Rage Against the Machine headline the Rebellious 2007 Vegoose Music Festival.
As my body was being thrashed by random elbows, knees, and other body parts, I came to a realization: Rage Against the machine was playing 'Bulls on Parade', and I suddenly could feel the caged energy of humanity within the crowd. Here we were, tens of thousands of us, packed so tightly together that some of us had trouble breathing. We shared our sweat in mass quantities and we chanted for freedom and rebellion. Freedom to be ourselves in the face of a growing threat to individual liberty. And rebellion against those few who wish to take that freedom away. I could see the birth and death of humanity as I gasped for breath in between crowd surfers kicking me in the head and my attempts at photographing the catalysts of this event. How far we as a people have climbed to reach this point, where I struggled to keep my feet in that moment...how very far.
With Zach De La Rocha reciting his rebellious poetry, we jumped, we pumped our fists, and we chanted along. After 15 years of listening to their albums, it was not until I was in the fields of Vegoose that it finally hit me what De La Rocha means when he says, "Anger is a gift." I guess I needed to feel that raw power first hand. Oppressed people need that flame within, that spark of anger - to wake them from the hypnotic slumber they have fallen into, or in many cases, been born into. To awaken to the realization that fear is used as a weapon, and many of us have fallen victim to it. Fear of standing out in a crowd, fear of suffering, fear of failure, fear of the unknown, or fear of fear. The masses of humanity are being herded by these fears, forced into fighting wars, forced into degrading and destroying each other like pawns in a twisted game of chess.
But as I protected my camera from the constant crushing of the crowd that surrounded me, I could see, feel, smell, hear, and taste humanity's passion for justice and craving for freedom. We stood at the front lines of a revolution that night. This revolution is a peaceful one, but it is a force to be reckoned with. The steel barricades could not contain the energy that pulsated from the hearts of those men and women, with their glory and courage glistening in the sweat dripping from their foreheads. It takes a rare type of person to withstand the harsh conditions of witnessing RATM from the front rows, I myself was about 10 feet back from the front barricades and the stage that newly reformed group performed upon. And as close as we were to the front line, it made me wonder about how close humanity is to realizing its true potential. To realize that we don't have to settle for the mistakes of the past as our future, because we can change things, and we can do it peacefully. All we need to do is to WAKE UP, SPEAK OUT, and MOVE FORWARD.
Other memorable performances at Vegoose 2007 were given by Gogol Bordello, MIA, Robert Randolph, Public Enemy, Spearhead, Iggy & the Stooges, and Muse. But the overall experience of being in the sea of people witnessing Rage Against the Machine's performance was overwhelming and overshadowed everything else. As waves in that sea, we flowed with each other and became one with one another. I tried my best to photograph the performance, but the chaotic frenzy that I was engulfed by limited that severely. Never-the-less, the photos that I managed to take captured a bit of what it felt like to be on the front lines of a Rage Against the Machine.
I walked away from Rage's performance soaked in a thousand different people's sweat, including my own. I was literally dripping wet in the cold October evening. But my heart was warm. There is hope for humanity and it comes in many forms. My legs may have been shaky and in need of rest, but I was standing on new legs. My view of humanity as whole will be forever changed because of those few hours of music and interaction with the rest of the crowd. As I met up with my buddy who was kindly holding my backpack and gear, he asked me, "Where were you?" And my only response was, "I was in a revolution..."