Last week-end was FloydFest 5. This was my third festival, my wife's fourth, and Virginia - my wife's niece - has been to them all. Also camping with us were Virginia's father John (who won the Best Camper Award this year), daughter Rachel, and friend Mike.
As usual the week-end featured great music - especially from folks I had never heard of - and interesting weather. This year the weather was sunshine and wind. It was almost...hot. Actually it was hot and mostly dry. Quite a change for a festival widely noted for being wet and cool.
The music started on Thursday night this year with Railroad Earth playing to a good sized early crowd. Friday brought an early morning wind gust that took our large community tent down the hill 30 feet, scattering camping gear everywhere and breaking a pole connector. My minimal staking efforts were improved upon as we reestablished base camp. Duct Tape and friendly neighbors to the rescue and we were back better than ever.
The biggest change this year for us were the tickets. Because the tickets we usually buy were sold out we were forced to purchase the more expensive VIP tickets if we were to camp as we had in previous years. But these tickets came with added features we quickly came to enjoy.
As VIPs - an almost humorous title in this neo-hippy egalitarian, if temporary, community - we had backstage passes that allowed us to eat, drink and hang out with the musicians. We also could sit on stage during the performances. Since the food was good and company pleasant, and there was SHADE, what was not to like?
Every year I have attended Floydfest I have had moments when I wonder why I was putting up with the obvious annoyances and irritations. I keep telling myself that I am getting to old for this. While the festival is very well organized, the site kept clean and attractive, and the attendees remarkably friendly and well-behaved, the long drive and camping out for three days can be a Challenge. Then, often when I am least expecting it, it all becomes worth it. Usually it is the music - live, fresh, inspiring. Sometimes it is just a seemingly random human act of kindness. It also can be the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains. Occasionally the music, people and setting all come together and the joy is almost overwhelming. My musical highlights...
RRE once again justified my devotion. I have heard them eight times now over the past two years. Tim especially seemed on fire Thursday night. Eddie From Ohio was just Too Much Fun; I need to hear them again. The Akoya Afrobeat Ensemble kept everyone rocking and smiling during the only rain shower of the festival. Jake Shimabukuro was just jaw-dropping. Who knew what a ukulele could do? I have never heard Donna the Buffalo play better. And Los Lobos just tore up the crowd Saturday night, justifing my opinion that they have been arguably the best American band over the past 25 years. Finally, Sunday morning gave me the Campbell Brothers sacred steel in the dance tent. Christian music this side of Bach never sounded as good to my ears. If I had heard a complete difference set of musicians I probably would have been just as satisfied.
Hot, tired, and a bit sunburned we left Sunday about mid-day. Floydfest 6 is just around the corner.