I saw it all. And I wasn’t even supposed to be there. At least, not in the VIP area.
I had planned on going go to Village Voice’s 4Knots Music Festival at the South Street Seaport just as a normal civilian, not as a reporter, and certainly not as a Very Important Person. I tend to normally think of myself as a Person of Medium to Below-Average Importance, but sometimes, the cosmos shoves a big bucketful of responsibility into your hands, and then also hands you a mop and a bag of sawdust, and says, “Hey, the toilet of destiny is overflowing.”
I got there bright and early, right at the beginning of the festival (like a nerd), just in time for Nick Waterhouse to start his set. Little did I know it would take an entire “House” of “Water” to quash the flames that would consume the festival later on. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Nick Waterhouse’s band is like clockwork; a well-oiled machine. Maybe it was that highly-flammable oil that started the fire in the first place. But it isn’t my job to determine the causes of fires. It’s my job to report it, along with glib opinions about live music.
Shortly after Nick’s awesomely twist-inducing set, one of my confidential sources informed me in a direct message on Twitter that a certain name on the VIP list wasn’t going to be attending. I cursed myself for not bringing along my Groucho Marx glasses with the plastic nose and Hitler moustache attached. If I’m going to assume someone else’s identity, I prefer being in disguise. Nevertheless, I went to the VIP tent to claim my yellow bracelet, nervously snapping and whistling as I went.
“Can I help you?” asked the girl at the table with the wristbands and the list of AVIPs (Actual Very Important People). She was already on to me.
“Who, me? I’m not a cop.”
“Alright, I’m a Private Investigative Journalist. Just kidding, no I’m not. Whatever. I’m totally on that list.”
Usually, if I’m operating under a false identity, I go by one of two aliases: Carlos Jehoshaphat McGillicutty or Cliff Swordface. Those I can say with a straight face, but my nerves nearly tore me to pieces when I said the name my source gave me. I had no background information on this guy, and no time to invent a backstory. I thought about making a run for it while she flipped through the pages of names on the list, then finally checked one off and handed me a yellow bracelet.
“It worked! I mean, where’s the VIP area, young miss?”
“On the Boat of course!”
The VIP area was a pirate ship. I spilled my drink all over myself while I was taking that picture of the AVIPs.
I was super embarrassed, so I ran back down to the main stage to re-join the rest of the People of Medium to Below-Average Importance before the AVIPs made me walk the plank. Also, Bleached was playing.
They are just as awesome at being babes and doing rock n' roll live as they are when I listen to them on Spotify with my eyes closed during my Me time.
I thought this girl was Grimes.
Then, Hospitality went on, and the shit hit the fan. And by fan, I mean fire. Right in the middle of their set they were like, “Hey...we’re gonna stop playing for a few minutes, then we’ll be back.” Everyone was really confused. Delicate Steve was playing on the other stage, so I started heading that way. On my way to Steve, some lady stopped me and frantically said, “Do you know what caused it?!”
And I was like “Caused what?”
I was about to slap her and tell her to get a hold of herself when I saw the smoke. An FDNY fireship was parked off the pier, blasting it with water cannons—ones even bigger than those backpack Super-Soakers—to no avail.
I whipped out my iPhone and started machine-gun tweeting live updates of the raging inferno. At a certain point, my editor Sasha tweeted at me to “Keep tweeting that calamity, damn you!” I’m paraphrasing, but to be fair, I was picturing her in a 1920’s-ish newsroom, chomping down on a half-smoked cigar and pounding her fist on a desk while Artie Shaw’s “Nightmare” played in the background on a gramophone. I felt like that one reporter who said “Oh, the humanity!” when the Hindenberg crashed into that cell-phone tower, except instead of saying something cool and iconic like that, I said stuff like this:
The Crocodiles are going on to put the fire out with the magic of song.— David C. Bailey (@TheRingaDingKid) July 14, 2012
Chainsawing up the charred pieces of the pier now, presumably to take them back to the FDNY arson lab. Nefarious origins? Call me maybe.— David C. Bailey (@TheRingaDingKid) July 14, 2012
Firefighters are carrying away a smoking soda vending machine, which this reporter believes became self-aware and self-destructed.— David C. Bailey (@TheRingaDingKid) July 14, 2012
Fire department can't hear each other so the music has stopped. Now I'm eavesdropping the guy next to me talk about his transition lenses.— David C. Bailey (@TheRingaDingKid) July 14, 2012
And then the Crocodiles went on. WITH THE FIRE STILL BURNING. The wind was very favorable to the patrons of 4Knots Music Festival that day. This is what those of us upwind of the fire didn’t see, and why we were all like, “Uh, why’s the music stopped?”
Fortunately, nobody was injured. Also fortunately, nobody found out that I was assuming a false identity among the AVIPs. Unfortunately, they still don’t know what, or who, started the fire. But the same confidential source that provided me with the name of the absent AVIP has also informed me that the FDNY arson lab has brought in Billy Joel for questioning.