Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A journey

Bonnie and Gil
C. grandparents were married for 65 years. His grandfather Gil, served in the Second World War as pilot, after deciding that he was getting off too easy by teaching skiing to the troops in the home front. The family lore has it that he flew over Germany 27 times, a feat not many pilots succeeded in and returned home safe and sound.

After the war Bonnie and Gil moved to remote Kodiak Island in Alaska, had five kids and raised them in a shack with blankets for windows and very few amenities. He was a bush pilot, a teller of tales, a man of many talents, part of a family of fiddlers from Kaustinen, a town in Finland known for its folk musicians. Together he and Bonnie built a life that required the kind of resilience and adventurous spirit us younger generations can only be in awe of.

Last Tuesday morning he passed away, lighting out for his final adventure and today we travel to Seattle to say our farewells. I hope to hear lots of good stories.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

These are the places you will always find me

And the band played on...
I disappeared for a while, huh? Packed up my suitcase, went on to Dear Bay, switched off the internets and didn't return for a week and a half.

I mean, obviously I came back from Whale Island after three long, sun-drenched days, relaxed and tanned, but those three days totally weaned me off, not just the internet, but most social contact.

In the middle of summer we get so bogged down with work, harvesting, putting stuff up, that Islanders start finishing their farewells with "See you in the Fall!" After spending all day smiling in the face of overwhelming lines of customers and chit-chatting about how quaint it is and how you really do live here year-round, the last thing I felt like in the evenings was more social interaction.

More than any off-Island sojourn, or vacation, this disconnect has been the most relaxing trip I could have taken. From here on out I plan to mete out my time online more carefully and have frequent technology-fasts. It is however, good to be home and wonderful to see all your beautiful faces. . But before we fasten ourselves too firmly to the present, let me take you on a little adventure.

Now what can I say about the Doe Bay Fest? (I can't full well hide the actual name of the festival, as into as I am not letting everyone know where on God's green earth we live. There are videos with the name on this damn post. Ah, well. Hello potential stalking weirdos!)
In the distance
Like I've mentioned before, the place is pure magic; a rustic resort with camping, yurts and cabins on a magnificent Salish Sea bay that's misty in the morning and sunny through the day. There's a cafe that serves wonderful, local and wild-crafted foods, hosts shows and movie-nights, lawn games, yoga, a garden where food for the restaurant is grown and even a little spa complete with a sauna and hot tubs. a garden where food for the restaurant is grown.

So the location alone, is pretty epic, but add to it hundreds of young PNW-ites and up-and-coming (or down-and-out ;) bands with a fervor and energy for their music and a full August Moon spotlighting it all from the sky and you've got something pretty darn special.

Witness this first night spontaneous sing-along on the bluff in front of the Otter Cove Stage. All amplified outdoor music at Doe Bay seizes at the very agreeable time of 10 PM, thanks to the super-tight noise ordinance in our dear, geriatric county, so in addition to the late night sessions at the yoga studio and the cafe, there was much impromptu music from the many musicians milling around. I loved this one and stayed for a few Bob Marley tunes, as well as a gut-wrenching rendition of Mad World from the ur-soundtrack of the 20-something generation. Kids these days.

The first official festival day unfolded in a glorious shroud of fog, as I rose at dawn, a bad habit I can't shake when camping. It did afford me a spectacular view and first dibs on the hot showers, sauna and breakfast at the cafe.
Inhabitants new and old
Before the band went on

The grounds looked beautiful and a little desolate that first dawn, but soon enough the bands started tuning their instruments and sleepy-eyed revelers emerged from their tents, possibly lured out by the smell of ever-flowing coffee at the Cafe.
In   tune
It took a long time for the fog to lift and while we waited for the first act of the day, Damien Jurado, to come on, we watched this young woman paddle around the bay.
Fog riderTo this island
Against the looming hump of the next mountain, she looked like a visitor from another time.
A lonesome traveler
Brother Frank?
Speaking of travellers from the past, that there on the side of the road is not a pair of the most ironic hipster-Amishers in town, but actually musician Frank Fairfield, a man who doesn't just emulate the olden days, but rather seems to live in them.
And since we're on the topic of hipsters, let's get something out of the way; Doe Bay Fest is a painfully hip event that kewl kids flock to from all over the West Coast. The crowd was young, impeccably dressed and often hard-achingly pretentious.

This is my poncho m*****f***ers!

