TLDR: Gratitude Attitude and eventually highlights of RWRVII
So there is no Jammie awarded at RWR as the other half of DidWeJam is not represented. However, there are always highlights and we will get to those shortly. Right now, it’s the day after the festival ended (okay it’s way past that now, but it was when I started this ramble). I’m already back in my own bed. I’m clean and more importantly, I’m chilly. I’ve returned to the loving embrace of Karl and I couldn’t be happier about that.
I’m also extremely grateful for this life I have and for these people in my life that I call friends. I woke up this morning feeling a little emotional; I’m not sure why today but it’s all wrapped up in the gratitude thing. There’s no guarantee that you’ll have a tomorrow and I see that more every day. There’s the friend that you thought you would visit this summer on the drive up to Washington as you pass through Portland that you learn you won’t be seeing — ever again. There’s my cousin, Jamie, that I cannot believe is gone; Shovels and Rope announces a show at the Fillmore near my birthday and I’m immediately thinking of you. (Digression: I’m secretly considering this show a pretty even trade for the trip to Greece that appears to be postponed. Now I just gotta get to the Fillmore to get my ticket!)
And I could go on with my list of people I lost; we all could at a certain age… but what I really want to say is that I’m so grateful for Red Wings Roots and the connections that it has both re-established and the new connections that I’ve made. I feel like these connections become stronger because of this festival. It’s an annual ‘guarantee’ that I will see one of my former college roomies; that I will see her mom (who takes such good care of us when we come and invade her home with our camping stuff, some of which never leaves — yes, my thermarest now lives on the East Coast); that I will see her brother and his family (I still remember him from UD days when he would visit and trips to OCMD with the family; we were so young then); that now her sister (also a friend of mine) and our friend, Amy, will also make the trek across the country to join in the festivities; that I will see my new friends, like Burt and Eve (Burt and I met at Hayes Carll at RWRII — speaking of people that you should have come back to the festival, bring Hayes back!); and my WNRN birches, Susan and Rayn who became our friends at RWRIV when we arrived in a downpour on a Thursday night (just like this year) and began to set up our campsite in front of theirs. They say they knew we would be friends when they watched us throw up our Easy-Up, grab our chairs and some liquid refreshments and plant ourselves under the Easy-Up to await the end of the rain and watch others’ arrival antics. I’m still not sure what other people would have done. The fact that they ‘knew’ we would be friends didn’t stop them from later watching/judging/laughing at us as we erected our palatial tent (replaced this year by Big Agnes who is also palatial and has a welcome mat and a very sunny disposition — c’mon, she has a welcome mat!).
So I’m getting a little rambly here, but what I really want to say is that I appreciate the fact that I have a job that allows me to take an awful lot of vacation, that I have friends that I love and that love me in return (despite my quirks and flaws) and that I have a place to go to celebrate that love and that place that I go has all of this amazing energy and brings all of this fantastic music and these fantastic people together in such a beautiful space. Standing out in Natural Chimneys looking up at the almost full moon and seeing Jupiter glowing oh-so-brightly…. there really aren’t words, though I’m obviously trying.
So it’s a couple days later and I’m still feeling incredibly grateful, despite the fact that it was a tough week, work-wise. Every week seems to fit that description these days and I just have to remember that a contributing factor to the challenges is the amount of time that I like to not be working and that I love the flexibility that my job provides.
So this is a long-winded way of saying that I’m a lucky bitch and I know it and though I might complain, I know what I have. I count my blessings. I know there are no guarantees and I’m gonna live hard to make sure I take advantage of it while it’s here. And I’m gonna encourage each of you to do the same; within your means and your ability. Each day I deliberately think about one thing for which I am grateful. Today, it is Red Wing Roots.
And now for the complaining… boy was it hot! Chimney Ridge provided no shade in the am, nor did the main stages. The beer garden provided shade (and beer – I drank more this week than I have since SXSW; surprise! Also it turns out that I’m kind of a lightweight now, me = cheap date. One Hopwork Orange 🍊 did me pretty nicely for several hours. Two was all that I could handle in a day.).
So on Friday, I hadn’t acclimated and so I had to stay in the beer garden, venturing forward oh-so-briefly into the killer sun to see a few acts. But the visits were brief, just a little something to whet my appetite so that I’ll have to try even harder to see these bands in other places in the future.
Allison de Groot and Tatiana Hargreaves opened up the official festival and I definitely would have liked to hang with them and hear more of their songs cause what I heard I liked and could definitely be included in he ‘Fuck the Patriarchy’ playlist.
