By: Ross Lockhart, Contributor
I wrote a Scene and Heard post about Lobsterfest last year, but it turned out to be about me fighting with my old girlfriend. Upon reading it again, the piece overtly reflects a distinct indecisiveness characteristic of most music and sex-obsessed 21-year-olds exploring the perpetual conflict between obligation and desire. My favorite passage, for example, reads: “Everything was a little hazy so I sat down and drank some more cheap beer on a porch. From the view on the porch I watched my girlfriend climb a fence. At home we fought viciously but made peace to order more pizza. A half an hour later she was crying again while I stared at the rebirthed pizza in the toilet bowl.” It was a good weekend, but it was also a bad weekend. It was heaven and hell, yin and yang, pain and pleasure indistinguishable.
My younger brother is 18-years-old and I barely know him. It's unfortunate, but my relationship with my family has suffered since the day I left for college. I always told myself that there would be time to mend things later on, but with my brother graduating from high school and my grandparents moving into assisted living, it feels like time is running out.
My brother, Craig, has hardly been anywhere or done anything on his own. He's stays close to home because of his friendship with our youngest brother, Wyatt, and from being coddled by our admirable, yet unknowable parents. Craig says he's sick of high school and small town suburban life. Since his spring break coincided with this year's Lobsterfest, I invited him down to Athens to escape the pressures of adolescence for the weekend.
When Craig arrived, I switched into cool-guy-older-brother-mode and took him to the dining hall. He seemed completely overwhelmed but excited. After that we went to see Aaron Carter even though Craig had no idea who he was. AC’s visit to Athens quickly became a dead horse. It was a humbling reminder of the dehumanizing effect of celebrities. The most profound assessment I've heard about the spectacle was this: “He's up there in front of everybody doing his thing, but when it's over he's just going to go back to wherever he's from and be alone again.” Needless to say, Craig was unimpressed.
We then decided to splurge on party supplies using the substantial amount of pocket money my parents had given him for the weekend and went back to the house. That night he said he wasn't feeling well, so I headed to Casa solo. Ghost Stories played a solid set that further established them as the hunkiest band in Athens. With Slam Stansfield as an official member, the group's sound has evolved without sacrificing any of their goofy boy-band charm. Eric Bishop sang “If it's meant to be it will happen” and wiggled his hips. Everyone cheered. After that, dust from 1000 yrs played an insanely loud set that provoked plenty of “Yeah, I wasn't really into that” reactions.
Craig was feeling better the next day and was able to partake in our house's ice cream social. While we had a decent turnout in spite of the rain, we barely put a dent in the cream. Harold's mother, a poised and elegant woman, came down to visit for the night. When it was her turn to do charades she threw herself onto the floor and waved her arms and legs while doing so. Everybody lost it and Harold guessed the word: Bodysurfing.
Frankie Teardrop had already finished playing by the time we got to The Union. “I'm not upset that you missed it,” Shane Riley told me. “But that was probably the best set we've ever played.” Distraught, I bought a beer for myself and a Rum & Coke for Craig. Moltar played fifteen minutes of undulating electronic noise that mostly confused the attendees. Craig was fascinated. “Is this music?” he asked.
After Moltar came Horse Lords, who were amazing. Their music is a combination of uptempo math and progressive instrumental rock with one of the members switching between auxiliary percussion and saxophone. When he first blew on that sax, the crowd lost their minds. They played three 10+ minute songs, and every movement was highly dynamic and exciting, which made for one of the best sets of the whole weekend. Craig was thrilled. He had never seen live music before. “Wow,” he said. “Those guys killed it.” He had a big, goofy smile on his face.
Saturday was a long, hazy day. We spent most of it on the porch drinking beer and killing time until the show. At Central Venue, Giant Claw performed. Craig said he was “pretty cool.” Hyrrokkin ripped it. Craig said they were also “pretty cool.” We skipped out on the rest of the bands until it was time for Deerhoof to play. They put on a great show, especially the drummer, Greg Saunier. “I Swear to God, dude,” Sam said to me. “That's the best drummer in the world.” Saunier gave a short and moving, if not slightly abstract, speech describing life on tour as “repetition and variety both in the extreme” as he dripped sweat all over the stage. Lead singer Satomi Matsuzaki played the bass and kicked her little legs from side to side. Deerhoof has been around for ten years and they still look thrilled to be playing music together.
Everything was a blur at The Smiling Skull. (New England) Patriots are the best band ever. Toupee was amazing. I went upstairs and found Craig surrounded by my friends. They were teasing him, asking him if he knew what a spank bank was. “I mean... I know what it is, but it's not like I have one,” he said, blushing with a blissful, drunken grin on his face. Small Steps (or Stepping Stones, as Craig called them) played their last set ever to an especially rowdy crowd. My beer got knocked out of my hand and spilled all over the stage. With his hair dangling in his face, Grant held his guitar over his head and punched it until the feedback sounded like a demonic scream. It was a truly primal moment. He looked like a neanderthal wielding a giant bone with all the under-evolved apes losing their shit in awe of his power. I've seen Small Steps play tons of times, but this was something special.
I wanted to stick around and give out sloppy hugs, so Craig walked back to my house by himself. When I got home he was asleep under the glow of the porch lights, his head propped in his hand. He woke up and stretched. “Tonight was so fun,” he said. “I think I should go to sleep.” I said goodnight and sat by myself listening to the quiet. My ears were ringing. Sam came and sat next to me. “Today was the best day of my life,” he told me. “It's so sad and beautiful. When you play music together, that's an unbreakable friendship. It's something you can never give up.” Harold joined us and we all sat reflecting on the glorious day.
In the morning I asked Craig if he wanted to get some food before he left but his head and stomach hurt. I hugged him and said goodbye. As he drove away I felt really sad, like there was something missing. Maybe I should have been more considerate. Maybe I should take myself more seriously and be a better role model and brother. Four hours later he sent me a text. It read:
“Made it home. Thanks for having me man. I had such a blast. Have to do it again sometime.”
This made everything okay. I feel as though I understand Craig now, or better anyway. We still have a lot of things to learn about each other, more than could ever be learned in a single weekend, but we finally have some memories to share just between the two of us. It feels good. Being a big brother is a responsibility I never wanted until now, but Craig is cool. We had fun.P.S. This Lobsterfest and sibling bonding would not have been possible without Shane Riley and ACRN with help from the Student Activity Commission. Thanks!