Featured Column: ImproviseSteal This Festival
There is nothing that warms my soul in the wintertime more than thoughts of musical fun in the hot summer sun. Hot cider laced with alcohol comes pretty close, or maybe a few Sammy's Smiths Winter Welcome Ales, but I digress. What I'm trying to say is, warmth inducing alcoholic beverages aside, I like to keep the warm summer spirit alive in my soul by thinking about the impending summer festival season. Sure, it seems like eons away right now, with many ice-coated months of pain, hardship, and toil in between, but soon we'll all be enjoying the revelry of the spring and summertime months. Summer festival thoughts keep me full of hope and light in the oftentimes depressing dark and cold winter months.
While the kiddies have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads this time of year (Do they really dream of sugarplums anymore? Does anyone even know what the hell a sugarplum is?), I dream of bands rocking out on sun-drenched stages and see visions of wookies dancing in my head. A really good dream would be of a wookie eating a dancing sugarplum, but again, I digress. Sorry. I’ve been thinking about what bands, what location, what size, etc. would make up my perfect fair weather music festival. After much thought (ok, not that much), I think I’ve a pretty good idea of what would make the perfect festival for me. If anyone agrees, has money and drive, and has vastly more attuned organizational skills than I could ever hope to possess, I implore you, STEAL THIS FESTIVAL. Here we go.
First off, the festival would have to be fairly small. This wouldn’t be a problem at my dream festival, however, because none of the bands that would be there would have hit it big yet. While I love seeing Phish, The Dead, The Allmans, and other bands that have made it big and can play the summer sheds or arenas, my ideal festival is an intimate affair. While "big shows" were about the only type of show I saw when I first started out seeing jambands, nowadays I much prefer an intimate show by a young hungry band any day of the week…unless, of course, that particular day of the week hosts a Pink Floyd reunion show or some other such incredulity.
So first of all, my festival would have an attendance cap of about 4000. I doubt that my line-up would even be able to entice 4000 fans, especially considering where and when I would want to hold this event, but we all must have some goals, right? The festival would be a two and a half day affair. It would start on Friday afternoon around noon, have a headliner and a late night show Friday and Saturday night, then there would be a few bands playing on Sunday, with the last one ending around 8:00pm. The event would be held in North Plains, OR at Bob Horning’s Hideout. This is just about the most perfect place for a festival that I have ever seen. There are rolling hills, intimate handmade stages, plentiful and shady camping spots, tasty food stands, organic micro-brews, and a big old lake right smack dab in the middle of the property which is chock full of trout. My festival would be in the summer when the weather in Oregon usually hovers around the 78-degree mark in the day and 60 or so at night. If there was some way to make sure that this was the only event happening in the Pacific Northwest over this particular weekend, that would be great. The heads in the Northwest are hardcore but demand is fairly small, so Phish or The Dead could not be playing close by on this particular weekend or we would be lucky to attract 2000 attendees.
As people drove onto the site, there would be nothing but the friendliest of greeters explaining the very simple entry process. Show your tickets, get a wristband, drive down and into the venue where multitudes of friendly folks show you where to park your car. There would be many red wagons and small carts scattered in the parking areas so folks could shlep their baggage from their cars to their campsites with them. Numerous trash receptacles, clearly labeled by recycling category, would be plentiful and accessible throughout the entire site…and they would be emptied regularly throughout the whole weekend, with no unsightly heaps and piles of bottles or cans ever materializing. There would also be a clearly marked and slightly secluded family camping area so partiers wouldn’t wake the kids at night and vice versa with the kids waking the partiers in the wee early morning hours. And because the vibe would be so heady and chill at this festival, both bottles and cans would be allowed. People would just have it together enough to clean up after themselves appropriately and show respect to others and for their surroundings. Port-a-johns would be emptied regularly, people would be friendly, and the sound systems would be clear and powerful at each of the two stages and the late night venue.
The best part would have to be the music. I’d like to have a high-power younger group of jambands at this festival. Almost like a pared down version of the original HORDE tour, the new young bands would be the core of this festival. Heck, even take some of the bands I’m about to list and do a tour like HORDE instead of a weekend festival in Oregon. Well, we could keep the Oregon festival, too. It would just be in addition to the tour.
Umphrey’s McGee would headline Friday and Saturday night playing two or three sets each evening from 8:00pm-12:30pm. Umphrey’s gets the headline spot because, well, they are just about my favorite young jamband right now. I love their vast array of musical styles that include metal, thrash, and rap influences, their humorous covers, impressive skills, quirky songwriting, and energetic stage presence. For a young band, they have an lengthy catalog of songs to choose from, each with its own distinct flavor. They’ve proven they can play to large audiences with confidence at well-attended summer festival sets and at packed theater shows on their home turf in the Midwest. I’m listening and downloading more Umphrey’s than any other band these days, and my festival would have these guys headlining on the main stage each night.
The gates would open at 8:00am on Friday so that people could get inside in time for the start of the music at 11:30am. There would be five daytime slots for bands, each lasting one and a half hours. Bands would alternate playing on two stages, the main stage and a side stage. Because of this, there would never be a lull in the music and each band would have a fairly sizeable chunk of time in which to play their set. There would be a late night show from 1:00am until the muse departs each night, as well. Also, bands would be encouraged to play small campground stealth sets during the daylight hours. In fact, the festival organizers would make sure there was a good power source near each band’s camping area so that they could set up a scaled down version of their stage set up and jam. Of course, volume levels would have to be at a fairly low, pre-agreed upon level. But this way the artists could intermingle and play with one another if they felt the urge and the attendees would have the chance to see the bands up close and personal in a unique setting.
The schedule for Friday would look like this:
11:30-1:00 – Dirty Dozen Brass Band (Main Stage)
1:00-2:30 Project/Object (Side Stage)
2:30-4:00 Perpetual Groove (Main Stage)
4:00-5:30 Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey (Side Stage)
5:30-7:00 Project Z (Main Stage)
8:00-12:30 Umphrey’s McGee (w/special guest Jimmy Herring on a few tunes)
1:00-?? Late Night w/ Garaj Mahal (and special guests including members of Umphrey’s McGee and Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey)
Saturday’s schedule would look like this:
11:30-1:00 Tea Leaf Green (Main Stage)
1:00-2:30 Vinyl (Side Stage)
2:30-4:00 The Big Wu (Main Stage)
4:00-5:30 Moonshine Still (Side Stage)
5:30-7:00 – Signal Path (Main Stage)
8:00-12:30 Umphrey’s McGee (w/ guest appearances from guitarist Josh Clark of Tea Leaf Green and guitarist David Shore of Moonshine Still)
1:00-?? Late night w/Raq (and special guests including members of Psychedelic Breakfast and Vinyl)And Sunday’s schedule would look something like this:
2:00-3:30 Bockman’s Euphio
3:30-5:00 Skerik’s Syncopated Taint Septet
5:00-6:30 Anders Osborne
6:30-8:00 Psychedelic Breakfast (w/special guest Skerik)You may have noticed the little break between the last short set and the headlining sets each night. That is so that everyone can at least have a little bit of downtime to eat if they really need to. And at the end of the weekend everyone would say their tearful goodbyes to friends old and new, while also making plans to come back again the following year. Since everyone had been responsible and cleaned up after themselves all weekend, the beautiful wooded hills at Horning’s would be pristine and beautiful for all to enjoy on their peaceful drive back to the harsh fluorescent light of reality. The small but profitable festival would run smoothly each year and the organizers would strive to keep a healthy relationship with the site owners as well as the local community and government. Now if only someone would actually steal this festival. That would be so sweet.