For those just joining us, the reasoning behind Worst. Night. EVER! is for you to gain some sort of sick sadistic satisfaction out of a Mercury employee's suffering and unhappiness. But for me, it means something different. For me, it's about exposing ourselves to a culture that you or I would never voluntarily explore, and while we're there, "walking a mile in their shoes," as it were.
That being said, HOW DARE YOU? How dare you vote to send me to an event where it's impossible to walk in someone else's shoes—because they're not wearing any shoes? I'm speaking, of course, about FaerieWorlds—a three-day musical event and "gathering of tribes" (WHAT?) just outside of Eugene, Oregon. That's right, EUGENE: Whose only significant exports are hippies and Duck fans. AND it takes TWO hours to get there—so that's FOUR hours (there and back) in the car for a music festival catering to a group of people (hippies!) that historically, I cannot stand.
HOWEVER. There was one redeeming aspect of FairieWorlds that neither you or I predicted....
More after the jump.
Now I've been to "hippie" events before, but I was shocked, amazed, and pleased as I possibly could be (under such dire circumstances) that FaerieWorlds was teeming with a demographic that is far too underrepresented at most of these affairs: the "Super Cute Hippie Chick." In actuality, "Super Cute Hippie Chicks" dominated this event—and to help you grasp this concept, I've constructed my first ever "pie chart" to illustrate the demographic breakdown of the social groups present at FaerieWorlds.
Now, as you can clearly see from the above expertly-rendered infographic, "Super cute hippie chicks" far outweigh both the "stinkfoot hippies" and "straight dudes" demos—and yes, I realize I should do a Venn Diagram demonstrating the crossover between the latter two groups, but we both know that would just be showing off—and that's what made FaerieWorlds very different from the Renaissance Fair you sent me to last year. Plus! I made a startling discovery that may surprise you... which I'll share after this brief history of FaerieWorlds.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF FAERIEWORLDS THAT YOU SHOULDN'T SKIP IF YOU ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT CULTURES OTHER THAN YOUR OWN.
Faerieworlds is a music and arts festival that began in Oregon and is now in its second decade, with similar festivals sprouting up in Arizona, New Mexico, and California. It bills itself as "the realm of the faeries," and leans heavily on folklore, cosplay (not just of the faerie variety), paganism, and absolutely terrible "world music." (More on that later, too.) Along with two different musical stages, it also features a "Mythic Marketplace" with over 150 vendors, children's activities, lectures, and people dressed in yak horns eating corndogs. Since 2009 it's been held on Mount Pisgah in Lane County's Howard Buford Recreation Area just south of Eugene (again... BLECCHH!). Unfortunately, due to narrow minded "Super Cute Hippie Chick" haters on the Lane County Board of Commissioners, this will be the last year Faerieworlds will be welcome in Eugene—though it's expected to move to Horning's Hideout outside of Portland in 2015, according to this report from KEZI television. (This is actually good news for festival goers, since Portland is not Eugene.)
I NOW RETURN YOU TO MY DISPARAGING AND MEAN-SPIRITED DESCRIPTION OF HIPPIES, ALREADY IN PROGRESS.
So my "startling discovery that may surprise you"? HIPPIE DUDES RUIN IT FOR ALL OTHER HIPPIES. I'd say 90 percent of the "stinkfoot hippies" at FaerieWorlds were dudes, and were just as annoying as the ones you might see schlumping down Hawthorne. They seem to delight in their phobia of bathwater, their hair is a filthy fright, and they say the STUPIDEST things. For example, when one of those festival copter drone thingies flew over the concert crowd to get video footage of the festivities, I overheard one hippie dude say to another, "Oh man! Like, why does the government have to spy on me here?" HE REALLY SAID THAT.
Conversely, most of the "super cute hippie chicks" I talked to were also super smart, level-headed gals who were just there to have fun, dress up in crazy costumes, and exhibit their independence. NOTE: I said "most," not "all." Here is a conversation I had with one such woman.
Me: Hey, how's it going?
Her: Oh, I am so blessed. Just feeling the vibration of love around here, ya know?
Me: Okay, sure.
Her: The vibration of love can change your DNA, you know. It's tonality. Like, the tone changes from second to second... it's like... chaos!
Her: I'm just totally here in the moment, you know? Drawing the power of life! Did you know the power of life actually makes geometric patterns on the earth? The power actually moves... not like it does on the sun, you know... but still! It's EPIC. I see what the animals see.
Me: Okay... thanks! So I'm looking for an ATM.
Her: Oh! Right on. There's one right over there, next to the leather elf ears tent.
But otherwise? Completely charming, rational people. Wait... I forgot about one guy. FaerieWorlds actually has a "no drugs policy"—I KNOW, RIGHT?—which the attendees actually seemed to adhere to—I KNOW, RIGHT? But! There was one guy... shirtless, barefoot, wearing leather pants and one of those Phantom of the Opera half-masks... who was SO INCREDIBLY FUCKING HIGH. He was walking at roughly .005 mph, and had this amazingly creepy smile and 1000 yard stare. Not like a Vietnam vet-style stare... but like Rutger Hauer at the end of Blade Runner. He had the smile of someone who happily murdered a galaxy of planets. But otherwise? I never caught a single whiff of pot smoke... but maybe the patchouli drifting in from downtown Eugene was blocking the smell.
