This is the story of my trip with my good friend of 16 years - Thom Bowers - to the Flyin Zion ranch in southern Utah for the 27th annual (and supposedly, final) Easter weekend party. Thom's band, Sons Of Nothing was providing musical entertainment by playing two nights of Pink Floyd tribute covers. I went along to help, videotape, photograph, and enjoy myself.
There's a lot of history involved here... so I should summarize it quickly to get to the actual trip quickly.
Over the years, Thom and I both grew more fond of the music of Pink Floyd. When we were sharing a room while students at Utah State University, we started discussing the notion of getting a band together to play a Pink Floyd tribute. We had both read about such tribute bands touring the U.S.A. and Australia and thought it would be a cool thing to do. Thom decided it was worth a go and put a band together which he called Sons Of Nothing (the working title of Pink Floyd's "Echoes" released on the Meddle album in 1971.) While Thom and his band rehearsed in an unused room in the University Reserve building, I worked on promoting the show which was to be held May 12, 1992 in the Morgan Theater at U.S.U. and getting video cameras to record the event.
A couple hundred people showed up for the performance- which was awesome. Sons guitarist Jason Van Cleave played Gilmour licks so perfectly, you could close your eyes and imagine Gilmour playing in front of you. The whole band put so much energy into the show, you couldn't help be swept away into a Pink Floyd daze of appreciation.
Unfortunately, that was the only performance of that iteration of Sons Of Nothing.
In 1994, Thom put another group of people together, again called Sons Of Nothing, for another Pink Floyd tribute show. I was asked to document and help promote the event. While the musicians were arguably more skilled and talented than those from the 1992 band, their egos were quite a bit bigger too. This led to a lot of tension in the band and its ultimate disintegration after the first and only performance in a Utah Valley high school auditorium in November 1994.
Thom went on to play in several other bands after that doing folksy acoustic, progressive rock, and pop covers. In 2001, he produced a studio CD of original songs he wrote and released it under the name "Sons Of Nothing" and put together a band of musicians he had worked with to play these songs live and promote the CD.
In late 2001, after adding a handful of Pink Floyd covers to their live set and receiving overwhelming positive feedback from their audiences, Thom and Tim Hollinger - Sons guitarist/vocalist - decided to put together another Pink Floyd tribute.
That finally brings us to this trip to the Flyin Zion ranch. The performances at Flyin Zion ranch were to be the first full sets of Pink Floyd tributes Sons Of Nothing would play. It would be the "audience test" show.
They passed the test.
I was going along to videotape the performance, take photos, and attend this Flyin Zion party - which I'd heard was a carefree, hippie-ish art festival party. One person I talked to called it "Utah's Burning Man."
The drive down
I left Logan early Friday morning in my Subaru and headed south to pick up Thom at his house by 10:00. Once I got there, we threw his stuff in the car and we headed over to Tim's house to get his laptop computer in case keyboardist Eric Litovsky needed a second laptop.
After that, it was onto Interstate 15 heading south.
The road trip down to Flyin Zion seemed very short to me. Thom and I had a lot of catching up to do and spent most of the time talking about all kinds of stuff including religion (we're both Mormon), the deterioration of the music industry into what it is today (Britney Spears doing lip sync by TelePrompter in concert), reminiscence of our younger years, drugs, exercise, (we've both been shedding pounds doing this magic... exercise... thing) and what we were expecting to find at this party.
We stopped in Beaver to get some fuel. I learned a lesson: Don't stop in Beaver to get fuel. It's expensive.
It was incredibly windy, so we went to a nearby Wendy's to grab lunch... for no other reason.
Thom and I were both taken back by the beauty of the area near Zion National Park where we were going. The red rock mesas and colorful horizons are otherworldly. It makes perfect sense to me that the Mars Society is researching human colonization of Mars by putting people in experimental habitats in southern Utah.
We got to the Flyin Zion ranch around 14:30 (that's 2:30 p.m for you a.m./p.m. weenies).
