The freek culture of Madison turns out for functions regularly. I was in attendance at one such event recently, a performance by Hugh Masekela and the Chissa All-Stars (featuring the amazing vocalist Sibongile Khumalo–if you ever have a chance to see her perform, don't miss it). If I had to guess, I'd say that Madison is probably somewhere near fifteen percent freek, broadly defined. By contrast, in the big city of Chicago, I would say the freek element constitutes as little as less than one percent of the population.
Oh, what is a freek? A freek is a person who identifies with the oppositional subcultures of the nineteen Sixties, and in some way, obvious or subtle, expresses that identification socially. Starting from the Sixties the relevant social histories stretch both backwards (to the Beats, for example) and forwards (to the myriad politicized styles and subcultures of the Eighties). Self-defined (as opposed to the media-anointed term 'hippy') and nuanced (the double 'e' freek brings together freedom and difference as one thing), freek society is alive and healthy in Madison, as anyone who reads this blog would gather.
Well, it is alive, anyway. Is freek culture ever healthy? We hope so; and goddess knows, we try. (Oops; it's out–I am a freek...) But we all know, freeks can be some of the most messed up and lost people we've ever met. Freeks prove the point: there may in fact exist some relationship between being fucked-up and being free. But, as my vox neighbor Chris Balz says, some of us believe that freeks, as fucked-up as they sometimes are, just might be the best hope for the planet. I know. Scary.