Monday, January 19, 2009

I was the last person allowed in at the Lincoln Memorial concert

Ok, so not exactly – but of the 400,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial today, I was one of the last 25. All in all, from the Inaugural kick-off concert to Metro insanity, it was a pretty epic day.

I went with friends to today’s free "We Are One" concert at the Lincoln Memorial – talk about the experience of a lifetime. In addition to speeches from Barack Obama and Joe Biden, we heard music from Garth Brooks, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Pete Seeger, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, Bon Jovi, John Mellencamp, Sheryl Crow, Josh Groban, Beyonce, and more, and spoken word performances and/or speeches from Martin Luther King III, Tom Hanks, Tiger Woods, Denzel Washington, George Lopez, Jack Black, Jamie Foxx, Steve Carrell, and more. USA Today has the complete rundown as a live blog here. I was most excited about Brooks, Springsteen, and Seeger(!!!). I’ve got lots of pictures and amateur videos but no UBS cord, so everything here is from news photos and YouTube. I’ll post my own once I’m back in New Hampshire on Wednesday.

I arrived around 1:30 and spent 45 minutes winding my way through the security line. I got in at 2:15 and they closed the gates right behind me – I was one of the last 25 people let in! If I had left my friend’s house just five minutes later, had I caught the next Metro train, I wouldn’t have made it. (Pictured: U2.)

My bishop, Gene Robinson, gave the opening prayer, but unfortunately the sound system wasn’t working – we could see him on the Jumbotrons but not hear him. Any chance of hearing even a squeak of his voice was eliminated by the 400,000 people chanting, “WE CAN’T HEAR! WE CAN’T HEAR!” It was quite disappointing not to be able to hear one of my own bishops. I’m also told HBO didn’t carry the prayer, which makes sense – it came at about 2:20, ten minutes before the official start time. The text of his prayer is, however, available at the diocesan website.

Everyone I’ve talked to said that Garth Brooks was the highlight – a classic-rock loving friend from Dartmouth, the hip-hop fans I’m staying with, the Biden campaign alums I had dinner with, and my mom listening on NPR all agreed his performance was amazing. He came out and surprised the crowd with Don McLean’s “American Pie” and, of all things, “Shout,” followed by the one song I was anticipating, “We Shall Be Free.” He has always been known as an energetic performer. (A video of his performance is below.) Springsteen performed twice, the first time playing “The Rising” and later singing a duet with Pete Seeger on “This Land is Your Land.” Brooks was my favorite singer for most of my childhood, and Springsteen is one of my long-standing all-time faves. I wouldn’t quite call Seeger a favorite, but no matter how you spin it he’s an amazingly talented legend and a true American hero. It’s been a dream of mine to see him for years, and his teaming with the Boss and his grandson Tao Rodriguez-Seeger (go Mammals!) on a Woody Guthrie song was something else. That video is at the end of this post; here's Brooks:

By the end of the concert, I had worked my way up to the front of the left side of the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool, under all the trees. I didn’t have a clear view of any of the Jumbotrons, but I could see just about everything on stage. The crowd was around 400,000 people. My favorite part of it all was that people sat atop the porta-potties for the first forty minutes or so – hundreds and hundreds of people on top of porta-potties, a hilarious site until the cops chased them down (and rightly so).

Getting out of there was hell, though, that’s for sure. The concert wrapped up at about 4:30. Around 5pm, I started towards St. Paul’s K Street for Evensong at 6, the best part of last year’s six months here in DC. The line to get into the Smithsonian Metro station stretched for a good 50 yards outside the station, and the Federal Triangle Metro station up the road wasn’t much better. I had no trouble getting on a train at Metro Station, but each station we passed through was a zoo. We were crammed into that train so hard that the only body part I could move was my left elbow – it was like Navy Yard station after a Nationals game, but at every single station. Today probably set new ridership records, records that will only be smashed six times over on Tuesday.

I was so relieved to finally squeeze out of the train at Foggy Bottom. I’ll say more about St. Paul’s in another post, hopefully later this week. That was one of the “Sunday Morning at...” church reviews I never got around to making this summer. It is such a beautiful church with one of the most breathtaking choirs, and after that Metro havoc, I found the service so quiet, so calming and filling. By 7pm the Metro was a lot calmer, so I headed into Virginia for dinner with some Biden campaign vets. (Pictured: Bruce Springsteen and Martin Luther King, III.)


James said...

Thank you for this update, Wayward. It almost makes up for the fact you are there and I am here. NOT.

Nathan Empsall said...

You're just going to keep up this bitter envy until I'm back in New Hampshire where it's 14 below, aren't you? :P

Leonardo Ricardo said...

Nice. Thanks.

Remaining enthusiastic in Central America (however, speaking of bitter, I´m still pissed about the missed +Robinson prayer on HBO).

You´re a great reporter.

Jordan said...

I am SOOOOO glad I'm not anywhere near the DC metropolitan area right now.

charlotte said...

Thanks for a first-hand account of the event. I watched on HBO and I found it amazing. I have never been a Garth Brooks fan but I agree that it was an awesome set - I love it!
"This Land is Your Land" brought me to tears. All in all a very uplifting event.