Part 4: I’m Not Angry: Heatwave Concludes, or How I Made It Back Home—3-Hours Away and Broke—from Being Stranded in the Middle of Nowhere
Ticket Price: $20
The original blog entry posted in August 2010 follows below.
The legendary Heatwave Festival happened 40 years ago this weekend: August 23 1980. 100,000 people turned up for the Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, The Pretenders, The B-52s, Rockpile, Teenage Head & more (but not the no-show headliners, The Clash).
It was not only my first fest and one of the best single-day bills I would ever see, it was the centerpiece of an insane long weekend adventure that saw me stranded and broke in the middle of nowhere on Sunday morning after two days of partying and mass-imbibing.
For Episode 10 and on the occasion of the festival’s 40th anniversary, I not only discuss the series of brilliant, energetic, & breathtaking sets performed by some of the key artists of the day at their peak, including the Talking Heads’ first-ever performance as an expanded unit and the public debut of the material released two months later as “Remain In Light,” but also relate how I eventually made it back to my home three hours away. There is also the ramp-up parking lot party the night before and the morning’s beer-for-breakfast cotillion of debauchery before noon even hits or the music starts.
Sit back, listen, and join me on one of the best and wildest concert/festival weekends I ever had.
And when are we ever going to get to hear the original master tapes? A Heatwave box set, please.
NEXT PODCASTS (Coming in September):
Episodes 11 A&B will look back at the 20 Acts from the Past I Wish I’d Seen
Episode 12 (no.004) This Is the Modern World: The Jam with The Dwight Twilley Band, Rex Danforth Theatre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Tuesday April 10, 1979 (Get a sneak preview by reading the original 2011 blog entry here.)
The original blog entry:
Yesterday in Part Three, I covered the evening sets by the Talking Heads and Elvis Costello and the Attractions.
This fourth and final installment examines my being left stranded in the middle of nowhere with only a few dollars in my pocket and the variety of adventures that ensued during my odyssey back home.
I arrived back at the faraway parking lot probably somewhere short of midnight, with the post-show, second evening party in full swing. I was dreading having to meet back up with Doofus and That Guy. Trying to imagine the level of obliteration they would be in by this point was a depressing scenario to ponder but, oh well, this was my ticket there and back. Or was it?
I bee-lined to where I thought the Datsun had been parked but it didn’t seem to be there. As directions are not always my strong suit, I assumed that I had gone to the wrong place. Or perhaps they had moved it to another spot after having run into someone they knew so they could party in closer proximity or something to that effect. I spent a goodly amount of time investigating each and every row of cars, but I just couldn’t find the Heatwavemobile.
They still had to be there and wouldn’t have taken off without me, I reckoned, for two primary reasons: (1) they could barely walk let alone drive anywhere, and from what I had spotted mid-way through the day, it seems that they had kept the party going, and (2) I knew that my sister-in-law would absolutely excoriate Doofus if he left me stranded.
Figuring that I must have been missing the vehicle, and that Doo and T-Guy might just be passed out somewhere only to crawl back later on, I decided to park myself on a large pile of rocks near that front area, not too far inside the parking lot gate. From this vantage point, I would be able to see them upon their entering and vice versa.
Not too far away were a couple of young women, perhaps a year or two older than I was, sitting in front of their two pitched pup tents, having some post-show beers. Bit by bit, conversation ensued until they eventually asked me over to join them. I was happy to have some alcohol as I hadn’t had anything but pop and water since before entering the gates that morning. They in turn were rather delighted when I produced the last but still decent sized chunk of hash from my pocket. I had cadged a few papers from some people who I had shared with earlier in the day, and with the girls’ cigarettes supplying to tobacco mix, we rolled up the rest and got our own party started.
They were students from the GTA but from where specifically I can’t remember. We sat and talked about the highlights of the day, and I distinctly remember that they too had been particularly wowed by the Talking Heads. I recall downing a few beers with them when one decided she’d had enough and crawled into her pup tent. Me and the other girl, who’s name I forget but recall as having shortish blonde hair, had the last of the alcohol and hash. We got into some protracted, deep conversation about something or other, and sat chatting for some time. It was getting very late and, with no sign of the two muskateers, she asked me to come in and share her tent, which I did. As with the Talking Heads’ set, let’s just say that too was a new, unexpected highlight of the trip.
As daylight broke, we woke up both feeling a little rough and in a weird circumstance. I decided to get up and take a walk around in the early daylight but, again, couldn’t find the Datsun. Upon returning, the two said that they were going to be hitch-hiking back into the Toronto area and did I want to come along? I most stupidly declined, figuring that Doofus just had to be there, somewhere on the premises.