Flyin Zion - First Impressions
At the entrance we were met by a "gatekeeper" who confirmed our possession of a valid ticket to the party and that Thom was on the guest list. He was very friendly.
At the gate, we saw Tim, who had been there for a day or so already to set up the sound system, the stage, and to make other preparations. He was heading into town in his truck and was asking if anyone needed anything. Of course, we didn't need anything at that point. We had just come from "town".
We were instructed to drive down a short lane, past a vineyard, and to a pasture. We were told not to park by the house, but around the outside of the pasture.
We followed these instructions and found the described pasture. Not many people had shown up yet - only about 40 or so. Thom and I parked the car, got out, and stretched.
There were a few people walking about, setting up tents, and talking to each other. A couple dogs roamed free investigating the olfactory opportunities available to them.
In addition to the metal personage at the ranch entrance, there was a musical sculpture made of hanging pipes and propane tanks, a large wood carving of a woman with a totem-pole-esque face, and a collection of once-functional electronics forming a towering (Luddite?) shrine.
Tim and others constructed a temporary sound booth for the musical entertainment with metal scaffolding and plastic tarps. In front of the sound booth was a large fire-pit. Behind the fire-pit was a large semicircular wall composed of cement and glass bottles and other glassware. The idea is that the light from fire in the fire-pit produces a very interesting display of flicking color on the other side of the wall.
Thom had some fun videotaping various panning and tracking shots of the bottle-filled wall.
One sign for "Mens Restrooms" was placed in front of wetland vegetation.
Some of the more amusing Olympic signs that were used included a "Doping Control" sign, and a "Do Not Enter" sign at the ranch entrance.
Thom and I wandered around shooting video and taking more pictures of the ranch while the afternoon wore on. We talked about doing something "fun" with our video. At one point, I taped Thom wrapped in a blanket banging rock on the ground under a tree. We wanted to see if we could make the whole event look like hundreds of people who had come to hear what a certain guru (played by Thom) would say to them.
It never panned out (no pun intended).
I did manage to slip down to the stage during "Time" to snap a few photos of the band with my Nikon. I used 800-speed film in an attempt to get some decent photos in the dim lighting conditions. Some of the photos turned out very well. Others were pretty blurry.
Here's what the band played Friday night:
WELCOME TO THE MACHINE
HAVE A CIGAR
THE GUNNER's DREAM
WISH YOU WERE HERE
ON THE TURNING AWAY
A Late Night Drive To St. George
It had been unclear whether Thom and I were going to stay the night at the Flyin Zion ranch. Originally, Thom had made plans for us to stay at his aunt and uncle's house in St. George, but we were being persuaded by other band members to stick around. There was plenty of room in Tim's trailer, Daryn said. Plus, Tim could use the company that night.
In the end, we decided to head down to St. George.
I connected the headphone jack of my video camera to a cassette adapter and Thom watched (and listened to) the band's performance in the car while I drove us back to I-15 and then south to St. George.
We got to St. George around 23:30. Neither of us had eaten dinner, so we decided to look for a place to stop and eat. I took one of the freeway exits which appeared to have many fast-food restaurants nearby. As we got off the freeway, I saw two young, blonde teenage girls jovially walking arm in arm on the side of the road. To me, they looked heavily inebriated.
I found that a little odd... but not as odd as the hordes of teenagers mingling about near the first intersection we came to. Thom then informed me that St. George was a popular Spring Break destination and that this weekend was, in fact, Spring Break.
I had no idea. It still amuses me to think of some pimple-faced kid saying to his friend, "Dude, come to St. George with us! We're all gonna get laid, man!"
I never thought of St. George as a party town.
After eating at Arby's near the mall (we turned around and got back on the freeway after encountering the crowds), we went to Thom's aunt and uncles house.
Thom's aunt Jane greeted us at the door and showed us to the family room. She said they had a spare bedroom and a comfortable couch. Thom chose the couch and I chose the bed.
After watching some more of the video we'd shot, we crashed.
Saturday in Paradise
I woke up Saturday morning grateful I had a real bed to sleep in versus a camping trailer or dirt.
