Saturday, May 24, 2008

on the way to telluride....

My friend Sandy moved to Aspen, Colorado, in 1976. She was part of the "gang" that included my sister Kathi and my first wife Linda and a few others....we had lots of fun times, lots of great memories. Linda and I and our daughters had stopped to visit her on our way to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival in around 1990/91, and she had been back to Wisconsin visiting a couple of times over the years...and I had also stopped in Aspen once by myself, getting to meet her new husband Brian.

Then, in about 1997/98, on yet another trip to Telluride I wanted to stop to see her and to introduce her and Brian to Lynn (my second and present wife....whew; Linda and then Lynn---it hasn't been easy at times. >g<)

Sandy and Brian had moved out to a city just to the west of Aspen, and this is where I met Brian. So, Lynn and I headed over there, and found that they weren't home. The house was locked, but I walked around to the back yard, finding that the patio door was open. I of course went in, found a notebook and a pen and proceeded to leave a detailed, rambling two page note/letter for her, explaining that I was sorry we missed them...we couldn't stick around as we were on our way to the festival.

Later that summer I mentioned to my sister that we had stopped to see Sandy and that I was surprised that I hadn't heard from her.....and this is when Kathi told me that Sandy and Brian had moved from that house about a year ago.

No wonder she never wrote back...>g<

Peace, David

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I digress...musically

Actually, my main passion, after my family, is cross-country skiing. To me the perfect day is a 25*f bright sunshiny day that also includes a fast, well-groomed ski trail. I am very fortunate to live smack dab in the middle of some of the best if not THE best cross-country terrain and consistent snow conditions in the country...and I dig it! Within 25-30 miles of my house there are at least a dozen sweet trail systems....and if you'd go out only 100 miles there are probably more trails than you could count.

One of my favorite systems is located about 30 miles away, and is part of the Afterglow Resort, in Phelps, Wisconsin. I like to go up there a couple of times during the season, with the added bonus that I get to stop at an excellent Mexican restaurant on the way home after the ski! (no kidding...a top-of-the-line Mexican food joint right there in little Conover...>g<)

So--I had signed in, paid my trail fee, and was in the process of changing into my ski boots in the big changing room when I struck up a conversation with the other couple in the room. We were all excited about the prime ski conditions...they were getting ready to hit the trails as well. The conversation was goin' along smoothly when I asked: "and where are you guys from?" The woman answered: "Plymouth..". hometown! I had moved north in 1974 and haven't really been back much since the mid-80s; so we were having a fun time talking about the town, when I asked: "in what part of town do you live...?" She told me "Mead Ave".

I kind of closed one eye, looking at her with a grin and asked: "246 Mead Avenue?"
"Oh my gosh...that's MY house!!", was her reaction. >g<

I gotta' love when this kind of stuff happens....
Peace, David

Sunday, May 18, 2008

spring leaf 2008....part 2

And then there was the storm....

It hit, thank goodness, after the festival had ended, when most everyone was gone. It hit hard on Sunday night and it had a truly miraculous ending....not one scratch not one injury to any of the folks who were still on the camp. I myself was forced to run out of my tent, calling for my helper Lynne to join me in seeking shelter in the Eden Hall. There were other folks there by then and we all did what we could to ride out the storm. This was also happening in other parts of the sure put a damper on the always fun after-festival party!

There are many stories of close calls, but the main and most important happening was the next morning, when friends found other friends and there was never a dry eye when you saw that your friend was fine.... I lost alot of equipment, but actually not as much as I first feared when I first saw the scene. (I do wish that I would have taken more pictures...there were plenty of opportunities for even more dramatic photos, but my mind at the time quickly focused on starting to pick things up!) Other friends lost tents and buddy Tom with the Sugar Shack had his entire setup wind up across the little creek nearby. Even the huge Lakeside Stage tent went down...

