Rude at Bonnaroo

The Rude Pundit at the Bonnaroo Music Festival

Sunday, June 12, 2011

It Came From Bonnaroo, Part 2: I Should Haven't Given It This Long a Title:
The way Grip Narley would tell the story later was horrifying in what it said and more horrifying in the things that the electrician wouldn’t say. Harsh McCord had tried to reach Grip, who was working backstage at That Tent, one of the oh-so-cleverly named locations where music took place. But it was too late as the Tickening took over soon after The Walkmen took the stage. Oh, the vermin had been lured there by the thrashing rock of Band of Skulls, but when the peppy punk band began, as Grip would say later, “It was like the entire ground had exposed high voltage cables running through it. People started jerking and swatting and picking on themselves. When the lead singer leaned back on a high note, he was eaten like his body had been tossed on a current transformer. There was so much screaming. This one girl came towards me and she was just flattening out and the ticks were as big as blood balloons. That’s when I hauled ass, Harsh. That’s when I hauled ass.” Inside Harsh’s mobile insect lab, the entomologist hugged the sobbing Grip, kissing the bearded bear of a man who had been his partner and lover for the last five years.

"Go home. Rest. I gotta take care of some shit."

Harsh had been to see Ash Cappington, the main promoter of Bonnaroo. Cappington stayed in his underground bunker below the Earth-bearing hand at Centeroo, watching the action from a battery of monitors, sending out his private security force to take care of any problems. Generally, Cappington allowed the pot smokers and the ecstasy-takers freedom since they rarely caused problems and they added to the sales of the food and water vendors. But anything harder and Cappington was swift and merciless, confiscating the meth or the coke and making sure that the offender was arrested swiftly.

Cappington had seen what had happened at That Tent, and as horrified as he was, he refused to believe it was anything other than a bad batch of acid or that someone had stupidly laced the joints with PCP. And Either way, when Harsh visited him, Cappington had already come to his own conclusions. “Ash, you gotta shut it down.”

“Oh, Christ, Bugman. I knew you’d be trouble when we hired you,” said the middle-aged man in a guayabera shirt and blue shorts.

“People are fleeing.”

“No, they’re not. Look.” He gestured at the monitors. “I locked the gates. I sent out platoons of dope dealers to give away free shit. They’re gonna be too stoned to care. And they’ll spend. On burritos. On beer. On batik bikinis.”

“You bastard.”

“What’s the problem?”

“It’s the ticks. I told you. I told you that--”

Cappington waved off Harsh. “Just stop now. That's bullshit. I took your advice.”


“Just don’t fuckin’ tell anyone else. They’ll get their recycled panties in a wad. I had the place sprayed down. I killed all the ticks. What happened out in Darth Maul wasn’t our fault.”

Harsh thought for a second. Then he blurted out, “I have work to do.”

Back in the lab, Harsh came upon a discovery. Dear god, the pesticides not only did not work, but they had a reverse effect when combined with the scent of hemp and patchouli. The cicadas were dead, gone, engorged by guinea hen and other birds. Their larvae were already polluting the trees. No, Harsh realized, it was the pot and body oil. And My Morning Jacket was preparing to play for an audience of 90,000 people. Ash Cappington had signed a death warrant.

Harsh called home. “Take the day off, Grip.”

“But I’ve been assigned the big stage. The What Stage.”

“Goddamnit, stay at the house.”

“Blow me, boyfriend. It’s a big gig. I gotta run.” And he hung up.

Harsh tried to call back, but Grip had shut off his phone. “Stubborn asshole,” the scientist muttered. That was the problem with a couple of power tops. Neither of them would back down, neither of them would simply let the other one have his way. Their sex was like Greco-Greco wrestling, all nude and oiled, with rolling around and pinning being the order of the day. Whoever won got to fuck the other, but, of course, it was fulfilling lovemaking all the way around. Harsh stared at his phone, wondering if he'd ever feel that fulfillment again.

