Walking down Mill Avenue in downtown Tempe on the afternoon of March 15 among the throng of Hollister tank topped and Converse clad teenagers, eyeing the long ticket lines leading up to the entrance of Tempe Beach Park, two things became apparent.
One, its hot. Uncomfortably hot. The kind of hot that makes you question whether Arizona actually does have a spring season or not.
And two, not one of these eager young Pot of Gold music festival attendees seem to care.
The excited yet nervous energy of the waiting crowd outside the arching Tempe Beach Park sign, possibly spurred by the stern looking cops and security guards, was palpable as bags were searched and tickets were checked.
Still, the tension of pat-downs and having one’s belongings rifled through couldn’t bring these concertgoers down. As myself and a small part of the 60,000 fans expected to attend the festival that weekend were finally herded through the permitting gate that nervous energy completely dissipated.
Stepping into the festival was first like crossing over into a laid back yet stylish flea market. Vendors hawking everything from handmade jewelry to five dollar cell phone charging to psychic palm reading lined the main walk way of the park. Local clothing shops, Buffalo Exchange and Mary Jane Smokewear were on hand peddling gently used threads and concert memorabilia.
Descending upon Tempe Town Lake, I got my first look at the two massive stages that would host all nine acts that day. Two huge graphics of black pots overflowing with gold coins framed the spotlight lined platforms.
Weaving my way next through packs of teenage girls wearing bright pink fringe tees and young men sporting School Boy Q’s trademark bucket hat, I encountered zig-zaging lines of 21 and over concert goers patiently waiting their turns to purchase 12 ounces of frosty, temporary relief from the heat from a variety of beers on tap.
As fans rolled out blankets on the lawn and roadies rolled out guitar and speaker cables, I got the chance to sit down with The Expendables drummer and back-up singer, Adam Patterson about concerts here in Arizona and the college fans that attend them. The band recently had their video “Music Move Me” featured on MTVU’s online video vote show The Freshmen, without the help of a record label to promote their music.
“Playing Tempe and Phoenix, it’s always awesome you know, because this is one of the first places we played when we first started because it’s not too far [from California] and there’s a lot of people here who like that style of music,” said Patterson (that style being dub-rock music). “It’s kinda like, these places will become like a weird second home almost where we’re real familiar with the town and we have friends here and the fans are just amazing and come in you know, really big numbers.”
Patterson reflected on his band’s popularity with young adults in the pursuit of education.
“That’s when you party, when you go to college, and we play a kind of dancey, party kind of music,” said Patterson. “And I think that just resonates with college kids, you know reggae and punk, for whatever reason.”
Returning from my brief reprieve from the AZ heat inside The Expendables well air-conditioned trailer, I was soon greeted with a fun performance by internet frat rapper, Hoodie Allen.
Sporting black wayfarer style sunglasses, Allen got the crowd singing along to several songs off of his new album “People Keep Talking” as well as few 2012 classics.
“This is for the way, way back fans. Who remembers an album called All American?” Allen asked the crowd just before launching into the song, “Small Town” from his first EP amidst a chorus of shouts.
“I remember that album quite well,” I silently answered in my head as I raised a hand and gave up a little “woot woot”.
At around 6 that evening the heat began finally letting up as The Dirty Heads took the stage. The band got bodies moving as the sun went down with their summer time hit, “Lay Me Down”. By the time their new song “Burn Slow” was played it was clear that the crowd had been doing some burning themselves as pot smoke billowed all around.
The party really got started that night during dub-rock veterans, Slightly Stoopid’s set.
“Now we wanna know how many of ya’ll are ready to get live tonight!” said Kyle McDonald, the band’s lead singer, during their summer 2007 hit song, “2 a.m.”.
Judging by the deafening roar, nearly the entire crowd was indeed ready to get “live”.
In talking with the band’s saxophonist DeLa, I was given some insight on summer time concerts and music fans.
“Especially when it comes to festivals, you know, we’re outside and the vibe is great. It’s like a backyard barbeque when we’re out here with five to ten thousand people,” said DeLa. “Once the weather warms up, everybody gets even more stoked to party and come listen to live music outside and that [energy] comes through to us.”
Heading home that night and replaying all the great performances in my mind I was reminded why I love concerts so much. Seeing your favorite music performed by your favorite artists live just yards away from you is an experience like no other. I could still feel the excitement of the show while crossing the bridge over Tempe Town Lake, felt the buzz as I got on to the I-10 back to Phoenix.
*The buzz from the music rather, not from the copious amounts of second-hand smoke inhaled that night.