I've been calling it the "Leaf blowout", thanks to a comment by George, who is the father of Leaf producer Jennifer Pickering, who actually had to go down a bank by his house to rescue one of the tents I had set up in his front yard! I have heard from a good friend who participated in the camp cleanup since and he assures me that the cleanup went well and that the camp's beauty is in full tact.

And there was also other excitement! (can you believe it...? >g<)
I do have to say that meeting my patrons is one of the top thrills in my business. They have come from many walks of life and many parts of the country and the world and they are all driven to come to the festivals by that one constant; that being of course the music.
At the Leaf I was booked by a young woman who was a first-time patron of mine, and maybe even a first-time Leaf attendee, as was her boyfriend. We had met when they first arrived and a few times during the festival itself we ran into each other for a little chitchat. On Saturday night late I had a chance to visit with them at their campsite. Pablo was telling me of all the big festivals he'd been to in Europe....festivals that attract a couple hundred thousand people. As he had been to quite a few of these I had to point out that he was a lucky fellow to be going to all of those festivals, and this is the conversation that followed: "Oh...well, I'm in the music business, also." " what capacity?" "I'm a soundman." " you have your own sound company?" "No....I'm the soundman for Bob Dylan."
I of course immediately pointed out that he couldn't have dropped a BIGGER FRIGGIN' name, could he?!! Turns out that he has been Bob's soundguy for 11 years (I think that's what he said...), and was in fact leaving on Monday for Europe for Bob's latest tour. So, we had a really interesting conversation, to be sure! I had to admit that while I was a big fan of Dylan's in the mid-and-late 60s, I had not kept up with the music and had never been to a Dylan concert, although I did come close once...>g<>
Ah....I gotts' love the Leaf!! It is a spectacular festival located in a spectacular setting and those tornados and high high winds don't come around very often! >g<

spring leaf 2008....whew!!!

One of the cool aspects of the Lake Eden Arts Festival for me is that going in I am aware of only a couple of the musical acts scheduled! This is the only festival like that for me and it's a gas...

At the start of this version of Leaf I was familiar with only two acts, the Steep Canyon Rangers and Nanci Griffith. I of course had every intention of catching Nanci....I've been a fan for many years now and haven't seen her for a few years and so was excited that she was on the lineup. But the weather of the day determined that I work on my teardown (more on THAT later....), so I was content to listen to her from across the lake. (it was so handy that sound does carry across water so work was directly across the lake from the Lakeside Stage.). I did catch the Steep Canyon Rangers (pictured top right...; my apologees to the bass man) and they were hot! I'm really liking this young bluegrass group...they have hot pickers and outstanding vocals and a fresh sound of their own. And I had a blast dancin' to their entire set; it was actually my favorite set of the festival.

One of the acts that was WAY fun was Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys! (pictured top left...) Man, this is hot western swing that was so much fun that after seeing them the first time I just had to catch them the second time as well....very good for getting that heart rate up there! And I met and watched and totally enjoyed a young couple who's favorite band is Big Sandy and who are absolutely the most fun dance couple I have ever seen. Whew....high high high energy and always in beat and cuter than cute besides. I did dance with the young woman (whose name escapes me at the moment....) and it was just as much fun to dance with her as it was to watch! They were a highlight of my Leaf.

I did miss a couple of shows that I probably would have caught if it weren't for Big Sandy, and that would have been David Wilcox (who I was aware of, actually, from many years ago at Telluride), and maybe even Arrested Development. My daughter Amanda is a fan of hip-hop and I wanted to tell her that I saw AD....a few friends of mine did catch them and said their show was phenomonal.

Other highlights for me included:

Buille, a traditional Irish group that I saw twice, again 'cause of the marvelous dance music they of my favorite all-time dance partners was at the Leaf, and we had a blast during the Main Stage Set....!

Nathan & The Zydeco Cha Chas, again, for the high-powered dance music that is so much fun, especially when surrounded by so many outstanding dance partners...>g<

The Warren Wilson Folk Choir, who under the tutelage of my friend Milt, is always a treat. Milt dives into old folk songs from many cultures and passionately passes this on to his choir. It is always beautiful and uplifting and it's a joy to watch the kids' faces as they respond to his directing. I love their shows...

