Gentlemen of the Road stage – photo taken early on Day One
Our little family of three spent the majority of this past weekend in a town just north of Oklahoma City called Guthrie. It used to be the once-thriving capital of the Oklahoma Territory. During the Land Run on April 22, 1889, the small rail stop of Guthrie boomed into a city of over 10,000 people by nightfall. A little over two decades later, Oklahoma City was chosen to be the capital after statehood was granted and Guthrie was eventually left behind. Today, Guthrie’s population still remains around 10,000.
That all changed last week. The Gentlemen of the Road tour (featuring Alabama Shakes, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and, of course, Mumford & Sons) came into town Friday, more than tripling Guthrie’s population. Again, people poured in from all over the Plains region to claim their plot of land at the Cottonwood Flats. Vying for precious ground on which to throw a blanket was a fairly easy thing to do. We weren’t staking a claim on which to raise a family; we only wished for a decent spot that had a good view of the stage.
As with any concert and, I’ll assume, outdoor music festival – since this one was my first – there is always the risk of being confronted with people who are too tall, too drunk, or just ridiculously rude. We were lucky in that none of these people moved in on our land until the last day of the festival. They also happened to show up during the last hour when Mumford & Sons took the stage. Three particularly giant men managed to steal a few square feet of space ahead of us and block out the entire stage with just their shoulders alone. I didn’t have time to name each one of them, so they more or less became a race of people I called Ginormica. Two blankets in front of us, a guy we named “Sage” (based on the name written on his backpack) smoked a few joints and introduced my kid to her first real whiff of pot. She’s gonna learn sometime…
During a lively Mumford jam session on stage, we encountered Drunk Chicken Man. Drunk Chicken Man decided to stand directly in front of Elle and me even though there were plenty of other plots of space to occupy. Perhaps to make up for the intrusion, Drunk Chicken Man generously offered our blanket neighbor some grilled chicken, forcing the shredded meat into the confused man’s hand. He politely and then not-so politely declined, so Drunk Chicken Man took back the chicken leg with his bare hand and passed it over to my daughter. The WTF? look on her face was fantastic. We yelled at him out of pure shock, but with nobody around willing to share in the feast, Drunk Chicken Man moved on.
When Mumford & Sons quieted down, they began playing a beautifully soft and mesmerizing piece. It was difficult to enjoy, though, with the drunk trio of loud guffawers sitting behind us. My husband remarked in their direction, “Shut up!” to no avail. Finally, after a good two minutes or so of boisterous laughter, he marched over to them and said, “You do realize that you’re ruining this beautiful song for everyone within a 20-foot radius so why don’t you just shut the fuck up?” MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. We didn’t hear another peep from them for the rest of the night.
Beards, they can be intimidating, and Mumfordland is full of beards. Those three didn’t stand a chance.
Saturday evening, sick from the heat and exhausted from the long weekend, we packed up our belongings and returned to Oklahoma City. It’s the second time this century that Guthrie’s population has fallen significantly due to people moving on to the “new” state capital. Instead of trains, the city was overrun with trolleys and SUVs. And the Union Jack was prominently displayed throughout the town to honor the musicians who had managed to coordinate such a fantastic weekend. This time, it seems, Guthrie is doing just fine after the hasty departure of more than 25,000 people. There is no worry that financial despair or a decades-long depression will thrust the economy into the red dirt again. In fact, local businesses were thrilled to have such a busy weekend and local residents were probably just as happy to see us finally leave.
P.S. For the record, we did not stake our claim on Friday and sit there all weekend. We’re not crazy. We did, however, manage to stake our claim on Saturday near our first day claim. Both locations were nicely plotted and, for the most part, our neighbors were great.