(Note: Right now, I have a mixture of sunscreen, Off, ecstasy, THC, beer, caffeine, and Zyrtec coursing through my veins. So, no, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense. To you.)

Friday, June 10, 2011

It Came From Bonnaroo, Part 1: The Tickening:
Roscoe Dupree sat alone in the crowded tent cafe’. A morbidly obese American with a goatee he hoped would hide his double chin (it didn’t), he was sweatily and sullenly filling his backpack water sack with bottles of cold water. It had been a great idea, getting all his buddies from the University of Tennessee-Martin to go to the giant music festival in the middle of nowhere. But, of course, 18-year olds being 18-year olds, everyone else bailed on him, but he had already convinced his parents to let him come, so he decided he’d go by himself. And now, early on Thursday, Roscoe, red-faced and frustrated, realized that he needed to go back to his tent to get sunscreen in the vast outer compound that made up the Bonnaroo campground. He lumbered out, sucking on the rubber straw that came out of the water sack, hoping that he’d at least see a few bare titties on the walk back. He did. They were the last titties he would ever see. But he never got to touch any.

When Roscoe Dupree’s body was found later by a volunteer in his camping pod, the girl shrieked at the sight. Eyes wide open, his tent knocked over by what must have been his flailing around, Roscoe lay on the ground, drained of blood, his legs coated with blood-filled hard-black sacs with legs. And teeth. The tickening had begun.

Harsh McCord received a text message while he was watching Karen Elson play in one of the three large tents. The British model wife of the legendary Jack White was a pretty damn good folk-rock singer on her own, even if most of the crowd was hoping he’d join her. She had no rapport with the crowd, though. At one point, her patter was to ask, “So, are you camping?”

“Jesus,” Harsh thought, “look to your left at all the fucking tents. Sorry if the rest of ‘em weren’t brought here by limo from their helicopters." He glanced at his phone. He was needed immediately out in the camps. The entomologist jumped into the golf cart on the side of the stage and headed out.

Harsh had been hired by the powers that be at Bonnaroo to consult on the insect problems on the farm where the music festival took place. He had already helped them get past mosquitoes, but this had been a bad year in Middle Tennessee. Brood XIX, a flock of 13-year cicadas, had plagued the trees and eardrums of region. And then there were the ticks. Harsh had warned the people in charge not to move the campgrounds into the woods from the fields where they had been in years past. He knew that when the cicadas went on their fucking and egg-laying frenzy, it also drove the ticks to madness. They would attack, constantly. Harsh had wanted the organizers to poison the entire forest, to DEET-bomb the place, but he was told that it wasn't part of the greening of the festival, that it was bad for the environment. The Vanderbilt-educated scientist hoped that things wouldn't get bad. He was very, very wrong.

When he arrived, Harsh saw that some of the security volunteers had cordoned off the area. They were locals who loved the little dose of power and loved even more an opportunity to beat and harass the hippies who essentially gave the town of Manchester its only non-Wal-Mart economy. They tried to stop him, since he was bearded and wore a bandanna, but he grabbed one by the shirt collar and said, "Eat this, fucker," shoving his special badge in their faces.

Standing over the tarp-covered body was an EMT. "I don't know why you needed me here," Harsh said. "Just another idiot who didn't drink enough water to go with his beer and ecstasy." Grimly, the EMT pulled back the tarp. When Harsh McCord saw the tick-encrusted legs, a horrible thought went through his head. "Dear god," he said, half to himself, half to the EMT, "I tried to warn them."

In the distance, he could hear the bands playing, around him were tens of thousands of people barely wearing clothes, their blood flow just a symphony drawing in the feasting ticks. He needed to shut down this festival. Now. Because the ticks would know that they could engorge themselves to bursting, sucking their hosts practically hollow, and then they would breed. And music just attracted them in larger numbers. The louder the music, the better. Tonight's line-up of Band of Skulls and Sleigh Bells would be a smorgasbord of blood.