Sunday, August 20, 2006

Folks Festival - Rain or Shine

Yesterday, I had the wisdom to get up early and drive for an hour in the pouring rain to attend an outdoor music festival. Thankfully, the 16th annual Folks Festival in Lyons was worth every drop.

Being solo does have its advantages, especially when it comes to entertainment venues. Sure enough, I weaseled my soggy butt onto a choice sliver of muddy grass and made friends with the neighbors immediately – a group of about seven lesbians and one straight man named Gary. "I'm an island in a sea of ovum," he said.

I showed up during the set of Kathrin Shorr, a lovely Londoner who taught herself after finding an old guitar in her father's clock shop. As a struggling guitar student, I gotta hand it to her – I can barely get it out of the case by myself.

The next guy blew me away. Steve Seskin, a prolific songwriter, won me over with his first song, "Two-Paper Town" which talked about the lack of news choices and biased news reporting. The liner notes of his CD stated: "I'm disturbed by the notion that our country is starting to look all the same and that slowly but surely, the uniqueness of the different regions of this great land are disappearing." Gotta love Steve.

Elvis Perkins in Dearland came next. As the son of the late actor Anthony Perkins, the guy is a gifted poet. Sadly, Elvis also lost his mother on 9/11 (she was on the one of the planes) so he's got plenty of angst to pull from. He did just that but he also offered a few lively ditties, punched up by his band, one of whom happily beat on a drum strapped to his chest. "He was definitely the rebel in the high school marching band," Gary decided.

One of my favorite artists, Jane Siberry, was up next, except she now goes by the name of Issa. (I don't get it and apparently, am not supposed to.) She started off a bit too ethereal for the crowd, with recordings of birds, she did a spoken-word thing, talking about rivers and fairies and whatnot. "Yipes," said a neighboring lesbian. Eventually, she won everyone over with her quirky songs, admitted lack of rhythm and also the tidbit that she'd recently sold everything she owned except what she can carry. She's a unique Canadian jewel, that one.

In between all these sets, I walked around the festival and quickly got drunk on various flavors of mead (simply because there was no line) – black raspberry, boysenberry and sunshine/apricot. A darling young man named Quail (!) preached to me the wonders of wind power while I pondered why hemp clothing must always be so damn ugly.

I munched on sweet potato fries, wrote in my journal (it's been neglected since the blog was born) and read. Meanwhile, the rain came, went, came back and went away again. During one of the downpours, I snuck a cigarette under a tree with a woman who had just moved to Colorado from Utah. "It was time," she said. When she heard my story, she gave me her lighter for good luck.

One of my favorite musicians of all time, Guy Clark, came on next, accompanied by his talented friend, Verlyn Thompson. I love Guy and have seen him before but he seemed a bit weary this time, perhaps it was the altitude. (Most of the artists commented on it. Kris Kristofferson said: "Who took all the air?") Anyway, he played some favorites ("Old Friends," and "Homegrown Tomatoes")plus some tunes from his new album, "Workbench Songs." Fittingly, it began raining again during "Randall Knife," a song about his father's death. Oh, how I love that man - he's like 'Pa' on 'Bonanza' - you just feel safer when he's around.

Kathleen Edwards followed Guy and I'm not sure if it was her soothing voice or the mead but I passed out. I'm sure she's great but honestly, I can't confirm this.

I awoke to the roof-raising antics of The Waifs. Comprised of two Australian sisters and bunch of guys, this band rocked the house. One minute, it was a haunting solo acapella and the next, it sounded like some rock-roots circus had come to town. By far, they gave the best performance of the day. Impossible to sleep through, that's for sure.

At this point, the sun made a final appearance and really lit up the red cliffs and the bright green trees. Lordie, it was spectacular. Yet again, the reality of living in Colorado cheered me up immensely. Hearing one artist after another comment on the state's beauty made me so proud. Jane/Issa said, "If you live here, you are so lucky. You must feel different; your cells must look different. Please, go out in the world and spread this around. Go sit in train stations and such. Please."

Last but not least, Kris Kristofferson – the headliner of the day – made it out. I'd been forewarned about his onstage awkwardness by Fang and KK didn't stray from that. Though he is a phenomenal songwriter and his singing voice is full of gritty sincerity, his guitar playing is minimal, at best. At first, he wouldn't look at us or speak, except when abruptly ending his songs (each and every time) with a mumbled, "Thank you."

The audience found this charming, as did I. The Pilgrim is a legend and so obviously humbled by life circumstances, he is real. Gradually, after getting overwhelming love from the crowd, he began to relax and tell us stories - about being in the Army and then the National Guard, about being broke, about getting feedback from his kids. (His five-year-old son, "Um, dad, that's not a very good song.") So often he tips his hat to other musicians, citing them by name is a KK trait - Hank Williams and Roger Miller get the most love but Johnny and Willie show up too. (His song, "Wild American" is a perfect example of this.)

By the end of the evening, the crowd was on their feet. We had been there for 12 hours and now stood under the stars, wet and freezing, and hanging on every word of KK. I knew there was a barnstormer of a song coming, the words so clear and painful, that no one would be unaffected. Sure enough, "In the News" cut right to the bone and brought home the power of music – the reason we all showed up in the first place:

Read about the sorry the way he'd done somebody's daughter
Chained her to a heavy thing and threw her in the water
She sank into the darkness with their baby son inside her
A little piece of truth and beauty died

Burning the atmosphere and cutting down the trees,
The billion-dollar bombing of a nation on their knees
Anyone not marching to their tune, they call it treason
Everyone says God is on his side

See the lightening, hear the cries
Of the wounded in a world in holy war
Mortal thunder from the skies
Killing everything they say their fighting for

Broken babies, broken homes
Broken-hearted people dying every day
How'd this happen?
What went wrong?
Don't blame God, I swear to God, I heard him say:

Not in my name, not on my ground
I want nothing but the ending of the war
No more killing
Or it's over
And the mystery won't matter anymore

Broken dreamers, broken rules
Broken-hearted people just like me and you
We are children of the stars
Don't blame God, I swear to God, he's crying too

Not in my name, not on my ground
I want nothing but the ending of the war
No more killing or it's over
And the mystery won't matter anymore

Read about the sorry way he'd done somebody's daughter
Chained her to a heavy thing and threw her in the water
And she sank into the darkness with their baby son inside her
A little piece of truth and beauty died


hotdrwife said...

Grew up listening to Guy Clark. I have his recoreds (wow) in storage ...

Oh, and I love Kathleen Edwards! Specifically her song "Hockey Skates".

Sounds like you had a great time.

Rosie said...

I LOVE THIS PLACE!!!! Cheese-alert, but it is very dear to my heart.

(I love Kathleen Edwards too.)