Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Witz Pickz: Bumber-Shot

As I stood sipping a beer Sunday night, with Seattle rock group The Blakes on my left and prolific comedian David Cross on my right, it occurred to me that I have absolutely nothing to say to famous people. I was at Seattle's music/film/comedy/arts festival Bumbershoot, and a friend of mine had hooked me up with a pass for the VIP Lounge. Up until that point, I had enjoyed the free water, cheese platter, and Chapagne "tasting" from 3-5pm. Up until that point, I had enjoyed these things WITH SOMEONE ELSE PRESENT. It was only when I was left alone in the lounge that I found myself shoulder to shoulder with two "celebrities" and absolutely nothing to say-- hence the drink. I didn't even want the drink, but it turns out that even if you are looking out onto a stage where The Saturday Knights are performing, it still comes off as creepy to be an unfamous person standing alone with no obvious goals or activities near famous people.

I wish I could say that "to my credit" I didn't say anything to them because I was playing it cool, but frankly, I didn't say anything because I had nothing of value or interest to say. PLUS, I had already clapped The Blakes bassist on the shoulder and said, "Great set man" earlier in the day, so it was doubly awkward to be standing by him AGAIN. And what do you say to David Cross? "Hey man, you're funny." Wow. And you can't quote the best Arrested Development line of his back to him by saying, "Hey David, love Arrested Developement-- I'm an analrapist!" because talk like that will get you thrown out of the VIP lounge pretty quick. So what is there to say?

I had encountered this problem earlier in the festival when I walked past my favorite up and coming comedian, Aziz Ansari. I walked past him while he was hanging out with two other friends and missed the chance to say hi. Later that night, I saw him hanging out with another comedian and two very attractive, very slutty looking fans. "This is a good time to say something," my brain obviously concluded, so I interrupted their conversation to say, "Hey Aziz-- great stuff, man! (apparently my go to phrase for performers is to say "great," then fill in the ___ for what they do, and conclude with the word "man." Did I mention they let me talk on the radio?) Don't worry though, I didn't stop there, with Aziz trying to figure out what hairy intruder just interrupted his conversation. I realized that I knew the other comedian and quickly added, "You too man, you're...(like you don't know what I'm gonna say)...great, man!" I couldn't for the life of me remember his name (Rob Heubel, incidentally), which was a fun bonus moment, only outdone by our attempt at a handshake, where I'm pretty sure I ended up grasping his forearm like we were Roman Gladiators. The whole thing went over like getting home on my birthday. I'm only getting smoother with age.

After this horror occurred, my friends and I discussed what I could possibly have said to Aziz.

ME: Hey, Aziz! We're...the same age! WOO! We're the same age! I mean, you're Indian and I'm Caucasian, and you're from South Carolina and I'm from Connecticut, but we're the same age! You're a successful comedian and I did a few open mics several years ago! WOO! THE SAME AGE!

With nothing to say to Aziz Ansari, I couldn't possibly say anything to David Cross or The Blakes or Janeane Garafolo who tore past me looking like a drunken troll doll sporting cool tattoos and about 4' 8'' of aggression.

ME: Hey! The Blakes and David Cross! We're white! We're not the same age, and we're of vastly different success levels creatively, and I'm the guy alone in the VIP lounge while you are with your friends-- but we're all WHITE! Let's hangout!

As I was about to leave, The Saturday Knights played a song that immediately made me think, "This sounds like The Blakes if they were a hip-hop group." It was an innocent thought, and IT DID sound like that, but it's very rare in your life when you have a thought like that and the group you're talking about is directly next to you. You're not always able to turn to Muse and say, "You guys sound like Radiohead, but with more affordable ticket prices!" or to Bono and say, "Coldplay sounds like you when you were relevant!" After a great debate, I fought the urge to say something and simply left. Somehow, saying, "They sound like you if you were a hip hop group," and walking away sounds like the last thing someone might say to you before hiding in the trunk of your car and following you home. So I played it cool, and said nothing.

