The concert to raise awareness about the West Memphis 3 came on the eve of The Observer's child's 19th birthday.
That's not what we were thinking about when we went. We were thinking about those poor sons of bitches who were sent to prison based on testimony by a certified whackjob who claimed to be an expert in Satanism, feeding the jury crap about the coming full moon and its role in the devil killings.
Prior to the event, our only thought about our child was worry that our child might not forgive us for seeing Johnny Depp and Patti Smith live while she was otherwise engaged at college.
After the concert video — featuring Damien Echols speaking from prison and author Mara Leveritt talking about the case — we started thinking about our kid's life and those of the WM3. That those three teen-agers — Jessie Misskelley, Jason Baldwin and Echols — have been incarcerated for 17 years, nearly as long as she's been alive. That while she went to summer camp and the beach and abroad, realized a love of music of all kinds, read books and went to movies, met people, spent (too many) hours on a computer, filled an iPod, and went to college they turned from boys to men locked in cells smaller than her bedroom, one of them facing a death sentence.
The three little boys who were brutally killed that day in 1993 must be remembered. Have they gotten justice? Or were Misskelley, Baldwin and Echols themselves sacrificed, to a public that demanded swift action and retribution and were easy with blaming a kid named Damien who wore black T-shirts and his insignificant friends from insignificant families.
The Observer was struck by the passion with which the celebrities pleaded, to come on Arkansas, this happened here, learn about this case, do something. It was nearly impossible to believe that Eddie Vedder and Natalie Maines and Depp and Smith came to a stage at Robinson Auditorium to exhort Arkies to throw off their deadening familiarity with the case and, if they think the three should be free, do something.
The state Supreme Court has been provided the sworn affidavit of a prosecutor who reveals that the jury foreman provided information to his fellow jurors that had been inadmissible in court, about the confession by the feeble-minded Jessie Misskelley, a 16-year-old who had to be prompted to get the details right. A confession that had been recanted. Shortly, the court will decide whether that information and other forensic evidence should nullify the convictions. A hearing is set for Sept. 30.
As a postscript, it turns out the daughter wasn't too put out that her aged mother saw the incredibly sexy Depp (though some guys in the office don't see it) play guitar and swagger like Jack Sparrow and she didn't. But when she heard the old lady got to see Patti Smith, that was something different. Smith belted it out in that delicious low and sometimes furious voice, and controlled the stage. We know how old she is, because we saw her when we were young, and that was a long time ago. But she's defied age. Her lyrics, her voice — nothing about her is less powerful than it was 40 years ago. It was beautiful.
We will add one curmudgeonly complaint about Saturday night's show. Although the crowd brought an overwhelming sense of purpose and energy, they also brought something else: their phones.
We realize that seeing the likes of Depp, Maines, Vedder and Ben Harper share one stage is rare, but the glaring rectangle LCD screens hovered around the darkened theater like over-grown cancerous fireflies, distracting from the view. The smartphone screens seemed to entrance and hypnotize their owners as they stared directly at them the entire time, trying to get that perfect YouTube video.
Others were more concerned with sending out Tweets about the night's event or grabbing a perfect picture of themselves for their Facebook pages.
What's sad is that there really was something special happening on stage, a memory waiting to happen and something that's not likely to come to Little Rock again in the near future. The Observer wanted to tap the person sitting in front of us on the shoulder and say, "You know, you don't have to record this. It's going on right up there."