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Postcards from Bonnaroo, 5: The Impossible Strain of Being Paul McCartney

On a level you can’t blame them. So many people to do their bidding, to jump and step and fetch as the need is required. And they cause such scenes, of course they require quick transit.
But there is a not so fine line between expediting travel, and being a royal pain in the lower back or sitter. That cluelessness of inconveniencing myriad people, because, well, why shouldn’t the hoi polloi wait?

 So it was I found myself tired and spent from the heat, standing with a friend at the end of the extended arm and spread fingered upright palm of a young black man saying “You can’t go…”

It was the main artery, that golf carts had flown down and trucks moved back and forth carrying gear from stage to stage. Can’t go? How come, why not? At first no answer, but aas ten minutes turned to twenty, several dozen people turned over a hundred, the kid knew he needed something.

“Paul McCartney,” he said sheepishly, as more “people” were brought in for back-up. Headlights shone forward, two lines along the other side of the road, lined up well beyond how far we could see, also idling for Sir Paul, who was at some point going to leave.

Americana Music Association head Jed Hilley was there with his kids. They’d come to see Walk The Moon, they were ready to go home. One needed to get up early to get to basketball camp. But nothing mattered. Sir Paul McCartney had finished his soundcheck, and he must proceed unimpeded.

Never mind all of us, sunburned, exhausted, also ready to go home. We would wait.
And wait we did.
And wait, and wait, and wait.

People ran out of small talk. All anyone could say is, “It’s Paul McCartney.”

Yes, the roads in are tight. But the traffic was incoming. McCartney had a police escort. Would Springsteen do that? Tom Petty? Dave Matthews? Willie Nelson?
Most probably not. And it’s not that anyone here would be so bold as to throw themselves upon his car. He’s a Beatle, not the Dalai Llama.

And so we stoof, and I remembered why I liked John Lennon more. Or rather found another reason.

Most likely, it wasn’t even Sir Paul. It was the handlers who thought Bonnaroo would be cool, a way to establish the brand with a younger audience. They didn’t know the decorum, they just decided he was rock royalty – and couldn’t be inconvenienced by the sweaty, stinky people.


Suddenly, someone waved at us. “Go!. You can go now. Hurry…”
It was like they knew more than they were letting on. And it didn’t seem like they were letting the cars and trucks move.

I didn’t look back, or down, or around. I started walking. Hard. Fast. In those perfect one yard steps my father taught me to take when he realized my depth perception was nonexistent and I was trying to learn to gauge strange golf courses as a kid.

Walk I did. Got to my car. Hit the button, so the lights flashed, so I could find my car in the field in the darkness. It was awesome. I was free.

Jed Hilley came by, looking around. His kids marveled how I got to my car so much quicker. They didn’t realize that in the world of superstardom, where the air is so thin, they just don’t get enough oxygen to think about anyone but themselves, anything can change.

Sure enough, it did.

Putting my car into reverse, I nosed foreward just a bit. No one else was around, but you never about those fields and pot holes. No need to hurt the car. But as I eased forward, I realized no one else was out there, because they’d stopped the pedestrians after we left.

Two cars had been stopped at the lane closer to the festival. A guy was waving his arms at me. Mouthing stop.

“No, they let us go,” I insisted.
He looked sheepish.
“We were being held. He’s done.”
The young man shook his head no.

“NO?” I asked incredulous.

“No…” he said with a sad face.

“And if I go…?”

“Please don’t do that,” he almost begged.

“Just please…”
“For the love of God, is he even in the limo?” I asked, knowing the tides of the overly indulged bold-faced icon.

“I, uhm…” This wasn’t a feeble kid, just a circumstance he totally didn’t know what to say.

“Then tell me what it is, or I’m leaving.”
“He decided…,” the kid paused and looked down.
“Yes,” I said, knowing I had an email that had to be sent, that needed sending 30 minutes ago.

“He, uhm, he…”
I looked at my phone. It was over 45 minutes since I first looked after being held up.

“Please… because I’d like to know why I’m holding up someone I work with.”

“He wanted to check out the dressing room…” came the watery response.

“Of course,” I howled. “How utterly completely clueless.”
“I know,” the kid agreed. “This sucks.”
“REALLY sucks, and just wait til I write all about it.”

Another eight minutes passed, and nothing happened. The young man waked over.
“Just go,” he said into the window I’d left rolled down. “Just go.”

And I did. Like a bat out of molasses, but moving so I would not be in the way when His Majesty’s Knight in Service went blazing away.

Never mind that I would’ve already checked into my hotel, put my bags in the room, sent the email and was sitting in the car, debating Waffle House at 10:40 at night when the string of spinning blue lights burned up KOA Campground Road and onto the highway, headed for 24.