First of all, I can’t imagine a more beautiful setting for a festival. Maybe Homer has vistas as beautiful as Pagosa Springs, Colorado, but I’m certain it couldn’t muster up blue skies and eighty degrees. And if you think it sounds too hot, not to worry; the festival grounds are located in a Ponderosa pine forest. Shade and sun abound. Beyond the big, white, open-air tent that houses the stage, a panoramic view of the San Juan mountains acts as a frame for the entire scene.
Yesterday after setting up our tent we made our way to the meadow, spread out our blanket beneath one of those Ponderosas and enjoyed The Black Lillies, a country, rock, roots band out of Tennessee. For the next band up we moved into the tent (skin was turning pink on this pale Alaskan girl) and gave Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen a listen. Frank, an accomplished bluegrass and classical musician, has Alaska ties and in fact came to Homer for one of the Bearfoot Bluegrass camps that Dillon and Adella attended several years ago. The last band of the night kinda blew my socks off. The Infamous Stringdusters, a six man string band, put more energy into their performance than seemed humanly possible. They are young, they are cute and they rocked the house. They managed to stick to traditional bluegrass, add an element of jam-band magic and throw out some phenomenal solos to create something modern sounding, and incredibly fun. Thankfully they play a couple more times over the next couple of days.
Festival people know how to have a good time. And they take their festival set-ups seriously. I’ve seen a couple of camp arrangements that are more comfortable than my own home. Marla and I in comparison feel like little orphan girls. Our creature comforts include a back pack tent and a fleece blanket. This morning while the camp next door was frying bacon on their triple-tiered fold up camp kitchen unit, underneath their twenty foot shade tent, while sitting at their picnic table on their deluxe camp chairs next to their pop-up camper, we sat next to our rental car on a couple of rocks and ate our gluten-free sesame bars. I’m not complaining though. I’m happy to be here.
Most everyone here is friendly. We met some folks from New Mexico who welcomed us into their fold for a while to enjoy their chairs and the heat from their campfire. And they let us play a few old-time tunes with them as well. We also met someone who went to Alaska Fiddle Camp a few years ago. While we were chatting with him about Alaska two members from the band Hard Pressed out of Paonia, Colorado wandered past, turns out they were at last year’s Anchorage Folk Festival.
Most amazingly, the people here are strangely civilized. Last night the whole place was silent by about 1:00 AM. No fireworks, no loud parties, not even any music. I can’t imagine it will be that way again tonight, but who knows? Maybe Colorado people are more sane than Alaskans. What the quiet night meant for me was a good night’s sleep. I woke up well-rested and ready for another day of sun and phenomenal music. On today’s schedule we’ve got more of the Infamous Stringdusters, Crooked Still and Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder. Right now, at this very moment, I’m sipping my double-shot Americano on my blue fleece blanket, listening to Sweet Sunny South play old-time tunes. There’s not a cloud in sight.