The Even Furthur coverage has provided many firsts for Chosen By The Funk, and we have yet another first to add to the pile: a guest-written piece! Tonya and I did not cross paths at Even Furthur (although she did unknowingly snap a picture with me in it), but she responded to my call for contributions.
Stronger Than Blood
By Tonya Smith
As soon as I heard the news on Facebook that Even Furthur 2016 would be happening, it was a no brainer that I had to travel to this epic event at an undisclosed location in Somewhere, WI. I moved to Colorado from Wisconsin in 2013 after spending my entire life in the Milwaukee area up to that point. I had attended almost all of the Drop Bass Network parties in the late 90s and early 2000s, where Kurt generously allowed me to set up my La Calavera vending booth decorated with black lights to sell jewelry that I had made along with other rave necessities, before mostly dropping out of the scene other than the occasional event that friends were putting on. The anticipation in the weeks leading up to my travel date were unrivaled. So many of us that have gone our separate ways and moved to other states, even other countries around the globe, would be seeing each other again for the first time in many years for some.
I flew from Colorado to Minneapolis and made the solo drive from there to stay in Ashland on the lake Thursday night. As I got close to the destination on Friday at 11:30AM, with my excitement for the weekend reaching a crescendo, I stopped at what appeared to be the last oasis of flushing toilets and supplies, the general store. I knew this was going to be a weekend filled with joyful reunions when I saw my friend Jaymez from Winnipeg, who I had last seen 15 years ago at a Barn Party in East Troy, WI leaning against one of the few cars in the lot at the store and we recognized each other immediately. After meeting his travel companion Scott, who I now consider a new friend, we followed each other into the Even Furthur entrance at 11:45 where April, a member of the Support Squad, laughed as she checked their Canadian passports. These may have been the first passports provided as identification at the gate, but certainly not the last. At a minimum, one other Canadian passport was used as identification by Colin (aka fishead) when he arrived with Jon (aka Dica), who came all the way from Hong Kong. I’m sure there were many others, people came from far and wide for this family reunion.
It was great to arrive early and have a chance to walk the entire grounds several times and scope things out to get a feel for where everything was while it was light out. There were some brief respites from the rain, but it quickly became clear that this was to be a wet and muddy weekend. The Support Squad dealing with the parking deserve serious props, I saw many of the same faces out there for no less than 12 hours straight and some longer than that. After a few hours a lot more people had arrived and we somehow managed to locate many of our dispersed friends without the use of cell phones, imagine that!
The true meaning of family quickly became clear as many people who hadn’t seen each other for 8, 10, 15 years and more started to gather. It felt like it was yesterday and all that time had not passed. All the memories (and lack thereof) from parties and connections made, and just the general feelings felt, quickly came flooding back. This was the autonomous place in time that we were together to gather and experience the unconditional love of family and community that comes with knowing we can all truly be our absolute authentic selves and not be judged but embraced, not despite who we are but because of it. There was a return of that feeling of bonds stronger than blood where those who wanted to could let loose and feel completely safe. We were free from the gossip, frivolity, dullness and criticism that can sometimes accompany everyday life as well as most of the responsibilities. It takes all of us to make up and round out the community that we all appreciate and value, just as it is. The legacy of experiences we all have, good and bad, that make us who we are and who we are with each other is something universal, true magic, the real reality. There were shenanigans, teasing, joking around, laughter and serious discussions about important and heavy topics, yielding results better and cheaper than therapy. It felt like we had discovered the fountain of youth by reconnecting with our roots. For me it actually made me feel younger by at least 10 years, motivated and inspired and that feeling has continued over a month later. I have heard many people saying the same sort of things after returning to their lives.
To say that Even Furthur 2016 was life changing for me would be an understatement. It brought me back in touch with my roots, made me realize what things matter most in life and helped me and many others figure out who we really are. I got to reconnect with friends from a wide diaspora including Hong Kong, Winnipeg, Montreal, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, Minneapolis, Indiana, Oregon and Texas as well as make new friends even as late as Monday morning. The Drop Bass Network legacy of bringing people together in a special space created with care facilitated all of that and more. That is why I was not surprised when I walked up to the main tent on Friday night alone and looked to my left to see a friend I had not seen since before 2000 standing right next to me, finding each other without effort among the thousands of people in attendance. Those chance encounters are what it’s all about.
Seeing so many people say the same things about the feelings generated by Even Furthur 2016 makes me appreciate it even more than my individual experience. It was truly a collective experience that affected so many in similar ways. I have made a decision to make it a priority to maintain these connections to the music, culture, and people who mean so much to me, and if there is a "Next Time" for Even Furthur, nothing will keep me away. I hope to see you there!