“Crawling From the Wreckage” by Dave Edmunds/Rockpile from Repeat When Necessary (1979)
I said my goodbyes to the Toronto twosome before they hit the highway and then sat back down on the pile of rocks. I watched as each car in the lot exited over the next couple of hours until the last one pulled out. Well, now there was no mistaking things — they had taken off.
“That’s it bud. I guess your friends aren’t here.” With that, the dude in charge of the parking area told me he had to lock the gate and I had to leave the grounds. I asked if he was going near a town and he said he wasn’t. I got the distinct impression that he wasn’t in the mood to help me or anyone, didn’t care, and just wanted to get home.
So, there I found myself, mid-morning under a pounding sun, tired, hungry, and more than a wee burnt out, with just a few dollars in my pocket and not really any idea where I actually was. I figured that I would have to try and flag down a ride, but didn’t even quite know which way was which.
The parking area was a far walking distance from any main road so I simply picked a random direction and start moving my feet.
“Dirty Back Road” by The B-52s from Wild Planet (1980)
I had really lost all track of time. I do know that I spent what seemed like an hour walking down these back roads in my skin-tight, black, peg-leg jeans, Clash t-shirt, and red Chuck Taylors, carrying my leather jacket adorned with band badges du jour, without a sole in sight.
In the flatland silence, I suddenly heard and saw a vehicle approaching. Fucking FINALLY! As it got closer, I realized that it was a police car. I flung myself out in the road, waving my hands to flag him down. The cruiser pulled over to the side of the road. I went to the passenger window, hoping that the cop wasn’t going to be a prick, and stuck my head in to find a young officer along with a female about my age sitting in the front seat. I explained that I was stranded post-festival after my ride had taken off without me.
“Me too!” exclaimed the girl.
I asked if he could take me somewhere — anywhere — where I could get to a phone. He said that he was driving the girl in the front seat into the nearby town and that I could come along.
I jumped in and realized it was another first: being in the back seat of a police car (so far, it was also the last time and hopefully will remain that way).
Relieved, I spent the trip into whatever town it was, comparing notes with the fellow foundling up front about our weekend experiences. By this point, I was a rambling chatterbox in a partial hallucinatory state from having had only a couple of hours sleep + constant activity + little food + copious drugs and alcohol for the past couple of days. In talking about how I had gotten separated from my cohorts, I came thisclose to relating how happy I’d been that we’d divvied up the hash between the three of us before going in, in case it got taken away from one of us. Then I remembered that I was sitting in a police car. Even if it was all gone by this point, it probably wouldn’t have been an appropriate topic to bring up in that venue.
We got into town and the cop dropped me at the bus station, as I requested. I figured I would call my sister-in-law from there and have her cover a bus ticket for my trip back (no cell phones or debit cards in those days, plus I was too young to have a credit card). Unfortunately, after being dropped off, I got to the ticket counter only to find out that I would have to pay for the bus ticket home then and there. However, I was told that train tix could be purchased at a secondary location.
They graciously let me call my sister-in-law back in London so that she could set things up for my ride back.
“The Call Up” by The Clash from Sandinista!, their triple set, fourth album that they were recording during the summer of 1980 in NYC. The Clash had been slated to headline the Heatwave festival, but cancelled at the last minute.
She was audibly mortified upon hearing my voice on the phone asking “Is Doofus there with you?”
“Here with me?? He’s supposed to be with you. What happened? Where are you?”
I explained the circumstances and, no, she hadn’t heard from him, but, yes, she was going to murder him upon next sight.
I explained that I was at the bus depot in Whereversville but that only a train ticket could be purchased for me down in London, and could she do so as I made my way over to the railway station.
With plans now in place, I faced the hurdle of having to find my way to the train station which I was told was nowhere nearby. Either the town didn’t have buses or they didn’t run there, I can’t remember which. All I know is that walking wasn’t an option and there was no transit. Ergo, I decided to use my last few dollars to cab it over. I showed the driver how much money I had and asked him to take me as close to the train station as he could get, given what was in my wallet. Once again, I was treated to kindness as the cabbie drove me directly to the station, taking what I had in lieu of the full fee.
Entering the crisp cool of the building, I approached the clerk, explained the situation, and asked if my ticket purchase had come through yet. No, it hadn’t but he assured me that it would be no problem. He also explained that it was now noon and that every Sunday at that time, the office closed for one hour for lunch!
Surely he was kidding.
No. He wasn’t.
And back outside I shuffled.
Nothing was fazing me by this point, and the passage of time was something of a blur. I distinctly remember leaving the gorgeous air-conditioning to venture back out into the furnace-blast of the noontime sun, plopping myself down on the ground like a sawdust doll with a punk haircut, my back slouched up against the wall, in a daze.
