Flying the freak flag, Franti-style | AspenTimes.com

Flying the freak flag, Franti-style

Alison Berkley

I discovered my inner-hippie.Or maybe I should say re-discovered. In high school, it was all the rage to dress in flimsy skirts and tie-dyes and go to Grateful Dead shows and do that little dance where you close your eyes and sway with your arms gracefully flowing behind, like you are the universe’s very own little marionette.But the truth is, I hated it. I sort of remember following my friends around, thinking, “So this is what they mean when they talk about being a conformist?” It just wasn’t my thing. I’m more of a hip-hop girl than a hippie girl.So last weekend, I go to a Spearhead concert with a few friends of mine up in Steamboat. I was all for going, mostly because it was free and outside, but let’s just say I wasn’t nearly excited about it as they were. They just loooooove Michael Franti, they say, and can’t wait for the “show” (never a concert, always a show). They tell me they are “Spirits” (short for Spearhead-itus?”), and have actually considered dropping everything and going on tour.Meanwhile, The Rainbow Gathering had been going on all week in the National Forest outside Steamboat and everyone in town was totally flipping out. Every day, the local papers printed photos of these old hippies with beards down past their knees and photo captions that said things like, “Rainbow Elder Uncle Banana Pants says the Forest Service has been too confrontational” or “We Just Want Peace: Rainbow Family Member Beetle Juice holds a peace sign at the entrance to the National Forest on Monday.”Everyone in Steamboat is acting like Al Queda has set up residence in the woods. “They don’t bathe,” my parent’s friends were saying one night at a dinner party. “They share women and do drugs.”And I’m sitting there, looking at these perfectly intelligent, educated people going, “Weren’t you guys around during the ’60s?” And one of them says, “Yes, but there was a war then. That was during Vietnam.”I won’t even go there. That’s Michael Conniff’s department.Meanwhile, at least half of the Rainbow Family turned up for the concert. My parents and their friends were right about one thing: they don’t bathe. In fact, they are filthy, with a thick film of dirt on their faces, hands and feet.They are all dressed exactly alike. For one, they all have dreadlocks. Flimsy skirts, tie-dyes and beaded hemp jewelry are still mandatory. Patchwork pants and/or skirts (often worn together) as well as anything made in Bali or India are okay, too. And they just love overalls, goofy hats, beach balls and hula-hoops.In one area, people sat with their little homemade signs advertising their next destination. “Two kind humans need a ride to Michigan,” one said. (As opposed to what? Two cold-blooded killers?) Then some random guy comes up and starts ranting and raving how beautiful we are. He busts out a big hunk of mushroom chocolate (yes the magic kind) in a shiny red wrapper and tries to get all of us to eat some. I’m thinking it might not mesh well with all that Midol and Prozac and Chromium Picolinate I’m taking, so I decline.We’ve got our little blanket set up, though I spend most of my time there alone since the rest of the crew wants to be “up front” so they can be “close to Michael.” I start to get lonely on my little blanket in the back and decide I’ll try going up front, too.The closer I get to the stage, the more crowded and stinky it gets, so I veer stage left and manage to find a spot in the front row where I still have a great view of this Michael Franti person. I have to admit, the music is great – it’s got a heavy enough baseline for me and I can see what Stacey loves about Franti. It’s actually pretty simple: he’s a big, sexy black man with giant, chair-like hands, long arms that could probably wrap around you three times, and a voice that is as smooth and sweet as caramel.All of a sudden, my arms drift over my head and hips start to sway and then it happens: the goosebump o’meter goes off. I get tingles up my back, neck and arms, like someone is gently tickling me with a feather (and I’m not even on drugs!). Soon I’m smiling like an idiot and really dancing, dancing like I haven’t danced since Phil and Friends came to Jazz Aspen three years ago and I had this exact same experience.As if on cue, the sky turns a brilliant hue of cotton candy pink and a full rainbow emerges, arching over this Rainbow Family-filled crowd like a scene out of a Simpson’s episode, and everyone’s going nuts.I gotta admit, the whole thing is pretty magical.After the show, we’re collecting our things and a huge circle forms around us. I mean huge – like hundreds of people huge. And we’re in the middle of it. I’m not sure why. Maybe someone screamed, “love circle everybody!” and we weren’t listening. Or maybe it’s just a thing they always do and we were out of the loop, so to speak. But they start chanting and it’s getting dark and the light is distorted and weird casting an even more surreal shadow over the whole experience. I start to feel like I’m in one of those movies where Westerners take part in some native ritual in the middle of the jungle.Still, I think everyone in Steamboat needs to mellow out, dude. After seeing what I saw at the Spearhead concert, I’m starting to think maybe I’m not the only one who needs to rediscover my inner hippie.The Princess has been up in Northwest Colorado for too long and is thinking what she really needs is to rediscover her inner Prada. Send your loving email to alison@berkleymedia.com.