What would rock 'n' roll be without booze and drugs? That depends upon whom you ask. For some people, intoxicants are part and parcel of the rock lifestyle. For others, a clean and healthy lifestyle comes first, yet this does not prevent them from rocking; for, one doesn't have to hallucinate or artificially alter one's physiology in order to enjoy freedom — especially if the freedom that's being celebrated is from dependence to such impairments.
This past weekend, Rock-N-Recovery Inc., a non-profit corporation dedicated to raising funds for drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation programs and treatment centers in California, held its seventh annual Freedom Coalition Fest. The event took place at the scenic Irvine Lake, in Santiago — a location known by most southern Californian bikers, as it resides along one of the few great motorcycle / bicycle canyon roads in Orange County, Santiago Canyon Road. The festival featured live music, barbecue, a bike show, a kid zone, and vendors. Camping and fishing were available for additional fees.
While more than a few scattered showers created a less-than-ideal environment for an outdoor music festival, the bands played on, and none of the attendees allowed Mother Nature to rain on their parade. Admittedly, the performers had it rough and the bike show suffered a bit; the musicians had to huddle under canopies on stage to avoid electrocution, and some of the custom Harleys on display were hidden under tarps and towels. Still, when the rain came, guests pulled out their umbrellas, ponchos, and plastic bags and continued to dance, sing along, and enjoy themselves.
The numerous bands, who alternately played rock and heavy metal covers and originals, performed with enthusiasm despite the rain, which essentially fell for the second half of Saturday, while this writer was in attendance. Occasionally, the band members would shout out inspirational messages such as having several members who were cancer survivors, or, as they said, "…kicked cancer's ass." This was offset with some lighter commentary; for example, after one band member made the former announcement, another singer grabbed the mic and offered her life-affirming comment: she was a red hair-dye survivor.[
Between the acts, the site was kept lively with the jolly banter of a stage announcer. The fact that the area directly in front of the festival's two stages — one band would set up / tear down on one stage while another would play on the other stage — was relatively lightly populated was not lost on the MC, as he would voice his appreciation for the presence of the three people he was addressing. The rest of the guests were listening from various other activity zones throughout the site or from their respective tents and canopies.
Locals as well as people from all over the country attended the festival with their families and friends or with their respective treatment groups. Some of them were new to the fight against drug and alcohol dependence, and some had been fighting for decades, but all seemed on board with the concept that their fellow attendees were there for the same reasons — to give and receive support and strength. Bikers traditionally think of one another as brothers and sisters bound by mutual appreciation for the motorcycle lifestyle, and while not all bikers have addictions, all of those in attendance at the Freedom Coalition Festival certainly had open arms and open hearts for the non-riders who were in the process of kicking their respective dependencies in the ass.
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