We’re over a week removed from the 187th annual Mankato RibFest, and I’ve spent that entire interval in recovery. (Well, truthfully, I’ve just been binge-watching The Newsroom. Which, despite being little more than a self-righteous reboot of Sports Night with less-likable characters, is still pretty damned fantastic.)
Going into RibFest weekend, there was only one night that held much intrigue: Friday’s lineup of Nato Coles & The Blue Diamond Band, The Suburbs, and Cheap Trick. Thursday’s starched-shirt country lineup was mercifully rained out, Live‘s Saturday set was probably more forgettable than the singles from Secret Samadhi, and attending any outdoor event on a Sunday is purely for masochists and people without bicycles.
The intrigue was mostly predicated on the opening act, a band I’d seen a few times already. The plan was to watch the openers, crush a couple of six-dollar beers, and then make a graceful exist. But a few beers turned into several (as they do), and pretty soon, I was neck deep in aging rocker carnage.
The first clue that things were going to get sad popped up during Nato’s set. When the band busted out their trusty cover of “Can’t Hardly Wait,” a salt-and-pepper paunch wrapped in a Cheap Trick shirt peeled himself away from the merch tent and rushed the stage, crackling with “hey, I recognize that song!” hysterics. After engaging in some brief front-row banter with the band, duder stuck around for exactly half of the next song (an original) before bolting to do, presumably, absolutely nothing in a different location.
This kind of behavior–the blatant shunning of new experiences even when they’re unfolding right in front of your face–couldn’t be embodied any more wholeheartedly/halfassedly. Or so I thought. Yet with just a slight shift of my gaze, his histrionics were thoroughly out-boomered:
Here’s some fuel for those “worst generation ever” flames: Straight IGNORING a band while positioned front-and-center-stage is the Baby Boomer Dick Move equivalent of filming an entire song with your iPhone…except way more distracting, way more obnoxious, and way more self-centered. The combination of arrogance and oblivion displayed here is staggering.
But if you look a little closer at this photo, there’s a duality here, displaying the best and worst of RibFest. The jaded fan in the center is obviously the worst, but look to the left: Two teenage girls are leaning against the barrier, clad in Ramones and GNR shirts, giving the band their undivided attention…because this is the best thing they can get. They’ll absorb live music at any opportunity, eager to soak up new experiences and feel the electricity of live performance–any live performance. And that’s why this type of event is worthwhile, not because it’s fan service for a bunch of curmudgeons that want to relive their glory years of being oblivious to punk rock.
Thus, we have two types of fans that attend these shows: Grandparents hellbent on replicating snapshots from their heyday, and kids that haven’t had the chance to take theirs yet.
And then there are the people that show up just to get shitfaced in public.
THOUSANDS OF THEM.
Sure, it’s a bit presumptive to assume that the majority of attendees weren’t there to see The Suburbs, who survived the saddest radio-guy emcee intro ever–complete with “back in my day” and “that social media stuff” jokes–before running out of vocal hooks and adrenaline 30 seconds into their set. Or to see Cheap Trick, who still indulged in full rockstar posturing–Rick Nielsen had a roadie serve him different guitar for nearly every song–yet totally didn’t come off as shopworn, haggard, and obsolete.
But there was ample evidence to back up the speculation that the majority of RibFesters were just there to flaunt their Confederate flag regalia, facilitate awkward run-ins with former co-workers, and chug canned domestics in portable toilets:
Until last weekend, I’d made it a full seven years in Kato without attending a RibFest.
See you in seven more. Stay classy.