Thursday, November 20, 2008

last festival trip 2008...part 4

This trip to the Magnoliafest turned out to be a bittersweet occasion. I first attended the Magfest back in 1998; it was the second festival that I attended as a businessman. I have many fond memories of this's always been fun and I have made many friends down there in Florida. There are of course many of the same friends that also attend the Suwannee Springfest, which is held in March at the same venue. Beth and Randy Judy are the promoters of both of these fine festivals and they always do a great job.

This year I was walking away from the Meadow Stage when a fellow approached me and excitedly said "Hi!" He told me that we had met before...and that both he and his wife had been attending the Springfest and the Magfest for about 10 years now. He went on to tell me that they have had fun watching me dance all this while....they are especially impressed with the fact that it seemed as if I always get to dance with the most beautiful women! (I like that part, myself...>g<) He went on to say that they even have a name for me... (mmm..., is what I was thinking) When I asked what this was he replied: "We call you Mr. Dance Man!" I was of course amused by this, and then he asked me where in Florida that I live. When I told him that I live in Wisconsin he exclaimed: "And you come all the way down here for the festivals?!" I told him that I actually attend with my business and he then asked: "and what business is that?!" Now, I usually have in my pocket a live show or two on cd and I like to pass them out to friends, customers, and strangers. Included with the cd I put one of my business's a great way to share music and do a little advertising at the same time. The cd that I presented him was a Doc and Merle Watson show from Telluride 1985...and when I turned it over to reveal the card and he saw it he absolutely cracked up! It sure was a fun moment....>g<

Another highlight of the festival happened during the after-festival party, held backstage. I came across a jam goin' on....all three Rowan brothers, David Gans, Randy Judy, and a mandolin player who I didn't know were rockin' out to a whole bunch of Beatle was great! It is such a treat to be able to witness and hear fine musicians such as these havin' fun and playing at such a high level. I love it...

Ok---the bittersweet part of the Magfest for me is the fact that I probably won't be goin' back. For some reason that I can't for the life of me figure out, I don't do well at all, business-wise, at this festival! I promote it as I do all of the festivals I go to, it's of the same high quality as of all the other festivals on my schedule, the venue and the weather is top-notch, etc. etc...... It's a mystery to me; I sell out at all other festivals and actually have to turn away customers at most of them. My sellout is around 20 campsites, and for this particular Magfest I had 3....makes no sense. I don't do particularly well at the Springfest either...another mystery. I am very saddened by this, but I don't have a choice in dropping it from my schedule. I am going to go back to the Springfest next March to try it one more time, and hopefully I'll do well enough to justify continuing this festival. I have many many friends at these festivals and I'll miss all of them and all of them will miss me. I did tell quite a few folks about this during the festival and everyone had the same shocked response: "You HAVE to keep coming!" I am honored by their concern....

Wish me luck!

Peace, David

last festival trip 2008....part 3

The teardown operation at LEAF went smoothly, as one always hopes it will! Lynne is a wonderful young woman who has helped me several times at LEAF, including the tornado episode from last May. She and I work great together...she's a hard worker who has a great sense of humor and a wonderful work ethic; I was lucky to find her and I hope she sticks around Asheville for a few more years!

After the teardown I headed down to Florida for the Magnoliafest, in Live Oak, Florida. This festival is held at the same venue as the Suwannee Springfest, which is held in March every year. It is one of those festivals that always has an eclectic's geared more to the electric side of the musical genres, and the Springfest more to the acoustic. Besides being held at a sweet venue, the northern Florida weather in both March and October is usually ideal for a festival....and this year was no exception. Highs in the mid 70s and lows in the mid
50s are perfect in my opinion, and we even received some timely rain; the kind that is welcomed as a dust quencher!

This year's lineup was a included Mr. Sam Bush, so I knew it would be a treat, right off the bat! Sammy of course did not disappoint...he first played with Dread Clampitt on the Meadow Stage on Saturday afternoon and as he always does, he made that young band elevate their music! He had befriended them while on vacation in Florida a couple of years ago and so had jammed with them on several previous occasions; plus, I do believe that he is featured on their new cd. Then on Saturday night he rocked the Ampitheatre Stage as only he can. I got to visit with him a bit after his performance and was proud to give him a Dancin'Dave t-shirt. He then sat in for a few songs with KBM, a band made up of former Grateful Dead drummer Bill
Kreutzmann, bassist Oteil Burbridge and guitarist Scott Muraski. I was not that impressed with this band, but the tunes that Sammy sat in with them on his electric mandolin sure were hot!


