Day 33: Monday 4th August 2013 continued – Sturgis, SD
By the time I got back to the Chip’s amphitheatre, I was feeling much more mellow after dealing with the aftermath of the Buffalo Chip Assholes. I was ready to see what the American Bad Ass was all about.
One thing that has surprised me is the way they start all the concerts here with the national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner, although admittedly a rocked-up version by Madison Rising, one of the bands that will be performing here later in the week. What is even more surprising, to me at least, is the response it gets from the crowd. Nearly every person in the house, stands with hand on heart, eyes transfixed on the patriotic images playing on the big screens to the sides of the stage.
I found the experience of standing amongst all these overtly patriotic Americans, standing solemnly with hands on heart, quite strange. The enormous level of patriotism and nationalism exhibited by Americans is far in excess of anything you are likely to see in Britain, except at some international sporting events. I did a little research into the national anthem and discovered that this behaviour is mandated by law:
United States Code, 36 U.S.C.§ 301, states that during a rendition of the national anthem, when the flag is displayed, all present except those in uniform should stand at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart; Members of the Armed Forces and veterans who are present and not in uniform may render the military salute; men not in uniform should remove their headdress with their right hand and hold the headdress at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart; and individuals in uniform should give the military salute at the first note of the anthem and maintain that position until the last note; and when the flag is not displayed, all present should face toward the music and act in the same manner they would if the flag were displayed. Military law requires all vehicles on the installation to stop when the song is played and all individuals outside to stand at attention and face the direction of the music and either salute, in uniform, or place the right hand over the heart, if out of uniform.
Britain’s (and England’s) national anthem, “God Save The Queen”, is not codified in law, merely by custom, and quite frankly, it is an embarrassment, saying nothing about Britishness or Englishness, rather about a sad infatuation that some members of the populace have for hereditary, parasitic privilege. I would never stand for, let alone sing, this sorry excuse for a national anthem.
Scotland and Wales have a much better idea, whilst they do not have official national anthems, they have their national songs, “Flower of Scotland” (or sometimes “Scotland the Brave”) and “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” (Land of my Fathers) respectively, which are used in place of an official national anthem. But even here, it is not normal practice to play these before rock concerts.
Actually, American nationalism is much more evident than in Britain from the minute you set foot in the country, and in hindsight, I find it a little surprising I haven’t commented on it before. The Stars and Stripes are everywhere, at least in the parts of the country I have visited. It hangs from houses, businesses, mailboxes, car bumper stickers, and seems especially prevalent on the back of big tourers and trikes.
After the national anthem, the first band of the evening was a young guy called Jared James Nichols. He was pretty good, apart from a complete overuse of the phrase “Yeah baby” every time he spoke to the audience.
Another tradition at the Chip is the Miss Buffalo Chip contest, where 10 girls parade on stage 3 times every evening and some unknown (to me) judges decide who goes through to a final on Saturday night. The girls where were pretty enough, and some had careers I wouldn’t have expected to be competing in this kind of thing at the Chip, such as navy firearms instructor, lawyer, cosmologist, PhD microbiology student, etc., but I’ve never been overly fond of this sort of “contest”, and by the second night of seeing it, I was thoroughly bored with it and usually wandered off to get a beer when ever it was on. I’ve included the photos only to give an idea of what it was like.
By now, the Buffalo Chip was filling up. It looked as if the speculation was right, this was going to be the biggest night of the rally here.
The second act of the evening were the Doobie Brothers. I’ve not listened to much of their music before other than “China Groove”, which I kinda liked, but they lost me of the their opening number “Jesus Is Just Alright” and didn’t really get me back even with “China Groove”. This wasn’t helped by the fact that I couldn’t look at Tom Johnston without thinking of Bobby Ball.
Instead, I drank my beer and looked to the heavens. The rain clouds were looking ominous.
More Miss Buffalo Chip followed the Doobies, so I went to stock up on beer for Kyle and I. I had to fight my way out, the amphitheatre was now rammed. In the handful of shows I have been to at the Chip, I have never seen it anywhere near this full. Kid Rock was certainly a crowd drawer amongst a lot of the folks that go to Sturgis. It was near impossible to make my way back to the Trooper, but I wanted to see what this American Bad Ass was all about first hand, so I pushed on through.
The tension in the crowd was almost palpable as their waited for the Kid to appear. The stage crew struggled to get a sheet in place in front of the stage, as the wind from the nearby thunder storm whistled through the Chip.
But then they got it and the show started, with heavy build up and with Kid Rock starting hidden by the sheet.
When the sheet finally dropped, there was Kid Rock, all in white and bling. The crowd lapping up every word. People from behind trying to push closer.
Minutes into the show, the clouds caught up with the Chip and the rain started, and not just a little shower, this was a downpour. The audience got soaked. The clothes I wore were still wet the following morning, but the Kid played on like a trooper and the audience didn’t falter in rocking out with him.
Kid Rock seems to blend rap, country and rock into a composite that certainly worked with this crowd. And to give him his due he is a great showman. For me his music never quite nailed it, I’m really not a fan of rap or country, but I did enjoy the show. He dispelled many of my prejudgements, I can absolutely see why this crowd loved him. Not only does he fuse some of America’s favourite music genres, but he speaks this crowd’s language. Several times during the show, he talked with the crowd about things like Obama’s attempts at gun control – his take was that he would pay for anyone who wanted to mess with the second amendment to be fired in a rocket to the planet fuck off, the crowd loved that, and later about about how everyone should be buying American made goods. He suggested that the useless members of American society were the politicians and the lawyers. I could agree with those sentiments and could easily see them translated back to the UK, but I’d also add bankers to his list of useless feckers.
The rain didn’t deter some of the girls showing their boobs to him either. There were many more girls up on someone’s shoulders showing off their wares at this show than at any other during that week. Not that Kid Rock showed that he noticed, unlike many of his compatriots.
During the show lots of people tried to push forward through the bikes, but we took security measures to discourage this. The last thing you want is someone knocking into the bike or scratching it, and since we were all sitting on the bikes the people behind had a better view than if we had been standing up.
Even so, someone tried hopping up onto Kyle’s bike. He wasn’t convinced, but for some reason he didn’t kick her off.
Later, she scooted off and onto the front row, but at Jakyl’s suggestion, Kyle made her pay for the privilege.
This seems an appropriate photo to follow with an observation between one the differences between America and home. I have to say that from what I have seen, America seems to have a fascination with boobies, especially at Sturgis. Guys seem extremely keen for girls to show their titties, and I have to say that some girls seem almost as equally keen to show them. I haven’t seen quite the same keenness back home, except for maybe at a Steel Panther gig. I wondered about the reason for this, perhaps we get to see more at home and are less bothered. Whilst that remark was very tongue-in-cheek, there may actually be a grain of truth in this. In the US, nipples seem to be a taboo. Many girls have body painting, and are allowed to walk around topless as long as they are wearing pasties over their nipples. Similarly US TV, at least the terrestrial channels, often fuzz out the nipples. I’m not aware of the same restrictions at home, and the TV doesn’t fuzz out nipples as long as it’s after 9pm. I don’t know, but I wondered whether since nipples seem to be more a forbidden fruit here, whether that was the reason people were keener on seeing and showing them. Anyway, everyone likes boobies at Sturgis.