Monday, May 24, 2010

grey fox....!

I started my festival service camping business in 1998, after having the idea pop into my head immediately following that wonderful festival, Merlefest, in North Carolina in April. The 2 1/2 day drive home from the festival gave me ample time to think think think about my new venture; my mind was reeling and the miles were also. When I arrived home the first phone call was to a good friend who is a successful businessman, lawyer, and someone whose judgment I trust due to his obvious success in business. The second call was to a festival promoter in Florida whose reaction was very positive...and I was on a roll.

Then the third call was made, to a festival that was held in New York and named "Winterhawk". I had heard good things about this festival during my festival trips to both Merlefest and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in Colorado. In the back of the Merlefest program there was an advertisement for Winterhawk, which was being held in July. (and the lineup was outstanding!) I called the contact number and the business idea damned near sprung to life immediately!

Lisa had answered the Winterhawk phone and her reaction to the idea was enthusiastic and positive, to say the least! In the course of the next couple of weeks we talked on the phone a few times a day, becoming fast friends and knocking around ideas pertaining to my business idea and the festival and music and on and on... She presented my idea to Mary Doub, the festival promoter, who also gave an enthusiastic "thumbs-up"..and "Dancin'Dave'sFestivalCamping" was officially off the ground!

Lisa also started advertising my business, telling folks that my service would make its debut in July! Now...I had not yet bought one tent, didn't even hardly know how to spell "komputre", and had no business experience whatsoever. My very first customer was Hans, a fellow who lives in Austria and knows everything there is to know about bluegrass, from its beginnings to the present; but at the same time had never been to a bluegrass festival. His research had told him that he should come to Winterhawk, so he was planning his first trip to this country specifically to attend the festival...and he needed accommodations! Because of a talk with Lisa, he was literally waiting for me to buy a computer so he could email and book a tent! (!)

So...I became a businessman; didn't really have much of a choice at this point. >g< I became the owner of many tents, sleeping bags, cots, etc., etc., etc..... I bought a computer and after a friend set up a website for me I suddenly realized that I was advertising all over the world; a bit daunting, along with being damned exciting.

I managed to book four customers before I left home, and off to New York for the first time I went. When I arrived at the site and asked some folks how to find Lisa I was told that she's up on the "hill". As I was driving up the hill for the first time I remember thinking: "wow...they hold these bluegrass festivals in the damndest places!" This "hill" was located on a farm and at that point the festival had been held there for over twenty years already...and it was beautiful! Over time I came to have a love for the hill and at the same time a feeling of intimidation and even at times a feeling of terror, because the possibility of disaster was always present. There were very few sections of the venue that were flat and most of it was at a steep incline, making for a dangerous situation particularly during rain. At the same time the sunsets were about the most spectacular that I've ever witnessed, and I also came to consider the week spent on the hill every summer to be a great way to get into shape! (working and climbing and dancing on that hill was great exercise...)

So that first night I met Lisa face to face and we of course "hit it off" at an even "higher" level, and my festival fun was about to become even more fun! The Winterhawk staff was staying in a big ol' hunting lodge located a few miles from the venue, so that first night Lisa and I went to visit. She didn't really know exactly where this lodge was, so we managed to get very lost. During this lost adventure we ran into another friend of Mary's who was also lost, but eventually we found the lodge. There was no one there and the place was beautiful and we had a ball exploring. I by then needed a shower badly so I took one in an upstairs bathroom. After the shower I came downstairs, drying my hair with a towel, wearing only a pair of shorts, when I heard talk coming from the screened-in pool area. I was invited in and sheepishly entered, feeling way out of place, to tell the truth. Turned out that the festival staff was having a meeting/party in the pool area. It was then that I met Mary, who stood up and walked over to introduce herself. She introduced everyone else and I was immediately impressed with the friendliness and acceptance of me into this pre-festival meeting. There were several times that my opinion was asked for; they knew that I had been to many other festivals and were eager to see what I thought. I felt very privileged to be included in this meeting and couldn't have been more impressed with this new group of friends that I was making!

