Denver, where I live, is swarming with people here for the Democratic Convention. Fifty thousand or so, say the papers. It’s like a big party out there, even the protesters and cops smiling until they got into the pepper spray. Booths selling Obama dolls (made to look suspiciously nappy-headed) and Arbonne Cosmetics and sno-cones and of course lots of T-shirts, buttons, stickers, banners. It’s like going to the State Fair without the cows and where everyone is pretty much like you. White is mostly the color of the day here (from skin to t-shirts), and the attire ranges anywhere from suits and pantsuits (for Hillary supporters) to the kind of casual almost boho attire that relatively hip older people like me like to don. Once in awhile I passed someone dressed as a donkey. Once I passed a girl in a pink Playboy Club type outfit riding a bicycle. Secret Service people are everywhere, although they try to come up with disguises sometimes (you can see it in their eyes–steely, just like in the movies–and they usually don’t move from position). I saw one skinny guy in full jogger attire, carrying a huge jar of protein mix, and could never decide if he was real or undercover. With the crowd, though, there was not much jogging to be had. The real attention grabbers were the riot police driving down our usually quiet Denver streets in tanks. They are everywhere: huddling in the shade, when they can find some, or perched on the tanks, or just leaning against buildings. A lot of them smile at you, like they’re in the spirit of the whole thing themselves. Hey, it’s my job, don’t worry. But they have weapons. They have riot helmets. As a kid, I was obsessed with Kent State. Obsessed with, curious about the Sixties, would stare at the photos of the hippies and the soldiers for hours, the kids coming up the hill, the kids laying face down on the ground. I’m not trying to be melodramatic here, but I couldn’t shake it out of my mind. Even though the bystanders,
the tourists, the media, far outnumbered the 100 or so protesters who we soon glimpsed, I was paranoid. Things just happen–as they did last night, when a group surrounded by officers and pepper sprayed. They’re saying it’s going to be worse as the convention goes on. But you know, I’m going to go watch it all this afternoon anyway. There’s an excitement to that kind of fear. Everyone is enjoying it, this party, just as people in Denver always seem to enjoy themselves. Anyway, it’s Obama, everyone is happy.
Surreal. I know this has nothing to do with music yet. So let’s throw some in. Most of the music events are by special invitation. No surprise. Not being any kind of official press, I didn’t even try to get a pass. Anyway, there’s nobody here I’d really want to see, to tell you truth. But I do walk down the packed streets and I did go to a concert last night at Red Rocks. Let me tell you quickly about the Red Rocks affair, which, in the terminology of the young, COMPLETELY SUCKED.
It was sadly disorganized. Or, well, it was organized, as in it was done in proper order and timing. But the music selections didn’t work for the crowd and the thing wasn’t well advertised. Being at Red Rocks, an enormous outdoor mountain ampitheatre, when no one is there is just depressing. The sound bounces around the rocks and makes for some kind of sucking void of guitar distortion. In brief, a sad spare crowd, average age about 50, exceedingly white, are greeted with a folk singer (Jill Sobule, who was sweet and entertaining), a boring DJ doing dance mixes of 60s and 70s song, a young rap singer named Murs (who tried so hard to no response that I felt sorry for him)…by the time Apples in Stereo came out, the crowd was in a state of depression, no doubt thinking that if they were actually important Democrats they’d be at the convention itself watching Michelle Obama’s speech. Poor Apples in Stereo were predictably poppy and sunny and silly to the point of being oppressively whimsical, but good, you know, and fun, and would have been fun to see in a bar. “We LOVE Obama!” they’d occasionally trot out, to crowd cheers, but they made their love sound a little like mushy love, like they wanted to ask him out on a chaste date, complete with roses and a meaningful hand touch at the door. Sigh.
The best song of the evening: Jill Sobule and her mother singing Nelly’s “It’s Getting Hot in Here.” Seriously. And Mom could sing. Most painful note by rapper Murs-the-Seventh-Wonder: “Sing along with me, people–when I say Hustle, you say Hustle!” Cringifying. Although hilarious to see about 200 middle aged white folks imagining drive bys in West LA while yelling Hustle in unison.
Okkervil River, who were billed, apparently didn’t show–or at least hadn’t by the time we left, after 3 hours of boredom.
My husband, sitting beside me, was just pissed. “Fucking Democrats can’t organize themselves out of their own asses,” he said, or something to that effect. He made a list of what they needed to do to arrange the event and get the trains to run on time. He began the list by insisting that the event NOT be a Red Rocks, a giant wall of rock that is miles outside of Denver. Even though the musicians loved being there (as in “I LOVE being at Red Rocks!” and “I finally get to play at Red Rocks!”), nobody else did.
Once when I escaped to the bathroom, I saw melancholy women wearily washing their hands: “Well, at least we couldn’t have asked for a better sky!”
After all this, they were to show 10 short winning films on democracy. But by the time they got around to it, everyone had left.