Kellin Watson is a local musician, I believe, and I was sure glad that I caught her at the Lakeside Stage. Fun music, and danceable as well...(go figure...)

I did catch small samples of some New Orleans Jazz/blues with Charmaine Neville; some New Orleans funk with Big Sam's Funky Nation; and the Akira Satake Band, whose "world fusion banjo grooves" were wonderful. Great music... Corey Harris & the 5X5 Band combined reggae and roots blues and they were hot, as well.

And even with all that, there was much music that I missed! This festival is simply a mind and eye-blowing festival; it's actually as pleasing to the visual as it is to the audio. The setting is ultra-beautiful and the folks that attend the festival are the same. The festival brings a TON of young families (most of my patrons had small chlidren along...) and it is so sweet to see this.

The top photo is of my dear friend Berkeley and her cuter than cute daughter Aila, who is almost four years old now and is without a doubt precious! Berkeley's husband Tom runs the Sugar Shack, which of course features that famous festival food that I'm sure lots of you readers have eaten. You really can't go wrong with eating anything from the Sugar Shack. And Berkeley, when she has time, makes clothing using the batik (?) wife Lynn really likes Berkeley's stuff.

And the bottom photo is of me and some dear friends who I met almost ten years ago at the Suwannee Springfest/Magfest festivals in Florida, and I have had the joy of dancing with and watching these cute young gals grow into beautiful women. They have relocated in Asheville, so I get to see them at every Leaf and it is a hoot. From left to right is Annette and her four-month old, Christy and her husband Matt and her soon-to-be born little one and Julie is holding Christy and Matt's two year old Stella. Julie just happens to be that all-time favorite dance partner of mine that I mentioned earlier...she is soooo smooth and sultry and exciting and experimental and waaay cute to dance with and it is always a treat for me to twirl her around!

But most of all, the Leaf is the dancinest festival that I've is a pure joy for anyone who likes to dance. From dancin' to Irish or Cletic or cajun or bluegrass or latin/salsa to honytonk and swing, this festival is amazing. And my favorite is always the hour-long waltzing on Sunda just feels sooooo good! >g<

Part two will be on the way, soon....

Peace, David

Monday, May 5, 2008

a festival hoot...

I have told this story now a couple of times in the last couple of days...totally by accident; sometimes stuff just comes up in a conversation, you know....
I live only about 10 miles from one of the biggest country music festivals in the country, the Hodag Country Festival, in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. This festival has been going on since the mid-70s, and draws huge crowds, all fired up to see and hear alot of the biggest country acts around. (it's hard to imagine how much beer is drunk during the Hodag, which actually starts weeks before the festival, with a line of Rvs parked alongside the road, waiting in line to get in!)(very similar situation to Greyfox, actually...>g Anyhoo, I have attended a few days of this festival, and one day/night stands out in particular, for it was a major festival hoot.
There were so many people there that no matter where you walked you walked in a line. There was nothing you could do about it, and I didn't like it much. I was slowly making my way along with the line that I was in, when I was approached by a woman in an opposite direction line, who asked me if I had a light. I didn't, but my line and her line had stopped long enough so that I was able to ask her what she was standing in line for....and it turned out that she was waiting to get an autograph from some country artist that I can't remember. We chatted for awhile, and then word came down the line that the artist had had enough and that the autograph session was over.
The woman was bummed!`She had two programs, one her's and one her sister's, and she really wanted what's-his-name's autograph.... So, I consoled her by telling her that as a matter of fact I know how to spell what's-his-name's name, and that I'd be glad to sign her program for her; and she loved it! (at this point I have to confess that I don't remember the artist, but I'm thinking he was a good country-goodin'....) I signed both of her programs and the woman behind her joined in on the fun, and we all giggled as our lines dispersed.
About two hours later I was walking down an aisle and when I came to a "t" I took a right, and immediately heard a woman's voice call out: "There's that guy that signs autographs!" Well, she and her funtime group called me over and we were both excited to see each other. (and I'm bettin' that they had consumed much more beer at this point than I had...>g<)
And....there was a woman there who asked me if I knew how to spell Billy Ray Cyrus and I told her that I could close enough, so she opened up her flannel shirt to expose her Billy Ray Cyrus t-shirt and a huge mound of breasts that she had me sign Billy Ray on, which involved signing up and then down and then up and then down again, and there was lots of giggling going on during that autograph session!
And then yet another topper came about when the last lady wanted me to sign her Hodag Festival jacket, which probably cost in the $35-$40 price range at the time, with a Marie Osmond!
Man, I just gotta' love them festivals, even the ones that I don't normally care for...>g<
And here's another non or non-non bottom line deal: the Hodag Festival happens in July every year, the weekend before Greyfox. It sure would be a smart move business-wise if I took in a festival that I would probably sell out easily and one that is only 10 (!) miles from home, right? BUT>>>>would I trade that for driving 1200 miles to take in the best damned festival that I know of? Right.....
Peace, David

