Traveling back in time to see your favorite rock band...
Music has this wonderful ability to take us back in time: flash back to a wild night with friends, a solo dinner on the living room floor, childhood car rides with dad, and any other memory we can possibly think of. If music was present we can always go back to that time just by turning on the vinyl. I on the other hand was taken back to a time I had never experienced before, when I arrived in Cuba the air was warm and thick with the smell of the cigars and the ocean, the night was dark with few street lights to guide the way: leaving the imagination to run wild. Surrounded by cars from the 50’s and Spanish architecture of the 1900’s you realized that time had truly stopped here.
I woke the next morning to the sound of men cutting down coconuts outside my window, when I went to shower there was no running water but only a bucket upon request, no internet, no cell service, no distractions. I was living for the moment in front of me in the simplest of ways. I grabbed a taxi to a near by café for an espresso and began to write of my adventure. I couldn’t grasp that I was actually in Cuba much less the fact that The Rolling Stones were playing a free show that evening, the first American band to play in Cuba in over a century. I headed to the show early out of fear I wouldn’t get a good spot after hearing 500,000 people were rumored to be attending. Roads were shut down miles away from the outdoor stage in the middle of the city, walking in a sea of people I began to feel the energy of my surroundings and the excitement inside me began to grow.
The Stones were playing over the speakers while we piled through the gate entrance; people had been camping there since the night before to ensure their front stage spots. We formed a single line and began to hope over people to make our way front and center. What seemed almost impossible soon became possible as we saw a break in the crowd and snatched our pocket of green grass. As I looked around I noticed the community that was happening among friends and strangers. No one was on his or her cell phone, no one was buying anything because there was nothing to be bought, and we began to make new friends. This was no fashion show, no element of social status, and no shrug attitude. This was all about the music.
The Rolling Stone were to come on at 8:00pm but they kept us waiting as most American musicians do. There were ebbs and flows of the roaring crowd as the sun began to set and excitement grew! I’ll never forget watching the sun go down behind the Cuba flag at my first stones show, life was nothing short of a dream in that moment. As they took the stage you could feel the ground beneath you move from the people jumping, thousands of hands rose in the air, and screams of pure ecstasy consumed me. I thought to myself this is the closest I’ll ever get to Woodstock. I was seeing Rock n Roll for the first and what felt like the last time of my life. Mick Jagger moved across the stage as if he was still 20 years old shaking his hips in ways I’ve never seen, Keith had a kindness in his smile that made me think he couldn’t even believe he was there. Rod glided across the stage hitting strings that hit you right at your core and between Keith and Mick you saw about 20 different outfit changes throughout the show. It wasn’t until about the 4th song Midnight Rambler that I broke through. I closed my eyes and felt as if the music was moving and pulling every piece of my body. Flashes of some of my favorite musician such as Janis Joplin flew through my mind as if I was opening my eyes for only a second to see them beside me. My moves mimicked theirs and in that second I understood the power that existed in rock n roll. These men had tapped into something greater than them over 40 years ago and were able to harness it and share it with millions of people.
This wave or connection of energy was the most freedom I have ever felt in my life. At one point I honestly wanted to throw my shirt off just so I could groove. With a 22 min version of Midnight Rambler I was taken back to a period of time when people believed in the music and I’m not sure still if these were clips I had seen of the past from books or if I really went there, but the music sure did take me there. Once the show ended we walked the street with people singing all around, dancing their way home under the full moon of Cuba. This was one for the books.