After showering and putting on a fresh change of clothes, I met up with Jane and some of the rest of her family. She showed me to the collection of breakfast cereal they had and I had some breakfast.
Thom was still sleeping, but not for long. He soon woke up, showered, and had some breakfast as well.
I saw one of Jane's sons-in-law mowing the grass and pointed it out to Thom. It was a bit of a shock to me because the grass outside my house in Hyrum was not even a recognizable shade of green, let alone ready to mow.
Thom said they'd probably been mowing for a couple weeks already. Jane confirmed that. I was amazed.
Thom and I showed the video of Friday's performance to Jane and Roger (who are fans of Pink Floyd). Then, I unpacked my laptop and dialed into XMission - my (and Thom's) ISP - and we checked our e-mail.
After lounging around the house for a while, we decided to go into St. George and see if we could find something fun to do. At a minimum, we were going to do a little shopping.
As we drove through St. George (which was substantially less crowded than it was the night before), Thom told me stories from his youth when he spent a good deal of time in St. George. His parents were from the area, so he had a lot of family that lived there.
We found a Taco Bell and had some quick lunch. Then, we went to K-Mart. Thom bought some new (smaller) pants and I got some ibuprofen (I had a headache) and some bottled water.
We tried to find a movie theater to catch a film before we had to head back to Flyin Zion. In the end, we either could not find any theaters that had matinee shows or had shows which we either were already late for or would start too late for us to make it back on time.
Either because the jukebox played older vinyl records or because Jane and Roger hadn't updated the selection of music available, most of the songs available were hits from the 70s and 80s. This was a perfect collection of songs to get Thom and I talking about our favorite music and swap stories about bands and songs.
As it grew to be late in the afternoon, we packed up our stuff and headed out - thanking Jane and Roger for their wonderful hospitality.
We stopped for some Italian food at Fazolli's before heading north to the Flyin Zion ranch.
Saturday evening at Flyin Zion
We arrived back at the ranch around 18:00 or so. The sun was starting to set and Thom was anxious to get a band photo with the sunset as a backdrop like in the photo we took of him Friday evening.
Upon discovering this side of Tim I had never known about, I ran into a couple other women at the ranch who had already been "done" by Tim earlier in the day. I have to say... his work is... spectacular. Quite a talented boy.
There was a play performed before the Sons Of Nothing gig and I went to check it out. Since the theme of the party was the Olympic games (since the 2002 Winter Olympics were in Utah), the theme of the play was the Olympic games. The main plot line was about an older couple (very Archie Bunker-ish) who needed some extra cash to pay the telephone bill and decided to sell Olympic souvenirs to make some extra cash. Before long, they are cited by law enforcement for selling without a permit and asked to leave. Interspersed within this storyline were "commercials" and news bits which included an enjoyable phone sex commercial and news coverage of a terrorist attack on the Olympic games by the "Optionally Naked Terrorists".
After about ten minutes, I came to realize the play would have been ten times more entertaining than it was if I had been under the influence of some kind of mind-altering substance. Even alcohol would have helped make me laugh.
As it was, however, I only found the performance mediocre but noted most of the people in the audience were having the time of their lives.
I slipped out of the play a bit early to help the band finish setting up and to get ready to help in the booth and videotape the performance.
The performance was not quite as good as Friday night's. This was due to technical problems with the sound system, a looser band, and an altered schedule that forced Thom to cut two songs from the set list.
The set played Saturday night was:
SHINE ON YOU CRAZY DIAMOND
IN THE FLESH
THE THIN ICE
ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL
PIGS ON THE WING PART 1
PIGS (3 DIFFERENT ONES)
The band did play a full-length cut of Echoes as their final song which was mind-blowingly good. Wow!
Thom and I got out around 23:30 and headed north. To keep Thom occupied during the drive, I set him up with my laptop and my Contact DVD. Thom later said it was a weird experience barreling down Interstate 15 in the dead of night watching Contact.
We made it to Thom's place in Salt Lake right around 4:00 awake and intact.