Sunday, May 4, 2008

more merlefest music and dance....

Merlefest 2008 was a banner dance year for me....I actually visited the official Dance Tent a few times; and there's a nice little area at the Watson Stage to dance and I was fortunate to have a good friend/dance partner sitting nearby! I love to dance with sweet Lynn, but with sore knees her dancin' time is limited so she sends me off to find other partners and I always say: "yes, dear...".
Friday night the Dance tent was hoppin' to the cajun beat of the Pine Leaf Boys and it was a blast! At one point I noticed a beautiful young woman looking like she'd like to dance and of course she did....she was so beautiful that she reminded me of my daughter Monica; they both can dance and they have wonderful sweet smiles and they are both cuter than cute. And Annalisa has alot of the same facial mannerisms and even facial structure that Monica posseses.....spinnin' her around and looking into her eyes and her smile was almost WAY too much fun! >g< So of course I asked her where she lives (the two partners before her came from Maryland and Austin, Texas...) and probably wasn't surprised that she replied: "Alaska..". Wow. I then asked if she came to Merlefest with friends, family....? and she replied: "I'm in a band and we are playing on the Watson Stage tomorrow morning"!
The band is Bearfoot and probably my best new "find" of the festival. I of course made it to the Watson Stage the next morning, where they were joined on stage by the Lovell Sisters and Sierra Hull & Highway 111. (talk about a bunch of young talent...these youngins' in all of these bands are tearin' it up!!!) Annalisa had told me that her instrument is the fiddle, but I came to find out that in my opinion her instrument is her voice; and the rest of the band are wonderful vocalists as well. I bought their cd, "follow me", and still wasn't surprised to find that she also wrote most of the songs on the cd....whew. And I was really impressed by the fact that Bearfoot obviously takes pride in their appearance...."sharp" would only begin to describe the classy way they present themselves. I couldn't have been more impressed.
And the Lovells are a gem and a treat! Way way cute, these sisters are very talented and their sibling harmonies are precious. 16 year old mandolinist Rebecca is "ready for the big boys" as far as her prowess on her instrument, according to Jack Lawrence.
Sierra Hull is yet another cutie who has a very bright future in the world of acoustic or probably whatever other genre of music she heads for. I think she's also all of 16 now....during that Watson Stage set she said "hi" to her Daddy out in the audience who just so happened to be sitting next to my good buddy Ed who was sitting next to me. That was one proud-lookin' father, I can tell ya'!
And I really liked the Ricky Skaggs/Bruce Hornsby set...those fellows rocked it out. The Levon Helm set was super-hot! I never was a big Band fan, but of course I knew of a bunch of their tunes. It sure was a hoot to have Sammy join in the seems as if no big "star" doesn't want King Sammy to sit in for awhile. (I heard that Sam was going to be part of the Mandolin Mania at the Creekside, but got called away early by Mr. Watson himself, who wanted Sam to be part of the Merle tribute set.)
It was great to see the Waifs again! I became a big fan the last time they were at Merlefest and seeing them again was exciting....I love their sound and their attitude and their songwriting, and it would be hard to have too many cute sisters in too many hot bands; it just seems right.
I already touched on Sam and the enough and enough said.
I'm not an Avett Brothers fan. But boy, it sure is obvious that there are alot of Avett Brother fans, including a couple of close friends of mine who don't understand why I'm not crazy about the Avett Brothers...too. But...I just don't get it.
Saw a really nice set with buddy Jack Lawrence, T. Michael Coleman and Jeff Little on the Austin Stage on Sunday. (I had also met T. back in the Mole Lake days and he's the guy who turned me on to Telluride, telling me that: "You should go..."; and he was right.) The three of them made some sweet music; I wasn't familiar with Jeff...he sure is a fine piano player! And after the set Lynn and I and Jack and his wife Katie and my buddy Ed got a chance to sit and visit for awhile at my campsite.....something that doesn't happen very often at Merlefest. It was fun to introduce Ed to Jack and Katie...Ed's a guitar player who wishes he could play guitar like Jack! We got caught up enough so that none of us was late for the Jerry Douglas set....>g< (another blistering set, of course, but I had to wonder what was with that hat?!" (another thing I guess I didn't get...)
Ah....the Claire Lynch Band! How do YOU spell sweet, or smooth? Claire has a voice of an angel and a band of masters that keep the good sounds flowing. I missed her Sunday set because of the upcoming weather, but luckily I caught her Saturday Hillside set. And the Infamous Stringdusters continue to is going to be so much fun to watch them mature as a band. The Austin set with Sam Bush, Peter Rowan, Tish Hinojosa, Mike Bubb, and Laurie Lewis was a treat as well... in my listings of the shows I saw during the festival in my last blog, I did neglect to add one final set....the Bearfoot set on the Cabin Stage, which actually was the musical close to the festival for me. (and a fitting fine last treat, at that!) I could hear the Sparrow Quartet and the Dan Tyminski Band from my campsite that I was tearing the rain! And if things had been right...I could have caught those shows; but...
There are no musical complaints from me concerning Merlefest 2008!! It was again a super super event and many thanks go out to all the folks who are responsible for its being.
Peace, David