Sam and Dread Clampitt....

And if it weren't for Sam, it would be an easy choice for what I would have chosen for the most exciting performances of the festival! I had been aware of Rushad Eggleston for a few years now...I first saw him and his cello playing with Darol Anger and Mike Marshall, and then of course with the outstanding band, Crooked Still. He definitely impressed me then and it was also obvious that he is a different sort of cat...he could even be described as just a "little" crazy! So, when I saw that he and his new band "Tornado Rider" were scheduled I didn't know what to expect! Well...he blew me away!! I don't know how to describe the music, other than powerful, loud, and unlike any I've heard before. Rushad was joined by a bassist and a drummer...quite the percussion-oriented ensemble! Rushad straps his cello to his body, sort of like a guitar, and he is frenetically driven. He's a whirling dervish, with frenzied movements all over the stage. I did take some videos, but the sound quality was poor, so I won't be uploading them to this blog. Needless to say, the two sets that I caught were mind-blowing and hard for me to describe while doing justice.


Other bands/acts that I really enjoyed were Gandalf Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams; David Gans; Joe Craven; Peter Rowan; The Rowan Brothers; The Duhks; and the Sunday afternoon Bluegrass Jam which was hosted by Peter Rowan. Also, I was pretty impressed with a new band, Moonalice; a band that is named for "a mysterious tribe of mythical nomad farmers known for growing hemp". Plus, my old pals from Wisconsin, Sloppy Joe, are always fun.

The Duhks...

Sloppy Joe....

Joe Craven...

There will be a Part 4 to this "last festival trip..." blog; later.

Peace, David

Monday, November 10, 2008

last 2008 festival trip....part 2

Erica Bell, Development Directer; and Jennifer Pickering, producer...modeling their "Dancin'Dave" t-shirts!

The Sparrow Quartet

The Lake Eden Arts Festival quickly became one of my favorites as soon as I started attending a few years ago. Jennifer Pickering is the producer of this marvelous festival, and she had invited me to bring my business and I'm sure glad I took up her offer! It is the most eclectic festival on my schedule, along with being the dancin-est! (right up my alley...) It is held on a superb venue near Asheville, North Carolina; Camp Rockmont is a boys' camp and Jennifer actually grew up on the grounds. It is a magical place, the former home of Black Mountain College.

One thing that really attracts me to this festival is the fact that I am never familiar with more than a few of the musical groups on the lineup! It truly is a world-music festival, and one that features many different genres of music. It also had a marvelous Kids' Program, fine arts, a variety of dance, and even a trapeze. (I opt to NOT learn how to fly through the air with any kind of ease...)

On Thursday night attendees were treated to a steel pan jazz ensemble, some hypnotic world melodies with Rising Appalachia (which features two talented sisters who grew up attending LEAF and who are both are really fun to dance with...>g<), and Menage, a swinging roosty kind of rock band from the Asheville area. They were lots of fun to dance to as well.

On Friday I got to see and hear Leon Redbone! Talk about smooth.... He was one of the artists I was anxious to see; I have never had the pleasure of catching him live, and he did not disappoint...what a hoot. Scott Perry played some sweet blues and Martha & The Moodswingers were also a treat for we folk who love to dance. Plus, I caught a little of Donna the Buffalo, and they were greeted as usual by an energetic, dancin' crowd. Alot of the day I roamed around, diggin' some sweet old-time jams and visiting with customers, both old and new.

On Saturday the High Windy Band featured some fine traditional bluegrass; Terrence Simien & The Zydeco Experience had the Main Stage rockin'; and they were followed by Scythian, who I was very familiar with...this band takes a backseat to no band as far as energy displayed! They are a riot... I took in another swing dance set by Martha & The Moodswingers 'cause it would be hard to pass up such fine dance music and so many fine dance partners. My favorite act of the day had to be Robert Earl Keen, yet another act that I had been looking forward to....Robert and his hot band had everyone bouncin' around at the Main Stage! To close the night I took in the Legendary JC's, an R&B and Soul revue, followed by Dende & Hahahaes, a band that featured hot Brazilian Rhythms. It was quite the day...I slept well that night!

