Wednesday, August 11, 2004

On the Trail of Phatti Macrobus

There is nothing on this earth like a Grateful Dead concert. Nothing even remotely comes close to resembling it. Even those who are not official died-in-the-wool* Deadheads are sure to be guaranteed a memorable people-watching experience that would leave most professional sociologists scratching their heads and gaping in bewilderment.

Who needs the Wildlife Channel? Taking a stroll through the parking lot before the show is like going on a safari in search of big “gamey” hippies. This particular breed of planetary species has become affectionately known among regular concert-goers as the common migratory Tour Rat, or “Phatti Macrobus”. This strange creature is about as entertaining to observe in it’s indigenous habitat deep within the concrete parking lot jungles of arenas and stadiums throughout North America, as watching a herd of Sea Lions dressed as circus clowns. When I wander the rows of parked cars observing the various Cowardly Lion types, all passing glass pipes and bottles with the stealthy nimble dexterity of an Explosives Expert, I suddenly feel like the Crocodile Hunter wandering the outback on safari marveling at all these local primitive hippie beasts roaming at large. And then I feel the indescribable urge to jump one, wrestle it to the ground, hogtie it’s limbs behind it’s back and gag it with my belt, affix a special tracking device to it’s ear, and then release it back into the wilds of the parking lot once again.

Phatti Macrobus, or “Lot Kids” as they are sometimes simply referred to, all seem to look alike after awhile and begin to pass before you like a procession of Wookies in kitschy product advertisement t-shirts. They are just noticably different. They resemble a cross between a mechanical clapping monkey and an Ewok cranked up on too many speedballs. Where I used to subscribe to the notion that any large numbers of Caucasians dancing in close proximity should be hailed as a public offense and reason enough to immediately call in the National Guard and install Martial Law, and begin handing out the death sentences like they were Ganja Gooballs, I will admit that there is nothing more sexually provocative as the indigenous female dancing Phatti Macrobus in full traditional tie-dye regalia in her natural habitat. It’s all I can do to prevent myself from ogling the young supple twirling Tour Rat as her building inertia makes the hems on her patchy skirt rise up over her smooth calves and thighs, threatening to reveal quick glimpses of forbidden hippie muff…


Tour Rats are extremely territorial and competitive in regards to establishing the social rankings within their circles of influence on the concert grounds. They are as avid about their seniority and status as any disgruntled General Motors union worker. They can instantly, no matter what level of inebriation they are currently in,** prattle off any combination of personal statistics as they directly relate to the band, and their own concert experiences with all the accuracy of a Quantum Mathematician. They can proudly name the total number of shows they’ve attended, the total number of miles traveled between each show, and the detailed breakdown of the subsequent set list for each show without even batting an eyelash. You’d expect to see these Rats walking around with specially designed membership rings like pledging Frat students, modeling them to outsiders and passersby in order to obtain the certain levels of respect and admiration among their peers that they feel they are deserving of…it’s a status symbol like the length of horns on a mature rutting male moose.

You could almost create a ‘Tour Rat Bingo’ game to be played on the concert grounds before and after the show based on the guaranteed stereotypical character types you are sure to find in the parking lot. “Hey, there’s a dread-locked girl in a ripped neon orange sundress and armpits hairier than a Sasquatches ass…BINGO!” “All I need more is a drunken male college dropout in his early 30’s playing a ukulele and I’ll have Bingo”. “C’mon, where’s a grubby touqued Japanese girl with 8 toes walking a mangy pitbull on a hemp leash when you need one?”

These character images are in no way meant to indicate that your average Tour Rat is void of any culture. On the contrary, they have a thriving culture that rivals in complexity any of the world’s greatest civilizations. If “necessity is the mother of all invention” then certainly competition is the mother of all commerce. The Tour Rat has a highly specialized consumer trade alive and well in the venue parking lot, and they are irresistibly drawn to a printed sign. Any printed sign! Hand crafted signs made from old raggedy pieces of cardboard, resembling quickly printed ransom notes, are affixed or hanging by the thousands from every available neck, ledge, bumper, or counter top within a five mile radius. With all these advertisement sign’s about, it would sometimes seem as if you are passing through the ‘Want Ads’ section of the local newspaper. During a single 15 min jaunt through the parking lot and observing the detailed cardboard advertisement signs, you could stock up on groceries for the month, score front row tickets to the next Phish concert in Swaziland, get sized for a nice pair of tie-dyed underwear, pick up some nice mind-altering intoxicants, find a nice microbrew to compliment your mind-altering intoxicants, and make a deal on some used plastic patio furniture to bring home as a souvenir. Literally everything is available for purchase in the kingdom of the Tour Rat.

Spirituality is also commonplace among the Phatti Macrobus. Most notably of these New Age parking lot faiths, and perhaps the most recognized, is the “Twelve Tribes” cult that stalks the concert venue grounds looking for naïve impressionable minds with which to further populate their propaganda, as well as increase the coffers of their cult leaders. However, this Twelve Tribe phenomenon completely baffles me. Do they purposely send out the most wretched pathetic soul in soiled ripped clothes to tempt us into enlisting into their ranks of faithful zombie believers? *** Why would you subscribe to a religious organization that preaches the divine precepts of love, happiness, and spiritual prosperity when the person attempting to convert you looks like someone who just crawled out of a Famine Relief commercial? How is that motivational exactly? I half expect Alex Trebek to hop out of their bus**** and begin lecturing me on the plight of world hunger and attempt to coax me onboard with a graying veggie burrito. Boy, that’s sure some “Paradise” you have there all right! Before you can say “You’re harshening my buzz, man”, your trip wears off and you realize that you’re stitching wallets or dipping candles in some backwoods Draconian sweatshop in Island Pond, VT. Certainly, Yashua intended better for me than standing in a darkened and muddy parking lot gate handing out “the Elusive Dream” magazines that look like they were printed on recycled toilet paper to non-communicative passersby who have less coherent recognition in their eye than the inevitable flattened squirrel outside the gate in the middle of the road that I will no doubt be dining on after Grace later on in the evening with my Twelve Tribe brothers and sisters.

If you wish to experience Phatti Macrobus “culture” at it’s absolute worst, you need look no further than the venues bathroom facility come set-break. People flow in and out of this fetid wasteland like the mounting tides reacting to the moon’s gravitational pull. More to the point, it’s like being beamed directly into the Seventh Level of Dante’s Inferno. Definitely not for the weak at heart...or weak of stomach for that matter either. I would rather take my chances at visiting a Viet Cong POW camp between sets and risk being locked into a bamboo tiger cage that have to deal with the stalls in the venue bathrooms. And yet inevitably, you get the one dude who seems to hang out barefooted in the bathroom for the entire show dancing by himself in the back and trying in vain to sell whatever mood altering goodies from Aunt Hazel’s Magic Garden that he has available for hock. Yeah right, like I’m going to buy drugs from a guy who hangs out in a stanky, germ-infested bathroom. I wouldn’t even venture within 15 feet of him to poke him with a stick unless I had to, nevermind consider buying his wares!

* Which I suspect is the perfect term to use in reference to your average stereotypical Deadhead, since normally they would closely resemble something that would have long since expired and has been left to decompose in the same woolen cap it no doubt lived and breathed in for the better part of three decades.

** In fact, the more clouded their mental faculties become on whatever intoxicating poison they have willingly inhaled or ingested into their bodies, the more they seem to get BETTER in their instant recall abilities.

*** They would be more effective as the poster models for unemployed university dropouts.

**** Which happens to be named the “Peacemaker”. Wait, wasn’t that a really bad George Clooney movie that dragged on forever and ever and ever and...?


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