The Inaugural Waterfront Festival

Article Contributed by June Reedy | Published on Thursday, May 20, 2010

The first ever Waterfront Music Festival & Camp Out took place May14th, 15th, and 16th, 2010.  After Winterfest on the Mountain in Nederland this past January, Waterfront was another first for Silverfox Productions. The Waterfront was a drenched example of exceeding expectations and putting on another fantastic festival.  Music from Head for the Hills, White Water Ramble, Wicked Messenger, Mountain Standard Time, Drew Emmitt, Bill Nershi’s Blue Planet, Pete Kartsounes, Greensky Bluegrass, and Cornmeal graced the one and only main stage. Spring conditions at the Poudre Canyon sprinkled the crowd with plenty of water and I began to see a pattern.  Water is a life giving force.  This was the season opener for the Mishawaka Amphitheater, giving life to the music, much like the American roots music chosen to be played that gave life to so many other forms and traditions we all celebrate today.

The Mishawka is an aesthetically pleasing venue, nestled in the Poudre Canyon outside of Fort Collins, CO.  The sound is big but the scene is not.  The capacity has fluxed over the years but I believe they cap the maximum capacity at right around 1,000 people at any given time.  It is truly a treat to be inside the doors of such a pristine environment.  Founded in 1914, a musician Walter S. Thompson writes in a journal entry about stumbling upon the land he envisioned this great homestead to be built upon.  He wrote, “A wonderful stream gushed from the mountainside and rippled like sweet music as it worked its way over the rocks onto the river.”

--Down by the riverside, gonna lay down my shield and sword, down by the riverside, sin’t gonna study war no more-- – Spiritual

The price of the 3 day pass included camping in the beautiful Poudre Canyon with buses provided by the Basics Fund to take festival goers up and down the hill.  The party bus rock n rolled back and forth on those curvy canyon roads all weekend.  The campsites were dubbed “mudfest” in a throwback to original Woodstock festival goers.  The weather began Friday night with serious cloudy conditions and rain steadily coming down but the watercolor picture of the weekend was transmuted and highlighted with banjos, dobros, mandos, guitars and good ole percussion.

Along with the rhythm of the rain was the rhythm going on between musicians.  In the spirit of water, they flowed along with one another and there was no shortage of guest spots and all star jams all weekend long.  Perhaps the best example of this was Wicked Messenger. Adam Aijala & Ben Kaufmann of Yonder Mountain String Band took the stage Saturday night, first in an all acoustic set.  They performed Bob Dylan tunes and welled up feelings inside me I haven’t felt for a long time. ¯Wicked Messenger from Eli he did come.¯ And truly, to critique this performance…¯My tongue it cannot speak but only flatter.¯ Then they returned to the stage with an electric set to flood the crowd and behold the notion that this was the thick of it.  This was where the pool gets to the deep end.  The entire band pushed the crowd like the tides of the oceans controlled by the moon.  All of Wicked Messenger includes: Adam Aijala (YMSB), Guitar; Tyler Grant (Emmitt /Nershi Band), Guitar; Ben Kaufmann (YMSB), Bass; Bill McKay (Leftover Salmon), Keyboard, Piano; Jay Elliott (Runaway Truck Ramp), Drums

Saturday night was a rager.

Behold a Sabbath Sunday at Waterfront Music festival.  The mood was too rowdy for reverent but there was that feeling of awe and worship in the air.  For one, the clouds had parted and the sun came out.  There were skirts, sunburns, and muddy covered skin.  Clothes that the campers were unable to wear all weekend were broke out in time for the last day of the festival.

As I went down in the river to pray 
Studying about that good ol' way 
And who shall wear the robe and crown? 

Good Lord show me the way--- - Alison Krauss

Doors opened at 1 pm on Sunday and the Springdale Quartet took the earliest slot.  The sun shined and the crowd was fluid and graceful between packing up campsites and just enjoying a leisurely Sunday morning.  By early evening when Mountain Standard Time took the stage, the passion began to abound and the concentration of the crowd was once again in center stage. If you don’t know what MST is capable of, well you weren’t lucky enough to see it at Waterfront.  Unfortunately their set only lasted a little over an hour.  MST’s mardi-grass party proved what they are capable of with a full evening ahead of them.  Like I said, this was a reverent rowdiness, all the artists were respectful and excited to be a part of the weekend, or so it appeared to me, being in the audience.

With the boisterous bubbles of fantastic bands lining up for the grand finale, next on stage was Cornmeal, bluegrass out of Chicago Illinois.  I’ve been lucky enough to see this high energy bluegrass, newgrass rock-a-jo band before.  This was Cornmeal’s and mine first time being up at the Mishawka venue.  Their genuine humbleness of the majestic river and mountain scenery was apparent and it really added to the performance.  If the performers are stoked to be on stage, it’s few and far between that the audience isn’t stoked to be dancing for ‘em.

Wavy Dave on the banjo really whirlpooled the energy.  His playing and his stage presence are pure as glacial snow melting.  His banjo might have been messing with me, but I was sure it mimicked some electronic bass beats at one point or another. His vocals have progressed and he projects all the while remaining conversational in tone.  His rendition of Paul Simon’s I Know What I Know is such a subdued rally cry as Allie, JP, Chris and Kris rally around him.  Truly, I think Wavy Dave can own that song.  It should now be referred to as I know what I know by Cornmeal in the style of Paul Simon.

From the hallows of the depths of the dark blue sea of porta potties, I swear I heard the sirens.  The sirens calling from the sea turned out to be the strings of Allie’s fiddle at Waterfront festival.  Her instrument called out to the crowd, made me realize that there has been 2 girls to grace the stage this weekend, Jessica Smith from Spring Creek Bluegrass Band and Allie Kral of CornmealDaniella Katzir from Magnolia Row was a part of the luminary audience. Why didn’t she get up on stage? Perhaps the only thing missing from this Kissed-by-Poseidon festival was more of the ladies to keep these bluegrassing fools at bay.

A perfectly poured drink of water, the Waterfront Music Festival is a family reunion I will look forward to again soon.

Check out more of June's photos from Watefront Music Festival.