Anyhoo....the years have gone by, the name of the festival has been changed to "Grey Fox" and even the venue has been changed. The core and heart of the festival has not changed however....Mary Doub has built a wonderfully loyal, energetic, totally dedicated to putting on the best festival possible staff of folks that I both admire and love. This dedication and love for a festival permeates down through the volunteers, the vendors, the artists that make the wonderful music, and especially the attendees. Mary and her staff are always open to ideas that may make the festival even better, to the point of holding what amounts to a "town meeting" during the festival itself....where the attendees are encouraged to voice their concerns for things that they see as problems and also their praise for all the things that they deem are done right. This in itself amazes and impresses the hell out of me...

I am damned lucky to be able to attend many great, high-quality festivals because of my business. I am asked often if I have a favorite festival and it would be an almost impossible question to answer if it weren't for the reasons that I just explained.....

Peace, David

Monday, February 1, 2010

a long time ago....

I live on a piece of land in the northwoods of Wisconsin that has been in my family since the mid-30s. On this piece of land there stands "the cabin", a log house that was built back in 1911. This cabin and piece of land has always been and will always be special to me and eventually it will be passed down to my kids.

There are of course many many stories that have sprung up surrounding the cabin; I started making trips to it when I was only one year old, and these trips were the highlight of my growing up years, all the way to the point where I built my own log house on the land in 1976. (I grew up in southern Wisconsin, 200 miles south..)
Someday I will blog more concerning my ties to this piece of property, but at the moment I have a specific trip in mind that I was reminded of because of a discussion with a friend about Jimi Hendrix.

It was the summer of 1971 and I decided to take a trip to the cabin, solo. I had a few days to myself and I really never needed much of an excuse to take off for the northwoods! At the time I was driving a 1953 Chevrolet panel truck, which I had newly painted on the outside and remodeled in the interior. It was pretty darned sharp; I had used old barn boards for the inside siding and had recess mounted four eight inch speakers so that I could hear the 8-track tape player over any outside noise...>g< The floor was carpeted and I had had to build a box to hold the 12 volt battery that powered the tape player, since the vehicle itself ran on a 6 volt system.

So--I was cruising north on Hwy 41 near Oshkosh in the pouring rain, blasting "Electric Ladyland", when I missed my turn-off. This was not much of a problem, it just meant that I was to take a different route than planned. It was soon after that I spied a hitchhiker on the side of the road and of course back in those days I would both hitch myself and also pick up folks hitching; I had many fine adventures!

Sean was mighty pleased as punch that I had stopped to pick him up; he had been standing there for about three hours by then and it had just started to rain, besides. He jumped into the truck, heard Jimi, looked around and exclaimed: "Do you want to smoke some hashish?!"

He was making his way through Wisconsin, headed to someplace in Michigan, and knew of three places in the state; Madison, Milwaukee, and Green Bay. He was headed to Green Bay where he was going to continue his journey over to Michigan. He lived in San Diego and about the only thing he knew of Wisconsin was that we had cheese...

We of course made instant friends and before long I had him talked into coming to the cabin with me! He was mighty interested in seeing the northwoods, staying at a cabin in the wilderness that had no electricity or running water, and simply kicking back. He also had a few days to spare, along with that ounce of hash in his pocket and a propensity for adventure. And when we stopped at an original genuine Wisconsin cheese store his giddiness couldn't be hid...when he discovered that he had a choice of one, two, three, or four year old aged cheddar cheese he happily chose the four year old and wasn't at all offended when I declined to share it with him.

So we spent the next four days at the cabin hiking and exploring, swimming, listening to music, story-telling and giggling alot. We had an absolute blast; we even went out to hear some live music one night and had fun dancing with a couple of foxy young women...go figure. We had started this escapade on Tuesday, and on Saturday I took him into town where he picked up a bus to continue his journey to Michigan. (and he didn't have to worry about traveling on the bus with any hashish in his pocket by then...>g<)

And I still to this day cannot believe that we never exchanged addresses, phone numbers...nothing! It sure would be a hoot to have him show up at my home someday.