On the whole though, most people are good people, if you give them the benefit of a doubt, no matter how immaculate their white denim overalls. Sure, there were some kids that were simply too cool for school or to talk to you, but most of folks were happy to recommend bands in the line for coffee, join you for impromptu breakfast at the empty seat in your table, invite you to do yoga at their tent encampment and let you sit on their 200 dollar picnic blanket.

Even the most pretentious hipster often has an unironic heart of gold and even the rest of them were perfectly tolerable. Well, except the ones who's poncho took on as much importance as their music.
The Totem Hipster Gods
And the ones who, instead of dancing, stand and nod with their arms crossed. Thankfully as the festival wore on, the totem gods of hipsterhood relaxed a little and even exuded genuine enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is, in my opinion, the true essence of youth.

And man, were they a beautiful bunch when they finally gave into it. People watching and trend-spotting ranked high among the pleasures of this festival for me. I tried to be vigilant and even catch a few pervasive trends on camera:
It's long and turquoise
The current cutting edge styles include, but are not limited to maxi dresses for ladies, in teal and turquoise especially. No inconvenient leg-shaving necessary and it's like wearing a nightie around, perfect for partying all night...
Fashion feet
Tom's and Saltwater sandals are the shoes of the moment along with those awkward lumberjack boots for the gents. Tom's might be the new Converse of the hipster universe. Which is likely to collapse in on itself at any given moment from sheer density.
Anything floral, lacy and flowing was passable for the ladies, but when in doubt, go for a hipster classic: cut-off jean shorts, some sort of feminine top and red lipstick.
Lace wing

Native Cardis
Native-inspired cardigans and super giant sweaters were all the rage. Especially the kind of giant ugly homeless grandpa sweaters that you can buy for a dime and a song from Value Villages everywhere. And ponchos. So. Many. Ponchos. Man ponchos. Woman ponchos. Small child ponchos.
Guys dressed either like lumberjacks, the Amish, crew members on the Calypso, or 50s hustlers after a night out (no dinner jackets). Or oddly enough, hipsters from 2006. That's right, my friends, The Trucker Cap is back. In fact any kind of head-wear is in. If you're not wearing a hat you might as well be naked.

Ugly things like mom shorts and ironic clothing are still very in. In fact the height of fashion might be an ironic poncho. With a trucker cap. I don't know. I think I might be too old.
Hat? Check. Poncho? Check. Plaid? Check.
Luckily I'm exactly the right age for the cutest accessory of the season: a kid. Apparently the hipster generation is multiplying and their kids were adorable. Just look at these little skinny-jeaned raggamuffins.
One of the many awesome things about Doe Bay Fest is the fact that it's super family friendly. I mean, you can rent an actual cabin with a bunch of other families, the kids can roam with each other and the parents sip IPAs while the keep one eye on their tykes and another on the band. Quiet hour for all is around 10 PM.

