For a group of folks that showed up to Telluride Bluegrass with probably 5 copies of Michael Pollan’s new book on psychedelics among us, needless to say, Sturgill Simpson is our people.
So on Sunday morning, after four days high on the kind of cold medicine that you need a driver’s license for because the kids are making meth out of that shit, I woke up finally feeling relatively human. I could breathe through my face for the first time all week, and after a few tentative clears of the throat, decided to crawl out of my nest of sleeping bag and blanket and mylar to attempt coffee.
I got my pour over setup situated, and while waiting on my cup to brew, apparently blacked out for a second and knocked the damn thing all over the coolers in what looked like a gallon of coffee grounds and camp dirt. Disheartened, I did my best to salvage what I could, but after a few sips of lukewarm chunky coffee, I threw the whole thing in the bushes and decided to wander down to the park and see if I couldn’t convince one of my friends at the Ozo tent to make me a drink.
Mission accomplished, I headed back to camp, feeling a lot better about life in general, when soundcheck started on the main stage and every hair on my body stood on end. It’s hard to know what you’re doing in any capacity at 8:45 in the morning when you’ve been sleeping on the ground for a week, so it took a few minutes before I realized that what I was hearing was Sturgill Simpson. I don’t know how to accurately express how long I’ve wanted to see Sturgill – but suffice it to say that as someone who only runs to the bathroom, I performed an Olympic level sprint back to the main stage without spilling a drop of coffee and stood dumbfounded as he ripped through thirty minutes of material in front of what was maybe fifteen people.
The physical reaction I had was so overwhelming that I burst into tears. I literally didn’t know what to do so I did the one thing I could – I stood there wet-faced and slightly in shock and didn’t really even try to hide it. Moments before, all I could think about was how annoyed I’d been at spilling my coffee – when, in reality, that mess had forced me to get my ass out of camp and put me twenty feet from one of my story telling heroes before 9am. I’d say the day was off to a pretty good start.
After that, everything just had a glow about it – from the morning gospel set, to the crew I worked with in the merch tent that day, to the dumplings I ate for lunch, to the nap I took just a little bit stoned in perfect 68 degree weather back at camp – everything that happened built on what had happened just before it and I knew I was teed up for a pretty incredible evening.
Just to be in Telluride with our crew, incredible weather, and this lineup of music would have been plenty. But there was something in the air that day that was hinting at a little bit more.
That night – after we finished packing up the shop, I ran onto the concert field for Sturgill (and, full disclosure: threw a mushroom in my mouth) and I felt something that I haven’t felt in a really long time, if ever. I was warm. I was happy. I was surrounded by people I fucking love. I was listening to one of my favorite performers in a place that seems to conjure these kinds of experiences. Everything was beautiful. And, as I looked around, there were times when I wanted to think that I was having an experience that was different, maybe even better, than everyone else – I wanted to separate myself from the folks who I didn’t believe were there for the same reasons as I was – the assholes! – but as I took it all in, I realized that that’s the thing about music – it hits all of us the same. I felt like we were all a part of something that night that was bigger than just a guy on a stage playing a guitar. There was something in the ether that reminded me of what it is that’s going on here – here being Telluride, but here being life in general.
First – the things that we see as mistakes or setbacks are almost always setting us up for something bigger. Maybe it’s getting fired or dumped. Maybe it’s just spilling your coffee. But the universe is putting us in position for what it knows we need if we can slow down enough to pay attention.
Second, we have the power to create whatever it is we want in this life – a perfect night, a perfect sunday, a perfect job or relationship. We have that power. I write about this day in Telluride like it was handed to me, but I was an active participant in everything that happened that day. From how I spoke to the guy who made my coffee, to how I opened up to my friends about the power of what happened to me during sound check, to how I opened myself up to the idea that I’m not different from anyone else out there on that concert field. I might want to think that I’m special somehow, but so is the guy next to me and the gal next to him. We’re all in it together, and if we think that we’re not – that any one of us is entitled to anything more or deserving of anything less, then we really are missing the whole damn point of being here.
We’re here for each other, y’all. And every choice we make in every moment either sets us up to get closer or further apart from one another. We’re here to help each other up, and over and through. When one of us is high, we help the guy who’s low. When we’re the one who’s low, we trust that someone’s got a hand outstretched, even if we don’t see it. And we need to choose how we act in every moment accordingly.
There are a lot of different ways to be a person, but the only wrong way is to assume that we don’t need each other.