My colleagues and I recently discussed over beers that this weekend's dueling high-profile music festivals--Capitol Hill Block Party and KUBE 93's Summer Jam--rank on complete opposite ends of the irony spectrum. The Block Party, in all its indie/hipster glory, ranks on the high end. And Summer Jam... well, there is little irony in Pitbull and Akon playing White River Amphitheatre.
KUBE plays mainstream hip hop, which is essentially mainstream pop music with better beats. The station's annual music festival typically features a handful of talentless acts alongside one or two artists who are actually deserving of their fame and fortune. In other words, it's the ideal opportunity to get absolutely housed and rap along to songs about bitches and bling whilst casting sideways glances at the black person standing nearby and debating whether you're allowed to use the n-word since it's in the song.I was a Summer Jam virgin until this year. I was unsure of what to expect but was deeply disturbed by a rumor that that White River would not be serving alcohol; a precautionary measure in response to the legal troubles that have gone down at Summer Jam in the past. Like hell I'm not going to drink at a five-hour plus music festival.
Five of us gathered fifths of vodka, gin, and rum, six packs of Coors and Bud Light, and water bottles filled with homemade margaritas to down in the parking lot. (All of us went to state universities, so this is a fairly normal amount of alcohol to be traveling with on any given weekend.)
Traffic to White River was surprisingly... non-existent. The only reason I can think of for this is that people roll into festivals at different times, depending on who they want to see perform. We missed New Boys and much to my chagrin, the adorable Asher Roth, because we were too busy sitting in a van drinking. It was pretty obvious what we were doing, but the parking attendants couldn't have given a shit less.
By the time we started walking towards the venue, I had stripped down to a bikini and was taking pulls from a flask in broad daylight thinking that I was inconspicuous. We offered beers to an ice cream truck driver who was making his way through the parking lot. He declined.
Getting in wasn't a problem. My friend's sister has massive boobs, so we were able to stuff quite a bit of alcohol into her bra. Regardless, we continued on to the beer garden where we purchased five Miller High Lifes for a whopping $45.
As we were leaving, a friendly guy approached us and struck up a conversation. He, too, was swigging out of a flask and smoking a cigarette. We exchanged numbers and I cheerfully told him we'd text him later when we returned to the beer garden, when he smiled and said, "Oh, I can't go in there. I just turned 16 last week."
Hold the fucking phone. "Um, did you say 16?" I stammered. He shrugged and said most of his friends were older than him. Maybe they were. But I sure as hell don't hang out with any 16-year-olds. Especially those that hit on me. I bolted from the scene, while my friend Googled the age of consent in Washington on his iPhone and informed me that it'd be wise for me to avoid fraternizing with anyone under the age of 18. As if I didn't know that already.
We decided not to converse with anyone from that point forward unless they were inside the beer garden.
Besides, we had traveled to White River for the sole purpose of seeing Ludacris. I've been a big fan since 2000's Back For The First Time. He's a talented MC and charismatic personality whose rhymes are arrogant and crass--but with a good dose of humor. The guy is also nice to his fans. Case point: He bought SW intern Malia Makowicki some sweet potato fries on her birthday.
I paid little attention to the acts that performed before Ludacris. The way in which performance times were divvied for the night didn't make much sense anyway. How the hell did the Dream get 20 minutes of stage time when Pitbull (gag) got double that? Whose idea was it to even include Sean Paul in the lineup? Hundreds of people on the lawn reiterated my thoughts as they smoked blunts, chugged out of flasks, and ate $9 pulled pork sandwiches. I took a nap in the grass during Flo Rida's entire set.
It started to rain by the time Ludacris hit the stage, so my friend and I abandoned our group to find our actual seats under the amphitheatre roof. The Atlanta-hailing rapper--who is pint-sized in real life--performed an hour-long set full of hit singles spawning his nine-year career as a mainstream artist including "Stand Up" and "Southern Hospitality." (Sadly, he left out "P-Poppin" off my favorite album: 2003's Chicken-n-Beer.) He did however, make time to pay homage to a Michael Jackson in the form of a remix of "Man in the Mirror."
He was entertaining as hell live, bounding about the stage with high energy and playfully interacting with the crowd. I would've liked to see him perform for more than the 50-60 minutes he did, but there's not time for that when a daylong festival is crammed with nine acts on one stage.
We left soon after his performance and once again, dealt with zero traffic getting out of White River and back to Seattle. It was the easiest trip to the venue I've ever dealt with. Hell, I was just there last weekend for No Doubt and I sat in three-hour traffic getting there.
So was it worth skipping the Block Party in favor of Summer Jam? Yes. I've already seen most of the bands that played the Block Party and can do so again this fall and winter in smaller venues. When Seattle gets its rare bout of sunshine, I want to engage in a full-blown drunken extravaganza, complete with corporate sponsors and big-name headliners. Apparently, in that sense, I'm much like a 16-year-old boy.