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The Gorge, the Columbia, Gary Clark Jr, and Foo Fighters via boomerpdx camera.

It’s Not Easy But You Will Win. Foo Fighters Fight For You.

What’s the usual concert experience? Buy a ticket, show up, sit down, go home.

Maybe raise a smart phone, flick a bic.

Then there’s the concert up the Columbia at The Gorge in George, Washington.

It’s a road trip no matter where you live when you set out for the middle of nowhere.

The Foo Fighters drew twenty three thousand to their show at a concert camp out.

Like every great road trip, it’s more than just the destination, but for this one it was the destination.

The Gorge is famous for big shows and big acts. At Foo Fighters it became famous for locking me out of my camp site.

How did it happen? What was the correct response to two innocent fans getting banned from their RV?

Well let me tell you.

In high school we had a weekend dance place open to all, not just high schoolers.

The Neighborhood Facility Building/Center was out by the University of Empire with a big parking lot and swamp.

The regular plan called for drinking a few Dr. Peppers in the parking lot and instead of paying at the front door we’d sneak through the swamp to the back door.

Getting in for free was a big win in 1972-73, the dance part an anti-climax.

Some things change, some don’t.

Flash forward forty three years to last Saturday’s Foo Fighters show in The Gorge and it’s yours truly and his swamp running buddy all grown up in a huge RV.

Turns out nothing changed.

We pulled into the venue with last year’s premier camping pass hanging from the mirror in a different color than the Foo Fighters camp pass.

Five color blind security guards flagged us past the general admission camping area we had tickets for. Four of the five acted annoyed when we said we had general admission camping tickets.

“You have a premier tag, you go to the premier camping area. Pull forward.”

So that’s what we did. Ended up on a slanted site with a view of the river and the gorge. We could even see the side of the stage.

It was perfect but for one aspect: premier camping comes with a wristband the same color as the camping pass.

You need that wristband to return through the gates if you leave. We learned this the first time we left.

At the return gate:

“You can’t come in without the wristband,” the guard said.

“Our RV is in there.”

“It can’t be. If it was inside you’d have a wristband.”

“Five people at five checkpoints waved us in.”

“Did I send you in?”

The guard had cars and people lining up to get in while he talked to us.

“Look, we’ll do the right thing. Who do we need to talk to? Who fixes this sort of thing?”

He pointed to another guard directing traffic inside premier camping.

“That person. Talk to them.”

A horn honked. We walked in.

“Now what?”

“We’re in, that’s what. Good job.”

“We still have to check with this other guy.”

“I’ll do the talking.”

We walked up to the guard and I asked, “Where’s premier camping?”

“What do you mean? This is premier camping,” he said like he was used to morons asking stupid questions.


We turned and waved to the man at the gate. He waved back. We talked to the man like we agreed to do, though not about the problem since it wasn’t our problem.

“Let’s either move or upgrade before we leave for the Foo Fighters show.”

“No need. We’ll be in a crowd after the show. I’ll be easier than the Neighborhood Facility Building swamp. Besides, we didn’t do anything wrong.”

Gary Clark, Jr opened, the Foo Fighters crushed it, and we decided to leave early and beat the crowd.

Typical baby boomers? Maybe.

At the first gate for premier camping I told the guard, “We were with a drunk crowd. Everyone ripped off wristbands.”

It failed. The guard pointed us toward an office trailer to fix things. All we needed was one night and we’d leave. No trip to the office for us.

“You might want to pump up that wristband story.”

“Working on it.”

We walked the long way around to another gate. On the way a fast walking drunk woman came up behind and took my hand. We walked hand in hand like it was normal. Maybe it’s normal at a Foo Fighters concert in The Gorge?

She started talking.

“I don’t get this place. How hard is it to lay out a campground? Numbers one way, letters the next, signs that say you’re near section L-5? And all these fences and gates and guards. What is this, a concentration camp? It feels like a concentration camp.”

Who could argue? Getting lost in broad daylight was easy, let alone nighttime.

“We were just talking how it feels like prison, but concentration camp is better. Which way are you headed?”

“I don’t know.”

“We don’t either. Look, there’s a guard at that gate.”

The woman dropped my hand and approached with, “Sir? Sir? Where am I?”

It was the same question we would’ve asked.

The guard turned and looked pissed off.

“I’m not a sir, I’m a woman, not a man.”

Once they started in on each other we walked in clean.

“You seem to know what you’re doing,” my buddy said. I’ve known him since grade school and he was always the smart one.

“They’re doing a job and we’re part of it. We help them do it better.”

“That lady was good luck. You’re story about drunks ripping wristbands off wouldn’t have worked.”

“It needed something extra. That guy didn’t even blink when I said it.”

“She was a woman.”

“Not the first one.”

“You sure?”

“Not now.”

Back at the RV we popped a Dr. Pepper and listened to the Foo Fighters final songs, then the killer.

At the end of the day it was time for a secret confession.

If everything could ever feel this real forever
If anything could ever be this good again

It’s all we ever hope for. And it’s worth fighting for.


About David Gillaspie
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