The Gray Line Tour

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 21, 2001


Rock fest helps old guy feel younger Sometimes, it’s just fun not to grow up. A couple of weeks ago, purely in the interest of social research into the youth culture, a study almost anthropological in nature, I attended End Fest 2001 in New Orleans, an alternative rock-music festival. And, to get some of the full impact of the festival, I won a free VIP pass the day before at the sponsoring radio station’s live remote broadcast. Basically, I stood in an ice chest, barefoot, in ice and ice water, for one hour and nearly 15 minutes, beating out five other contestants. I had a ball winning, especially since I was twice the age of most of the contestants. Arriving at the festival was fun, parking near Marconi Meadow in City Park and hiking about three blocks to reach the main gate. Once there, though, my VIP pass swept me past the long waiting line of ticket-holders, and I dived for the water fountain. It was still an hour before the bands were to begin playing, so I took the opportunity to get my shopping out of the way, including a T-shirt for myself and one for my 15-year-old goddaughter in Texas, who was heartbroken at not being able to attend with me. The bands performing included: Staind (the headliner), Papa Roach, Crazy Town, The Cult, Seven Mary Three, Cold and Saliva. Believe it or not, I recognized music from every one of them, even at my advance age of 47. I made my way through the rapidly-filling festival grounds to one of the two mist tents, where water sprays worked to cool down sweaty people. Food and beer booths did massive business. Knowing full well that alcohol consumption in the heat of the day does NOT help, I stayed completely sober. However, you don’t have to smoke and drink to have a good time, and I proved that by sticking with decibel-shattering levels of rock music from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., while occasionally relaxing in the VIP tent, which included tables and chairs, and free food, water and soft drinks. I ran into young people I knew, but for the most part, enjoyed the festival on my own. At one point, early in the afternoon and in the midst of the 100-plus heat, I penetrated the depths of the mosh pit, where fire hoses sprayed the crowd from overhead and people body-surfed the crowd. By the end of the day, I was exhausted, footsore and singing along with the headlining band’s hit, “It’s Been Awhile.” Then, I slogged my way to my truck, weary but smiling, and wished somehow the festival (and I) could have lasted longer. Guess that helps keep me young. LEONARD GRAY is assistant managing editor of L’Observateur.