Zetafest ’98

Zetafest ’98

Markham Park, Sunrise • 7/5/98

I have never sweated so much in my life. The third annual 94.9 Zetafest concert landed on July 5th. I arrived at 11 am, parked my car somewhere on the grass, and made the three-mile trek to the gate with the other concertgoers. We were like a small army, making our pilgrimage across the grassy tundra, descending upon Markham Park like an invasion of stormtroopers, beads of sweat already forming under the hot sun. After the hike and a brief frisking from security, attendees were admitted into the concert area. It was a mass of sweaty, half-naked people, the majority pierced and/or tattooed in various locations.

The heat was relentless — most of the men lost their shirts within the first hour, while the women peeled off as much clothing as possible, almost crossing the line where they would no longer be considered dressed. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I had to wonder about the people who chose to wear jeans and long sleeved shirts, in all black, no less. I know it is important to protect oneself from the sun, however, I even saw one person wearing a turtleneck sweater. Who are these people?

In addition to the live music, a host of vendors sold every conceivable item under the sun. The adequately named “Sideshow” tent featured everything from bikinis to sunglasses, T-shirts, shoes, and miscellaneous paraphernalia, jewelry, and other novelty items. I was surprised and glad to see Pet Rescue there, and I hope they received a lot of donations. Zeta DJ Paul Castronovo hosted Paul’s Cigar Bar, Super Skates sponsored an inline skating exhibition, and my favorite, the new it-looks-like-a-cartoon-car Volkswagen bug that was on display. (I swear it looks like that car is smiling.) VW’s interactive electric car racing track set was just as adorable. The rock climbing wall was an excellent addition to this year’s festival, and most likely competed with the U.S. Army’s repeat he-man chin-up contest. (I saw one guy do thirty-seven!) Of course, a variety of carnival-style food was available, the water line being the most popular. I never saw the mist tent (that I so desperately needed), and I think half of the water I bought was poured over my head. For the five people in the crowd who did not arrive with any previous tattoos or piercings, they needn’t have felt left out; a visit to one of the booths and they could have gotten some fresh ink or a new hole in their body that very day.

But most of the 20,000 people who attended were there for the music, which began with Feeder on the North stage and local band Maria on the local stage. National bands alternated their sets on the two massive side-by-side main stages. The all-star line-up included God Lives Underwater, Addict, Sam I Am, and Black Lab, who played their radio hits “Time Ago” and “Wash it Away.” Semisonic brought the crowd to a frenzy with “Closing Time” and new single “Singing in my Sleep,” and Seven Mary Three (it was great to see local boy Robbie Gennet behind the piano) played their new songs “Over Your Shoulder,” “Chasing You,” “Hang On,” and “Peel,” along with “Blessing In Disguise,” which Robbie played guitar on.

Stabbing Westward was a crowd favorite with their songs “Save Yourself” and “What Do I Have to Do?” Headliners the Black Crowes finished up the all-day festival with “Hard to Handle,” “Remedy,” and “Wiser Time.” Days before the concert, it was announced that Brother Cane would be replacing Candlebox, who were forced to cancel due to the fact that lead singer Kevin Martin had damaged vocal chords and was ordered not to perform by his doctor. Local bands included Company Cane, Sixo, Endo, Inhouse, and the C-60’s.

The crowd seemed to love every minute of Zetafest, even though most were forced to stand all day due to the fact that blankets were not allowed (why not?). The mud throwing tradition continued this year, however, the crowd was reprimanded by Stabbing Westward’s singer, who threatened not to play if the mud throwing shenanigans went on while they took the stage. I agreed with him wholeheartedly, but he sounded like a big whiny baby.

After a hot, dripping-with-sweat sweaty day, I made the schlep back to my car. Only, I could not find my car, and after looking for an hour, came much too close to passing out. (Many thanks to the paramedics for being so nice!) I felt pretty stupid wandering in circles, however, I was not the only one stumbling around in the sea of cars. Seemed that everyone was trying to look cool, acting as if they knew exactly where their car was parked. (Note to Zetafest organizers for next year: Please have some way to designate where people park with numbered rows or something. With that many cars parked every which way, there was no way to reference where you parked. Or even better, have some kind of shuttle bus to and from the parking areas. And make earplugs available for sale!)

Zetafest was a dirty, sweaty, exhausting day. Good thing it only comes around once a year. I got home and let the water run down my dirt covered body (I got caught in the mud crossfire). It was the best shower of my life.

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