Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Roots and Blues 2013


 ... the osprey beside the main stage ...
The 21st Annual Roots and Blues Festival has come and gone. I am going to tell the truth about sitting on a tarp and watching the festival stage, all of the while, keeping the sky in my peripheral vision. To start the show from that perspective one would have to know that there is an active osprey nest built in the top of the telephone pole that services the sound system for the stage. “Did you see the osprey come through the air, the fish it had caught still flapping in its claws, and then the bird land in the nest to feed its young?” Any festival viewer who had been watching the nest at that point got double the value for the price of their ticket. At other times the osprey stood on the edge of the haphazard stick and mud of its home, overlooking the crowd below. When she had gone to fetch more food and the next was empty, little heads peaked up over the edge of it.
hardy festival goers -- Duncan and Ben

On this point of watching the sky, last week I had my eye on the fire above Cedarbrae on Bastion Mountain across from us. “You can see the helicopter dropping water,” Wyona had said, “if you look for something as small as a mosquito just above the fireline. Then a white line will seems to drop from no where. That is the water being dropped, and above it, is the helicopter. ” So, sitting at the folk festival, I was still tuned into the sound of the helicopters, different ones, and I could see them passing in front of mountains off to fight different fires.
Late in the evening I looked up at the sky again, this time to see a shooting star at a 45 degree angle, heading down toward the earth. I thought, I am pretty sure I am imaging this, since what I see could not be real. And if it is real, no one is going to believe me. They will think I am growing old and romanticising the magic of evening performances. When I was telling this to Wyona, she reminded me that it was August 17th, the day that the earth goes through the second part of an old comet tail – so yes, in Disneylike fashion shooting stars fell from the heavens as other stars showed their lesser brilliance on stage.

The Secwepemec Welcome
The festival begins at 11 am for regular patrons. Those who want to stake out their spot on the grass with a tarp and some low festival chairs are in the 7 am line-up, waiting for the gates to open. The weather was perfect both days until the heat of the sun drove all but the sun worshipers to find shade. Glen pointed to the back of the crowd and said, “Look – some people bring their large beach umbrellas and put them along the sides of the venue, creating their own shade. That is an idea for next year.”
 ...workshop with Shakura S'aida, Rita Chiarelli, and Fatoumata ...
I counted to see how many people did this. There were fourteen umbrella just at the Blues Stage. We just must be slow to catch on. “Why are you wearing black? That attracts heat,” a woman I didn’t know said to me. “Oh well, you look terrific anyway, so what does it matter.”

 She didn’t stay long enough for me to explain that my mission was to stay covered to my wrists and ankles and that this is the only outfit I hav hee. Any bit of skin was not covered was getting an application of 60 Sunscreen from me, the next layer applied as soon as the layer before ran off in beads of sweat.
Bruce Cockburn on the main stage
By 5 pm the air cooled off. By 7 pm I was putting on a jacket. By 9 pm I was pulling out a blanket for my legs. For me, anything would do. Twelve year old Ben said the second day, “I would like a blanket, but not the “Hello Kitty” one.” Yes, I don’t mind that one. After Day One of the festival all of our equipment has to be collapsed and packed home, ready for the next day.


 At midnight I took a festival chair on my back, another chair that I could carry in a case in my left arm and picked up 2 large bags of blankets with my right hand, heading back to the car. “Could I help you?” “No I am fine, thanks.” The woman who asked went on and then came back. “No. Really. I am going your way. Please let me help you.” “My party is behind me. I just struck out ahead and they will catch up,” I assured her. They did catch up. When Bonnie saw me she handed me a bucket of mini-donuts saying, “Could you carry this for me? You see to be carrying everything else.” This is only a rhetorical question, one that I probably have the answer to, but I might as well pose it ... what is wrong with my mind.

 ... early moon rise over Mount Ida ...
And now on other matters, I keep trying to articulate what is the charm of this festival. The fact that you can park within a 2 block walking radius of the main door? The most excellent price if one signs up for the early bird tickets? The fact that children 12 and under are free? Five music stages, 3 of which are always in performance? The setting – the festival tucked in a valley surrounded by verdant hills and a moist wind? The variety of singles, duos and larger bands? In the middle of a public park and across the road from the festival is a small Mexican take-out stand – Rosa’s. Bonnie and I walked across the street to get a fully loaded vegetarian taco and a drink for our supper. We could see the festival grounds a block away. The leaves of a gigantic weeping willow tree were rustling. I could hear the festival music – at just about the right number of decibels for me. “Next year, let’s just come and sit at Rosa’s, and listen to the music.” Bonnie laughed. The locals call the people who di that, poachers – people who walk their dogs, or just walk themselves around the perimeter of the park all day, listening to the music inside.

...  Corvus Corax ...
 Should we have done that, we would have missed seeing Corvus Corax, a band from Germany. They base their music on bagpipes, shawms, citterns, drums from all over the world and a giant hurdy-gurdy. They were large on theatrics dressing in anachronistic medieval costumes. I couldn’t take them seriously.

 Bruce Cockburn, Rita Chiarelli, Shakura S’Aida or Mighty Mo Rodgers were outstanding. Bonnie Wyora told me that the critique of Cockburn is that he doesn’t have much stage presence. I was mesmerized from the moment of the first note to the last.

 As you can tell, I didn’t get far from the CBC Blues Stakes. I heard Chiarelli do her song, “I would do anything for you,” in three different sets. When her three octave voice soars and then descends with all of that breath control – that is the price of the ticket right there. This morning I woke up humming that tune and then singing the words, so I guess the festival isn’t over for me. The Glen and Janet Pilling Family were at the festival (Jeremy, Sarah, David, Shawna, Connor, Julie). Baby Nowlan wore a pair of over-sized head sets to keep the sound down for him. His was one of the pictures flashed up on the big festival screen – so cute.
 ... Gandalf snoozing ...

They brought Caesar salad to stuff in pita for their supper – and they had bbq-ed eight chicken breasts for la piece de resistance. Janet said when she got it all together at the festival is when she remembered that the cold chicken was still at home. Rebecca, Bonnie and I were the recipients of their left-overs. Yum.

I may have fallen asleep during the festival. Sometimes laid right out on the ground. Sometimes just by dropping my head a bit as I listened to the music.  Rebecca told the boys that with the brown floppy hat I was wearing I looked like Gandalf. For some reason Duncan thought that gave him permission to call me Gandalf for the rest of the festival.

 Arta

 P.S. My favorite T-shirt motto from the festival: I’d love to have a battle with you, but you appear to be unarmed.

 Credits for the photos and captions go to Rebecca

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