Peace, David

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

a cool memory...

Nine years ago I attended the Minnesota Bluegrass and Old Time Festival and had a great time. As the festival ended a woman came up to me and told me that she was going to write a story about me and a little girl that I had danced with and that she'd send it to me when it was finished. A few weeks later I received the story via email and was amazed at the detail....Maryanne must have taken notes! She even had the story published in a magazine that I can't remember the name of anymore, and I cherish it and get a charge out of it every time I reread. The biblical references at the end don't jive in my opinion or with my lifestyle, but I do honor and respect her take on it.

Lord of the Dance

This is the story about "Dancin'Dave" and a beautiful little girl. I got to watch this grand mini-event while sitting on the front row at the Minnesota bluegrass festival.
Dancin'Dave found himself a little spot in the sunshine up close to the stage but over to the side. Pretty much throughout the whole concert he was doing an extremely relaxed version of clogging or two-stepping, sometimes waltzing, even a dosey-doe once in awhile. He was so relaxed that it seemed almost that he was dancing in slow motion, although keeping time with the music.
His clothes seemed a bit out of step with his dancing. He was wearing an Hawaiian print shirt, tan bermuda shorts, hiking boots, and a white straw cowboy hat that covered thick salt-and-pepper hair pulled back into a long pony tail. He had a beard, short but nicely shaped. I could not take my eyes off of him. He got at least as much of my attention as I gave the groups performing on stage.
From far over on the right, way on the other side of the audience-maybe two hundred yards-came a beautiful, chubby, golden-haired little girl. The crowd of watching people she had to cross in front of did not intimidate her, she had her eyes on her goal. I would guess she was sevenish. Her hair hung down her back in one pretty braid. She was wearing a sleeveless cotton dress colored like a watermelon. The top was deep pink with black seeds, a ribbon of pale green rind at the waist, and the short skirt a dark mottled green like the skin of a ripe melon. She was wearing white tennis shoes with no socks.
So far, I've just been trying to paint a picture for you so you can see it in your own mind. This visual information isn't particularly important to the story. The man could just as well have been wearing a dusty white robe and brown leather sandals, and had long, curly, dark hair and beard. The girl could have just as well been wearing a blue tunic and had dirty little bare feet.
Well, here came this little girl, with golden skin and blushing pink cheeks. How can I possibly describe for you in mere words the charm and appeal of this child's face? But since the expression on her face was the real inspiration for this story, I must give it my best shot. Absolute innocence, trust, expectancy, confidence--and yet shyness--were written in her smile. Her face was eloquent--and exquisite.
She was headed right for Dancin'Dave. I looked at him and saw that his eyes also had caught this little girl and were following her approach to him. His own face began to smile and sparkle as he continued to do his slow two-stepping. She stopped square in front of him, looking right up into his eyes--that shy smile of expectancy still holding--and she waited. After a second, Dancin'Dave held out his hands to her. She put her little hands in his, and they began to dance.
At first she began to skip around in circles, not caring in the slightest that she had become a spectacle. Dancin'Dave skipped around with her. Next she began a kind of hopping, so he did too. After following her lead for a little while, he began to do some simple basic dance steps. She continued her own little steps until she had watched what he was doing for a while, and then began to try his steps. The fact that her first attempts were faltering and imperfect did not discourage her in the slightest. She was completely unselfconscious. After she had learned the first step and could follow, he began a bit more complicated step. Same thing. She continued with what she was doing until she felt confidant to start trying his new step. It went on this way until he had her doing spins, dosey-does, loopity-loops, linking elbows and then reversing--moves that I have no idea what they are called. His steps gave hers grace, and they danced as one.
While this dancing was going on, the little girl held almost constant, unabashed eye contact with Dancin'Dave. Do you know how hard it is to hold eye contact with someone? Let alone a perfect stranger? A friend of mine, an elegant ball room dancer, once tried to teach me how to waltz. The closeness made me uncomfortable to where I could not look at his face, but stayed focused on his shoulder and chest, or my feet. But this little girl's eyes stayed riveted on the face of her new friend, her dance teacher. That in itself was amazing.
Watching Dancin'Dave and the chubby little golden girl with the shy but confident face was, I'll have to say, the highlight of the concert for me. It was one of those visual moments that happen only rarely in a lifetime but stay imprinted forever in the memory. It was staged in a beautiful outdoor setting in the neighborhood of Spunk Lake in Minnesota. That's not important though, because it could just as well happened anywhere, perhaps on a sunny hillside of the Lake of Galillee. And that little girl could just as well have been me. I wish it had have been.
Except we become as little children, and dare to enter before God's presence with boldness and confidence and expectancy, willing to try to follow "The Lord of the Dance" who has held out His hands in invitation, we will not enter into the rich experience and delights of His kingdom.

