I went to the library a little bit ago with one goal in mind: Find a book that I could binge-read in one day. Challenge accepted. Obviously, this book had to have very specific characteristics. The book had to be short enough that I could actually read it in a day and awesome enough that I would keep reading it. I really didn’t know which book would be the winner here, so I got three books just in case. One of them was bound to work, right? I finished this challenge a few days ago, but had to take some time to recover and get my brain back on track. Book hangovers are the worst. Anyway, for this challenge, I read Geoff Berner’s Festival Man. It was mostly awesome because I’ve never actually been to a music festival for whatever reason. So, we’ll consider this a book a field trip of sorts. Sometimes those are the best kinds anyway.
So, in this book, we’re introduced to a music manager, Campbell Ouniette, who seems like he really wants to be in the music business discovering the newest and greatest talent, but he just friggin can’t for whatever reason. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he just isn’t very lucky. At all. Time after time, he gets turned down or back-stabbed by the prospective artists. In most cases, the artist signs with Campbell and then signs later with someone else in annoyingly repetitive acts of betrayal. Nevertheless, he attends a folk festival in Calgary, Canada in an attempt to sign a new artist or two, earning some much needed cash in the process.
“Shut up. Alright, listen: I don’t want to hear any more about what the audience wants. Not only do these people have no idea what they want, but if they did, they’d probably be wrong to want it. We know what people need to hear. They need to hear real fucking music, not a performance, not fake, sanitized overly slick sentimental ritualized packaging of something that maybe once used to be real. That realness would still matter to them, if only they could hear it. If only they could hear the fundamental crazy emotions at the bottom of it.”
– Festival Man
So then, he decides to register a band for the festival, fully aware that their lead singer is not going to show up. Sure, he could have mentioned that to someone so that the people who book artists can reschedule another artist, but he seems to be super uninterested in things like honesty and being considerate of other people’s schedules or the festival in general. Also, he has super high hopes of pulling off this zany scheme. So obviously, the booking people find out about the missing lead singer and the fact that she had never planned on showing up at all. Yikes. The story goes through twists and turns of optimism and disappointment that make this reader feel like any other drugged out and confused festival attendant. Where am I again?
Confusing and twisty-turny plot lines aside, this book was hilarious and wonderful. In all of my recent classic book binges, I’d forgotten that books can be written in such a candidly wonderful way. The writing style was honest and funny. The main character was lovable and relatable. Even though we all know how his plots and ploys are going to turn out (so, so badly), our own optimism kicks in and we’re genuinely pulling for him to succeed at every turn. I really wanted something spectacular to happen for him. Obviously, I loved this main character. I loved Campbell’s personality and his perspective. What about the story itself? After I finished the book, I found myself wondering how much of the story was actually fiction. The book reads a bit like a memoir, but is labeled as fiction. The memoir style of the book made it even more lovable. I absolutely adored the book. Although, I probably wouldn’t recommend reading it in one sitting like I did because I found the whole experience tiring and disorienting (kind of like the festival experience actually is). At any rate, it was very funny and engaging and I loved every bit of it.