Last Year at the Folk Festival
Every year around the beginning of summer the Folk Fest stirs up something from deep within, a feeling that gets amplified with each passing week. I can tap into the feeling of the energy in the moments I experienced in the years before. It feels as if I bottled up all of the overflow of the festival as it was happening, and buried it within myself in a biodegradable container that had a shelf life of about 10 or 11 months before it started leaking. The holes start out small, spilling a drop or two of moments at a time. Eventually the bottle explodes and I find myself on a kayak paddling across the harbor between sailboats feeling the vibrations blast across the choppy waters and right into my soul. Each lap full of water is a right of passage, I consider them a gift in the sweltering heat that July often brings. The thermometer usually tips the mid 90’s by the end of July, and 2016 was no different. The drought had been transforming fresh New England air into hot, dry, & stale puffs rising from the scorched earth for the past few weeks. But alas, all of this vaporizes in the air when you’re standing in line waiting to get through the check point at Fort Adams once again.
The lineup for 2016’s fest was of particular interest for me, and the blend of genres & artists didn’t have any potential for disappointment. I’d been following a handful of these artists for years and getting to see them all against a backdrop of granite columns of Fort Adams is something worth writing about, even if I don’t have many words to put down onto the screen for this one. For some comedic relief & reliving the vibes of yesteryear there was Flight of the Concords on the Main Stage. To get that down to earth quintessential Folk Fest engine revving there was Langhorne Slim playing in the museum stage (the most underrated stage in my mind). Elvis Perkins was doing his best to help you remember why you like music in the first place. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats gained some new fans on the main stage bringing some serious energy to the grounds, forcefully making hands come together & getting the whole crowd roaring. Edward Sharp & The Magnetic Zeroes put on a show that anyone attending would not soon forget, spending a majority of the show wading through crowds of fans and keeping everyone on their toes. The music is happening all the time in every corner you wander into, and it really doesn’t get any better than that.
Finding the right blend of stages to place yourself at is usually the main challenge that I have with each festival. There’s usually great music going on at 4 different areas and they all overlap each other, leading you to have to make sacrifices & decisions as to how much of any particular set you can watch without missing someone else you are pining to hear. In 2016 the bonus challenge was how to stay hydrated at temperatures projected to be hovering around the 100 degree mark. The weather forecast was not calling for clouds of any substance, so refuge from the sun was going to be limited at best. The tents tend to be some of the most sought after seating in the fest, add to that a blazing hot sun & soaking wet humidity to further drive the demand for that kind of real estate. Hanging around close enough just to grab a little bit of that solace from the shadow of tall person or stealing the corner of the roof line can feel like everything when the sun is pummeling your skin. The music seems to be better the more you have to work for it, as with most things in life that are earned. If there was a front row seat waiting your arrival at every stage I think it would make the journey less rewarding if that makes any sense.
In my new goals to keeping posts & thoughts more concise, I’m going to let the images do the rest of the talking. Another year came and went, and it took me a year to write about it in the end. Reflecting is it’s own reward in many ways, as I got another chance to relive last years moments & captures once again before getting ready for what this year will bring. Once again, almost a tradition at this point, we find ourselves a few days out without tickets or a way to get in. That mention of earning the experience in the last paragraph has weight to it, and however it happens to wind up this year is the way it’s meant to be. I look forward to it.