As we drove into this year's 10KLF at about 1:30 in the afternoon, I thought we'd have to wait to get into our campground. We'd even gotten some subs to tide us over while we waited. Instead, we were the first car at the gate at that moment in time, no line, and not many people in the field at the entrance. We noticed that the Viking and Blue Ox campgrounds were empty.
I had wondered how high gas prices and the introduction of a new festival this year would affect attendance at all of the other festivals. And, it did. I was told that this year advanced ticket sales were down by 4,000.
It certainly wasn't due to the lineup this year. With acts like Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh, Michael Franti, and Flaming Lips, it was sure to draw fans. But I also saw more car pooling that I have ever seen, too. So, it had to be gas prices and the economy.
Nevertheless, fans were enthusiastic, even with the threat of imminent rain, which occurred in sprinkles all afternoon as campers set up. When Gold Standard and Comosapiens started things off at 6pm at the Barn Stage and the Saloon, it was starting to rain with some seriousness. I wondered how The New Primitives would fare at the open air Field Stage. While I gathered my gear to cover the evening events, Stan Kipper and his band mates were delving into the first songs of their set. By the second song, the rain had stopped and the sun came out. The band that is known to set the tone for this festival could even change the weather!
There were half hour breaks for outloading the band that had just finished playing and setting up the new band. While New Primitives broke down their instruments, the crowd flocked to the Barn Stage to catch the last bit of the Family Groove Company. Fans packed the hillside and spilled into benches surrounding the Saloon.
Papa Mali took the stage right after and cooked up some swamp rock, blues, and funk. The crowd just went nuts.
I caught the last bit of the Rhinestone Diplomats in the Saloon as I made my way to the Barn Stage to see Extra Golden. I was a bit concerned that this year security was limiting access to the Saloon. I realize that people shouldn't be served if they're underage, and there were two outdoor beer vendors around the Saloon, but many fans were turned away. The Saloon is also the venue for many regional unsigned bands that are popular among college students. The Rhinestone Diplomats had a handful of people watching them while they pumped out their signature blues rock. This band worked really hard.
That was equally true for Enchanted Ape that usually packs in a crowd. These bands looked so disappointed!
Extra Golden, though, was enjoying a good crowd who lapped up their African benga dance music like it was sweet wine. These guys really got into their music and fed off of the crowd. They played all of the songs from their latest album as well as a couple of older tunes.
Finishing out the night were Redux in the Saloon, the British hard bop/bugaloo rockers The New Mastersounds, and Dark Star Orchestra. Doing their Dead recreations, Dark Star drew everybody and made a fine closing out of the evening.
I went back early to a noisy campsite that kept me awake until 4 am when a thunderstorm drove campers into shelters. All in all, it was a great start to this year's 10,000 Lakes Festival