As I went off to bed Friday night, the weather turned very chilly and was beginning to settle in my head, foreshadowing a good head cold. And later in the night, our fellow campers had a fire pit going, whose some for some reason just that night seemed to sweep underneath our tent fly and fill my sinuses. I woke up achy and feeling like crap. As I stumbled toward my morning coffee, the sky was cloudy and threatened to rain. I talked with one of the recycling people and he said that though rain wasn't forecast, it wouldn't get warm, just up to the late 60s by dinner time. It didn't bode well for this old body. So, we pulled up stakes, but left our photographers who would not only document the day's events but would report back with their impressions.
As I visited with my son Scott and his lady, they said that the biggest thing they noted was a change in the crowd. Where the past few days had a lot of veteran festivalgoers and some newbies who came for the experience and the music, on Saturday there was an influx of Dave Matthews fans who didn't really care about any other acts but his. There were 5,000 Saturday-only tickets sold, pushing festival numbers closer to 18,000—not the pitiful report I had had been told previously. And a lot of these one-day ticket holders set up their chairs in the grass above the Main Stage or parked their bodies down on the concrete in front of the photo pit at the Main Stage and didn't move all day. Dave Matthews wouldn't show up until 8:30 that night, but they were there just after 12 noon!
These Mathews fans missed seeing Turbine, Honeyhoney, Evan Watson, Joe Pug, and Paper Bird in the Saloon Stage. They missed well-known singer/songwriters Todd Snider and Kathleen Edwards at the Barn Stage. And, they missed Tea Leaf Green's encore show at the Field Stage, not to mention Ozomatli's killer set there. The LA band mixed Afro-Latin, hip-hop, punk, and rock into a fine melange. They even did an upbeat version of a slow Amy Winehouse tune. My son Scott made this insight: “You know how I always thought that bands with choreography were lame. Well, these guys danced and jumped and sang. And, I thought, you know, it's part of these guys' individual cultures. And I finally got it. They were really good, and I had a great time with them, shooting in the pit.”
A big fan of Umphrey's McGee, who preceded Dave Matthews, Scott said that the band was back to its Anchor Drop days, the last album where Umphrey's did their genre-bending mixes, before they went off into techno outer-space. Well, members of Umphrey's still got to do that later at the Barn Stage after the fireworks as part of the North Indiana All Stars with trumpeter Willy Waldman. “They did a lot of short riffs strung together,” Scott said of Umphrey's Main Stage set.
Dave Matthews was good and did all of the crowd favorites. “But everybody was singing all of the words behind us in the photo pit that you couldn't hear Dave singing at all,” Scott said. “I finally could hear him when I went up into the grassy Concert Bowl.”
But the best act he saw of the entire festival was one I've heard many people comment on. It was Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings at the Field Stage. “She's the closest thing to James Brown I'll ever see,” he said. “It's old school. It was a great act with high energy. If James Brown was the Godfather of Soul, she is the Godmother of Soul for sure.”
Two other acts in the Saloon closed out the night. The first was that incredible singer/songwriter with the road-weary voice, William Elliott Whitmore, and the other is the bluegrass group Pert Near Sandstone.
One last comment that Scott made was about the new drummer from Garaj Mahal. “The drummer sings now,” Scott said. “He's the best drummer of the whole weekend.” A drummer himself, Scott is highly critical of other drummers and also highly inspired by them. In fact, he even lent his kit to Garaj Mahal's old drummer a few times when Scott's band opened for Garaj Mahal in Ft. Collins, CO. Scott was able to say Hey to the band and talked with their bass man who did remember some of those shows there--even though it was ten years ago.
Even though I did miss the final day---and I could kick myself for missing Ozomatli, I did catch Sharon Jones on Austin City Limits Saturday night. So, it was almost like seeing her at 10KLF. She does indeed give a great performance!
Plans are already in the works for next year's 10KLF. I don't know how much longer this body will let me camp on the grounds—and we did have some technical tent problems while we were there and will have to make some decisions about the tent and camping for next year. Still, my husband loves being able to see so many artists in one spot so close to home (just two hours away), and I do enjoy the people. For four or five days, I get to become a part of a festival community, rooted in the music, immersed in social and environmental politics, and practicing a way of life that looks out for each other.
Recently, a theater group in my town mounted a new version of Hair! and staged a Human BE-In as a publicity stunt. They got some speakers in, a local newgrass act, and got a bunch of bubble machines, some hulahoops, and did some tie-dying and macrame bracelet making. It felt contrived because none of these folks understood what all of that was about, even some of the Boomers who were in the audience.
I'd just come from 10KLF where people hulahooped to music, blew bubbles because they felt like it, tossed beach balls among strangers, wore festival clothes that weren't costumes, and danced their hearts out. And, they even participated in some social organizing like the Rex Jam. In previous years, audiences also heard about Rock the Vote from Leftover Salmon, organ donation from Phil Lesh, Rock the Earth environmental issues during the Everyone Orchestra, and had folks from Conscious Alliance and other charities accepting donations and food items. In fact one year, the festival purchased wind power certificates from Renewable Choice Energy to power everything from vendor and stage lights to the sound systems to the Soo Pass Ranch administrative buildings. So, 10KLF knows about real activism with music at its core.
I think seeing the theater Human BE-In made me realize that 10KLF is something that we in the region should fight to preserve because it is way more than the music but the music sustains the festival culture here. And, in this uncertain world, we really need this.