I walked into Common Ground alone. Well, I tried to walk in, but then discovered I was at the wrong entrance and had to loop around to a different one for my media pass. Then, I walked into Common Ground alone.
This did not particularly bother me as I was preoccupied with what I would write about.
I hadn't ever attended the festival before, but from what I inferred from the name, the whole point is to bring together larger acts with smaller, more local ones in an easily accessible venue. Maybe that was my topic?
I mulled this over as I stood watching Phoebe Ryan toss hot candies into the crowd from the shade of an overhead tree. My eyes scanned the crowd as I searched the venue for anything story-worthy. Suddenly, I heard something that piqued my interest.
“Jell-O shots!” shouted someone. I turned and saw a tray of the jiggling red, orange, and green containers nestled in ice hung round a salesperson's neck.
That was something I hadn't seen before— I was sure that beer and lemonades were the drink of choice, so I asked the seller for an interview. I brightened when she said yes, hoping my piece would be about the “Jell-O shot girl” who circuited the grounds. I found out her name was Carrie Hirsch. I asked about her background and whom she worked for. I asked how her sales were going and who the most likely buyers were.
I found out she was in the Navy for six years, is 26 years old, that parents are the best customers, because they, “need something to get through it," and that Hirsch attended Michigan State University.
Finally, content that I had gathered my story, I relaxed a little. I was about to sit back in the grass, watch AJR by myself and text my friends, but a lingering feeling pulled me back. I decided to wait for the James Arthur set instead, so I walked over to the Sparrow Stage. With 30 minutes left, I fought my way through a sea of sweaty girls wearing high-waisted shorts and aviators. I made peace with my decision to wait in this crowd, and was mid-Snapchat when I heard a voice from behind me.
“Do you like Harry Styles?”
A girl smiled invitingly. She was referring to my phone’s background. I struck up a conversation with her and her friend and found out their names were Na and Jack respectively. We then expanded our chatter to include two boys nearby, Josh and Matt. We all bonded over the protective mom behind us who frantically attempted to shield her child’s eyes from the displays of intoxicated affection in the crowd. That started it. We jumped in each other’s Snapchats and claimed every song was our song, despite really only knowing two.
By the time the set ended, I had formed a codependency with these people. If we were pushing up in the crowd, my hand would be grabbed to lead me with the herd. Na made sure I was going to see Alessia Cara and KYLE with her and Jack. She even insisted Jack buy me bottled water when she got herself one. Then, something that I thought could only tapped into by indie road-trip movies began to grow in me: the hyper-accelerated, blind camaraderie of complete strangers.
At one point, Alessia Cara asked those in the audience to give their loved ones and friends a hug before the next song. Na slipped an arm around my waist and pulled me close. I did not know this girl an hour before, and now I was her friend. And it was officially so, according to Alessia Cara.
After the show, we made our way back to the Sparrow Stage and I spotted Hirsch. I flagged her down to ask about her sales and if she liked the James Arthur set (Sales increased and she loved the set, if you were wondering).
We met back up with Josh at the KYLE set. He told us how his friend had ditched him and he was so happy to see us. Na introduced us to her ex-boyfriend and Josh asked me for advice on a boy he was seeing. By the time midnight signaled the end of the day, these people who entered my life as strangers only four hours before, became the ones I walked through the neon blue arches of the exit with.
As I approached my car, I realized that my story was not about the venue or Jell-O shots; despite the friend and details I learned. It was going to be about how I could walk into a festival — knowing not a soul in the venue—and leave with my life now intertwined with four others.
I guess you could say it all started with us finding some common ground.