Fourteen hours may seem like an impossible amount of time to deal with as a concert-goer or a concert-organizer, but here we are now, two days almost in the can, and everything moves forward.
I readily admit I am an incomplete witness to this event, despite my mega-pass. It is a great credit to all involved that Whartscape (as of my departure early Sunday morning) has so far been executed with a level of complexity that would require cloning to be completely personally witnessed. The work effort and level of organization is clear, the sweat upon brows evident.
Still, to enter Whartscape in the middle of the second day is to feel alienated, out of tune with an event unfolding at multiple focal points throughout the repurposed parking lot on North near Howard. I am fresh from a wedding, during which hours worth of event unfolded. When I enter, the people I know are furiously engaged in work, zipping around, weary. The people I don’t know, of which there are several hundred, foster a sense of disorientation, the freewheelin' festband fungirls and their attendant dudes, sharing secrets and checking text messages, push up and down the lot with purpose and determination. The weather isn’t terrible today, muggy and overcast. The scene somehow sends me back to 2007.
With success comes problems. By the time of the second Whartscape, things had gotten bigger and therefore more challenging to pull off. It was clear that word has spread. It is at this point that some stop coming to see the show and start coming to be near the heat that the event generates. People begin showing up and conduct themselves according to the rules of behavior associated with an amusement park, even though they may be in someone’s home. At a democratized DIY event run by anarchists and artists, somehow people begin assuming that someone else will clean up that mess. The subtleties of quieter acts are lost in a sea of disinterested squawk.
Arguably, it is a question of decorum. The same behaviors that are inherent to the Virgin Festival or the Warped Tour become the assumed norms at other events. The corporate overlords take care of this by hiring a small army of muscled enforcers to keep order. It just wouldn’t be a night out at a large club without seeing someone in a headlock being escorted from the premises by a man in a SECURITY t-shirt. The thing is that there are no people in SECURITY t-shirts out in any kind of force at Whartscape. There is just the good will of the attendees and, with some luck, good weather and functioning PA systems.
What do you do when the followers begin to show up, their inarticulate bray drowning out the voices of the leaders? The irony of the followers is that they follow badly. Tell them to form a triangle gauntlet that goes outside the building and they wind up curling around the stage like some aimless centipede. Throw harsh malformed noise squiggles at them and they continue to jump around when they are supposed to calm down. Who are these people and why are they here? If we are all equal and everyone is welcome, why do I want to punch that jerk in the face and throw him out the window that I’m not allowed to open due to the potential for noise complaints?
The above tangent would imply that things went wrong at Whartscape 2007. I would be acting like Double Dagger didn’t slay that year and that I wasn’t blissfully zoning out watching clouds roll by between sets by Butt Stomach, Lizz King, Human Host, Santa Dads, and Blood Baby. I remember the trek between the two 2007 venues (the alley behind Load of Fun Studios and the Floristree space) seeming somehow twice as long due to my eagerness to check out Blue Leader and the Blue Leaders. Sure, things got hot, but the Baltimore summer is the Baltimore summer.
Back in 2009, as Videohippos take the stage, the bad feelings subside. As the sun sets, things fall back in place. This all makes sense! There people are just fine, kids looking to have fun. Despite some technical problems, the band has the crowd moving and swaying throughout their set. All is well.
Ponytail’s set provided the cherry on top. Energetic, frenetic, and blissful, the crowd was whipped up and clapping along. We were all together having a fine time. Leaders? Followers? Silly talk, really. Things are not going to go wrong, because we are all in this together, right?
After some second venue time, I have hit my wall. I leave the Load of Fun Studios to C. Spencer Yeh’s violin drone frenzies, Ed Schrader’s set still fresh in my mind. I may be tired and I may feel crazy, but there is still more to come. The feast continues tomorrow.