The Mission Was Clear: Fly down to Joshua Tree National Park. Impress natives. Rock that festival like its back ain’t got no bone. Fly home and open two nights for Soulive1.
Why A Jet Plane: Rather than tour our way down the coast as we had done on our first criss-crossin’ & hop scotchin’ Golden State adventure last October, we rolled the dice on the chance that if we got there as early as possible our fellow freaks and festival goers might adopt us as their own. And maybe, just maybe, a jet plane would do us one better than rolling the devil’s dice once again; blasting down the coast eight deep, through the crust / dust / wanderlust of Angie’s father’s wonderful ol’ Suburban2. We gave ol’ Betsy a rest and came up with a foolproof plan to get past security.
Checklist: We stepped on the airship with 26 gold ‘We Are The Blaxstonz’ medallions, 6 gold lamé capes, 1 gold coat, and 3 Adidas gospel robes – and The Hope of Nigerian Hip Hop. We duplicated as many albums3 as we could afford to bring without turning a trick or obtaining a payday loan. The loquacious Staquelettes brought along plenty of catnip, which they happily concealed on their person. As we arrived at the airport we just hoped that TSA employees would permit us fly as we are Jungle Cats4 and our identification indicated otherwise. Thankfully, the jig was not up. We safely landed in the territories of old Mexico, and were soon purring past the rancid smog into a majestic desert.
When Animals Attack: All was going smoothly until we regretfully stopped in Banning, California, where a chemically enthused waitress named Violet regaled us with tales of her relaxing evening in a $150 hotel room (with hot tub) and $150 dinner. You see, her boyfriend Jeba whisked her away on as a mental health day BECAUSE RUN AWAY PITBULLS INVADED HER YARD and tore apart her precious little dogs as easily as I tore apart the greasy hot wings hanging from my mouth. And if that wasn’t a bitch, it had happened under the same circumstances seven years earlier, when she was thankfully there to smash their skulls with a bat. Violet explained that wild dogs posed a threat to the people of Banning and we ought to be on the lookout. I noted that these wild dogs sounded worse than zombies, and without batting an eye, Violet said, “Yes, yes they were.”
Wild Pit bulls on their best day are no match for a pack of Jungle Cats, but none of us wanted anymore blood on our hands, so we bid Violet adieu and continued on towards Joshua Tree as the howling and cries of one dog devouring another faded in the distance.
An Oasis, An Omen: Once we arrived in the city of Joshua Tree we knew the Jackals of Banning were truly behind us. The owner of Joshua Tree Outfitters and her little Dachshund cozying on the counter greeted us with warmth and a surprise discount. The pair also set up our tents at a prime location at the festival well before we arrived.
When we hit the festival, there was another good omen. Ayo Ogunrinde, our newest member, immediately recognized the Afrobeat goddess serving up the rapture on stage as the great Wumni, a fellow Nigerian and friend of his sister, the noted painter Folasayo Dele-Ogunrinde.
After being greeted by Wumni’s 100 megatons of charisma, I knew all would be blessed.
From then on out that Saturday, act after outstanding act creamed the last one. Bonerama onstage took me on a bone yard bender; sending NOLA FUNK through a hurricane and hashish blender. The Fort Knox Five took the stage next to put on a MUTHA’ FUCKIN’ CLINIC on how to seamlessly marry live instrumentation, break beat DJs, mind-melding projections, and real ass HIP HOP in one chronic ass set. By the end of the Fort Knox experience I was floating around Lake Joshua Tree, toes dragging, drooling over the orbs and installations that organizer Barnett English’s artistic friends created for our delight. Soon the funk gave way to a rave as lasers splashed against the mountains and the crescent moon seemed to sit only yards above the circus tent…
…Along with the distant voodoo of robots slaves5 melting into the sensuous throb of Orgone in the beer garden. In the safety of my tent, I drifted off from this Neverland, remembering the rainforest, knowing full well the hot desert sun would soon be cooking us for breakfast in our tents.
After sleeping in a pile, we awoke Sunday morning to Serbians performing ambient breakfast music on top of their graffitied tour bus. After a breakfast of wild tuna, spicy meats and a glass of Tang, we bathed in the shadows, biding our time, saving our soul fire for the stage, which we unleashed upon the faithful for 90 hostage taking minutes, until after many intimate confessions, we could give no more.
Barnett English, standing like a patrician over his loyal city-state, looked upon us in approval. We celebrated like Jungle Cats do, possibly left behind some future heirs, and enjoyed the gifts the natives showered upon us in the dark, as another incredible Joshua Tree Music Festival came to a ritualistic close. The Staquelettes, covered in red shawls, danced around the fire, singing songs in a language only they understand.
Exit Eden: Hours later at the airport, I was pulled aside and my bags rifled through in search of a possible explosive device that turned out to be a water bottle from the main stage. But something else incendiary caught the agent’s eye. Someone had to say something.
“I guess you’re wondering why my suitcase is full of gold capes.”
He winked at me after glancing side-to-side and whispered, “Jungle Cats.”
- Opening for Soulive was great. Their fans really know how to party on a weeknight, and they appreciate the finer points of funk and soul – even without a vocalist like myself shouting instructions (“Throw ya’ hands in the air, buy me a drink, embrace my medallion!”). My personal favorite part was either the Devil’s Hand or The Holy Spirit giving me a fist bump: As I was ramping up the room for the gigantic final double chorus of our next single “Sugar Walls” (for the definition, ask a brotha!), these two identically dressed hip sisters in beautiful brown Afros walked passed me in front of the stage as I stalked the floor like a hungry tiger with a long black mic cord. My feline instinct overcame me and I was instantly gliding on my back across the floor with my feet propelling me, looking up their skirts as they catwalked towards backstage doors, confirming, pointing, and simultaneously defining the true meaning of the term SUGAR WALLS.
- A 20th century relic, Angie’s Suburban can be seen in our “Oh Carolina” video as dear Carolina sows her wild oats, over and over again, in the back seat.
- It is worth mentioning that our We Are The Blaxstonz albums also serve as sweet ass medallions (instead of coasters), although to properly assemble you need yellow ribbon, super glue and a pair of discs.
- We are the last of the North American Jungle Cats. Nearly extinct, we’ve live on the edge of society for centuries. Our interbreeding with mankind and our efforts to blend has made us passable by most standards. But we are not like you. We are Jungle Cats. Don’t question it.
- Check out Eric Singer and his company Lemur to unfold this sci-fi mystery.
Davin Michael Stedman