By Cody S. Decker AKA The Colonel
As the rain starts to fall here in Kentucky, I’m starting to wind down. Finally starting to come off of this high I’ve ridden for about three days now. As I’m sure you know, GonzoFest 2015 was held this past Saturday in Louisville, Kentucky, just a mere hop and a skip from where I call home here in the Bluegrass State. And I had the privilege to, once again, be GonzoToday’s on the spot reporter.
I had my expectations how it’d be. I kind of thought I knew how the place would look, the feeling there would be in the air, the types of folks I’d see. In my mind’s eye, there were going to be about 1,500+ people screaming, squealing, scratching, and clawing their way past one another at the gates around 2:00 P.M. Just a mad scene, straight out of a movie. So, I waited ’til about thirty minutes after the gates had opened…just to be safe.
I was wasn’t too blown away when I first stepped in, I’ll be honest with you. Though, you’ve got to keep in mind my highly unlikely imagining of how the place would look from the get go. The grounds weren’t bustling with as many GonzoFreaks as I’d imagined. Some were there, just scattered sparsely. We must also keep in mind that as soon as I got there, I was in the dwindling phases of a humdinger of a hangover. I had what I called the 2:30 shakes. It was that point in the day after a night of indulgence that your hands are shakier than a dog pooping a peach seed but you can’t seem to shake the stank off of whatever still lingers from the night before. It was a bad scene. Nothing would have really blown my skirt up at that particular time.
My night before was The Monkey Wrench Pre-GonzoFest Party and it was worth it. A good mixture of tunes, poetry, drinks, and Hunter fans. Can’t go wrong with that in my book. The pre-festival celebration may have tried it’s damnedest to get the best of me that morning but it’s going to take more than that to keep this ol’ boy down. We must have full coverage!
Head held high, I stepped through the gates, got my wristband that said I could drink if I was so inclined and headed to our GonzoToday booth to see the crew and grab my nifty press pass. All was well and our festival headquarters seemed to be in good hands, so I took to the ground. I wanted to get a feel of the place before the crowd found its way in.
Looking around as I walked, I spotted the unmistakable Ron Whitehead, we posed for a picture in our
snazzy jackets, chatted for a bit, then went our separate ways. I was starting to forget about my earlier uneasiness until about halfway through my lap around the place, I caught a glimpse of the booze stand. My stomach churned and I realized that whatever I had forgotten about during the first few minutes of being here, still had a grip on me. So I decided to step up and step in line, fight fire with fire.
I ordered a bourbon, threw it back and was ready to roll.
The outer edge of the festival grounds was lined with booths much like our own but all uniquely different. The official artists of the 2015 version of GonzoFest Grant Goodwine and Ryan Case were set up and displaying some kickass work. Sculptor Matt Weir was there, giving us a glimpse of what the life-size bronze statue of Hunter will look like. Several other cool spots around the loop were drawing attention from passersby. After I made my lap, I grabbed a beer and found myself a nice secluded spot at a picnic table. That’s how I do it, I prefer to sit back and soak it all in. I like to “people watch” a little and let everything unfold in front of me. Every now and then I would traipse across the lawn and check in on my fellow GonzoTodayers, make another lap around the place and head back to my spot.
As the hours started to pass, the big open lawn started to fill. The hum of the crowd got a little louder but the music seemed to grab a hold of more and more with every minute. I could see some folks dancing alone, some with the first person they could grab, and some that may or may not have been having some sort of involuntary attack. Nevertheless, Gonzofest was picking up steam and I was starting to get excited. This was it. This was what I was hoping for. A melting pot of folks who didn’t care what the person to their left or right looked like, smelled like, or who or what they worshipped on Sundays. Everyone was there for one reason, to celebrate the life, legacy, and legend of Louisville’s own Hunter S. Thompson. And they were still piling in. Word was out and this was the place to be.
I smiled as I watched the once slow-moving crowd come to life as the sun started to make its way down. I saw this as the perfect opportunity to grab one more cold beer before Mr. Ron Whitehead took the stage for his keynote address. I shuffled my way through the crowd and back towards the beer dispensary. Once I got closer I soon realized what this influx of people does to the wait time for the only one watering hole in the place. Thirsty people spilled past the designated partitions and into the lawn. The line was so long, that if a man was drunk when he stepped in line, he would have been hung over by the time he got his next drink. A sensible feller would have said forget it and went on without a drink. I’ve never claimed to be a sensible man. I waited.
GonzoFestians like their booze.
The longer I waited, the more I worried that I would miss Ron giving his speech. To my relief, I did not. Ron took the stage to a beautiful backdrop of the Big Four Bridge with all of its lights aglow and I was front and center to take it all in. He spoke with vigor, passion, and excitement about his friend Hunter S. Thompson as I’ve seen him do several times before. The once rowdy crowd had came together into one single set of eyes peering at the stage. I can only imagine the feeling he had looking out over the crowd as he closed his declamation with a proud fist in the air proclaiming we are ALL part of “One Gonzo Spirit! One Gonzo Spirit! One Gonzo Spirit!” I saw that as a perfect way to end my night. Yeah, there was more celebration going on after Ron but for me, the Festival was complete.
It was a good time, with good people, for good reason.
I had said on the day before GonoFest 2015 that it was going to be one hell of a hootenanny. Well… I may not claim to be a sensible man, but every now and then I get things right. If you couldn’t make it this year, mark it down now to make it next year.
The rain is still falling here and I believe it’s time for me to wind all the way down. I’ll leave you with this: until GonzoFest 2016, let’s turn this One Gonzo Spirit spark into a roaring flame and spread it like wildfire all across the country. From here in Kentucky, to Woody Creek, to Big Sur and back.