Other Bumbershoot Moments:

"Repent or Else:"
This is not the name of a Christian Hardcore band. It was the gigantic sign that a ragged looking man with cracked out eyes was carrying around outside of the festival. The sign was probably six feet tall and on a giant stake. This, in and of itself, was not unique. As I walked by the man, however, I saw that another guy was talking to him very eloquently. I looked at the guy and he appeared to be a well dressed bespectacled man in his forties-- and he was attempting to have a conversation about the man's sign. I was shocked. If there's one thing I've learned in my years on this planet, it's that YOU DON'T TALK to the man with the REPENT OR ELSE SIGN! The man made a giant sign. He has stated his position. You can't say things like, "but the scripture clearly states...(actual quote)" to him because he's THE GUY WITH THE REPENT OR ELSE SIGN! You're not going to change his mind! Now, maybe if you were the guy with the six foot tall "Do Whatever" sign, you can have a religious debate in the streets. But you can't just be some educated dude walking up to the REPENT OR ELSE guy and deciding to argue the finer points of organized worship. Hoooooly crap.

The Opening Act:
While killing time by the mainstage stands, we were treated to an opening act of sorts. Three girls, none of whom could have been over eighteen, were slowly making their way in front of the stands. Two of them were supporting a third, who was stumble-drunk and looking like each step might be her last. Just as she passed where a couple of us were sitting, she halted slightly, then booted right in front of her on the ground. THE ENTIRE CROWD SECTION CHEERED and APPLAUDED! Apparently, everyone had been watching this progression just waiting like we were for the inevitable. One of the girls was so embarrassed she abandoned her friend and ran off. The other helped her to the bathroom where she would...I dunno really-- it seemed a little late to me. The crowd then played a game for the next ten minutes that I called, "Don't Step In It, But We're Not Going To Warn You." You don't realize how easy it is to ignore vomit on the ground until you watch other people traipse right through it. Every time someone came close to it, the crowd would gasp slightly, and every time someone stepped in it, we'd all groan and break into applause. And we wonder why we can't band together to fight global warming...

Rockstar and...nothing?
The energy drink Rockstar was one of the sponsors of the festival this year, which meant that at the Rockstar stage they were giving out big cups full of Rockstar (which is mildly disturbing when it's yellow). Needing occasional energy boosts (and assuming that my body now craves the stuff), I had a few throughout the days-- and a strange thing happened. While there was no actual alcohol in the drink, my body reacted AS IF there was vodka in it. When I turned my head, things moved a little slower, I began slurring my speech (as did two other friends on mine), and I straight up felt DRUNK. This means that either a) my body noticed my intake of an energy drink sans alcohol and actually secreted stored up vodka into my system OR b) I have trained my body like a Pavlovian dog to automatically feel drunk when I taste or consume an energy drink. Both of these possibilities are perturbing, probably unhealthy, and ultimately, kind of cool.

Greatest Crowd Surfer Ever:
Once again, someone with fewer active limbs has achieved something greater than I have. During The Offspring's set, the crowd actually lifted up a kid in a wheelchair and managed to pass him (still in his chair) all the way to the front of the crowd. The lead singer saw it and laughed during the song, and everyone cheered for this kid as he made his way to the front. It was probably the single coolest thing I've seen at a concert (and I've seen a skanking midget elbow me and my friends in the stomachs repeatedly). It was punctuated after the song by the singer announcing, "That might be the single greatest crowd surfer ever!" I looked at the morbidly obese, goateed man nearby and shook my head, "No," just in case he got any ideas.

By the end of Bumbershoot, what with all the stress, and the sun, and the celebrity awkwardness, my body finally broke the promise it made when it decided I would be impervious to illness so long as I constantly pushed it to its breaking point (and drank RBVs). I got sick. Bumbershoot was fun, but by the end of the third day, I was bussing it home before Death Cab For Cutie took the stage, and was content simply to sleep on Dolan Out the Pain's futon for the next 10 hours with a powerade in one hand, and a bottle of nyquil in the other-- which they card for now-- meaning that just to spite them, I took a double dose and it was faaaantastic. It was a great weekend in Seattle, but I was Bumbershot and ready to come home.

I Realize "BumberShot" Sounds Vaguely Like Pornographic Film Terminology,

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