Faceless and plentiful, people swarm like bees, buzzing and buzzing toward the vibrations of each stage, excited and hopeful that this will be the weekend to remember. This will be the weekend that puts their Instagram accounts on the map. This will be the weekend that they get the best footage of the best concerts of the best bands. This will be the weekend their social media lives will be the talk of envy around the dinner table. Because they were there. And they have proof. By Jane Claire Hervey
I stand in an ocean of high-waisted shorts and lifted cell phones, and I can unfortunately smell the girl to the left of me. A little boy wedged in front of me, who can’t see over the person in front of him, holds his iPod above his head, successfully catching all of Fun.’s concert through his little 8 megapixel camera. “You can stand in front of me, little man,” the guy next to him says. “No, it’s okay. I’m getting it all on video,” the boy replies, and he stands there for the rest of the concert with his arm up like an experienced trooper. The guy looks back at me. “I mean, doesn’t he know that all of this will be posted on YouTube? Why does he even need his own copy? He could just enjoy it,” he says. I shrug, not because I do not know why, but because I know far too well.
It was the same sort of thing after Woodstock. For years, and even to this day, the festival of all things hippie and love and good vibes has the mysterious, seductive qualities of a precious time lost. Those who were there have developed an oral history of the event and what exactly happened to them — who they met, who they heard, what moments the media missed and all of the other crazy things that can’t be explained unless you were actually there. Although most people in my generation were not alive for Woodstock, ACL has become something like that. It’s something you talk about sitting cross-legged in a circle with friends, babysitting a bottle of cheap wine on a lazy Friday night. “Yeah, I was there for Vampire Weekend in 2010. I even met the lead singer. Ha! Don’t believe me? I’ve got a picture, dude. It’s on Facebook. Here, I’ll find it.”
What used to be an oral history, with eerie, folklore-like qualities, has become a fully documented — complete with pictures, text, video and audio — living history. Granted, Woodstock and festivals of that nature back in the ‘60s and ‘70s left behind tangible evidence, but not near as much as we have accrued for the festivals of today. Search #aclfest2013 on Instagram, or Twitter, and see what you find. Currently, Instagram has a library of 2,125 #aclfest2013 posts; Twitter's list seems endless.
If we can’t really miss out an anything, because it will all be online anyways, it almost seems surprising that so many people go to ACL. We could just stay home and watch YouTube recaps, right? However, the concept of ownership trumps all. “I went,” that picture on Instagram says. “I am cool,” that video clip of Kaskade in the rain says. Although I only spent 11 hours of my 25 hours at ACL actually playing (the other 14 were spent working), I didn’t fret. I missed some of my favorite bands, but I knew I could catch them online, and, with the time I had, I got some pretty sick photos myself.
So, here’s to the age of the iPhone. Here’s to the era of Twitter and Instagram and Facebook. I raise my cellphone camera to thee. Thank you for making pictures possible. Thank you for documenting that I was at ACL, even if I wasn’t really there the whole time. Thank you for making me seem awesome and spectacular. Thank you for all of the moments that we will never miss. Thank you for that one photo that 30 of my friends liked. Thank you for making pop-up shows on canceled days of ACL possible. Thanks for keeping everything alive, even if it’s obnoxious at times. Thanks for helping us remember more than our parents ever will. God bless the Internet.