I went because the idea of spending the night at the cemetery and greeting the dawn there appealed to me.
I love cemeteries, and the Hollywood Forever Cemetery is in my top 4 along with Pere Lechaise (Paris), Forest Lawn (both Hollywood and Glendale), and Mountain View (Altadena). The story of Hollywood Forever is a great one in itself, but you can read about that elsewhere ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollywood_Forever_Cemetery) . You may not agree with what Tyler Cassity and his family and friends have done with the cemetery business, but I think several of his accomplishments and innovations have been laudably noteworthy. Did you know that the television show 6 Feet Under was based on the Cassity family and their business? Tyler Cassity served as a consultant on the show. But the most important accomplishment in my opinion is that he rescued an amazing historic resource from decay and obscurity andÂ has restored it to its former glory. Hollywood Forever is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Innovations in the funeral business have included the videography of lives that can now be preserved on the website, virtual memorial services so friends and family from all over the world can attend, and a new technology that inscribes photos on the tombstones of the dear departed.
As a way to fund the huge cost of the restoration of the 62-acre park, Hollywood Forever hosted Cinespia, John Wyattâ€™s screenings of movies on a mausoleum wall on summer nights. Thousands of people have attended over the last few years, bringing blankets, picnics and drinks to enjoy outdoor entertainment in a fabulous, but slightly creepy, venue. The last screening of this season was the appropriately spooky Rosemary's Baby.
I heard about the dawn Bon Iver cemetery concert on public radio KCRW and immediately went online to buy tickets. This was no simple concert to welcome the sunrise, like a traditional Easter service, no. The gates opened at midnight and concertgoers were welcome to bring sleeping bags, blankets, snacks and drinks and spend the night. Included were two sets ofÂ recorded music with playlists created by the leader of Bon Iver, Justin Vernon. There were screenings of Bottle Rocket and the documentary Planet Earth. Free coffee and pastries were servedÂ to the crowd. Then came our favorite part, the blessing of the audience and stage by Buddhist monks. In the dark came flickers of light as candles were lit onstage and then the most haunting deep bass chants from the monks swept across the crowd. Finally, as the sky lightened and the mist began to clear, Bon Iver came on and gave a stirring performance. The crowd was enthusiastic and made this final performance of their two-year tour everything the band could have dreamed of, Iâ€™m sure.
This was a sold-out event at $25 a ticket and we guessed 2,000 people showed up, but somewhere I saw that 1200 was capacity. I had never heard of Bon Iver, I went because the idea of spending the night at the cemetery and greeting the dawn there appealed to me. But imagine the possibilities of future eventsâ€”a concert of Buddhist chants, or New Age composers like Philip Glass or Brian Eno, or Tuvan throat singers. The mind opens at the possibilitiesâ€¦