As I get older I realize the importance of special events. Free time is too important to waste on half-ass effort and plans. I was invited to attend a Dave Matthews concert up in Wisconsin recently. I decided to go, in part because I caught wind of a plan to rent a party bus for the pre-concert tailgating. I was not disappointed.
I am not the biggest Dave Matthews band. In 1994 I lived on the second story of the band house for the Muse, a bar on Nantucket Island. The bands that were playing at the Muse would stay on the first story of the band house. Dave Matthews band was just becoming popular in 1994, they played at the Muse, a 400-seat venue, for 3 nights that summer. A band’s popularity on the island was partly due to their social and partying capabilities. The bar closed at 1am, we cleaned up the bar, and headed out to the band house to party with the band until the sun came up. This was a standard weeknight itinerary for the summer of 1994. I recall that during the Dave Matthew’s post show parties, the majority of the band would stay up drinking and frolicking late into the night. But Dave would sit on the couch sulking and acting like a prima donna. This went on for 3 nights. So I decided he was not my favorite rock star.
Little did I realize that a properly executed tailgate party negates any ill will. I am surprised I did not wake up with “I love Dave” tattooed on my forehead. 24 people convened at the organizer’s house at 1230pm. There was a ratio of 1 cooler for every 1.5 people. This is not to mention tents, approximately 20 fold-up chairs, a keg, and various other paraphernalia. I knew 4 people there, 3 of which I had only met once. I was still giddy about the prospects for the day/evening. The party bus pulled up and my giddiness increased. Not only did it have room for all of the people and party gear, but there was also a toilet on board. The biggest problem with tailgates is the decision on when to “break the seal” of your bladder. You are having a good time and suddenly you feel the pressure down below. The port-a-pots are most likely a quarter mile away, and you have to wait in line, missing out on all the fun, plus you have to deal with the stench. So you hold it, and then you can only half-focus on the tailgate party, because you have to clench your pc muscle the entire time to prevent any dribbling. So, like much in life, the breaking of the seal is a catch-22 proposition. The party bus alleviates this, a personal bathroom, mere steps from your tailgate spot!
The bus ride there is a blast. Beers galore, tons of yapping, no worry or concept of directions, waiting in line, someone having to be dd, much like the beer trolley. The tailgate setup was intricate, everyone was swarming all over the site like a bunch of ants on an anthill. Tents, 8 foot long tables, chairs, a bag toss game, keg, jello shots, some other random game involving balls on a rope (don’t ask), grills, dips, around 15 coolers…as big as the party bus was, there was so much tailgate loot on it, the party bus had the effect of a clown car at a carnival, items were pouring out of it at a ratio that didn’t seem possible. A small crowd of fellow tailgaters continually streamed up to marvel, compliment, and gape in awe and jealousy at our situation. A couple people got a little carried away, one young Indian dude stole a cupcake, I seriously considered the ramifications of kicking his teeth in. Fortunately I cooled off my rage and went back to my game of beer pong. I educated the Midwesterners on the proper beer pong rules. 1 cup on every corner, balls must be thrown above eye level (the newcomers continually cheated on this rule but I didn’t care it was still fun), drops are a drink, cup hits are a drink. A simple game, fun, and you leave feeling happy. There was also a bag toss tournament going on with brackets and seedings. It was a blast, almost like an adult carnival all contained within perhaps 1000 square feet of space.
Time slowly became a joyful haze where laughter and chatter oozed together. A great tailgate party has the effect of causing its participants to forget why they were gathered. I thought I was at a party in a parking lot somewhere. Someone mentioned Dave was going to be on stage soon, wait, what? I turn around and notice the venue entrance and it hits me, umm, oh yeah, I came here to go to a Dave Matthews concert. Bear in mind it is 9pm, 8 hours into the tailgate, people are slowly staggering away from the tailgate site like grenade shrapnel. I have no idea how we are going to stay together while in a general admission show in this condition, particularly since I did not know anyone except my lady. Not a concern, we kept bumping into people on the concert lawn all night.
That’s right, there was a concert. The few songs I managed to listen to sounded crystal clear. There were so many conversations, beer runs, gossiping, walking around, and other activities on the concert lawn, that the concert was more like a background soundtrack for the evening. I did think “Crash into Me” sounded awesome. The new bluesy song sounded killer. They didn’t play “Satellite”, which is one of my favorites, apparently that makes me an old bastard due to the fact I was dumbfounded that it was not a lock to be played. Suddenly the show was over and we were back on the bus. Nothing better than being able to use the bathroom and not lose forward vehicle momentum. Got back to the organizer’s around 1am, twelve hours. Apparently a few people stayed up grilling late night chow, I was ready to call it a night by this point.
My hat’s off to the organizer of the 12-hour tailgate. Not only was he able to coordinate all the food, jello shots, keg, money, bus, etc., but he also partied his ass off. When you are going to spend your time on a weekend event, going the extra mile to plan out the fun can pay off big. I can’t wait for next year’s party bus.