Saturday, September 13, 2008

two small wisconsin festivals....

Art Stevenson & High Water

Connor David and Grandpa Dancin'Dave

Hello again, fellow music lovers...

I am damned lucky in that I get to attend many festivals every year! Most of them are on my business schedule...these festivals are festivals that I would deem to be "major" festivals; ones that feature many top bands and ones that attract festivarians from all around the country and many parts of the world, even. I love it...

And at the same time I am also lucky to have a bunch of smaller festivals near my home here in Wisconsin...ones that I don't attend with my business; these are strictly for pleasure! This year I was disappointed that I wasn't able to attend Flatrock, a festival that is put on by a couple of old friends of mine and one that is always a hoot. I had a family gathering that weekend, so other than the fact that these family gatherings are always precious, the timing sucked. >g< Also, for about the first 7 or 8 years I attended the Big Bull Falls Blues Festival held in Wausau, Wisconsin; but for the last few years the timing hasn't been right for that festival, either. (good thing that my family is sooo damned cute...>g<)

I was able to take in two fine festivals near home in August, however. The first was the Northland Bluegrass Festival, held near Iola. This was the 9th annual, already (!), and is hosted by Art and Stephanie Stevenson and their band High Water. Besides being friends of mine, this band has really impressed me with their high-quality, high-energy and hard-driving traditional bluegrass music. They do a fine mixture of both bluegrass standards and original music...the musicianship and the vocal harmonies are wonderful. Plus, the crowd reaction is exciting as can be...the dance floor is kept hoppin' throughout all of their sets! This year the festival also featured Frank Ray & Cedar Hill (who I missed because I could only make it to the festival on Saturday); Rob Lumbard (a mighty fine bluesy kind of guitarist); Spare Time Bluegrass, from Madison, Wisconsin; New Bad Habits, a wonderful old-timey band who really got the crowd dancin' up a storm; and Sloppy Joe, a Wisconsin favorite who pride themselves in playing their own genre of acoustic music that they dub "slopgrass". (and don't you dare tell them that they are playing it wrong...they invented the genre! >g<) They also get the crowd gotta' love a festival that saves 50% of the area in front of the stage for dancing!

I have many friends at Northland that I've known for at least 30 years now...we're all veterans of the ol' Mole Lake Bluegrass Festival that started in the mid-70s and ran until the early 90s. THAT was a festival that has stories! >g< (and none of them need embellishment...)

But my biggest highlight of Northland this year was the fact that Lynn and I took grandson Connor David to his first overnight festival trip! He was a bit shy at first, but warmed up quickly to the music...he danced his little 6 year old legs to exhaustion until 10:00 that night. He and Grandma Lynn hit the tent at that time, and Grandpa stayed up and danced until the band stopped... The next morning my heart melted when he told me: "I sure had fun dancing with you last night, Grandpa!"

The second festival actually had started out as a birthday party for a good friend, Jimmer, who is the bass/washtub player for Sloppy Joe. I really don't know how long this party has been goin' on, but it certainly had's now a four day festival that features a big variety of bands that represent a variety of musical genres. Again, Lynn and I could only attend one day/night, but it was a dandy. The highlight of the festival, musically, was the Piper Road Spring Band, who have been together now for 35 years! The members are scattered around the country these days and they don't get together for a whole lot of gigs, but when they do and when I get to see them it is always a treat....they never disappoint.

Both of these festivals are major dancin' events... I love it! It's a real hoot to spin around partners both old and young...I do like to tease my older friends/partners that I just have to keep finding younger and younger partners seeing as how the older ones keep getting older; of course they like to point out the fact that I can't dance for 10 or 12 straight hours anymore either! One of my "new" partners is a little 18 year old cutie named Jenny who has all the rhythm and enthusiasm and energy in the world and who I can't dance with more than a couple of dances in a row....whew! (I tell myself that at this point in my life that it's not the quantity, it's the quality....>g<)

And as an added dancin' treat, a good friend of mine who I've seen at festivals in Colorado, New York, and Florida over the span of many years has started showing up at Northland every year for the past 4 or 5! He lives in California and he was visiting his mother, who lives near the Northland festival, one year and while reading the local paper he discovered the festival, knew that I lived somewhere in Wisconsin, and checked it out. It was a wonderful surprise to see him there that year and it is always a treat to get to visit with him wherever we meet....Mike is one of my favorite male dancers; I love to watch him groove to the music!

Festival life is sure grand....

Peace, David

Mike and Jenny.....

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