I arrived at the Parkway at about 11:30. My friends (Chet, Rob, Jesse, and Logan) had been there since 6, but I had hit silence on my phone when they had sent my wake up call. So I was gonna have to slice thru the crowd. They were near the front of the trees on Eakins Oval, and people were not overly pleased to let me slip thru. I got my first, “What the f*** is wrong with you” at around 11:48 as I slipped past a girls blanket. Finally, after about 45 minutes, I slithered up to my friends. By this time the show had already started.
First complaint: The set up of the stage was absolutely awful. They had decided that, instead of placing the performers on top of the Art Museum steps, they would hide them behind the statue of George Washington. They then placed tv cameras in front of them to make sure that no more than 2,000 people out of the 800,000 could actually see the performers. WTF? So we watched on big screen tvs. The Black Eyed Peas came up and did a couple of songs, including that new “Don’t Play With My Heart” song that totally sucks. They seem to be getting progressively worse and more corporate with each album. I did really like it, though, when two of the Marleys came up and did “Get Up, Stand Up” with the peas.
First thing that was kool: I never thought I would say this, but Will Smith absolutely ruled. I told my friends, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if he brought DJ Jazzy Jeff with him?” And sure enough, he introduced Jazzy on the wheels of steel shortly after taking the stage. His new song wasn’t half bad, and he was really the only performer I saw that engaged the crowd at all. I think the others might have been a little intimidated by the size of the crowd.
He had everybody singing along to the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song. I even kind of enjoyed “Get Jiggy With It” for the first time ever.
2nd complaint: You couldn’t hear what anybody was saying about the cause. Don Cheadle was completely unintelligible from where I was standing.
Bon Jovi certainly rocked the crowd. I’m not a huge fan, but it was sort of fun in a goofy, look at all the Jerseyites sing along way.
Kanye West was really good, but Toby Keith was even more brutal than I had feared. Everybody just sort of stood around, checking their schedules to see who was next. It was while he was performing that the high point of the day occurred, however. The crowd had been slowly encroaching on our little area, and the guys who had been there since 6 were starting to get annoyed. In fact, my buddy Robert had devised a plan to foil the next person who walked too close to the blanket (below). Since the crowd pretty much all decided to sit down during Toby Keith’s boring ass set, some guy sat right where quizzo legend Chet Bumstead (of the Goats, above) had planned on sitting. So Chet says, “I’m gonna have to ask you to scoot back some so I can sit down.” The guy refused to move, so Chet, frustrated and tired, decided to just sit on top of him. As you might imagine, the 20 year old guy he sat on wasn’t real happy about Chet’s decision, and starting screaming loudly, “What the f***!!!! What the f***!!! Fortunately, he wasn’t that big, but he was crazed, and a fight in this big of a crowd could turn ugly quick. Chet sat, unfazed, and said, very smugly, “I’m sorry, but I asked you nicely.” Meanwhile, the little guys girlfriend, who was way too hot for him and like 6 inches taller, started smacking him in the face, yelling “Stop it! Stop it!” as if she were training a puppy dog. She managed to de-escalate the situation. I leaned forward to my friends and said, “You know, Toby Keith just seems to bring out the worst in everyone.”
They showed the feed from London where Geldof brought up the beautiful girl from Africa who had almost died 20 years ago, but had been saved, supposedly by Live Aid. I got a little teary eyed, although the whole thing got a little weird when Madonna took the stage. The girl just stood there while Madonna danced all around her.
Dave Matthews made me proud I had worn my Abercrombie and Fitch shirt and had bought my Thomas Kinkade painting. His suburban rock was as boring and non rhythmic as always. I’m completely dumbfounded by his poularity. What can you do at his concerts besides just stand there? His band has no rhythm. You can’t snap your fingers to it, you can’t dance to it, you just have to stand there and mouth the lame ass words and feel really white.
Limp Bizkit went up and though I’m not a fan, they definitely brought some energy. Jay Z came up, and though I would have preferred that he perform w/o Limp Bizkit, it was ok. He also made best comment of the event. “We’re spending all this money killing people, maybe we need to start spending some money to help people live.” For the record, we have spent about $180 billion dollars on the war in Iraq. We spend about $15 billion per year in foreign aid.
Next up was Def Leppard and screw what the critics said, they rocked. I was amazed at how many words I remembered to songs I hadn’t heard in almost 20 years. They were fun. The energy was rising. The people were jumping. It was time for…Jars of Clay? What? We realized it was time to get out of there before we were exposed to such unbridled lameness. So we ducked out, went to a friends house that lived nearby, and had a drink and relaxed, happy that we were missing the brutal leg of the concert (Jars of Clay, Sarah McLaughlin, Maroon 5, etc.)
At about six, we said, “Hey let’s roll back out and see if we can catch Stevie Wonder. So we got back, and there was Keith Urban, entertaining all 12 of the people from Mississippi who were at the show (remember, the Roots weren’t what the organizers were looking for.) He was absolutely awful. “Is Stevie Wonder next?” I asked Chet, the schedule holder. “Nope, Rob Thomas.” Realizing that we were going to have to take out our gats and start spraying if we heard one matchbox 20 song, we decided to flee and sacrifice our hope of seeing Stevie.
Of course, the local news crews had to try to put a negative spin on what had been a remarkable success for the city. So the big story was, “Look at all that trash!” I think they should start covering sporting events that way. “Yeah, the Phillies won, 4-3, but you wouldn’t have believed how many peanut shells where left lying around the ballpark.”
All in all, the event was a lot of fun and it was neat to be part of a kool cause. I was with good friends, and that helps when you’re having to sit through Toby Keith. I also want to take a quick minute to thank my bladder, which was able to take a large bottle of water and not force me to make my way back thru the crowd and wait forever in line at the port-a-potties.
As for the cause, we will do something in the name of it this week. I’ll have the details later.