----the end. Hope you enjoy it! Maryanne

Thursday, September 3, 2009

a final look at the 1st newgrass festival.......

The biggest thanks for the 1st Annual International Newgrass Festival being held has to go to my buddy, Kenny Lee (Smith). A few minutes after I learned of the festival last winter I was on the phone with Kenny Lee, diggin' what he was telling me and mostly diggin' the idea that the festival was "all about Sam". Over the months we became friends via emails and phone calls and I was damned anxious to meet him in person! He is a big fan and longtime friend of Sam's, as well as being a bandmate in Duckbutter; and man, can he play a slide guitar! >g<

I advertised the festival over the months as much as I could and was kind of surprised that I wasn't garnering more interest...but after all, this was a first year festival and by the time most folks learned of it their vacation plans were probably set or they simply heard of it too late. I was excited about the friends that I knew were coming and if I didn't so well business-wise, at least I knew that a good time would be had! (and I far exceeded that expectation..>g<)

The fact that the festival was small enabled lots of folks to meet and become friends....the festival had a pretty intimate feel to it, while offering a fabulous musical lineup! The venue was sweet, and both John and Katie Ballance were excited about holding the first musical event on their land...they are used to holding events; John had built a motocross track and up to 13 races a year were held there. They were not familiar with any of the music, but they became big fans quickly after hearing what they had been missing! And I love the fact that they are interested in becoming a music/festival/concert venue as well. A finer young couple you will not find...and I look forward to working and hanging with them again next year!

John was concentrating and enjoying Act of Congress...

John and Katie...

The venue...

Sunrise through the fog...

Our camp during the sunrise. Lynn and I were the only people on the site at night the first two nights we were there...a new friend joined us on Wednesday night!

A beautiful Kentucky sunset...

Grace and Lynn and I were the signage crew...Grace's dad, Scott, quickly became a friend when he joined us on site on Wednesday night. He is a longtime Greyfox attendee who came to the Newgrass Festival with his vendor booth featuring ice cream/Italian ice and pretzels. Grace flew for the first time by herself to the festival and she also got her first truck driving lesson at the festival...>g<

Lucy is the kind of friend that you wish lived lots closer to you! She lives in Oklahoma, is a longtime friend of Sam's, and presents yoga classes at various festivals around the country. Her favorite festival, along with mine, is Greyfox.
I love Lucy... is where you can check out Lucy's gig. Her friend Pete, who came from Minnesota, played sweet quiet bass during the sessions...

I met John and Chas McBroom at Floydfest; John is the Production Manager and I do believe that Chas works there also. They came from Virginia as friends and customers, and after experiencing the festival with us, they became even closer friends...there was much giggling.

And my longtime festival buddy from Wisconsin, Maple Al, even was there! Al and I go way back, festival-wise, getting together at Mole Lake, Telluride, Rockygrass, and other smaller festivals here in Wisconsin. We were both glad that he took my advice and came to the Newgrass! He produces the best damned maple syrup there is...I prefer the Grade "B". >g<

Mary and Gregg Scott rode a train to the Newgrass Festival from California! Mary and I have been cyper friends for a few years now..we met because of our mutual fanship of Sam. It was a pleasure to finally meet her in person...we even kicked up our heels together!

