There’s a certain point in the Macon summertime that the heat takes a drastic turn upwards. Without even consulting a calendar, it’s obvious that July has arrived and with it, a special kind of scorching temperature.
It’s the kind of heat that you can reach out and touch. It has the consistency of pizza dough. It looks like the melting Nazis in Raiders of the Lost Ark. It slaps you in the face with a piece of day-old dead meat as you cross the threshold of an exterior door. It’s a boa constrictor wrapping itself increasingly tighter around your torso. It permeates your entire existence and won’t take no for an answer. You’ve climbed Mount Everest? Big deal. I walked to the mailbox to pick up the mail. In Macon. In July.
Alternative fact: the flood of ’94 was caused not by Tropical Storm Alberto, but by the accumulation of sweat drops after an overturned tractor trailer on the 75/16 interchange caused traffic to grind to a halt. Air conditioners failed. Drivers exited their vehicles only to be trapped between the undulating heat waves rising off the blacktop and the midday sun, oppressive and unrelenting as it bore down from a cloudless sky.
A conversation that happens approximately 1,739.015 times a day in Macon:
Bystander 1: “Sure is hot out here.”
Bystander 2: “Tell me about it.”
Bystander 1: “That humidity, too”
Bystander 3: “If y’all think this is bad, just wait until August…”
And so on. The heat turns strangers into kindred spirits. It connects the city’s citizens through a mutual lamenting over its dank embrace.
Arriving right at the armpit of summer as July turns to August is Bragg Jam. Traditionally held every year on the last Saturday of July, it’s an event that sees multiple venues across the city play host to dozens of bands representing a wide swath of genres. This year, the festival is expanding to two days with events on Friday night.
The streets of Macon fill up with concertgoers, all sweating it out together in the name of live music. Their hair is sopping wet and plastered to foreheads; their faces are blotchy and red; they’re chugging water with the same vigor that a frat boy chugs Natural Light.
As people pass, inevitably bumping into one another on the overcrowded sidewalks, the dull slap of water-logged clothing colliding is audible. Excited conversations expel sweat drops that can’t quite hang on to noses and lips. Inside the venues, the smell of body odor penetrates every nook and cranny. Onstage, the musicians are working up their own sweat, sometimes sharing it with the audience.
It’s a beautiful experience. It’s the best way to consume live music. Every year, thousands of music lovers come together at Bragg Jam to let the heat know that it can’t win. They battle it out during the day and celebrate as the sun fades away, slightly cooling the city, and they wear their war wounds – sweat stains and sopping clothes – into the Bragg Jam night for more.