Sunday, May 15, 2016

That Mamapalooza Not Be Forgotten

I write this post because I think it is important that there exist an accurate description of the Mamapalooza event that took place in New York on May 15, 2016 . Ah, yes; the Ides of May. No wonder. In the future, having a record of his event may be deemed relevent (to what, I do not know). As Herodotus said (paraphrased), things that seem small in the present may seem important in the future, and vice versa. Let this serve as an honest record of an eyewitness accound. All of these things are true as I have seen them.

I should have you know I was attending Mamapalooza as a vendor. Without incriminating my (now former) employer, just understand that I was essentially trapped there. "What is Mamapalooza?" you might be asking yourself. I asked myself that as well before I left in the morning, but I didn't care enough to read the description I had received. I just assumed it would have lots of people discussing how wonderful mothers are. Some of those people would probably be interested in the eco-friendly product I would be there to sell. I didn't think I would need to know more. While observing, I managed to pick up some of the history surrounding Mamapalooza. There have been Mamapaloozas in the past; someone might have said it was the 15th annual Mamapalooza. I overheard someone else saying that it had rained torrentially for all but one of the last 6 Mamapaloozas.

I arrived by bike to a pier on the Hudson River. A cold southwesterly wind blew over the temporary bandstand in the center of the pier while some cold, fellow vendors stood off to the side. I unpacked and set up my table to the tune of an upbeat children's version of "You are my sunshine" performed by a singer-songwriter on the stage by herself. There weren't many people there, so I started listening to the music more closely. When the song ended, she  told the audience that she was a mother herself, and that her son was learning so many new words, and she was going to perform a song about that process.

The song that followed was a collection of words such as "banana," "hello," "sorry" and other things you frequently hear coming out of two year olds' mouths. I definitely heard some of the words more than once, but I can't remember them, because there weren't any actual thoughts expressed. Periodically, she would encourage everyone to sing along, and then launch into a new string of unbroken and unpredictable words. "Perhaps I'm too old to understand," I thought to myself. Her next spoken introduction talked about how sometimes it can be difficult to be a parent. To be honest, at this point, the rest of her set blurred into one large advertisement against ever having children, because she touched on themes like how difficult it was to make any time for her husband (and how when she does she's always tired), what good manners look like ("we ask please, please, please"), and in another song she addresses a newborn and attempts to convince it that it should sleep 7 hours straight and everyone might be happier. Any fears I had of fatherhood in the distant future were intensified, and I feel fairly certain that Mamapalooza has added a matter of months to the time before which I will be mentally prepared to have offspring.

When she left the stage, a rock band set up. The MC stood up and enthusiastically introduced the vendors to the audience, and really gave a great pitch about what each of us did. Unfortunately, at the time she gave it, there were maybe 15 people milling around the pier so most of the vendors just ended up waving at each other as they were called. The rock band performed afterwards, and they played some crowd pleasing rock. I didn't really listen to it to closely; mostly, I just noticed that it was pretty loud. The speakers were really cranking now, and with the cold wind and loud music, it was hard to have a conversation with anyone who approached my table. Most of the vendors were just tapping their feet to the rockband. One guy had a bunch of small beach balls which he was giving out; kids loved them. Occassionally a beach ball would get carried off by the wind, and a toddler would chase it down. This was probably around 2 pm now, and the weather wasn't getting any warmer. The band played a song by Prince to close out (I forget which).

The next band at Mamapalooza was a hip-hop duo. I think they sounded fine, but they also were singing songs accusing bitches of being gold diggers. Another vendor heard lyrics with different curses. There was almost no one in the audience, but I was rapidly losing track of the theme of the afternoon in the performances. Things were getting really bleak; throughout the day, performers and announcers were grabbing hold of every ray of sunlight and insisting that it was going to stay if not get better. It never did. I hadn't sold anything. I talked to two people. Off on the side, some soccer coaches attempted to keep toddlers interested in the soccer station they had set up to advertise their soccer camp. The toddlers weren't buying it. Some dude with a video camera was walking around fillming everything, so  I tried to look busy. The music stayed loud, then a pause, and the next band introduced themselves.

I sincerely recommend trying to find the official Mamapalooza website and finding out who the fourth performer was, because  my description will never do them justice. In brief, they were a Brooklyn based heavy metal band. The lead singer had red hair, a matching sequined tank top and fishnet stockings; she also played a flute for melodic interludes The drummer was wearing a tank top (my legs were cold; my legs never get cold). The lead singer was running around the stage singing energetically. I think some of her friends showed up, because I can't otherwise explain why there were a handful of twenty-somethings hanging out on the pier that day for this set. The music was deafening. I saw one four year old girl in the audience in a bike helmet looking confused and lost. I felt bad for her. The lead singer had jumped up onto a chair and was thrusting her pelvis at the face of someone in the next row. It might have been a dad, I don't know. I turned around, and looked again to see her flat on the ground, thrusting her hips up in the air to the beat of the music. It was terrifying. I took a picture discreetly; I worried that if she saw me taking a picture, she might mistake me for a fan and come sing at me. At some point she announced that she had time for 2, no, 3 more songs, and the audience let out a terrified gasp.

The metal act. I wasn't comfortable getting any closer to the stage without drawing her attention. Note the empty chairs. Not pictured are her face-humps of audience members. 
I cannot remember the rest of the afternoon clearly. The weather got worse. Vendors started packing up. The final band got on the stage; they were an Ecuadorian fusion band, the MC announced. They started soundchecking. The rain started falling. All the vendors made a beeline for the shelter of the elevated highway while the band announced that maybe it was over. We froze for a few minutes. I overheard the soccer coaches talking about how they had been told there were going to be 3,000 people at the event, and we had maybe seen 80. The sun came out, and the band went on. The lead singer was a mother, and they played stuff that sounded like a good Santana cover band. Not that I could actually appreciate any music at this point - I had been too overwhelmed by the previous acts of Mamapalooza to appreciate the closing act. But when it ended, all the vendors disappeared. Immediately. And the park staff was helpful, and they ferried heavy equipment up to the street.

The MC was apparently satisfied. The person working for the parks announced that Mamapalooza was one of over 200 events that would be a part of something called "Summer on the Hudson." That was it - Mamapalooza 2016 ended. If you have more information, please, please, please, comment below.