These were the first folks to set up their chairs at the 1st Newgrass Festival! They were making sure...>g<

Raelan was my new dance partner! She is cuter than cute at seven years old and hung on for dear life while I was spinning her was the first time she had ever danced with a partner and she did lots of squealing with delight!

In conclusion...I can admit that I have never had more fun at any festival! The combination of a first festival "all about..." a musical hero and friend of mine and the fact that it turned out to be a magical musical historical event for everyone in attendance was damned near "over the top". Sam grew up just a few miles from the festival site and the crowd was filled with his family and old buddies, all who had come to help celebrate his musical talents and influence. (plus, we can't overlook the contributions of the other Newgrass musicians over the years...Curtis, Courtney, John, Bela, Ebo Walker, and Pat Flynn))I met alot of those folks were in on the Newgrass Revival beginnings, even including Sam and John's ex-wives, Liz and Kathy; who still are big fans. I met Hazel Johnson, whose husband Courtney was the original Newgrass banjo player, and who is herself a marvelous mandolin picker. I am damned proud of the fact that Lynn and I played a pivotal role in getting the festival off the ground, especially on-site; and I can't wait to do it again! I don't think that it's much of a stretch to predict that this festival will grow quickly to become one of the class festivals in the country.

Showing off our collector's t-shirts on the Monday after the festival....we were both glowing. >g<

Oh....does anyone recognize/know this lovely lady? She thanked me for "capturing her essence" in this photo...and I gotta' love a person with an obvious sense of humor that she possesses!

Damn...what a festival!!

Peace, David

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

newgrass festival musical finale....

I would say that it is a rare festival that I'm not most looking forward to the Sam Bush Band fact, it has really never happened before! (Oh wait...there were those years of New Grass Revival...) But after learning from Kenny Lee back in April that on Sunday all blues hell was going to break loose, and why, I definitely was fired up by the fact that Duckbutter was going to close the festival!

I was staying overnight in Nashville many years ago, on my way to a Florida festival, when I noticed in the listings of musical events happening that night....."Duckbutter (Sam Bush & John Cowan)"; playing at 3rd & Lindsley. I had never heard of this band, but of course Sam and John were good enough for me! >g< At this point I hadn't listened to much rock 'n roll/rhythm 'n blues for a long time, but that was about to change! By the time the last of four sets started that night there weren't many folks in the club anymore, and I was actually sitting with my feet resting on the stage for part of the set...and I think I heard damned near most of the rockin' bluesy songs that I knew of and they were all played with a fervor! Since that night it's been a wish of mine to have both Lynn and my good buddy Mapleal hear Duckbutter...and this dream was realized when both of them were at the Newgrass Festival! (I knew it would make them smile...)

I also found at the festival that it was Kenny Lee who started the band, back around 1981. I had heard that Duckbutter was Sammy's excuse to wail on his electric the 3rd & Lindsley that night there was a sign on stage depicting a mandolin with a slash through it; no mandolins allowed that night! These guys don't play together often; in fact from what I hear it's a rare and special occasion when they do. They obviously are good longtime buddies and just as obviously they are all musical masters. And they have sooo much fun!

Duckbutter includes Kenny Lee (Smith) on guitar, Sam on guitar, Byron House on bass, John Cowan on bass, but mostly vocals, Jeff Jones on drums, and Reese Wyans on keyboards. Reese was well known as the keyboardist for the Stevie Ray Vaughn Band.

Kenny Lee & Sam...

Sam & John...

The Man can get intense...>g<


John and Byron...

Byron was havin' fun...

Kenny Lee can play guitar using a banana as a slide....

..or a chair

or even a banana-covered condom! (did I mention that Kenny Lee is a character? >g<)

Sam, Jeff, and John....

And there was a special guest, 11 year old Nick Williams! The young musician was a definite hit....