Friday, May 2, 2008

finally....a time to relax and reflect

Merlefest 2008 has come and for my part, finally gone! Amazing, spectacular, magnificent and inspiring are just a few of the words to describe the'd think a guy would get used to or even blase about Merlefest after 14 years of it; but, NO friggin' way!!
I have seen the festival grow and change both from the outside and the inside over these years and I could not be prouder to be associated with this world-class organization. The logistics themselves are mind-boggling but somehow things just seem to go along at a relaxed pace...a tremendous tribute to B Townes, Ted Hagaman, and staff. Lynn and I have been volunteering for the festival at the RV lot since 1999 and have met many fine folks who work the festival on many levels because of this. And the staff at Merlefest has treated me and my business with the utmost of respect since I started...and have always asked if they could do more for me; I love it. Because of a shift in on-site camping for vendors, performers, and related fields, Lynn and I were asked to move from our usual camping spot...right down where I have wanted to camp for years! (sometimes things just work out....>g<)
And then there was the music!!!! There's where all those superlatives are appropo...and more.
I of course had my favorites: I saw Sam Bush four times; with Levon Helm, with Peter Rowan , Tish Hinojosa, Laurie Lewis and Mike Bubb, with Doc Watson's "Docabilly" set, and his rip-roarin' Watson Stage set on Friday night! He blistered it....started out with "Uncle Pen" and encored with "Rollin' In My Sweet Babie's Arms"! He also did a couple of other bluegrass tunes, more than I usually see him play in a set; it was great!!!
The Waybacks continue to blow me away as well. James Nash and co. are on fire! They hosted a couple of jams that were outta' sight; including the playing of the entire 2nd Led Zepplin album, from start to finish. I watched part of it...John Cowan was hitting all the notes and everyone was smokin'. But, even though I bought the first two Led Zepplin albums I was never a big fan, so I went off to dance to a cajun beat. >g< The rest of the crowd was goin' bananas....
Way up on my list of favorites was the Alison Brown Quartet, with Joe Craven making it a quintet. I've loved Alison's sound now for many years, and the addition of Joe only brings the group to a higher level in my book. Simply awesome music, and Joe is always a treat. It was nice to see Larry Atamaniuk had joined the group as well....hard to imagine two better percussionists than those two!
And I loved the Docabilly set. Good to hear that swing and ol' rock 'n roll stuff from one of my favorite Doc Watson albums. And thinking back, this might have been the only set of Doc's I saw....mmm.
So here's the sets that I saw, in the order I saw them. (I never went through this like this before...ought to be interesting...>g<)(and mind you...I take a much easier pace at Merlefest than I used to....!)
