Funny Memories 101

In the summer of '98 I took a road trip south to Portland and then east to Stevenson Washington for an annual music festival called Tomfest. Tomfest is a four day series of concerts featuring alternative Christian bands ran by a really cool guy named Mikee Bridges, former vocalist for Sometime Sunday and Tragedy Ann. When I say alternative, I don't mean the pop-ish alt bands like Newsboys and DC Talk; nothing against those bands, but they would not survive a weekend at Tomfest.

Tomfest is like the Christian version of Lalapalooza, multiple stages filled with cutting edge and underground artists a little too extreme to perform at other festivals like Creation. Along with the the stages, there were art galleries, jam sessions, tents for band merch, tattoo artists, and political activists like Rock for Life.

The music ranged from punk/ska/hardcore to metal, emo, and hip-hop. Tomfest also tore down the separative wall of artist versus fan. Musicians shared the same camp area as festival attendees, and there was no such thing as "back stage." Thanks to that openness and community feel, you got to meet the musicians as real people.

Here are a few fond memories...

Squad Five-0. Playing frisbee with Jeff and John Fortson on Sunday night.

Joy Electric. Watching Ronnie Martin complain that the monitors were not set up perfectly. And subsequently kicking a good friend off stage while working stage security.

Havalina Rail Company. (HRC) Sitting in a booth next to Matt Wignall while he improvised country licks on lap guitar and listening to him rant about how Christian musicians should not copy musical trends but should make innovative music and be copied by the rest of the world. Also, meeting Orlando Greenhill, realizing he is much shorter in person. (hope for us short people)

Soulfood 76. Despite seeing these local guys numerous times, seeing their final show was a moving experience.

90 lb. Wuss. The guitarist cut his fingers on his guitar strings and continued playing, despite the blood gushing from his knuckles. The drummer's son (5 or 6 years old at the time) came on stage to sit on his dad's lap and help bang the drums for a couple songs. You would never expect something so cute during a punk rawk show.

However, one of the funniest things to happen involved Sonny Sandoval and Traa of P.O.D. and their lablemate (prior to signing with Atlantic) MC Dirt. Throughout the show, Dirt was having the crowd do some hand motion called "shadow of the locust" where you had two fingers pointed up like a peace sign and the other two fingers and thumb pointed out, bobbing your hand up and down in time with the rhythm.

Close your eyes for a moment and try and picture this sight. Dirt was the only rap artist performing all weekend. Dirt, Traa, Sonny, and the other guys from P.O.D., and Orlando from HRC were the only musicians there with any ethnicity other than Caucasian. The audience was predominantly a punk and hardcore group, mostly white kids who had never been to a rap concert before. So there was an entire crowd (98% white folk) with one arm in the air bobbing with the beat (or as close to the beat as white people can get) with their hands in a ridiculous position.

I was standing in the back, near the soundboard, next to Sonny and Traa. Every time Dirt made the crowd do the "shadow of the locust" Sonny and Traa would start laughing. Also being at my first rap concert, I didn't see the humor. So I asked them, "What's so funny." Traa said, "Just wait, you'll see."

This continued through the half hour set. Traa and Sonny laughing at this crowd doing the locust. Traa telling me to wait. Finally at the end of the show, Dirt told us a story about his mom. She asked him what the "shadow of the locust" thing was about, what it meant. Dirt then told his mom that it didn't mean anything, it was something he did to mess with white folks' heads. As he finished the story, Traa and Sonny burst into hysterics. Traa slapped my shoulder and said, "See, that's what was so funny."

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