Today is pretty much the opposite of yesterday.
Everywhere you look, it’s uniformed Marines as far as the eye can see. Well, that and sand. We are in a desert, after all. But back to the Marines. This story is about them.
They carry their rifles with them at all times. Apparently it’s part of their training. They have to get used to the weight of it; lugging around a big deadly piece of metal everywhere they go. They just refer to their guns as “weight.” None of the guns are loaded, but just in case, they have these barrels full of something-or-other set up by the entrances to every building on base, and they have to point their guns into the barrels and make sure the chamber is clear before they can enter the commissary, or the cafeteria. They hold their guns while standing in line to order chicken fingers. Four of them lay their guns across their laps and spread a deck of cards out on a square table. I see one man with a real gun slung over his back pointing a fake gun at an arcade machine.
Most of them don’t even put their guns down to watch us play. Talk about intimidating.
The Marines of Camp Pendleton are gracious hosts, but nevertheless, a civilian (especially a band-civilian wearing a Rolling Stones t-shirt and a five o’clock shadow) can’t help feeling like a bit of an outsider on a military base. Maybe that’s not the right way to put it. Being in the presence of all of these men and women, many of whom are practically kids, who have signed up for something far greater and perhaps far more terrible than most of us will ever know can make one feel insufficient.
And some of them are so young. And some of them aren’t. We talked to a few guys who were around 19 and about to head to Afghanistan, and some guys who had been in the corps for seven years and had been to exotic places, like Spain, or Jacksonville, NC. We talked to medics, and specialists, and guys who launch missiles the size of telephone poles off the back of a truck.
They admire us for what we are free to pursue, and we admire them for what they have sacrificed. Not just the wounded, not just the dead, but all of them. Every kid trudging through some unforgiving landscape with a rifle on their back gave up comfort and safety and autonomy so that the rest of us don’t have to. And the damnedest thing is, most of them don’t really seem to think about it that much.
They just get used to the weight.
Hello, friends! Rob here.
On May 18th The Revivalists played a show at Marine Corps base Camp Pendleton in Joshua Tree, CA. A day or two after that I wrote the preceding, and it was edited and turned into a semi-coherent series of words this afternoon. The whole experience was a bit of much-needed culture shock for us, especially considering that it was the day after the Joshua Tree Music Festival. The only thing those two shows had in common was that both of them were behind gates in the desert.
I think I really like deserts.
In a city, or in a suburb, or on a beach, or in a college town, or even in the mountains, there’s a sense of dominion. Like people own this land. Like people even can own this land. I don’t feel that way in the desert. We spent Joshua Tree weekend staying at a Days Inn next to a Sizzler and a Dollar General, but somehow it felt, to me at least, that out there it was up to the wild to dictate the terms of our relationship. The town’s borders are drawn not by bureaucrats but by rock formations. Rodents scurry across residential avenues in broad daylight and seek shelter in burrows at the roots of resilient local flora. At any moment the warm, soft wind can kick up dust and make you close your eyes.
Under the sprawling night sky there’s a sense of emptiness and isolation that’s eerie yet strangely comforting. It makes sense why, for centuries, humans have looked to the desert as a place of cleansing, healing, and spiritual exploration. It’s the perfect place to leave things behind.
Anyway, the last few weeks of touring have been awesome, and also kind of nuts. Two nights ago we were at the inaugural Blackstock Music Festival in Blackstock, SC. The weekend before that was Memorial Day weekend, which we spent in Lake Tahoe and Northern California. California, by the way, is not very close to South Carolina. I’m kind of not sure how we pulled that one off. I think we rode in the van a lot, and then also maybe a little bit in this weird special van that can drive on the sky?
Naturally, all of the shows were transcendent, life-changing experiences. California is really a wonderful place. L.A., San Diego (with Nahko & Medicine for the People, who are amazing!) and San Francisco were all slammed, and there were surprising and heartwarming contingents of diehards at some of the smaller shows in places we haven’t visited as much like Sacramento and Santa Barbara. And on the other side of the country, Blackstock was great. Beautiful location, top-notch production and hospitality, wonderful people, extremely sweaty weather… What more could a band-guy ask for in a festival?
Okay, this is getting a little long as it is, so I’m just going to kind of unceremoniously wrap things up with a quick shout out: When we arrived at Joshua Tree, this band was playing, and they were just incredible. Really creative, tight, funky music that was equal parts accessible and “out there,” technical and dance-to-able. (Dances are “danceable,” songs are “dance-to-able.” Look it up.) That band is called Scott Pemberton Trio and we all like their music a lot.