Thursday night: The Infamous Stringdusters; Laurie Lewis and The Right Hands; parts of both Blue Highway and Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives; and the Old Crow Medicine Show.
Friday: Jack Lawrence and Tony Williamson; Welcome Home Jam Part Two, featuring the Waybacks, John Cowan, and Sally Van Meter; a Honky Tonk Dance with the Wilders; The Waifs; Alison Brown Quartet with Joe Craven; Peter Rowan, Tish Hinojosa, Sam Bush, Mike Bubb, and Laurie Lewis; a Free Style Dance with the Whitetop Mountain Band; The Carolina Chocolate Drops; Ruthie Foster; SAM BUSH; and a Cajun Dance with the Pine Leaf Boys! (quite a day...>g<)
Saturday: New Generation Super Jam, with the Lovell Sisters, Sierra Hull and Highway 111, and Bearfoot; (about this time on Saturday all hell broke loose, weather-wise! A big thunderstorm came through and Lynn and I were lucky enough to end up back at camp together, and spent the storm in a neighbor's RV, being charmed by a more than cute 2 1/2 year old girl who was good at was a treat during a storm, to be sure. >g<); Alison Brown again; The Claire Lynch Band; Hillside Album Hour, the Led Zepplin deal; a Cajun Dance with The Pine Leaf Boys, Tara Nevins and Dirk Powell; Docabilly, with Doc Watson, Sam Bush, T Michael Coleman, Jack Lawrence, Jeff Little, Buddy Greene and Richard Watson; Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby and Kentucky Thunder; Levon Helm and the Ramble on the Road with Special Guests (which of course included Mr. Bush himself....the good bush that is.); Dance Tent with Donna the Buffalo, Peter Rowan and Friends. (kind of a full-music/dance day....>g<)
Sunday: I sure did skip some stuff on this day!!! The weather was threatening and I opted to work while I could...... A little bit of the Freestyle Dance; Alison and Joe again...partially; Jack Lawrence, T. Michael Coleman, and Jeff Little (and after this, Jack and I and Katie and Lynn and my good buddy Ed finally got to kick back and visit; this doesn't happen very often at Merlefest, so this was a treat. Jack and I go back a long time now, and have had many giggles along the way.); the Jerry Douglas Band....and that was it!
I didn't get to see some shows that I wouldn't have missed if it wasn't for the weather...and one of them would have been Abigail Washburn and the Sparrow Quartet. Lynn got to see that, and a good friend/customer also ranted and raved about how off-the-charts that show was. At least I got to hear it from afar, as I was tearing down my own camp at the time.
Whew.....all that to get to the point that that after all that festival magic the teardown and cleanup work was not very much fun but that now I'm sitting on the side of the French Broad River near Asheville and I have time to relax!!! So, of course I will be going downtown tonight to check out a hot zydeco band.....maybe I'll REALLY relax tomorrow.
Peace, David