Craft Show Bootlegs

Just back in from a two-day whirlwind trip to Charlotte. A double bill of Widespread Panic and 18 holes at a treacherous championship frolf course. There are a lot of stories from the weekend. but one stands out.

Anybody familiar with Widespread Panic (or Phish or the Dead, for that matter) knows about the parking lot scene. It is usually full of aging hippies and youngish too-contents. This time was no different. I felt a little old, but not so out-of-place as to feel uncomfortable. Two quotes that stick out in my head…

“There are 11,500 people here and they have six porta-potties. Somebody wasn’t thinking.”–Some guy standing behind be in line.

“I just woke up. I’ve been passed out in that van over there…no, maybe it was that van.”–Some guy at 8 o’clock on Saturday night.

For those unfamiliar with the scene (I’m none-too-experienced myself, but I’ve seen it enough to know it)…imagine a lot of people who haven’t showered in a while. About 10% of them are selling grilled cheese sandwiches or burritos which in many cases are described as “fatty.” About 20% of the people are selling some kind of drink out of the back of their cars. Often beer or water. I saw a few juice boxes this time. About 10% of the people are looking for tickets to the show, 10% are selling counterfeit t-shirts or bootleg tapes, about 10% have dogs. And every twenty minutes or so someone will come by quietly and offer you drugs. It’s quite possible to be quite sane and consort with this crowd. But only if you are emotionally prepared for what you’ll see.

Somebody at Charlotte’s Cricket Arena (formerly the Independence Arena) must have been eating a really good steak or watching a really good game when they set up the schedule for this weekend.

We got to the parking lot about 4:30 on Saturday. We sat at the back of the vehicle, sipped some beers, and watched the show go on around us. By 5:30, the lot was full and in full effect. Music was playing, the police weren’t interested in the drug dealers yet, the smell of grilled cheese was everywhere. The masses were gearing up.

Then we saw the woman with Christmas Tree pin on her shirt and a big Santa Claus shopping bag. She looked lost and scared. She couldn’t find her car. She didn’t look like she belonged in this particular lot. Another woman who had found her car wasn’t fairing much better. She couldn’t fit the mid-sized fake Christmas tree in the trunk. She was trying to do it as if she were the young sex pot in a horror flick and all the hippies were the killers. Mothers and grandmothers were wandering aimlessly through the parking lot, clutching their children and shielding their eyes from the sin.

Turns out, the Cricket Arena hosted a Christmas Craft Fair on the same day as the Widespread show. Culture Clash.

The woman could’ve been smart instead of scared. If they’d just opened their cars and started hawking their wares (Fatty Christmas Trees, Kind Wicker Baskets!) they would’ve made a killing.

I’m tired.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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