I can’t believe we’re already at Part 30. And we’re just getting started, folks. Stories have been collected, going back a decade.
For Part 30, something of a milestone I guess, we’ll do something special.
Much like a secret society, men today speak of Sausagefest in hushed tones.
Earlier, I mentioned Tom and Eric (“Uncle Meat”) and something called Sausagefest (in a previous chapter). What happens at Sausagefest, stays at Sausagefest. Mostly. But here’s what I can tell you.
The heart and core of Sausagefest is the annual Top 100 list. The format has varied slightly over the years, but it remains largely unchanged. They take votes from all attendees, months in advance, of their top 100 song picks that year. They tabulate them, and over two crazy nights in an undisclosed but vast outdoor location, they count them down one by one.
Beer is consumed. Sausage is eaten. There are no vegetarians at Sausagefest. I have packed Froot Roll Ups in the past but that’s it for me. The rest is all sausage, and succulent marinated lamb for me.
The top 100 list was started by Eric and his buddy Derek back in 1990. It was New Year’s Eve, and he collected a top 100 list and put together the tapes (!) himself. He often had to borrow a CD from somebody to do it, because there was no web. An evening would typically run from 5pm to 3am, solid with tunes and the odd skit in between.
This went on for three years. Much later, in 2002, the concept was reinvented as Sausagefest. The setting was now a pristine scenic valley with a river running through it. Awesome. A generator powers the wall of sound, and there are no neighbors to complain about the noise.
The top 100 is usually epic in scale and scope. You will hear everything from AC/DC to Zappa, as far out as Dixie Dregs, and as local as Helix. You will hear Lightfoot, Cash, Nelson, and Kristofferson. Maiden and Priest are regulars, and the thrash gets positively evil. Mercyful Fate anyone?
The story goes like this: Tom was frustrated one night and blurted out, “We need just an all-guys’ weekend. We can have it up at the farm. Summer weekend No chicks. And it will be called Sausagefest…’cause if you dont have your own personal sausage…you can’t come!”
The “moment of clarity”, as they say, was instant. They both knew they had to do this, and that the music would be the core of it. Only these two guys could have cooked up and executed an idea like this at that moment. The planets were aligned or something. I bet if you knew the exact date that they invented Sausagefest, you would be able to find that a supernova happened that day too.
Again they did it on cassette. Tom’s music collection was massive at that point, about 1500 discs and a growing collection of vinyl. Only these guys had the resources to do it. Finding these songs, on download, at the time? Very difficult.
For the record, the very first #1 at the very first year was “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”! Epic.
So Sausagefest was born, and the first one was a success. Unfortunately I did not attend the first four. In fact I didn’t attend a single one until I had quit the record store. 2006 was my first Sausagefest. For many of them, I simply could not get the weekend off. Everybody wants time off in the summer, and the actual date for Sausagefest wasn’t always known with enough notice.
The other factor in me not going was I was really stuck in a rut at the time with the store. I was paranoid to leave town. There were fuckups literally all the time that needed to be fixed, fires that needed to be put out, that I never felt comfortable leaving. The very last vacation I ever took at the store was 2002. No coincidence.
However once I was free of that fear, I drove up with no tent and just a cooler full of meat, water, and Roll Ups. Actually no, that’s not true! I was told there was no need to bring meat, because there was so much there, it wouldn’t be a problem. So just water and Roll Ups, that first year! I slept in my car.
At night, the music starts and the air guitars come out. But the days have their own traditions.
An Iron Maiden loving guy named Zach brings the lamb. He brings more every year and there is still not enough to satisfy my hunger. It is incredible. Zach is the lamb lord. Some people put it on bread but I just eat it right with the fingers. It’s an incredible meal, every year.
There is always beer and plenty of it. A beer wagon was actually rented for two of the years. Beer is consumed in massive quantities. There is always one guy passed out before the top 100 really even gets going. But that’s OK. Nobody’s driving anywhere. Sean often picks up coffee for the boys in the mornings but that’s about it. We’re in it for the long haul. And I mean long haul. Music is often still playing at 3am.
My problem is I can’t sleep in at all, so I’m up by 7. I’ll grab a book, a beer, and a chair and head down to the river. My first Sausagefest, I was reading Dune. It was incredible reading it in the river with nobody even awake yet.
The toilet is always a highlight. I’m convinced that the boys rented a Porta-Potty for me specifically my first year, to keep me coming back. Because there hasn’t been one since. Why? I don’t know. We could easily collect for it, just like we do beer. But they don’t do it! I’m convinced it’s because part of the Sausagefest experience is shitting in the woods.
I won’t lie, I love peeing outdoors. I’m not the only one either. In a survey done at work, 3 out of 4 men enjoy peeing outdoors. It’s just a natural expression of the animal side that is a part of nature, or something. That’s what I tell my wife anyway. What did our ancestors do? Pee outside. It’s social. I’ll be at Sausagefest peeing, and another guy will pee next to me, and be like, “Hey man, how’s it going? Good tunes eh?” Anyway, I’m getting off topic again.
There’s a chair with a hole in the seat that you’re supposed to shit in, and the tree next to it has toilet paper hanging from the branch. Personally I don’t want to see someone else’s shit. Just a thing I have, I guess. So I shit in the river. Yes, I shit in the river. The river is fast-flowing, like a toilet, but it’s cold. You turtle right up stepping in. But it’s also like a combo toilet/bidet. You’re clean when you’re all done. And I’ve seen dogs shit in it, so….
The worst thing about Sausagefest is, in fact, the shits. You’re eating nothing but greasy (but delicious!) meat (not Meat!). Every year, it is up early on Sunday morning (always by 6:00 am) on on the road, as fast as possible, to an actual bathroom!
Unfortunately, as stated, what happens at Sausagefest stays at Sausagefest, so I really can’t get too much into the stories. I will say this. It’s something that I look forward to every summer. All of those guys do. We talk about it when we arrive, how this event can be the best weekend of your entire year. It’s also strange how time stands still up at the farm. “Wow, just doing that drive up here, it’s so familiar like I was just here last week.” It happens every year. You get there and it feels like you never really left.
The music, combined with the fellowship, and of course the sweet joy of swimming in the river when it gets hot, makes this almost a spiritual place. A Mecca for those about to rock, so to speak. It is a secret society that I am proud to be a member of.