“The Wait” by The Pretenders, from Pretenders (1980)/B-side to “Stop Your Sobbing” (1979)
One hour later, I was let back in and handed my ticket. Hoo-fucking-rah!
After continued zoning in the refreshing AC, my train finally arrived and I boarded, relieved that I was finally heading home.
Shortly after getting seated, I discovered that I had some change in my pocket that I somehow previously missed. And, by Jove, it was enough to buy a coffee. Oh, the humanity! Some caffeinated nectar of the gods!
I excitedly ordered one from the car service. It was scalding hot and with the very first sip, I burned the tip of my tongue. There I sat, some degenerate looking 17-year-old all in black in late August who hadn’t showered in two days, groaning and holding the tip of my throbbing tongue outside of my mouth with my index finger and thumb, sitting across from a horrified mother and her two small kids.
Alas, I reached my destination and my concerned sister-in-law was there to greet me. After thanking her and assuring her that I was fine, she let me know that Doofus had called her and he was in Toronto. Apparently, he and That Guy had run into some Toronto friends in the crowd at Heatwave who had managed to sneak in booze, helping them continue on with the weekend bender. From what he could recall, the Toronto crew wanted to head back after the Pretenders and, in his alcoholic oblivion, had it in his mind that I was going to have no problem getting a ride back with someone else.
They then left, with Doofus driving on the 401 for an hour into Toronto, and then right into the city itself for a night of partying. Remember: this is a guy who was drunkenly falling over and rolling into a ditch at 11am. One can only imagine the state of saturated inebriation that he would have been in at that time. Thank heavens he wasn’t in an accident on the way there, not so much for him but for any innocent person who might have been injured.
Doofy had woken up on someone’s floor (I’ll bet) in Toronto at some point on Sunday, with the bits and pieces of reality slowly seeping back into his thick skull, eventually making that sheepish call to my sister-in-law mid-afternoon.
She got me home and fed, I took a leisurely bath and then made sure to phone my folks, letting them know I’d gotten back safe and sound with everything running smoothly. Yes, a noble lie. After that I tried sleeping but was so overtired and wound up that I couldn’t, so my SiL gave me a sleeping pill.
“Drugs” by The Talking Heads from Fear of Music (1979)
I was lying in bed for a period, waiting for the land of nod to arrive, thinking back on all of the momentous events from the past 48 hours or so — and then it was 15 or so hours later. The pill must have kicked in hard, as I fell into an instant coma.
After my late Monday morning awakening, I sauntered downstairs. As I made my way through the upstairs hall, I could hear the bloated monotone that was the voice of Doofus, mumbling in the kitchen. I was faced with an odd dilemma, namely that I should have been enraged with him and what he had done, but truthfully I wasn’t. Okay, perhaps that’s an overstatement. On one hand, yes, I was darn pissed. But there was the other hand, the one that didn’t like him in the first place so it was not like it was some huge betrayal or love loss. It was also particularly the hand that recognized that everything had worked out fine in the end, leaving me with a once-in-a-lifetime adventure I could look back on. I also felt proud of myself for staying calm and methodically solving my problem.
Most importantly, had I stuck close to him, I would have missed the Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, and The B-52s — not to mention the tent experience!
Pausing for a moment or two, I tried to figure out what I was going to say and how I was going to present myself, eventually deciding that I wasn’t going to let him off any hooks and instead milk it to my advantage. I then marched down the stairs and into the kitchen, immediately confronting him on what an asshole he’d been and just what the fuck had he been thinking?
Doo knew he was already in the doghouse, but this was now a special blend of the two of us ranging on him. He more than realized that he’d fucked up big time and began apologizing profusely. Once again, underneath it all, I really wasn’t too angry but felt I couldn’t let him off by knowing that, so I kept up the tirade, with my sister-in-law egging me on. She made a faux suggestion that I may want to take a pop at him, with which he replied “let’s not get too excited, now.”
Before decamping to Toronto, Doofus had picked up a Pretenders t-shirt at the festival which he handed over to me as a conciliatory gesture. I indeed took it, wearing it for years. I had always kept it as a memento but, sadly, it was one of the things that got lost during our last move. Damn.
Strangely, I would not see a show of note beyond a couple of small local gigs for another year. And when I did, it was my second festival, namely the first Police Picnic (no.009), occurring exactly one year to the day of Heatwave. I’ll be writing about that one in short order. While that day is also a notable one, with particularly memorable sets from the Specials and Iggy Pop, it went off with a whole lot less drama.
Happy 30th Birthday Heatwave!
“I’m Not Angry,” Elvis Costello from My Aim Is True (1977).
Next On Stage–> I will return to my series on this summer’s Ottawa Bluesfest, resuming with my previously promised piece on what will most likely be the most incredible thing I’ll see all year ….