aged man who doesn’t quite know his own strength can, bellowing “Johan! What’re you doing here? Having a beer, eh? Listening to a bit of music, eh?” – “All of the above,” I replied “fancy seeing you here, Flemming.. Taking a few pictures, are we?” – “Yeah, you gotta spend your time somehow when you’re not on the road.. Man, this band kinda rocks!” – “Yeah, umm, you haven’t been here long, have you Flemming?” I asked.. “Can’t say that I have! I just got here! Anyways, I gotta get going, I’ll see you on the bus!” – and with that, Flemming was off again, snapping some more pictures on his way out. I, too, took it as a clue to pack up and get out. The band was tearing into what looked to be their final song of the evening, it was getting late, I was hungry, I was reasonably sure I could do without any possible encores, and well, I wanted to get out before I had to fight through the crowd of, well, about 25-50 insanely drunk ex-communists who somehow managed to still be standing on my way out. So I ducked out the rear entrance of the park, circled safely around a couple of people peeing in the bushes and headed on my merry way home, DKK 50 poorer, but one incredibly strange free concert experience richer.. I somehow can’t wait for next year.

I made it home at around 7:30 PM, cooked up a quick dinner, tried to watch Night at the Museum, got incredibly bored and fell back to sleep.. It had, after all, been a long, hard, tiring eight hour day off..

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