It's a Zoo Out There - But, Like, Really

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

My email went to five music-loving friends. It was short & to the point:
Anyone want to join me at Portugal. The Man's free show at the Zoo next Monday? At 6:30, it's cutting it pretty close to work hours (it's still sort of during work hours), but it sounds quirky & bloggable, so I'm going to go & would love company.
Yeah, sometimes I make plans around events that might make for interesting stories - & in this case, it paid off.

The Smithsonian National Zoo's partnership with Portugal. The Man (don't blame me for their inaccurately placed punctuation) is intended to raise awareness of endangered species, specifically Sumatran tigers, the smallest surviving tiger species with only 400 left in the wild. The Zoo distributed copies of the band's new song, aptly titled "Sumatran Tigers," to 400 social media influencers. The catch? The polycarbonate records are made to disintegrate after a certain number of plays - literally "a song manufactured to go extinct unless it's reproduced." Through this #EndangeredSong campaign, record recipients were tasked with "breeding" the song, digitizing it for the masses & ensuring its survival.

Yeah, this is the most genius social media campaign ever, & I shall refer to it forevermore as the most impressive effort I've thus far encountered. So first, there's that.

But secondly, there was also this free show, which I was excited to attend. I arrived with three friends, two friends-of-friends, & a picnic blanket (OK, it was someone else's picnic blanket), full of enthusiasm & sweating bullets in the sudden D.C. heat. We joined about 2,000 fellow attendees for a nice, seated lawn show at which everyone in attendance seemed to be in unanimous but unspoken agreement about the "seated" part.

Except for one kid.

This little bro, who was probably about 16, stood up to dance alone, blocking other people's views & inspiring boos from the crowd behind him. When a cop approached him & asked him to sit, he solidly refused - casually at first, then with more intensity (here's a video), & finally, he was hauled off the lawn in a spectacle that stopped the band & paused the whole show. When he was finally cuffed & hauled away, the whole audience cheered & the band apologized & everything continued as planned.

Until the last song. During the last song, one of his friends decided to stage a protest of his own, more peaceful this time but equally obnoxious. He approached the band at the edge of the stage & leaned in for a hug from lead singer John Gourley, who waved off an approaching police officer & accepted the hug in an attempt to diffuse yet another distracting situation. Except then the kid ran on stage, picked up a tambourine, & danced with the band through the duration of their final - & very long - song. That led into "Hey, Jude," & on the na-na-na-nas, the whole crowd finally stood en masse & sang together, confused & amused.

These two ridiculous interruptions sullied an otherwise excellent show for an excellent cause, & my friends & I grumbled about them with an appropriately level of oldness. "Do you think they're on drugs?" one friend asked. In fact, I think I can pinpoint the precise moment I became an adult: It was when someone asked me how old I thought the rebels were, & I said, "Old enough to know better, young enough to be on Molly." Also, I initially wrote "hooligans" there instead of "rebels," so it's official - I'm old.

It also reinforced, as so many experiences do, that D.C. is the right city for me. This ain't Coachella, bro. Sit your hippie ass down & enjoy your free zoo show from the grass like every other goddamn suited-up pseudo-hipster in this town.

The Smithsonian National Zoo's Global Tiger Initiative is working to double the number of wild tigers by 2022. Text NATZOO to 20222 to donate $10 to their efforts. Learn more or donate online.

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