This is a joint post between aemandee and Island Girl. She wrote most of it so the aemandee contributions are in italics.
Aemandee and I set out on Thursday afternoon to go to this event that we had never heard of, in a town that we’d never been, to see some bands that we’ve never seen….all in the name of some good clean fun!!!
The pick-up from Manhattan was perfectly executed and the stop to pick up equipment also went very well. A few exits away from the destination we decided to get fueled up and sit down for a nice comfortable meal, for it might be our last good, warm meal of the weekend. The restaurant had us throw peanut shells on the ground and the people were ‘interesting’ (“Ever notice the further west you go the further south it seems…..”) Thank goodness, the food was delicious and the service stellar!! Logan’s Roadhouse. Who’d a thunk??
Now, for the real adventure…..We take a few wrong turns in backwoods PA but luckily only add about 15-20 minutes to the trip. When we finally pull up at Schuylkill Fairgrounds it’s like a scene from a zombie movie, it’s late and dark and here come all these ‘bodies’ shambling towards the car. What the freaking heck have we gotten ourselves into???!!! They were all lovely, we got checked in, tickets scanned and we got an escort by Pete to ‘base camp’ which winds up being a big muddy mess. I contemplate just sleeping in the car for the night because setting up a tent would be so ridiculous with all this water, but thankfully my travel companion says “hey, I think I’ll just set up my hammock for the night, regroup tomorrow”. OMG, what a most excellent idea! I have my hammock in the car at all times, and it pays off handsomely for this trip!! By the time I got into bed that night I had met a bunch of people, listened to some music by Starbird and got a really good vibe from the whole thing.
Friday morning wake up is tough. It’s cold and wet, there’s a river running through our camp. The hammocks get bunked, the galoshes are on and breakfast consists of two camper MREs (these things are actually pretty good-but right now the important thing is that they’re HOT). My birthday was a few days earlier and luckily the general store on site had the perfect gift, big rubber mud boots! Thanks, Island Girl for the best kind of gift; timely and useful! Festival promoters are trying to figure out if they are setting up the music indoors or out. (The rain is coming down, but not too heavy for now, there’s a covered stage and the sound guys have coverage too) We are hoping for the outdoor stage to be in use, we have the Wharf Rats table nearby and made a commitment (however informal it was) to man this table. This is the first time at SKoJ that there is any yellow balloon presence and we are not sure how we will be received, in the sense: will there be a need for meetings? are we going to run out of candy? what kind of sober turnout is there at this particular festival? Will we be invited back? We will find out. The table is setup stage right next to the general store and so we were prominent and got to hear all the bands.
The music is outdoors and the first band we get to see is Rivers. This is a three piece, a stand-up bass, djembe/cajon and fiddle/banjo. When they began my friend was like “uh, yeah. Not quite what I thought from soundcheck,” and I assured him that all would be well. The banjo hasn’t shown up yet!!!! Let me tell you, these very young dudes can jam!!! We will be seeing them again down the line, they are too young and too talented for them to disappear. There are a few other bands throughout the day, some I’m not so crazy about others I enjoy thoroughly, but for me, Haley Jane and the Primates are the headliners. This is how we even heard of this festival. (Thanks Haley, you didn’t disappoint!!!). Squaring the Circle from Baltimore was another great highlight of the day. I contacted my friends in Baltimore (the ones who introduced me to ELM) and they are excited I’m in the know. They opened their set with an instrumental Tears for Fears cover and it got better from there. We take walkabouts and check in with the vendors. There are a lot of vendors, I cannot believe that a festival this size can sustain themselves, never-mind the vendors. I would like to delve further into this, how DOES a festival make money? Anyway, not today……
Saturday morning, it looks like the day is going to be filled with sunshine 🌞 and what a treat it is. Everything I’m wearing is damp and covered in mud, First things first, let’s get cleaned up and get some fresh/dry clothes on. From there, I head over to the food vendors to fuel myself, stop by some of the artists to chat and make a couple of low-finance purchases and get ready for the music to start…….just a little something, one of the first bands of the day comes with a “This will probably be the best tuba all weekend”-it’s the only tuba, but it’s still super badass!! The Hoppin’ John Orchestra They were an amazing NoLa vibe and played the classic track Ruler of My Heart which I love deeply. From there we have another great band Kind Country (who will be everywhere soon. You heard it here first!). I think my buddy has the list, I can’t remember the rest of the music?! How could you miss the Jon Stickley Trio? Probably because they are interesting and talented but make a great background soundtrack to a busy show evening. The headliner Friday after HJP was the Monophonics. I got backstage but only got to listen a bit as I was catching up with the bands. The headliner Saturday was Project Object which features Zappa alum Denny Walley and Napoleon Murphy Brock. I got to hear Carolina Hardcore Ecstasy live next to fire dancers and wasn’t sure if it was really happening. Between this and last year’s performance by Ike Willis at Beardfest, I’m feeling like I am catching up on my missed Zappa opportunities.
So, I had mentioned the clean/sober fans of the music (Wharf Rats). The table was set up for the weekend to add ‘some traction in an otherwise slippery environment’, and to let people know who we are. I have worked the table at other venues, but I had such a different experience this time. Firstly, we didn’t have meetings scheduled. We had posted on social media in a few different forums that we would be at this event and so fans could let us know they were coming. Nobody came. Second, most of the people who came to the table were just genuinely happy for us and liked what we had going on (instead of trying to justify how much they use and why). The only purpose of the table is a safe place to go. We are not there to try to convert people or to tell them how to enjoy their show. There were two kids that stopped by asking what/who we were and when I told them they got so excited and just couldn’t believe that this existed! You see, the one boy’s brother is a recovering addict and they had considered bringing him with them but didn’t think this would be a safe environment for him. The friend asked for some literature and said ‘we need to spread the word about this!! People need to know about this’ let me tell you—THIS IS WHY I SLEPT IN A HAMMOCK UNDER THE TARP WEARING GALOSHES ALL WEEKEND…..these two made my weekend better than I could ever imagine. My heart just grew exponentially.0 likes