The Annotated In My Element

In My ElementIn many ways, I think “In My Element” may be the best song I’ve written to date. It was inspired by attending the Electric Forest music festivals in Rothbury, Michigan, in 2011 and 2012, and also, the amazing Rothbury festival in 2009 at the same venue. It is a double entendre, of course; I’m not only totally in my element with all of the wild ass kids and hippies out for four days of great music and the wonderful sense of peace and freedom that goes with it, but I’m also camping out in my 2004 Honda Element, sleeping in the “way back!” I admit without hesitation that the music has a John Hartford feel to it, as does my song “Pine Cone Buddha;” I’ve loved his music from the first time I heard it, and he remains among my strongest influences. I love the energy that this song has, both on the CD and in my live performances. I just wish I had at least one more voice and a banjo playing along on this one at my gigs, but that will happen, hopefully sooner than later. There are lots of subtle references in the song, so I decided it would be fun to put together this “annotated” guide. Hope you like it!

Well the cooler smells like kim chi
(While at Electric Forest 2011, I went into my cooler of food and beer on about Day 3 of the festival, and it stunk of kim chi, even though that fermented Korean cabbage salad that I had brought along was firmly sealed in a plastic container. I commented to my friends Mike and Kristin McGuigan that “the cooler smells like kim chi,” and wouldn’t that be a great line in a song? To remind myself, I posted it on my Facebook page by cell phone, and when I got home, and it worked. Whatever it takes!)
and my stitches are itchin’ me
(The only line in the song that isn’t actually related to Electric Forrest; I had a medical procedure to remove a growth from my neck in 2012, and the stitches that closed it up really did itch like hell! I loved the bounce and the roll of how the first two phrases went together and I just went with them.)
And I’m chokin’ on right wing rhetoric
On the Radio Brave and Free
(I made the mistake of stopping on a Rush Limbaugh program for a quick listen while driving to the festival, and while I was initially curious to see what this virulent nut bag was spewing, I was ready to puke after five minutes and I changed the station.)
My boys are bein’ strangled
‘Cause my underwear’s too tight
(I don’t know if it happens to other guys, but it sure does to me, on long drives of two hours or more.
I can taste my own bad breath
(It is what it is.)
And I’m back on the road tonight.

I’m right here in my Element
I could stay out here for weeks
(I really could. I love music festivals, and I’ve gotten quite acclimated to sleeping in that sweet old Honda.)
There’s a mattress in the way-back
Where there used to be some seats
I got real good grub to fill me
Don’t do burgers or fast food
(I take most of my own victuals to festival, unless I know that I can get unprocessed food that’s at least fresh, if not organic. I don’t eat much meat these days, and when I do, I want to know for sure that it’s not coming from one of those horrid “factory farms” that raise animals in inhumane conditions and pump them full of antibiotics. I swear, I’m SO close to going totally vegetarian. Quinoa is a complete protein, why kill sentient beings for food when we don’t have to?)
I got a bottle o’ Sex, a case o’ Bellaire Brown
(I’m an enthusiastic supporter of the Michigan wine and craft brew industries. A “bottle o’ Sex” refers to a very nice Brut Rose that Larry Mawby makes up in Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula, which he calls “Sex.” What else would you expect from a Zen Buddhist?! And while “Bellaire Brown” might sound like a nasty case of something you wouldn’t want to catch, it’s really a delicious brown ale brewed by Short’s Brewery, located in Elk Rapids, Michigan.)
I ain’t got no attitude.
(Never at festival time!)