So....a hotter finish to a hot festival couldn't happen, in my book! And when Kenny Lee asked for advice concerning the festival in the coming years, I had a bunch of ideas; and the two that I'm sure will happen are these: Sam closes on Saturday night, and Duckbutter closes the festival!

Peace, David

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

newgrass 3

After two days of excellent music and excellent weather, Day 3 was poised to rock!! Oh man....the excitement had been building, new friendships were popping up all over the place, and everyone in attendance was eagerly anticipating a big finish!

The day started out with a very sweet set led by Hazel Johnson, widow of the original New Grass Revival banjo picker, Courtney Johnson. Hazel is a wonderful person, who according to her bandmate, Mark Whitley, knows more fiddle tunes than anyone!

Hazel, Mark Whitley, and David Foster...

Safire Sun was the next group up on Sunday, and I was not at all familiar with them. The two fellows in the group were original members of the Bluegrass Alliance; this was a very fine band, handpicked by Curtis....

Safire Sun...

Unfortunately I have no photos of the Kentucky School of Bluegrass. Curtis Burch is an instructor at the college, and the performance by the students was super! I do wish my camera wasn't having battery issues at this time....

The Farewell Drifters were the last acoustic/newgrass/bluegrass kind of band at the festival. I have seen and heard these young fellows at a few different festivals now, including Merlefest, Greyfox, and Floydfest and I'm enjoying the heck out of their music. They also have a fine stage presence, and they obviously are having fun with their music. I expect to see them often in the future....

And then all blues/electric music broke out! This was started by the Michael Gough Band, joined by Mr. Curtis Burch himself. It was a fun set...I understand that Michael is a blues fixture in the area, and a great lead-in to the next band!

Curtis...laying on the steel!

I will be expounding on the final act of the festival, Duckbutter, in the next blog!

Peace, David

Friday, August 28, 2009

newgrass 2

The second day of the festival started with a young band that I hadn't heard of, Act of Congress. They are from the state of Alabama, and feature a very progressive acoustic style and sound...they reminded me alot of Nickel Creek. They have one cd out, entitled "Declaration"..and I'm liking it! I do appreciate a band who writes all their own material....

A small sample of Act of Congress....

Next up was the IIIrd Tyme Out, a traditional kick-ass bluegrass band that I hadn't had the pleasure of seeing/hearing for too many years...for some strange reason we haven't crossed paths lately. Great pickin', great vocals, and great songs add up to a tasty set...

The next three bands featured the three Newgrass Revival boys and their own bands; starting with the Curtis Burch Band. Both Lynn and I had the pleasure of meeting and becoming friends with Curtis, who is both a fine musician and a fine man. He spends part of his time teaching music at a Kentucky college that offers a course in traditional music.

Dr. Dobro...

Then came Johnny C.! I have been amazed at the man's voice since I first heard it at the ol' Mole Lake Bluegrass Festival, near my home here in Wisconsin. I've been really diggin' his band of the last few years, which includes Shad Cobb, brother of Jesse and of course a former member of the Cobb Brothers. (many years ago...>g< I saw this family back when all the boys were barely teenagers back in the early 90s; they are natives of Wisconsin.)

The man can still wail...!

He added a mandolin picker...!

And then of course it was time for the closing set! Sammy stepped up to the plate, as they say in his baseball world, and knocked it out of the park.... I have never been disappointed with a Sam Bush show and really never expect to. The Man was on fire as the fact that this festival was all about him, which I'm sure added a bit of spark. He had a great time on stage, going through some new songs that will be on his upcoming cd, lots of regular "Sammy" songs, some straight bluegrass, and a few old NGR songs when his buddy John joined him on stage. I liked it...>g<

Gettin' down...

Sam and Byron...

Spider John is my name, friends...

So---Day 2 finished with a bang! After Sam's set Lynn and I got to visit him and Lynn a bit; he always had lots of friends, fans, and family around who wanted his attention, and he did his best to accomodate. We went back to our campsite in a joyful mood and actually listened to a little campground jammin' before crashing in our tent. Sure was a full, magnificent day of music!

Peace, David