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« BACK | HOME » ABOUT » THE SPIRIT SPEAKS » MILWAUKEE: BLACKPOOL WITH GUNS

MILWAUKEE: BLACKPOOL WITH GUNS

'He who wishes to fight must count the cost...If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength...If the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardour dampened, and your treasure spent, other chieftains will rise up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue...'

Sun Tzu, The Art of War


I wake beneath a monumental flyover, under a bright blue sky, in America.The bus is parked up just outside the festival. It's July the fourth, Independence Day.

 I turn on the Plasma screen in the front lounge.  A ruddy middle-aged yank is trying to persuade people to put their gold into an envelope and send it to the TV station. A homely MILF says ' I just got divorced. I realized I needed to move on with my life...I sent in my ring and got a cheque for $300 the next day!'

On the next channel, there's a reality T.V.show called 'Rock of Love'.A Dozen gorgeous rock-floozies are fighting it out in their underwear to win the attentions of Bret Michaels, lead singer with Poison, by performing a series of humiliating rock-based tasks; racing quad bikes in bikinis while shooting each other with paintballs, pole dancing in a sandpit full of scorpions etc. They all profess to be besotted with Bret despite the fact he's a fat wanker with a bandana covering his receding hairline. As a feminist model for Society, I'll think I’ll take St.Trinians.

Getting off the bus I find that I have massively overslept and woken up in the morning. It's cold and every one else is asleep. I'm frightened. I don't know what to do. What do real people do in this situation? They have breakfast. I'll have breakfast.

I wait by the roadside as an endless phalanx of bikers rumbles past. In Blighty, these hairy mothers are exotic, a curiosity. Here, they're ubiquitous.

I wander round shuttered kiosks and static fun rides. I feeling conspicuous among the boiler-suited park workers in my long black coat and bowler hat. I find a stall that sells me a mulch of egg and bacon and a bucket of coffee for a couple of dollars. A teenage voice behind me sneers:

'Hey, Look man, It's Doctor Who!'

'Who's Doctor Who?'

'Shouldn't he be Healing us??'  

                        *

The Milwaukee 'Summerfest' takes place in a massive car park by a big old lake. There's four different stages, each one catering for a different flavour of noise. The Harley Davidson stage is dead sexy, festooned with Satanic flames and baroque motorcycles. Unfortunately, we're on the 'Miller Lite' stage, which looks, by comparison, a bit gay. It's dominated by a Pale blue backdrop featuring a well-manicured male fist clutching a bottle of disappointingly weak lager.

I patrol the site; Pizza, Fried Chicken, Burgers, Taco's, Doughnuts, Twinkie's, Bagels, and beer, overarched by a massive ski-lift, so you can throw up on your fellow Americans, descend, and then start all over again. It's the trickle-down effect.

Right In the middle is a huge green tent flanked with handsome Infantrymen underneath sign advertising 'The Virtual Army Experience' in a luminous digital font. And right next door, you can get the Actual Army Experience; there's a recruitment booth, flanked by handsome, smiling Infantrymen. I wonder how many aimless teenagers have stumbled into this game on magic mushrooms only to wake up hugging a road bomb in Basra. Man, that's gotta be one awesome comedown. To the left, next to a day-glo sweet shop, and looking a bit scared, there's a tatty Art's and Craft arcade.  Basically it's Blackpool, on steroids.

Facing the 'Miller Lite' stage is the 'Miller Lite' VIP bar, done out in pale blue tiles with palm trees on the upper deck. Maybe If I go up there, I'll run into some kind of Miller-Lite-Artst-Liason girl who's new to the job and wearing, I don't know, maybe a hula skirt or something...It's worth a try. On the door, a ponytailed security-mom scans me suspiciously. I show her my wristband, explaining that I am an artiste performing on the Miller Lite stage, and am therefore entitled to go upstairs and feel special next to a palm tree.

'I'll go check.'

Predictably, a large bloke appears, He's got the exact same ponytail. Did they hand it over on the stairs? Or is this her dad? He explains to me that artists are no longer allowed in the upstairs bar. It's a new Policy.

Yeah, about 3 seconds new. It came into being the moment he saw my bleary eyes and my rotten English teeth.  I doubt he consulted the shareholders of Miller Lite about this innovative piece of corporate legislation, although if he had, I suspect that they would have concurred with him by a conclusive majority that, for the purposes of the promotion of the Miller Lite brand, I am not a Very Important Person.

I limp back to the bus, my feelings hurt. On our stage, a nattily dressed funk-synth-pop trio are singing:

'She's a special Laydee!
Such a special Laydee!
A very special Laydee!
Oh such a special Laydee!
                                                                           

                        *

The gig goes off okay, although sometimes it's hard to tell with American audiences; there's a different protocol in operation. If you're British, a reasonably good performance is generally met with a vigorous round of applause, maybe a few whistles. If you're American, the correct response to any performance, even if slightly disappointing, is total fucking hysteria; anything less is regarded as rude.

After the show Freebase and I get chatting to a Missy and Jessica, two charming ladies who've travelled many miles to see the show. Missy could be Mama from 'Chicago', but is in fact a Copywriter from Minneapolis. She tells me she wants to write her own stuff, but getting by has gotten harder, especially now America is at War.

I want to hang out, but my body clock is so skewif that I have to crawl back to my bunk, despite the fact that it's the evening. It seems a shame to miss out on the  commemoration of the birth of a rogue socialist state forged in bloody insurrection against an exploitative and tyrannical empire, but the Sandman has come to take me away to snoozyland.

An hour later I'm jolted awake by a storm of incendiary devices. Fiery trails light up the midnight sky. A thousand young Americans go ballistic. AWRIGHT! YEAH YEEEEEAHHHH!

Yeah. You like fireworks Milwaukee? Wait for the Chinese. They invented this shit. 

(c) Orlando Harrison 2008