Anyway, per your instructions, I came to FaerieWorlds dressed as a Faerie. Well, wearing Faerie wings, anyway, and my "Three Moon Keyboard Cat" t-shirt, which unknowingly granted me an automatic "in" with every "super cute hippie chick" in attendance. (One actually squealed when she saw me, and yelled, "I LOVE CATS. I LOVE CATS SO MUCH. NO, SERIOUSLY, I LOVE CATS!!") However, other than that? I have never before in my life blended into a crowd with so much ease. Most of the attendants were dressed in very creative, wild costumes that made my paltry faerie wings seem downright blasé. In this world, the social oddball was not only accepted, but celebrated, and it seemed impossible to shock, or be judged harshly, by anyone. (Unless maybe you were in a business suit? You should've sent me in a business suit!) Okay, here are some pictures of some of the participants!
One of the unfortunate things about FaerieWorlds, however, is a distinct lack of interesting things to purchase. At the Renaissance Faire, they had tons of swords, weapons, and this... one of the most amazing works of art ever created. Here, at the "Mythic Marketplace" there was practically nothing of interest to me... mostly just tie-dye shirts, steam punk hats, evening gowns (??), faerie wings, lip balm made from faerie dust (??), leather elf ears, and wearable animal pelts. Wait... WEARABLE ANIMAL PELTS??
Apparently these "wolf face hats" are "ethically gathered" and constructed from old fur coats and the like... but still, I think it would be safer to walk around Portland wearing a wolf fur Hitler mustache than these things. BUT OH! There was one bright light at the end of this endless tunnel of hippie tents. Get a load of what I came home with!
BOOM! A 3-D COMMEMORATIVE PLATE DEPICTING A BARBARIAN RAMMING HIS SPEAR UP A DRAGON'S ASS. A steal at $20.
But! The most foul, most unappealing, most ridiculously terrible thing about FaerieWorlds was definitely THE MUSIC. The bands represented here seem to be the exact opposite of the sweet, clever oddballs I'd met thus far. It's like the organizers custom built every one of these bands by trying to think of the most ANNOYING instruments in the world, electrifying them, and then plopping them on a stage—to be played by shirtless bald white dudes with rat tails and covered with tribal tattoos. Were there bagpipes? OH YES. Were there penny whistles? OH YES. Were there harps? OH YES. Were there hurdy gurdies? OH YES. And of course there were didgeridoos—but! These were SLIDE DIDGERIDOOS (like a trombone), and my sides are still aching from laughing at the shirtless dude hopping around the stage pointing and sliding his didge at the clouds while going "Honk! Honk! Honk!" For example, here's a quick clip from a band called "Omnia: Musick and Poetree" (Can't any of these people spell?). Watch:
HAHAHAHAHAAAA!! Want more? Of course you don't, but it's funny. Check out Omnia's music video called, "I Don't Speak Human" (which actually, explains a lot). Anyway, this was pretty much exactly what all the music was like... times six hours. At one point I'd been walking around when I realized the band on stage had just been jamming for an entire hour without singing a word. Then they sang the following lyric: "Graaaaandfaaaather! Your fire lights the darkness of my sooooooul!" And that was it. Song over. Oh, and here's the chorus of a song from another band I heard: "I am king / You are queen tonight / Everyone has divine rights." Followed by... bagpipe solo!
I stayed for six hours (tripling the time I was required to be there, FYI), but here's what struck me as unusual. After that long, you become immune to the yak horns, the painted naked boobs, the leather elf ears... and it all just starts seeming weirdly... normal. Despite the laughably terrible music, FaerieWorlds really is a place where you can stop hiding your weirdness (if that's a thing you feel forced to do). It made me think of the times I worry about the wrinkles in my Penguin shirt, or looking "appropriate" for a party I'm attending. And it maybe—MAYBE—made me think that sometimes I'm a bit too judgmental about other people (except for hippie dudes, about which I am 100 percent accurate). In a sea of faeries, mermaids, pirates, steampunks, and brightly colored half-nude people, there was a palpable sense of relaxation—a realm of "no judgement" surrounding appearance that makes the so-called "Keeping it Weird" vibe of Portland seem as oppressive as Salt Lake City. And slide didgeridoos aside, its surprising how "normal" this faerie world became after awhile.
That is until you're jolted back into reality when seeing a guy covered in Avatar-blue body paint with an actual mailbox on his back (??), who's staring into an ice bucket at a food cart and whining, "Where's the Diet Pepsi??"
Apparently, even denizens of the "faerie realms" have earthly needs.
[Follow Steve's further adventures on Twitter: @WmSteveHumphrey. Next week... Courtney Ferguson's Worst. Night. EVER!]