Friday July 8, 2005. Weather, site, a little music, mainly a rant about the way Festival management deals with the site.
The site was a bog. The thunderstorms Thursday night dropped another couple of centimeters of moisture. It arrived during the last act, and a good part of the crowd hung on. I heard that Ricky Skaggs got about 5 songs into his act before the storm became too intense. A good part of the crowd headed out during the last tweener. The overall impact is that the mainstage field did not get too badly chewed up, but the exit path became a mudbowl, and other heavily used areas like the mainstage path, the backstage paths and LaCuisine – the area where the volunteers eat – were mudbowls.
Considering that the ground was already wet, it could have been worse. If the rain had started earlier, or carried on into Friday, it would have destroyed the mainstage field. However, considering the fact that the site was still wet on Wednesday and Thursday, and rain was forecast for Thursday afternoon, the festival was slow to react to the rain, and basically unprepared. Volunteers slogged through mud in LaCuisine for breakfast and lunch before straw was put down. Some gravel and wood chips went down in some public areas but major paths were churned into muck.
The fans have tolerated this for years. The Festival’s talking heads were chattering in the media about how the fans like adversity. The Festival has earned the respect and goodwill of its fans, but advertising unnecessary adversity as a virtue is dishonest. The Festival likes to see itself as small operation that can cut corners, but this is just plain abuse.
The weather Friday was hot, and the heat carried off some of the water. There was a lot of standing water at the start of the day, and it went down a lot. The fields, other than muddy areas, should start to dry off. I don’t start until 9 tonight, and I am planning to shop and cut the grass today, instead of sweating out a 32 degree humid day in the sun with my ass stuck in wet grass.
My shift was 1-5 and was spent along the Site West fences, and around the family area and the Record tent. It sounded pretty quiet, only one lost child, and a couple of video incidents. It sounded like Security admin were having fun dealing with a guy who likes to come on site and set up to sell stuff without getting a permit and paying his dues. Free enterprize, hippie style. Peace, love, and a quick profit.
I didn’t listen to a lot of music. I was out at the gate by the Green Ash stage and caught part of a banjo workshop and a flamenco workshop. Easy to listen to, nothing to catch the attention. Before I went on shift I heard Scots musician Tony McManus, who also had a tweener on the main stage later. I thought he was really good, although I didn’t give him my full attention.
I overhead part of workshop at Big Bluestem late in the afternoon. I heard Cara Luft sing one song. I have heard it before, when she used to sing with the Wailing Jennies. I heard Jackie Green sing one song. I don’t get the buzz about him.
The mainstage opener was electric blues guitarist Sue Foley. That had me running for cover – literally. I found a dry and quiet place in front of the Bur Oak stage, away from the crowd. The sound was decent. It made Foley’s wall of sound more bearable. What is with blues critics? Turn up the volume and they call the perfomer “scorching”. She is supposed to be good but that performance style alienates and intimidates. Jackie Greene had a mainstage set which confirmed my opinion – this guy is a lot like Martin Sexton. He has some strong talents, but he has calibrated the tastes of the audience and developed a pretty obviously calculated act. A little boogy-woogy piano, some light relationship numbers. Hard-working performer, clever. The Be Good Tanyas had a good act. Nice harmony singing, nice alt-country and blues numbers, a little swing. Confident entertainers, on their game.
I was running out of steam and not looking foward to sitting on a tarp in the mud so I left around 9:00 and passed on the rest of the mainstage. I would have liked to have stayed on for Dr. John, but I made my choice.