We Are One: Voices From the Crowd
17th Street and Constitution Avenue NW -- I was a couple minutes late walking down 14th Street to the We Are One concert on the Mall today. But it wasn't the sound of music that filled my ears once I crossed Pennsylvania Avenue; it was the sound of good old American commerce.
"Obama-Obama-Obama buttons. One for $5, but buy four and you get one free."
"We are One T-shirts. That's the name of the show today, ladies. We got all sizes -- just $5."
"Don't forget your official Obama flags. Obama flags right here."
Jostling into position amid the crowd today was sort of like being on a moving walkway to nowhere. Trains of people snaked through the throng toward the Lincoln -- "We do this at the club all the time," cheered one girl as she dragged her friends toward the front -- but most of us just stayed put. "It ain't gonna lighten up. We just gonna be bumpin' and grindin' the whole way," said one of my neighbors with a laugh.
You couldn't see much from where I was standing -- certainly not the stage on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The Jumbotrons, which ran on a slight delay from the actual concert, were our version of the show. "Who's that singing?" someone asked. "That's Legend," someone answered, acknowledging R&B singer John. People cheered when the camera panned to Obama ("Yo! I want to see Obama dance," said a neighbor). Chuckled among themselves when they heard Jack Black trying to give a serious speech about Lincoln ("I just can't hear him be serious. I just can't!"). Shrieked when Usher took the stage. And sang along when Garth Brooks belted out "American Pie" and (improbably) "Shout."
But of all the brilliant overheard lines from today's show, my favorite was spoken when the organizers brought two bald eagles on stage. The birds lifted their wings to soar, but were strapped tightly to their handlers' arms. "It's so sad," said the woman behind me. "Here's our tethered symbol of freedom!"
After Beyonce closed the show with "America the Beautiful," the crowds filtered toward Constitution. Past Obama posters, perfume, T-shirts and hats.
For more on today's show, check out fellow Guru David Malitz's review in tweets over at Post Rock.
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