I was starting to forget how long I had been here. Was it an hour? Two? I had no idea what time it even was. I’d already had a few drinks and a shot (or three) of tequila. I was very much enjoying the scenery.
I cracked open a beer and took a long drag of my clove cigarette. The tip blazed as hot as the sun. It was bright out; too bright. Sunglasses were clutch. With a beer in one hand and an inconspicuous recording device in the other, I was ready for my mission: To make friends and figure out just what the hell I was doing there.
The making friends part was easy. Everyone had something to say. I felt like the reporter for my generation; like I was recording the collective history of everyone there.
After all, I was surrounded by a dozen Betty Page and Marilyn Monroe replicas covered in piercings and mohawks, fused together with a strong presence of denim jackets and studded belts. My generation had adopted the perfect blend of hippie, punk, and retro-Americana style. It was eclectic. It was “Philadelphian”.
The block was lined with vendors, punks, hipsters, fringe-scene kids and friends of all shapes and sizes. The smell of nachos, hotdogs, and other various food items filled the air as money was exchanged to help fill empty stomachs. A milkshake table was offering shakes for $7 a pop (they were delicious however). A cookie stand tempted me as I continued about my mission. For now the beer and shot table would do, only leading me to succumb to the deliciousness of the cookie stand later. The beer kept me chilled and I was prepared to keep it that way no matter the cost. It was too nice outside not to drink.
The street was split in half by the sun. One half was a cool breezy shade created by the south Philly row homes. The other, a bright warmth that beat down on exposed skin. TD2BD was stationed in the sun, and we were all starting to sweat, but we weren’t scared of a little alcohol and Vitamin D!
The massive crowd of people that had come together amid the concrete walls, high-rise buildings and brittle pavement was overwhelming. I continued to walk around, shaking hands and chatting with mustached men who were carrying cases of beer and handles of vodka. Guys with beards and dreadlocks and sunglasses danced with girls wearing high rise pants, revealing shirts, and colorful headbands. Each sip I took of my beer was better than the last. I continued to enjoy the sights and the sounds (of absolute madness) while the current band finished playing. I lit another clove and inhaled deeply, chugged half of my beer in a single gulp, then exhaled with an extremely satisfying sigh. I made a note in my recorder as to how good it felt to be welcomed into this neighborhood. Just how alive it made me feel to be there.
There was nothing like day drinking to really start your weekend… or end it.
That was when I saw him. Gumby.
And not just regular Gumby – Zombie Gumby.
“Gumby, you son of a bitch!” I screamed at him. “Where’s Pokey?”
“I ate his ass!” Gumby shrieked at me in his signature shrill voice while waving his arms frantically.
“How…how could you eat Pokey? How could you do that? He was your best friend!”
“Horse meat is gooooooooood!” he said matter-of-factly.
“Well… was he tasty?”
“He gave me worms!” he replied as he shuffled away.
Reckless abandon was everywhere, and I was thrust into the thick of it. Three fine gentlemen with the words “CHUG LIFE” tattooed in matching spots on their guts encouraged me to chug the rest of my beer with them. I had to comply because for the reverent monks of Chug Life it would have been discourteous not to.
I could hear the Souldiers of Soul playing; it was the perfect reason to shove my recorder in more faces. I needed to interview them. Obtaining an interview with the band was going to be tricky. After their set, I was forced to follow three of the band members to an alley and play lookout while each of them took a piss. Fuck it. I went back to the cooler to grab another beer. Double fuck it, two beers and another clove. When I finally rounded them up for an interview, Wild Crow stepped forward and imparted his wisdom on me.
“All you gotta know about Souldiers of Soul is that the fight for rock and roll has begun. We’re doin’ it. It’s happenin’ right here in Philly, and it’s happening all over the place. We’re taking it back,” Wild Crow said passionately.
The words shot me through the heart as I walked towards the rumble of The High Five. I was hypnotized by the crowd and its rhythmic, drunken dancing. It was all fueled by the energetic reverberations of their always present sonic intensity. They had welcomed me, a stranger, into the wild dog pack. I jammed with the crowd as the music ushered in the twilight.
I finally realized why I was here.
This event was tapping into the very core of my generation. A place where rocker, skater, hipster, punk, and the fringe-scene kids all got along as friends. We were brimming with excellence and disgust – adding moments to our lives in hopes to someday look back on these memories with fondness and warmth – all while drinking cheap beer from tall cans.
I needed another drink.
The bottom line:
A lot of people think they can look at a picture of a couple of people and make assumptions about the two or three hundred others in attendance. The fact is, this was one of the most fun times I’ve ever had day drinking, and it is by far the most fun I’ve ever had at a block party. The people were young, hip, and friendly. Not a single person there treated me like we weren’t equals. This event was about keeping true to the theme that this city takes its name from: Brotherly Love. I felt like the people attending and hosting the block party were my family, because that’s how they treated me. Good friends, good food, good music, and good times: that’s what Cinco de High Yo! 2013 should really be remembered for. You can rest assured that I’ll be back for next year’s festivities, and I hope to see you there too!