Say what you will about hippies, but last night's Balkan Beat Box show was one of the most entertaining, high-energy shows I've witnessed in a long while, and I owe it all to hippies.
Miao Wang Balkan Beat Box
Wherever you go-- but especially in a hipster town like Seattle-- it's fashionable to make fun of hippies. Body odor jokes, jam band jokes...I've heard 'em all, and yet, after last night, I've decided that I would much rather suffer through a little bit of B.O. and have a good time than stand around watching some generic indie rock band with hygiene-obsessed hipsters who are too worried about how they'll look (or smell) to uncross their arms and cut loose.
That said, while there were a lot of dreads, hemp necklaces, jingly anklets and flow-y skirts in the building, it wasn't all granola-eaters, it wasn't all twenty-somethings, and it wasn't all bros, either. I saw all sorts of people, from tatted-up rockabilly girls to a spiffed-up guy in a suit, from young high school-age kids lighting up to couples old enough to be my parents. Balkan Beat Box's appeal is as universal as its sound is international. Something about that combination of klezmer and Jamaican dancehall inspires people all over the map to put away their hang-ups and unite in the name of rhythm. And while lyrics are sort of tangential in Balkan Beat Box's music-- if you're not too busy dancing to hear the words, you're not really there-- but that theme is present in almost every single one of their songs.Balkan Beat Box put out enough energy to light up half the city, and the crowd provided the other half, unquestioningly obeying the commands of BBB's charismatic MC, Tomer Yosef. When he said "Shake your assses!," the moneymakers jiggled. When he said, "jump", the floor bounced like I was standing on a trampoline. And when he introduced a song by screaming, "This is for peace!" , the peace signs went up like lighters at a Guns 'N Roses concert during the opening bars of "November Rain." But it didn't feel contrived or hollow. The feeling of goodwill in the room was as perceptible as the strong cologne the guy behind me was wearing, or the smell wafting from the armpits of the tripping blonde hippie guy dancing by himself in the corner near the ladies bathroom.
The band finished up the 90-minute set by backing off to let a good fifty people onstage to dance, and the (mostly female) dancers were all I could see, because in a sweet show of humility, the band moved back to give them room. And as I left the show, I realized that I can no longer continue to deny my granola roots. I grew up with a dad who took me to Burning Man three times and a stepmom who took me to get my palm read when I was 10. I like camping and have no problem going three days without a shower. I own hemp shoes. I don't eat meat. I have a garden. I believe in marijuana and psychedelic drugs. I contemplated getting dreads for about five minutes. I was obsessed with Jim Morrison in high school. I went to college in Eugene, which is arguably the crunchiest town in America. And if forced to make the choice, I would rather listen to Dave Matthews or Phish than Faith No More or Metallica.
So there it is. I'm a hippie. Maybe not a total jam-band loving hippie caricature who wears hemp necklaces and listens to bands with names like Blue Turtle Seduction. But a hippie, nonetheless. And I'd rather party with hippies than stand around at some generic indie rock show with bored-looking hipsters who'd rather make snide comments about what everyone else is wearing than pay attention.