Sunday always starts out at LEAF for me in the Eden Hall, with a performance by the Warren Wilson College Folk Choir. My buddy Milt is the choir director and he does such a fine job finding folk music from around the world and directing his students in presenting it. It is always a LEAF highlight for me. This performance was followed with an hour of waltzing in the Dance Hall! Whew...damned near a dream come true. >g< It is such a pleasure to waltz with 6 or 7 different partners, all of whom know how to waltz and who love it as much as I do. After the waltzing I caught a set by Ben Sollee, which was another highlight. Ben is a master cellist, who plays with the Sparrow Quartet, and he puts on a marvelous solo set. After his set I got to work with my teardown operation and that went well as well. Then of course I had to catch Abigail Washburn & the Sparrow Quartet! For those not familiar, this group features Abigail, Ben, Casey Driessen, and none other than Mr. Bela Fleck. Super super music, no doubt. A great way to end a great festival.

I love this festival! I haven't hardly even touched on all of the music and/or musical genres presented. Plus, there is the lake that folks canoe, kayak, and swim in; there is also a zip-line that goes into the lake, along with a big slide called the Gulley Washer that also propels folks into the lake! The arts vendors and the food vendors are all of top-of-the-line quality, and the same goes for the attendees themselves. This is truly a first-rate family festival and I feel damned lucky to be able to attend both in May and in October. And along with all the other wondrous parts of this festival, Jennifer and her staff also hold a "Leaf in Schools & Streets" program that is an "educational outreach program matching artists with youth in local schools and communities for hands-on workshops, residences, interactive performances and mentoring". There is also LEAF International, "matching youth globally with instruments and mentors, connecting through cultural traditions, and empowering through music". (did I mention that I love this festival....?!)

Peace, David

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

my last festival trip of 2008......

First off, folks...I am elated about the election!! It brings me both goosebumps and teary eyes...

My last festival trip of 2008 was a dandy! The first festival on the itinerary was the Lake Eden Arts Festival (Leaf) in North Carolina and the second stop was in Florida for the Magnoliafest. The trip did contain some mixed emotions, but mostly for the good. It started out on October 9th, where my first stop was in Madison. I met two of my daughters at daughter Amanda's club, the Alchemy, for supper. We were joined by Monica's hubby Jeff and their more than wonderfully cute daughter Malia (and one of my favorite grandchildren...>g<), and friends. Jon is a Merlefest buddy of mine and Steve is a longtime friend of my daughters; they both live in Madison, and it was a pleasure to have them join in our little family get together. I spent the night at Monica's house, and then headed off the next day for Nashville.

It was a Friday night in Nashville when I arrived and I took in a Steep Canyon Rangers show at the World Famous Station Inn. I do love this place and have spent quite a few great musical nights there...I always check their schedule if I happen to be able to schedule a stop. I've been a fan of the Steep Canyon boys now for a few years; I really am diggin' their sound. Plus, Curley Seckler sat in with them for a few tunes and that was a treat as well. The Station Inn is a special musical treat!

I arrived in Asheville on Saturday and set up camp at the French Broad River Campground, which is located only about 15-20 minutes from downtown Asheville. It is sooo sweet to camp on the side of this magnificent river, with a wireless-highspeed internet connection right in my campsite! (the best of at least a couple of worlds...>g<)That night I ate a nice supper at the Jack of the Woods in Asheville, another sweet club that features great music. I caught the David Earl and the Plowshares show and danced the night away! They were hot and so were the dance partners....

At the end of the night I struck up a conversation with the keyboard player, who told me that his regular gig is with the Snake Oil Medicine Show....a band that I'm pretty familiar with from a couple of different festivals; they are a hoot! The lead singer, Caroline Pond, and I have danced...she is a riot; possessing enthusiasm galore, the rhythm to match, and sooo damned cute. He told me that the next night he'd be playing at the Rocket Club with an 8 or 9 piece swing jazz band...and that Caroline would sure to be there! I of course showed up, surprised Caroline, and had an awesome night of music and dance. I love Asheville....I have many friends, both old and new and in between, living there and so its a gas to be able to come to the area twice a year. If I ever moved to a town, Asheville would be at the top of the list.

On Monday I moved on to the Leaf venue, which is located at Camp Rockmont. This camp was once home to the Black Mountain College, a trail-blazing arts college that flourished in the 30s and 40s in those magical mountains. It has a wonderfully special vibe happenin', and Jennifer Pickering and her Leaf staff have picked up and even expanded on this positive feeling; I felt at home from the first day I arrived 4 years ago. I love getting to the festival venues early, having the time to do all of my setup work and at the same time watching the festivals grow. 'Tis exhilerating, to say the least! For the first couple of nights I'm about the only person on the grounds...I love it.

I will touch on the details of the Leaf itself in Part 2. Peace, David