In the list of major festival trends, noise protection earmuffs for kiddos definitely rated pretty high.
Me when I was wee
With so many hipsters around, it got to be hard to take anything or anyone seriously. Take this girl-scout for instance: I totally thought that she was a super-ironic hipster with her shirt and ill-fitting jeans and un-hipstery glasses, until I discovered that she was actually making a sign for baked goods. Being surrounded by young, cool people can kinda skew your grasp on reality, it seems.
There was no doubt in my mind however who the coolest style icon was. I bet this girl's parents were wondering why I kept trying to take her picture. One awesome ensemble after another, she twirled around with complete lack of self-awareness wearing daisy-shaped fairy wings, giant bows, polka-dots and flowers, always happy and smiling. Now that is freakin' HIP!
Best Dressed Award
Hipster Heaven Golden Glow
Beyond the people watching, the two stages filled with bands, as well as the cafe and a yoga studio transformed into a super-sweaty club, there tons of other fun things to do.
Garden grounds
A tour of the gardens, complete with chickens.
What's up, chicken butt?
Ana's tent
Massages from wonderful body workers like my friend Ana. I kinda wish she hadn't been so popular so that I could have spent more time with her.
You are beautiful
A personal favorite, the busking station, where every morning around eight this young fella put on his best show, belting out everything from Johnny Cash, to Bob Dylan and back. I wish my computer was strong enough to post the video I took of him, 'cos I'm pretty sure we'll be hearing more from him in the not too distant future.
Sneaking steam
Oh the hot tubs. Nothing like watching the cold mists retreat from the warmth of a bubbling bath and no greater equalizer between people than a "clothing optional" bath and the love a hot shower on the third day of the festival.
a creek runs trough it
A creek runs right past the terrace where the hot tubs are, cascading in a little waterwal to the perfect swimming below.
Giant Sea Turtles
Can you imagine my surprise when I came upon this scene as I walked out of the tubs? Some strange guy floating in the creek like a murder victim or a newly baptized acolyte. I had to ask him to lay back into the freezing water so that I could take this picture and he actually obliged.
Baptism in the creek, or a body?
Turns out he grew up in the Islands and played base in Sera Cahoone's band, a totally nice guy, just like you'd expect and Island son to be. As we parted ways I promised to go check out the show.
Bath Deity
Not before I made and offering to the Bath Deity, of course.
On the hill
As it turned out, Sera Cahoone's was one of my favorite shows of the whole festival. The talented Seattle singer, had a powerful but gentle voice and a remarkable presence, in spite minor mishaps like, oh you know, a broken string.
Sera Cahoone
Can you tell that just moments earlier the guy in the nerd glasses and trucker hat was peacefully bathing in a creek? I know, right?
The Maldives took the main stage next and we thoroughly enjoyed seeing their awesome girl drummer in action. Two drummers is even better than one drummer, in my humble opinion.
Girl Drummers Rock
The Biggest Beard and The cleanest Carhartts in town...
The main stage area, had this absolutely divine light, sieved trough the forest. In its glow the field took on a totally ethereal look, with kids running around, endless blankets like colorful grass sprouting (blankets are very hip;) and dancing bodies making the scene like a shifting kaleidoscope.
Her Crown
Beneath Your Tree
Stranger Photos
Of all the seemingly infinite, incredibly varied acts, my favorite discovery was the afore-mentioned Frank Fairfield, something of a man of mystery, who plays acoustic guitar, banjo and old-fashioned fiddle acoustically and all by his lonesome.
And Violin
The 25-year-old wunderkind, actually had not a shred of pretention, but appeared wise beyond his years in every way, or perhaps old beyond this age.
And Guitar
The songs he plays don't just predate this current era of folk, but they begat it and are, in a way, essential to understanding where we are now. Far from being a mere anachronism though, Fairfield has a fearsome, almost possessed stage presence well-worth experiencing in person, if you get the chance.
Fair Field
We got to see him twice actually and the first time when he played the cafe, he more or less just walked in, set up his stuff and started playing, first gently and then more fiercely, with virtuous dexterity, banging his foot for rhythm until everyone in the room stood in stunned silence.
FF plays Banjo
He even had the lucidity of mind to discuss how some of the songs he sang from the reconstruction era were written by "Yankees who wrote fistful anthems about the South they had never seen. Most of these people were from the city, but they felt they needed to tap into something more real, places were folks still had connection to the land." Touche?

Seriously, make a point of going to see young Frank next time he's in town.

Dancing Girls and Boys
And the Island shook?
Like I mentioned before, once the initial stiffness wore off, the young folks were quite raptured by the music and mood and magic and seemed to throw themselves into it whole-heartedly, shaken their tushes and clapping their hands ecstatically. If you're in a band by the way, I can tell you that hand-claps and tambourines are very in. Just witness the Pickwick show below.
Field of dreams
None enraptured the crowds like Pickwick, a Seattle band that proclaimed that playing the main stage at Dear Bay had been their goal for this year and proceeded to play the most smile-inducing set of music I saw at the whole festival.
Craps game is hip? Or is it yatzi?
When we first heard Pickwick at the Cafe, I was not convinced at all, in spite the excitement of those in the know, I mean motown with hipsters, really? But after their main stage set, it was impossible not to join the hand-claps.

Pork pie
Feel the love

Revival atmosphere
This revival atmosphere could only be topped of by the headliners The Head And The Heart, a band I always thought was rather mediocre on record, but turned out to be phenomenal live.
In Tune

Just like hallelujah for the first time
A band that a mere year ago had played the tiny yoga studio, now took the main stage only to hear their songs sung back to them by a thousand admiring fans and you could tell how that felt for them.
Tiny Violin
You can totally see me in this video, taken from the opposite side of the stage, standing next to the tall guy, behind the lady with a baby on her back. I mean, you have to pretty much be me to know which of the blurs I am, but I'm there I swear...

More tambourine on this one
It was a show for the ages, not just because the two-year-old in the backpack in front of me kept clapping together her glow-stick bracelets to the beat (not mention gifting me with one) and the moon lit up all the merry faces like sea anemones turning to the light, but because it was the perfect ending to the weekend.
So meet me here, next summer? And bring a tambourine.
Meet me in Doe Bay