Home » Uncategorized » Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA

Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA

A little late but here it is:

It is my contention that the Singularity can’t happen unless humans want it to happen. It is also my contention that with each passing generation, humans want it more and more. The melding of man and machine gets closer to happening because each new crop of kids is more accepting of virtual reality. Only us oldsters wax fondly about doing such things as walking, dancing, and participating in mob violence.

Which brings us to <a href=”http://www.musikfest.org/”>Bethlehem’s MusikFest 2008</a>, the opposite of the Singularity if there ever was. Bethlehem is a sweet old factory town complete with a gentrified commercial area housing cute boutiques, a smart bookstore, and the well appointed brick and cobble that once played host to a huge, but now dead industry. It’s delightful just to walk around Bethlehem. No sarcasm there. It really is a pleasant walk, but only if you’re an oldster. No one under 30 walks anywhere.

MusikFest is not perhaps the best time to see Bethlehem. Admittedly part of it was okay. On Main Street up above the festival proper things remained sane. Eclectic music was featured. An Irish-like fiddle/bass/acoustic guitar combo found itself in one Platz. Another Platz hosted Indigrrl-type duos with pitch perfect harmony, angsty lyrics, and catchy rhythm. The food up top was likewise eclectic: international (gyros), healthy (vegan), and well furnished (café tables under awnings). We liked MusikFest up top. But down below were the main attractions of the festival so down we went, spiraling past a defunct foundry and all the levels of hell Dante had in mind. The best had been saved for last. Down at the bottom of the Inferno Hell came into its own.

The music down on level 9 consisted of cover bands enjoyed by audiences of a size the Independents up top would kill for (landing them on level 7, of course). There was a Bon Jovi cover band, a Bob Marley cover band, and probably more famous sound alikes that we missed as we made our way to the food tables. We heard Jimi Hendrix was to make an appearance later. Most likely the guitar-burning trick looks better after the sun goes down. Anyway, the theatrics would be perfect for the bottom of the Inferno. We didn’t stick around for Jimi’s entrance, however. We had other things to do. We had to join the river of humanity that was our destiny.

The food at the bottom was a mixture of regional and traditional. Deep fat fried (chicken, fish, and potatoes) stood for traditional. The tradition being festival food is always bad. Funnel cake stood for regional. Funnel cake is a mainstay of festivals in this part of the world. Everyone loves funnel cake and it may actually be the reason the festival was put together in the first place. Judging from its popularity it was quite possibly the main reason everyone was there. And a damn good reason it was. We enjoyed ours standing up. Later when we got home we showered the powdered sugar off ourselves and hosed out the car as well.

Despite the free and loud music everywhere, the people down in the depths of Hell provided the best entertainment: over the top and uber real. Living as we all do almost exclusively on the Internet with breaks once in a while to catch some TV, we are totally unaware of what a human being actually looks like. The only place to witness humanity in its natural state is by participating in something like MusikFest. It’s shocking for us Singularity types. If it’s been a while since you’ve been out in Reality, here’s an eye-opener: humans are not model-perfect. They don’t look like our friends on prime time all of whom have model perfect bodies, faces, and hair. They are not Chief Inspector smart either. They cannot figure out who did it. They can’t, in fact, figure out how to eat funnel cake without getting powdered sugar all over their mismatched and ill-fitting clothing.

Sadly, humans are thoroughly average. More fun than YouTube, Fox News, and the Sports Channel combined, however, their antics will keep you occupied even after the funnel cake is long gone. Standouts at this year’s festival: the scantily-clad gorilla guy eschewing clothes to better show off his body hair. The dressed to the nines thirty-somethings tripping through the mud and clinging with a vengeance to their dates. The mothers of small children maniacally thrusting their strollers through the crowd like weapons, daring anyone to make cracks about birth control. The fathers waving bouquets of two-foot-long corn cobs over their heads and slopping barbecue sauce on the crowd to boot: Big Daddy providing for his brood. And everybody in general forever trudging onward at cross purposes: this one wants shishkebob, this one wants a smoothie, this one just wants out. In spite of the fact that young folks never walk anymore,

MusikFest attracted trudging people of all ages, not just oldsters out for a reality stroll. The mix was surprising and profound. It was swarm activity on a level so intense you couldn’t take it for more than a half hour. Any time longer than that would result in diarrhea and a nosebleed. The whole of the festival from one entrance to the other was a single mass of totally real, totally sweaty, totally smelly all age human flesh. Claustrophobic in its intensity, two rivers of humanity, one going one way, the other the opposite, continuously flowed past each other. From sun up to sun down the river flowed. Using the group mind characteristic of these events, each participant in the non-stop flow, ate bad and bad-for-you food. Non-stop. It was the highlight of the festival. No one smiled and if you eyed your neighbor’s sloshing beer a little too longingly, you’d receive a snarl, or a growl, or quite possibly a bite.

Ignoring the heroes of a previous generation’s music on stage over to the left and right of the flow, we trudged ever onwards, not sure where we were going or why. Our feet tripped over birch beer cans, lost dogs, and the occasional discarded chicken carcass without us so much as commenting on just how miserable we all were. Stunned at the human spectacle, most of us probably spent the entire time wondering just how the hell we ended up in hell. It was an unpleasant experience to say the least and one in which no on in their right mind should miss. Where else can one experience the truly garish? The truly human? Each generation may be more accepting of the human/machine interface as we slowly descend into virtual reality and its promise of perfection, but there will always be a need for MusikFest. There will always be a need for uber reality in all its ghastly grotesquerie. There will always be a need for funnel cake.


— Scusteister Schwamp


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