This weekend my little brother got married.
Now, in and of itself, nothing about this is newsworthy to anyone outside my family. People get married all the time.
But in those weddings, was the bride's hair knotted into dreadlocks and did she walk down the aisle to Jerry Garcia's "Shining Star"? Did the groom have hair like a hippie chick's flowing halfway down his back? Had the couple seen Widespread Panic more than 200 times?
Let me backtrack for a moment. Growing up near Memphis, my two brothers and I listened to hip-hop and hip-hop alone. We watched Yo! MTV Raps religiously. My older brother brought me back a T-shirt from a Bell Biv Devoe concert that said "DO ME," which I somehow got away with wearing in grade school. (The teachers may not have known what it meant; we definitely didn't.)
But in college my younger brother began dating girls who wore sweeping patchwork skirts, shirts they stitched together themselves and no bras. Coupled up, he and his mate would make pit stops at my parents' house for one last night of hot showers before heading west to crash in roadside fields en route to their version of Mecca: festivals with headlining jam bands like Widespread Panic, Perpetual Groove and Moonshine Still. Of course, the pre-concert "lots" were much of the attraction. Half tailgate, half bartering mall, they're like family reunions, just for fans.
In fact, these types of parties happen before every show, no matter if the concert site is a sprawling field or a traditional venue. Fans hitchhike from one to another and sell stuff like "heady grilled cheeses" (you can probably guess what's special about these sandwiches -- it's not head cheese) to make enough money to get to the next spot. Last year, my brother and his fiancée visited me in L.A. when Panic had a two-night stand at the Wiltern.
"What time are you going to the show?" I asked, thinking he'd say 7 or 8 p.m. "We'll head over around 4," he said, "to enjoy the lot." I went to one in Asheville, N.C., where my brother finally got his didgeridoo back from some dude he'd loaned it to at a show months earlier. There are lots of hugs, high fives and cheers in the lot. It's probably as close to the spirit of Woodstock as any of us will ever get.
As for my brother's now-wife? I'm convinced one of the reasons he began dating her is because she saw Jerry Garcia live a few times when she was a teenager.