We’d planned to arrive a day early to the 10,000 Lakes Festival in Detroit Lakes, Minn., for the purposes of finding a sweet camping spot before everyone else had a chance to get it first. Those plans were thwarted, however, by the venue’s policy that no one would be admitted earlier than 10 a.m. on the first day of music. So an early wakeup was the key, and we drove the short distance to the Soo Pass Ranch and took our rightful place in line for our campground.
The wait wasn’t more than an hour to get in, where we were given sampler CDs of some of the upcoming acts, wristbands for the music and campground, and a pass to get back in, if we chose to leave the ground at any time – an uncommon option to find at this kind of festival.
I’ve always been a proponent of the sites closest to the stage, maybe out of laziness but also for the increase in foot traffic. This is the kind of place you want to meet people, because everyone is just so happy to be there. And what do you know, as soon as we drove into the grounds, a big fat spot off to our left was staring us in the face. Satisfied with our setting, we put together what would be our homes and living area for the next four days. Joey wasted no time in replacing his pants with pajamas, which he rightly considers to be optimal festival wear.
Sarah leapt into action with her incredible sandwich-making skills, whipping us up a round of sandwiches with our WalMart groceries. We enjoyed a celebratory drink, as we’d reached our original halfway point; in planning our route, we found this festival at about midway through our timeline, and it lies right about midway across the country, going east to west. So it made perfect sense to commit to this, and plan our stops around it.
Next in festival protocol (assuming nobody’s on stage yet, which was indeed the case) is the obligatory getting-to-know-you with the campground. We were in one of four different grounds on the ranch, and drinks in hand, went for a nice stroll through the woods. As it turns out, we didn’t get here quite as punctually as we thought we had, given the volume of tents that were already up and looking comfortable.
Then came the customary walk down Shakedown Street. Every festival has a Shakedown, a row of vendors peddling anything from tie-dye to glass “tobacco” pipes, and it’s named for the Grateful Dead song in which Shakedown “used to be the heart of town,” and there’s “nothing shaking” there anymore unless you “poke around.” This isn’t an entirely accurate analogy, because Shakedown at a festival or concert is usually right next to the venue. If there’s anywhere besides in front of the stage that I’d describe as the currently the “heart of town,” it’s usually Shakedown Street.
This led us right into the concert area, where four different stages were set up. We had a while before the music started up, so we studied the vendors for what we’d be wanting to eat, drink and play with for the next four days. Among these vendors was one gentleman selling oxygen. While most of the air we breathe is made of over 75% nitrogen and just over 20% oxygen, this fellow was selling nearly pure oxygen flavored with various scents and tastes, like lemongrass, peppermint, lavender and a handful of others. It was supposed to make us feel healthier, breathe better, etc., and he was nice enough to give us a few minutes more than we’d paid for. But I have a feeling that this was akin to paying for ten minutes on a Bowflex, because I noticed minimal results.
It was about six in the evening, and the first band of the day was taking the stage, called Gomez. We’d arrived at our site at no later than 11:00 a.m., and here we were seven hours later with still a minimal crowd in the concert area. No matter – more room for us to explore and find the right spot.
The different acts, of which there were dozens to be dispersed over four days and between four stages, were generally oriented towards a jam band theme. Gomez was right there, with some funky beats and long guitar and bass solos. This was my first experience with them, and they had some talent. They made dancing pretty easy.
The main attraction for the night was Widespread Panic, whom I’d seen before, enjoyed moderately, but never quite understood why they had the stellar reputation that they do. Maybe I just measure everyone else in the Grateful Dead’s shadow, and in that respect they fall far short. And we’d had a long day of early rising, campsite-building and exploration. And finally, they were playing again two nights later.
With all this in mind, we missed them. We laid down for a nap around 9:00 and didn’t wake up until the next morning. Joey and Sarah managed to rustle themselves up for some late-night music, but Bern and I were out like sauerkraut. For all the right steps we’d taken throughout the day, we forgot one of the most important – always take a mid-day nap. We would learn from our mistakes, and take a slightly different approach the next day, as you’ll learn more about very soon.