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In the Pursuit of Music | “Battling the Pink Robots in Rural Maine”

Posted: October 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Blog, Columns

This past Fourth of July weekend, I popped my music festival cherry. This has been a lifelong ambition of mine, due in large part to my desire to be Janis Joplin and roll around in the mud at Woodstock. Unfortunately, I never really had the resources or the wherewithal to organize and get myself to a music festival until this summer. (Itís ironic that wanting to be a hippie requires so much planning.) My friend Sam and I chose to go to the first-ever Nateva Music Festival in Oxford, Maine primarily because of its pretty amazing line-up: Furthur, Passion Pit, the Flaming Lips, George Clinton, She & Him, and Grizzly Bear, among many others.

Now that Iíve had some time to reflect on my week at a real music festival, Iíve realized something sort of shocking: despite a great lineup, the music wasnít actually the most memorable part of the entire experience. The entire weekend, I was pleasantly surprised to see people in the audience taking it upon themselves to enhance my own live music experience. I donít think itís an overstatement to say that Iíve been much more deeply affected by those in the crowd around me than by the performers themselves.

Take, for example, the crowd at the Flaming Lipsís set. I had been waiting for their performance all weekend, especially since they were coming from performing the entirety of Pink Floydís Dark Side of the Moon at Bonnaroo. Let me tell you, the show did not disappoint. Wayne Coyne was as wonderfully insane as you would want him to be, and I proudly tell everyone who will listen about that time he rolled out over the crowd in a giant plastic hamster ball and basically kneed me in the face. But the person that stands out to me the most was standing in the crowd next to me. This boy was sporting a homemade pink robot costume, made out of giant cardboard boxes, complete with an intricately hand-drawn control panel and helmet. The suit was precariously held together with strips of silver duct tape, and it definitely looked the worse for wear. He had clearly been standing there all day, sweating and quite uncomfortable in this unwieldy get-up, but when the Flaming Lips launched into ďYoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,Ē all the physical hardships disappeared. He immediately went crazy and started dancing, jumping up and down and generally causing a ruckus. Now whenever I hear that song, I donít think of Wayne Coyne or the Flaming Lips themselves. Instead, my mind immediately goes to that image of this anonymous fan who was so genuinely happy to hear his favorite song played by his favorite band that he was even willing to stand in a cardboard box during the hottest days of summer to enjoy himself to the fullest.

But why did he make that costume? And why is ďYoshimi Battles the Pink RobotsĒ his favorite song? I wish that I had taken the time to talk to this fan and ask him about his story. So thatís what this column is all about. I am fascinated by the kind of person who spends so much time and devotes so many resources in the pursuit of good, live music. Itís easy to learn about an artist Ė just check out their Wikipedia page Ė but Iím infinitely more interested in the people who drive the musicians to get onstage. These fans are what make live music so much more electric than what you hear on a studio album, and itís time to hear their stories too. So letís meet some new friends, shall we?

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Maxine Builder is a sophomore majoring in International Relations and Community Health. If you want her to serenade you on ukulele or just know someone who is a music fanatic that should be featured in this column, shoot her an e-mail at maxine.builder@tufts.edu.

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