The constituent parts of the morning had become slightly askew. For instance, dawn and daybreak did not occur as one. At least that’s how it appeared to those on site early Sunday morning out front of Deer Valley’s Snow Park Amphitheater as yet another weather cell moved through.
Those who wander about in the dark in the rain demonstrate a special affinity for that quite idiosyncratic strain of absolution often associated with Dylan. They arrive early enough to secure a place at the front of the line with the hope that their sleep deprivation translates into a more up-close-and-personal concert experience.
Others may find this behavior a bit neurotic, and that may well be the case. But that’s their issue. For the most part these pilgrims are more than slightly obsessive about "their Bob." In Utah, as well as other locales where the tour stops on less than an annual basis, these gatherings become an "event," a "happening."
At the risk of overusing religious metaphors, it should be noted that Sunday’s rain, whether manifested as a mist, drizzle, shower, cloudburst, downpour, or thunderstorm, possessed a certain cleansing quality.
Not to say the sheer amount of precipitation didn’t dampen a spirit or two, or that the monsoonal moments didn’t bring with them a bit of resigned hilarity, but, as each update on Hurricane Gustav poured in, a sense of perspective hung in the air.
But back to the waiting line and the scheming mindsets involved. So as to protect their logistical advantage, those in front often plot and connive to insure their supremacy of position. Talk turns to the use of "sprinters" and "blockers" for the mad uphill dash to the grass.
Those who partake in such activity often refer to it as an experience akin to being an extra in "Braveheart." However, as the saying goes, the race doesn’t always go to the swift. Just such a scenario evolved Sunday for the portly-gray-dude at the front of lane five.
It’s interesting being at the front, even when there are seven parallel lines as there were on Sunday. One in that position seldom suffers from a lack of acknowledgement. And, hanging in the air, there is always the unspoken thought that the early riser might, in some fashion, upgrade the other’s lot in concert-line life.
There are those times, however, when an offer is tendered that, on paper anyway, could very well work for all concerned. Such was the plotline that played out when an "agent" for a free-lance sprinter outlined his plan. As a favor to your physically-challenged self, the advocate for "he-who-scampers-better-than-most" could put a word in for you.
Now, it just so happened that our hero, a "slow boat to China" if there ever was one, immediately decided to take the "runner" with his sole pick in the "Dylan Line Fantasy Draft."
But when the gods that oversee such matters suddenly opened the floodgates well before their previously announced timeframe, the best laid plans of mice and men began to disintegrate. Caught, figuratively, with his pants down and unable to actually hand his blanket off to his surrogate, our protagonist finally stumbled out of the gate dragging his canoe behind him.
Luckily for him, however, his blanket-mate, unencumbered by such happenstance, had bolted uphill as the starter’s gun sounded and, with the help of the streaking "ringer," staked out a perfect spot in the front of what would become a most well-behaved, highly literate (the norm for a Dylan crowd), and quite exuberant "mosh pit."
It was then that the skies opened and a torrential thunderstorm ensued. There is something that happens to the central nervous system when the time differential between a flash of lightning and its attendant crash of thunder all but disappears. There is a ripping of essential fabric. Which, by the way, on this day, was visqueen.
Speaking of which, once the protective plastic covering the instruments, amplifiers, and assorted other concert stage essentials had been removed, an appropriate "Rainy Day Women" kicked things off with a few thousand joining in on the "everybody must get stoned" chorus.
In what had to be one of his best "set lists" ever, Dylan and his current band brought out one rearranged masterpiece after another. Not unlike the rain cascading off the rooftops, a continuous stream of sing-alongs flowed unabated through one of history’s most singular musical canons.
"Stuck Inside of Mobile," "Not Dark Yet," "Don’t Think Twice," "Desolation Row," She Belongs To Me," "Simple Twist of Fate," Highway 61 Revisited," "Queen Jane Approximately" (which Bernardo Bertolucci employed so exquisitely in his film, "The Dreamers"), "Thunder on the Mountain," and, as the show’s lone encore, "Like a Rolling Stone."
As the showers continued and with Dylan’s warning that "if it keep on raining, the levee gonna break" resonating in the collective ear, the devastation to the amphitheater became evident. Those who cleaned up were true heroes! It had taken only a couple of hours to heal the crowd. For what is now hallowed ground, it will take much longer.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and a free-lance writer with a background in commercial and community radio, among other pursuits. He has been a columnist and feature writer for various Park City publications going back to 1973.
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Park City officials are preparing to take what is considered to be an important step in protecting the Treasure land from wildfires. City Hall in early June requested proposals from firms interested in the work.