Friday, August 29, 2008

Tales of The Red Barbarian.

THIS SUMMER MARKS THE FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY of the epic struggle between one man and the forces of oppression that could not bind him; a living embodiment of liberty, and a leader of the common man; an inspiration to those downtrodden by the yoke of tyranny. This is his story.

That man who fought insurmountable odds that day was Eric Smith. Here's a picture of him. He's red.

Actually, that's one of his more recognizable features: redness, or varying shades of redness. Eric considers himself to be his own minority; perhaps this strange skin pigmentation was common among his Viking forefathers, maybe it's the tragic result of Eric's self-proclaimed ability to draw power from Earth's yellow sun. This is all inconsequential. Eric is, and will probably always be red, pink, maroon, magenta, or crimson, and it will always be easier to see him on the battlefield because of it. 

Sure, you're probably saying, "Battlefield? You're not making any sense, and this blog is stupid. I ask to read a tale of triumph over adversity, and all I get in return are racially insensitive insults to the noble Scandinavian people that brought us our IKEA® furniture and several different variations of death metal. Get on with the story, you hack."

And so it will be done.

Lollapalooza 2003 was held  at the Riverbend Music Center, known for it's stately fake two-dimensional statues and giant columns blocking nearly 65% of the view from lawn seating. I was admittedly excited to go to a giant arena rock show, but not quite as excited as I was to be somewhere that wasn't King's Island, where I had been working ten hours a day without a day off for two or three weeks. So I opened the park and left at one, only to arrive at Eric's apartment, where he had started drinking three hours prior. You know what they say, "It's gotta be noon somewhere." Well, at Eric's apartment, drinking beer at ten o'clock in the morning wasn't all that strange of an occurrence. Needless to say, he was well-prepared to spend the day stumbling around an outdoor music venue.

We arrived at Riverbend, promptly bought more beer, and set out for the lawn, only to find an orange plastic mesh fence, set a good fifty yards behind the front of the lawn; apparently it had rained during Ozzfest a week beforehand, and the excessive moshing had ripped out most of the grass in the surrounding area. This was a disappointment; it was hard enough to see the bands as it was, and being even further back wasn't helping. And this is when Eric, drunk, sweating, and turning an interesting shade of purple from a combination of overexposure to the sun and the nonsensical avoidance of sunscreen, began to build his army.

Jurassic Five was on stage. Eric started approaching several different groups of people, mostly by utilizing a dance move of his own creation that can most closely be described as "kick-walking," and for what he lacked in rhythm and coordination (mostly rhythm), he made up for with dedication and force. He would stop walking once he started talking, but he wouldn't stop moving while music was playing. While I was actively pursuing my normal concert-going hobby of comparing the gyrations of the Red Man with the actual beat of the music, I noticed that people were patting on the back, laughing, and nodding. Once Eric got this reaction, he would move on to the next group of people and repeat the routine.

During Eric's sojourn around the lawn, a couple of guys jumped over the fence and ran down the lawn. The first of these poor bastards started laughing as he changed his running trajectory to avoid one security guard, and mistakenly ran head on into another flanking him, who hit him so hard that you could hear the wind escape out of his lungs forty feet away. Once he was down, he didn't get up for fifteen minutes, or, I should say, couldn't get up for fifteen minutes. The next was tackled nearly as quickly as the first, and tried to feign nausea in order to make a last-ditch escape attempt. This, too, was met with a shoulder to the solar plexus, and the second was carried off the field like the first.

Eric, paying only minimal attention to these events, returned to the group with an announcement.

"Hey, I got a...


bunch of uh...


(breathes through nose)

people together, and we're taking down the fence when Queens of the Stone Age comes on."

Realize that telling the goons that I use to work with that their brilliant ideas were doomed to end in failure, and possibly self-inflicted injury, was a fairly common occurrence. Most people realize that climbing on top of buildings, punching themselves in the neck, and lighting dangerously flammable liquids on fire are bad ideas, and I found, for some reason, this logic was a foreign entity to a lot of the friends that I made when I moved down to Cincinnati. So, of course my reaction was fairly predictable.

"You're not serious, are you? Come on, man. You'll get kicked out of here."

"No I won't. F#$% that, and f#$% them. This blows. Don't you want to get closer to the stage?"

"Dude, have you not been paying attention? The security guards hit that one guy so hard that one of his shoes flew off in mid-air."

"No. We're fine. I've got, like, a whole group of people."

"There's like twenty security guards down there. I think I saw blood come out of that kid's mouth while he was on the ground."

"The kid who tried to pretend he was sick? Dude, that was Jager, or a blood capsule or something."

"Why in God's name would somebody have a blood capsule in their mouth at Lolla--You know what? Do whatever you want. I'm just saying that those security guards are going to beat your ass."

"Whatever, man. Watch."

Eric, fueled by defiance, kick-walked his way back into the crowd, careening from side to side with even more tenacity. Jurassic Five was nearing the end of their set, and strangers pumped their fists and jumped around in the presence of the Red Barbarian. Jurassic Five went off the stage, the crowd applauded, and energy ran high. I was surprised to find that Eric was talking to people further away from the group than he had been, and when he returned, a bass guitar strum signaled the beginning of Queens of the Stone Age.

Eric made eye contact with the closest security guard, raised one foot, and stepped on the slumping orange mesh fence. The security guard started to open his mouth to warn of an impending beat-down, but couldn't get a word out before Eric did.


The second that Eric cleared the fence, I was sure that he was done for, and for that split second, I actually wondered how much it was going to cost to bail him out of jail. That's when I heard a rumbling behind me, followed by the deafening battle cries of what must have been 150-200 people.

The Great Red Army rushed by on both sides of me and over the fence like an avalanche. Eric, out in front, continued to pump his fist in the air while running towards the highest concentration of security guards. Six or seven of them started running towards him and, upon seeing the size of Eric's infantry, immediately turned around and started screaming the call of retreat while they ran for the exits.

Eric was the first to get to the fence at the front of the lawn, and while I calmly walked over the fence with everyone else that didn't join Eric's strike force, I looked down at the army, who was patting Eric on the back and pouring six-dollar beers on his head. Eric had succeeded in crushing the evil tyranny that had put that fence up, and he was ecstatic. I still, to this day, have never seen anybody get so many people united behind a common goal that quickly.

And that, my friends, is first and only tale of the Red Horde. But the next time you're at an arena rock show, and someone approaches you with a complexion somewhere between scarlet and fuchsia, do whatever he tells you to do. You'll be glad you did.


Joe Bluhm said...

fucking right! RED THUNDER!!! hahaha!

Awesome story.

Anonymous said...

Battlefield? You're not making any sense, and this blog is stupid. I ask to read a tale of triumph over adversity, and all I get in return are racially insensitive insults to the noble Scandinavian people that brought us our IKEA® furniture and several different variations of death metal. Get on with the story, you hack.

Ashley said...

Your Eric Smith impression is. . .

uh. . .

(breathes through nose)

. . .right on.

Jon Young said...

that was a fuckin awesome day,we need to do something like that again soon

Robb said...

Found your blog the other day and at first was like, what OMG WTF. But then I read every post and now think you should start making these into a book, I was LOL'ing very much and read every one. Glad you're still alive and hope you remember me, you fucker!! Hopefully we will cross paths again so soon one day.