Mz. Pillow keeps me companyWell there’s bed bugs in my wheel well
(It just sounded good, since I was sleeping in my vehicle!)
and there’s water in my ears
My bathtub is a lucky lake
I swim away my tears
(Both years that I attended Electric Forest, I actually stayed in the campground just across the road from the Double J Ranch, where the festival is held. You’re not stuck in a huge pasture full of horse shit, with at least a few questionable characters roaming around trying to sell you their drug of choice, and there’s a beautiful little lake, called, what else Lucky Lake, to swim in. I actually did cross the road during Rothbury ’09 to swim in Lucky Lake, when daughter Rosie, wife Kim and I camped out in that damned horse field. That option has not been available to EF goers since, unless they opt to spend the extra $$$ for the off-premise camp site. The “swim away my tears” line is a reference to how badly we humans have made a mess of our planet.)
My ashram’s in the pines
(I’d do yoga every morning in a sweet little pine stand at my Lucky Lake camp site.)
And my ol’ banjo’s on my knee
(I love that old phrase by Stephen Foster, and it sounded better to my ear that “my old 12-string’s on my knee.”)
I’m singin’ ‘bout the great divide
In the land of the brave and free
(A reference to the intense polarization in American politics and society these days. Even at festivals like these, sooner or later, I can’t help but think about how scary things are getting in the US.)

I’m right here in my Element
I could stay out here for weeks
There’s a mattress in the way-back
Where there used to be some seats
Ms. Pillow keeps me company
She thinks that I’m The Dude
(Ms. Pillow, shown above, is a 4-foot long body pillow. I love my Ms. Pillow.)
Got a bottle o’ Sex and a Bellaire Brown
Don’t need no attitude.

My Element at Electric Forest 2011There’s tinfoil in my windshield

(That shiny reflective stuff to repel the sun’s heat during daylight, as shown on the right.)
And there’re pinecones in my sink
(My ashram’s in the pines, and so is my sink at Lucky Lake!)
There’s String Cheese rolling over
(String Cheese Incident is a marvelous band; they are instrumental in putting on Electric Forest, as they are with their Horning’s Hideout weekend in Oregon. The first time daughter Rosie and I saw them was at Rothbury ’09, and they totally blew us away, not only with the great music that they played, but also with the spectacular eye candy they provided, with huge beach balls being bounced around the audience during their first set, Cirque de Soleil-like acrobats hanging and performing on fabric suspended from the top of the huge Odeum Stage and wonderful hula-hoopers stationed on platforms throughout the sprawling meadow where that stage was located. It’s now fenced off and not used for the Electric Forest events. String Cheese Incident did a song that first time I saw them called “Roll Over,” a beautiful, if rather apocalyptic song that I listen to and love to this day.)
And there’s lotsa time to think
About the way that things they are
And ’bout the the way that they could be
In the ever-widenin’ great divide
Called the land of the brave and free
(Like I said…)

I’m right here in my Element
I could stay out here for weeks
With the hippies and dubsteppers
And the techno-matic freaks
(String Cheese Incident obviously made a conscious decision to open Electric Forest up to a lot of Electronic music; I would assume that it was to appeal to the very sizable audience for that music, which I also experienced firsthand at this year’s Detroit Electronic Movement Festival, which had, for the first time, an Electric Forest Stage.)
Ms. Pillow keeps me company
She thinks that I’m The Dude
Got a bottle o’ Sex and a Bellaire Brown
Ain’t got no attitude.

So there you go. That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it. This was a fun song to write. I didn’t have to work it hard and beat it into shape like I’m doing with one song in particular right now; it pretty much wrote itself. I have no problem with really working hard to get the song I’m hearing, but this one just came together so well, and I’m really pleased with it.




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"In the best traditions of folk music, George’s songs evoke personal experiences and historical events, and George certainly has had some experiences, let me tell you. But the experiences of which he sings so truthfully here, while almost mundane when taken literally, are made to seem so much more meaningful, so much more heartfelt in his hands and within his voice. These arrangements are as near to the folk tradition as one could hope, are exactly all that’s necessary for each song, and when accompaniment and backing vocals are used, they feature David Mosher on several traditional instruments, as well as Bill Arnold on dobro, providing simple support to George’s already ample foundations." —Michael O'Brien, Open Mike


And George Heritier from Oak Park shared his clever songwriting, cool and entertaining lyrics and hot guitar/harmonica riffs. He got the best round of applause for the whole festival! I am a huge fan of acoustic blues and folk music and George is one of the best I have heard. I would make it a point to go see him ANY time he plays, it will be well worth the effort! —John P. Bayerl, PhD - SeMi