For “veteran” festival attendees we still feel the magic around festival season. The weeks leading up; the excitement, the planning. It doesn’t get old you just learn a little more each year and hopefully pass that wisdom on to those coming up behind you. For this year’s Lockn’ I decided to bring my six year old, Ryder. It was by no means his first show but it was his real first festival and his first time camping.
For music lovers taking their children to their first festival is the equivalent of people taking their child to Disney World for the first time. You see the magic and feel the excitement all over again with a new level of enthusiasm and a level of innocence you had forgotten. To watch the enjoyment and wonder through my sons eyes was incredible. He couldn’t get enough, he loved every moment and wasn’t fazed by any of the bumps along the way. We drove from Florida to Virginia and setup camp in the family camping area. He immediately met our neighbors and played safely under the eyes of multiple parents while I finished getting settled in. For the next four days he was dirty, stinky, covered in orange clay and he couldn’t have been happier.
Ryder was able to experience music in a way that I believe bypasses most adults. He felt it. He instantly became part of the community and that is where the real magic happens. To him, no one was a stranger and he wanted to hear their stories about where they had come from and what bands did they really want to see. He met the owners of Morning Dew tie dye and spent so much time admiring their work and falling in love with every piece, they were so wonderful to him, answering his questions and embracing his curiosity. Once we left Morning Dew we headed over to the Handlebar Café to see if by chance they could fix a tire on his wagon. They could not have been kinder and did everything in their power to not only fix Ryder’s wagon but to let him help and teach him the process of what they were doing. They spent almost two hours on his wagon – for free. He told them they had to go to Garcia’s Forest and that it was the coolest place he had seen there.
While all of this was an incredible experience to watch play out for my child it was heightened on a very emotional level for me as well. You see, Ryder has special needs. He has global apraxia, a motor planning disorder that makes it difficult children struggle to speak. But yet, everyone took the time to meet him and understand him. Another major obstacle is that Ryder has (SPD) sensory processing disorder. I was internally terrified of how he would respond to the crowd, the music, the lights, the smells, the food, everything! It is a lot for adults, to be honest I wasn’t sure how it would go. He really wanted a smoothie before we headed to the mainstage for the night, it was hot out and had already been a long day. I stopped by The Loving Cup and they were more than happy to accommodate his dietary restrictions even though they were slammed. In true festival magic it turns out they are from our hometown, Jacksonville Beach, Florida. I strongly believe in the energy that live music produces, there is undercurrent that binds the community together. Sure, some will never feel it and they float by. But others have experiences like Ryder’s where you feel at home.
As we walked to the main stage Ryder asked me, “can we come back next weekend?” I had to explain that next week this would turn to a large empty field. So he asked, “well, where do we find this?” I simply replied, “tour baby.” Once we settled in for that nights shows I was tapped on the shoulder and a man said, “Will you give this to Ryder?” It was a beautiful stone shaped like a pyramid. He said, “I want him to have it.” It was one of the owners from Morning Dew tie dyes. Ryder loves rocks, gems, stones and all of the Earths wonders. He was over the moon with delight, it still sits safely on his dresser.
Some people believe children do not belong at shows or that it is pointless to bring them because they won’t remember it. Personally, I believe even if they do not remember the “ins and outs” it helps shape them. My child who struggles every day to do basic tasks has never felt more loved and included. Complete strangers stopping to give him high-fives, dance with him, other children playing hopscotch with glow sticks in the dark, running freely with new friends while digging in the dirt and playing with bubbles. He traded a light up balloon for a flashing lantern so the children could continue to play once the sun was down.
I had a friend question me about taking him out of school since it had just started to attend a music festival. I explained that to me, he is in school. This is the school of life and love and a fundamental part of growth and development. Ryder’s music teacher happens to play in JJ Grey and Mofro and gave us passes to be able to watch from backstage on Sunday. He was so excited to Mr. Eric at his “real job” as he calls it. When they finished Ryder went down and had his picture taken with Mr. Eric and Craig the drummer who was sweet enough to give Ryder his drum sticks.
Although I am certain Ryder will not understand what he was a part of at Lockn’ for quite a while, Bob and Phil playing Terrapin Station for the 40th anniversary, being backstage, drum sticks from Craig which by pure coincidence Mofro was Ryders first show when he was an infant. What he does understand is being given a gem by a woman as she told him it was filled with positive energy for him to now go share with the world, a golf cart taxi driver giving him a geode intact that he had dug up in Indiana but he wanted Ryder to have it. All of these events may seem insignificant to cynical adults but to Ryder it was pure magic. He is already excited for Lockn’ 2018 and asks all of the time, “how much longer?”
In a world filled with so much tension and negativity it feels like gift to be able to share with him a community that I believe in and love. I hope that he continues to feel the music and the undercurrent of energy and spreads the positive energy just like he was asked to. Cheers to you Lockn’ for putting on one hell of a festival for kids of ages all ages to love and embrace.