Do you know "Jerry Douglas" the great, if not the greatest lap steel guitar player? Click on his name, it will take you to a Wikipedia info page about him. You've probably heard him play in the last 40 or so years somewhere, you just just didn't realize it. Here's a photo I took this past weekend of Jerry (far right) playing with the Earls of Leicester. He does alot of solo stuff, too.
Everytime I hear a guitar I like, seems like Jerry Douglas' name is on it. So when a casual Internet search about Douglas led me to his upcoming April performance at the 29th annual Old Settler's Folk Festival, I pre-paid $230 to hear him and others for the 4-day event. I pre-paid another $60 to get a ticket for a limited number of car campers for four days. I've lived only 200 miles from Austin for the past 25 years, but I hadn't realized that this music festival was one of Texas' signature events. The festival includes acoustic jazz and blues, bluegrass, local favorites, and award-winning artists from around the world.
I've never spent more than $30 to hear live musicians, so this event was a purposeful "out of my comfort zone" event. I had read somewhere that seniors should do more "out of comfort zone" activities to keep their minds alert.
The festival started at 4 PM on Thursday so I arrived early at 1 PM to find a good "first come, first served" camping spot. Imagine my surprise when I arrived ready to pick and choose a prime spot, and saw this sea of RVs, tents, and trailers. There were orange painted lines for "no-parking zones" five-feet from the road so people could walk alongside busy traffic coming/going constantly, including the many school buses that transported folks to/fro band events and satellite parking lots. Behind those orange lines, there were no rules.
I'm not a safety Marshall, but the packed vehicles and tents looked like a hazard to me. Can you imagine if someone in the center needed an emergency exit?
I asked one RV'er what time he arrived (thinking maybe 6 AM?), and he said "Last week". He had rented a huge RV for this occasion, paid the week's camping fee, and continued to go to work in Austin. He said lots of folks did that every year. Wow I said silently under my breath, what had I gotten myself into? Luck was on my side. I found a nearly-level spot near the exit. I'm positively sure it was the last almost-level spot available.
Near the front door of my van was this badly leaking spigot, and in the distance I heard a goat bleating. I followed one of these 100-foot hoses to a splitter with three more 100-foot extensions, one of them dripping into a water bucket for a goat inside a wire fence (Billy Goat with horns, resident goat I was told later), and to several make-shift outdoor kitchens and outdoor showers. Guess I won't turn the leaky spigot off to conserve water . . . .
I read in the registration hand-out that folks were encouraged to bring splitters and 100-foot water hoses and electrical cords to share the limited number of outlets and spigots. Okey-dokey.
There were many creative vehicles and trailers and vans, too. I met and talked with other van-campers including a gasoline ProMaster couple from California. The crowd was primarily Texan, but perhaps 25 percent were from other states.
This school bus got my "grand prize" for unique.
The owner showed me his tailgate. It's a grill.
This bike got my vote for most unique bicycle.
I was kinda sorta getting the hang of being "out of my comfort zone". But, then I noticed a huge handpainted sign proclaiming "Quiet hours, 6 AM to Noon". Huh? I didn't even bring box wine to keep me awake until 10 PM, uh-oh. Was this festival a bunch of drunks who wanted quiet time during their hang-overs? Answer is "no", keep on reading . . . .
There were a surprising number of young parents with young kids. I had absolutely no complaints about any of the kids' behavior, amazing eh? In fact, maybe I've grown too cynical, but I was pleasantly surprised to see lots of kids playing like kids used to play 50 years ago . . . . . playing with hula hoops . . . .
and climbing trees, ignoring the safety officers' repeated warnings to stay out of the trees.
Now for the good part, the music! It included alot of fiddlers plus sax, trumpet, flute, and the usual guitars and banjos and drums of course. There were two outside amphitheater-type settings on Friday and Saturday where thousands of folks brought lawn chairs . . . . .
. . . . and there was a wood-structure pavilion at the campground where lawn chairs were prohibited simply because everyone wanted to be close to the band and dance.
This guy was one of many who just danced for himself everywhere.
I dislike crowds, but I have to admit, everyone at the festival was super friendly and talkative, and I loved the crowds! Especially when we were all dancing, singing, clapping, swaying, dancing the bunny-hop around the campground to Shinyribs and tapping toes non-stop. I've done my coyote howl in the privacy of my backyard, but the folks here at this festival taught me to break out of my private shell and howl with the best of them! I was howling and loving it!
If you want to understand my enthusiasm for this festival, I've included a youtube video of each of my favorite bands. There were 32 bands all-together during the 4-day festival! And if you ever tire of the musical simplicity and inane lyrics of today's pop music, these musicians will cleanse your palate.
The Brothers Comatose, described as punk bluegrass.
Band of Heathens, described as creating a roots-rock masterpiece.
The Accidentals, described in the schedule as "Playing 12 instruments between them, they will lighten your step and awaken your mind."
The Jitterbug Vipers, one of my favorites because I really wanted to learn how to do the Swing and Jitterbug with the folks who were dancing! Described as effervescent glee, and that's a guarantee you'll be smiling and bopping.
Lonesome River Band, a blend of country and progressive bluegrass.
Jerry Douglas and the Earls of Leicester "gives listeners a bat-outta-hell joyride in a vintage car."
The Del McCoury Band, fun to watch and hear.
The Hillbenders is fiddle-free but they're still spectacular.
HoneyHoney seems suspiciously so-so, but wow, she's another Linda Ronstadt.
Green River Ordinance serves up bonfire music and front porch fun!
The Deer is "lyrical, experiential and magnetic."
Della Mae brings a new groove to folk and bluegrass sound.
And my absolute very best favorite band was Shinyribs. The link I've given you here is his entire performance from last year. This time around, I think I'll watch this link tonight with a glass of Cabernet :)