Peace & Love in Sweden – 2011

After a 5-week tour in Europe through 4 counties (that is well documented in my previous blog posts), the last thing on my body’s mind was leaving Austin again, 5 days later to head out to Sweden and London.  Little did I know that this would result in one of the greatest experiences in recent memory for me.For the few that truly know me, which are very few if any, they know that I constantly work hard on some sort of project, and rarely take a moment to eat or sleep.  When I do sleep, I sleep sitting up because it wakes my body up after only a few hours out of discomfort.
Is that Even a Good School?
Troy & I landed in Stockholm early Tuesday and were greeted by a P&L driver, whom was to drive us 2 hours north to Borlange.  Drowsy and half awake, I really didn’t feel like talking about the usual topics of the US and Texas and how we aren’t really cowboys, blah blah blah, so I gave the brief version and soon looked to pass out for the majority of the trip.  It was almost over, when the driver, (whom I forgot the name of so we’ll call him Anders), Anders, dropped a carrot I couldn’t resist.  “I lived in Alabama for a year when I was 17.” He said.  Whaaaaaaaat!  A Swede in sweet home Alabama?  In the heart of the Bible belt.  Where racism doesn’t just still live, but still breeds.  Fascinating!  Anders starts to smile as if the memories are coming to life for him as he explains how surreal it was to live the “Lifetime/90210” American high school life.  He joined the football team and wore his jersey to class on game day and carried the cheerleader’s books!  Ha!  He of course was the kicker for the football team.  He was also on the soccer team and said that he was the best player on the team and won MVP and all sorts of awards.  He was even offered a scholarship to play soccer at some school I didn’t recognize.  And this is where is got interesting.  He then mentions that he was also offered a scholarship to play football but he thought it was foolish to play football because “It’s so easy that anyone can kick that little football between the yellow poles”.  So I asked him where the offer came from.  He could barely pronounce it and it sounded like Orber or Arbuor.  So I think Alabama…hmmm…..”Auburn?”  “Ya that’s it.  Auburn,” Anders says.  “Is that even a good school?” … Wait a second?  This guy had never played football before, comes to America, kicks a ball around for 4 months so he can pretend he’s in a teen American movie and then gets offered a full scholarship to play at a Division 1 college?  And turns it down!!! Glad I stayed awake =)   Oh, and Anders goes on to say that it was one of the best years of his life and still has tons of friends from Alabama, which doesn’t include a German foreign exchange student that found his “exchange parents’” shotgun the first week he was in Alabama and blasted a huge hole in their bed.  No, they weren’t in the bed at that time!
We arrive in Borlange a few hours later and I’m still wishing Anders would have said yes to Auburn.  Those thoughts quickly subside as we see our great friend Henrik with Peace & Love!  I hit it off with Henrik, Jesper, and a few others during SXSW this year, and building these friendships and learning more about the vision of Peace & Love in their eyes is why I was in Borlange.
 We are escorted through the barren festival grounds, which felt like walking through the calm before a storm.  Henrik begins to explain that his friend Lars will be in charge of us and will make sure we are accommodated with an apartment, food, wristbands, you name it.
Lars was Lars.  A gentle giant.  A poor mans Conan the Barbarian/Thor.  Stalky…pony tail…never wore a shirt…shoes came and went…walked like he was on a mission to kick someone’s ass, but always had the huge smile…and he made us feel like we were his top priority.  Anytime we needed something he was there in a heartbeat with a smile.  Even when it seemed grim, he always promised, “I’ll figure out a way to make it happen.”  Lars is the guy.  My home is his home now.
Peace & Love
The 2 words being so ambiguous, can easily be overheard and overlooked, but after my week at the P&L fest, I feel they have come into more focus for me.  I was privileged to see the festival from multiple angles as an artist, a guest, a supporter, and even in some ways as an affiliate.  Of course this got me in to more than v.i.p areas where I could see the work in action, and I tried to soak up every moment.
The first day was highlighted by my friends Giana Factory being at the festival!  They have become such sweet and amazing friends of mine and of course they are an amazing band that Jesper discovered at SXSW at the Roky Erickson Ice Cream Social.  Seeing them perform is always a treat for me, and the night (that never got dark) was capped off in Eden, which was the after hours “VIP” garden lounge.  It was probably a combination of the alcohol and the euphoria of beautiful weather and music, but boy was this portion of the festival a blast each night.  It’s here where I met the most people and honestly felt like the beginning of friendships were started.  Danny with Carlings, kept me intrigued with our similar ties to Native Americans and how he has a cool gig to drum with a German star to crowds of 65,000+, but had to overcome rowlfing on himself during each performance.  Lin fascinated me with an overview of Sweden underground music, their flagship artists, and other insights.  Patrick talked of taking me to visit Cliff Burton’s memorial.  But it was Jesper, the visionary at P&L, which captivated my attention the most. Jesper thinks bigger than big and I admire and relate to him.  You can’t walk 5 seconds with Jesper in Eden without someone pulling his attention away, but at 5 am when all were kicked out of Eden and I was sitting on the curb with a few new friends a few blocks away, it was Jesper who stumbled into our holy trinity.
You’ll hear festivalgoers say that it’s just a music festival with no real connection to peace or love.  Or at least that’s what some said when this Texan prodded.   But I thought that response was a copout.  Similar to people saying they don’t pay attention to advertising so it doesn’t affect their decision-making.  You see, I can’t count the number of times my mind was wandering off when I’d see some unique expression of the concept of P&L written or tattered on someone’s shirt or bag or sleeve, and almost every time it brought my mind back and thinking and aware.  People of all different backgrounds, expressing their beliefs and showing that there is this unity for a common belief and hope.  It makes impressions, no doubt in my mind.  To Jesper, Peace & Love Festival is not a Swedish festival.  I can see that.  Sweden is his foundation but his outreach to Cuba, the USA, Spain and other countries shows that the festival, like true peace and love, is international and has no walls.  Without belief you have no peace nor love.  Jesper believes…and I’m in his corner.
I’m sure a lot of people come for the music and the bands, and that’s probably why a band like Kings of Leon has to be on the bill, but that can’t be the only reason P&L is rapidly growing and their base of fans are returnees every year?  I know for me, parts of my soul and spirit were fed and I feel the gravity pulling at me to come back simply to be around Jesper & Henrik and be inspired.  To be an inspiration next time?  I can only hope!  Do I want find Peace & Love?  What’s the saying…Be careful what you look for. You just might get it?  Well, I’ll take my chances!
 Character of the Cast
Mattias was just another dude riding up elevators with a bearskin vest, baring his chest, playing the bongos, sporting a tiki (for lack of a better word) mask, and building human peace signs every day.  You know…THAT guy!   Props!
Quote of the trip
“I only know America through ‘My Sweet Sixteen’, ‘Made’, and ‘I’m 15 and pregnant’.  (pause)…So is it true that all guys in America play baseball, love their Mom, pray, and have nice bodies?”

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