Then there were The Hollering Pines from Utah. I discovered them at a prior RWR but have not been able to see them again. And sadly, I could only handle a couple songs before I had to retreat to the protection of the beer garden blankets. It was good to see then again and I’ll continue to be hopeful that they’ll come to see me in SF one of these days.
Next up was Cedric Burnside but I just couldn’t. I saw him before and he’s not my jam; I think this probably coincided with my decision to have my first Hopwork. Mmmmm!
The Hush Kids were one of the bands that I wanted to see based on my pre-RWR Spotify listening preparation. The sun (my frequent frenemy) prevented much up-close and personal so will have to try again in the future.
The East Pointers sounded great from the beer garden and when I ventured forth to fulfill my pretzel mission, I stopped for a quick photo but that was the best that I could do.
Also isn’t the woman serving me my pretzel beautiful? Not only because she fed me, though it doesn’t take much…
Peter Rowan was up next and while I enjoyed him from the beer garden and I thought I would get a photo, instead I got my photo taken with Mandolin Orange. The sacrifices that I make. Thanks WNRN!
After the fan photo with Mandolin Orange, we darted over to Charley Crockett, who did not fail to impress. If you haven’t seen him, do yourself a favor and change this. He can dance. He can sing. He can play. His piano player also plays the accordion AND can play the trumpet at the same time he plays the piano. Swoon!
Then it was back to Mandolin Orange. I don’t even know what to say about Mandolin Orange. They always make me happy. I’ve previously said they saved my life the year that I discovered them at RWRII. In retrospect, I believe it was actually the amazing Adirondack chairs that saved my life, but Mandolin Orange certainly helped. Friday was Emily’s birthday so the audience sang Happy Birthday to Emily right before we waltzed about whiskey which many of you know is a favorite of mine.
The Lil’ Smokies were really good. I’m glad that I finally caught them and look forward to seeing them again when they return to my city by the bay.
While I was slightly disappointed in the lack of dancing By The Wood Brothers during their performance, I was *not* disappointed by their performance. Please keep inviting them back, RWR!
After The Wood Brothers, I found my remaining birches and we lined up for the trolley ride back to camp. And what a ride it was; I’ve definitely been trolleyed, even if I don’t have a shirt that says so! There is so much to say about this ride but let’s leave it with I had to hold a dude up by his belt loop to prevent him from falling into people or spilling his food onto people. He mistakenly took that as an invitation to follow us/me back to camp. Key word: mistakenly. We encouraged him to go find his own friends.
And then there was some discussion of highlights over snacks and beverages and then Day 1 was in the books.
Saturday started warm; every day started warm. Global warming is killing the music festival, a song that we are developing, practically wrote itself at RWR this year. Though the heat and humidity of RWR this year couldn’t hold a candle to Kate Wolf in 2017. And every other year that I went to KW; there’s a reason I stopped going to KWMF.
So musically Saturday started with Locust Honey and a little clogging. Quite enjoyable and then the bass player (John) left the stage and the fiddle player, Chloe, suggested that we join John under the tent at the Roots Stage next where she would be performing again. Since I previously saw Jordan Tice both on his own and as a part of Hawktail, I felt good about this decision and skipped Jordan’s performance.
John R Miller and the Engine Lights were a good time. Chloe was a great Engine Light; I would go see them again.
After they finished, I wandered around (probably scrounging food) and then ended up in front of the Cedric Watson Trio. It was HOT, but I stayed because they were FUN! Cedric says he’ll be playing in the Bay Area in the new year, so I’ll be looking for him.
Lula Wiles was a part of my RWRVII mission: a band I had been told about before RWR, but had not listened to or investigated in any way. They played under the Roots tent and while I felt like it took them a couple songs to get their groove, they got it and boy did I like them. They did a cover of Tom Petty’s ‘Stop Dragging My Heart Around’ that was amazing. Maybe I’ll post that video on our youTube channel. They also performed a new song that I really enjoyed called ‘It’s Cool. We’re Cool. Everything’s Cool.’ Can’t wait til they record it. I was gonna go buy merch and meet the band, but then I decided I needed to carry on with my adventures and go see the little ones that had come to visit us in the beer garden. Merch is still needed!
I stopped by to see the Lonely Heartstring Band who were fantastic, but mostly I listened to them from the beer garden and socialized and tried to stay cool.
Della Mae was way better than I remembered them and I’ll stop talking about their mom jeans and instead talk about how much I want to see them again. I wish it hadn’t been so hot cause I would have loved to be right up there with them, especially for this song they sang that I can’t find on Spotify (but I did find a video on YouTube). The lyrics are ‘If it hasn’t happened to you, it will happen to your sister. And if it hasn’t happen to her, it will happen to another. You are a headlight in this dark night. They might not believe you, but I do.’ It was some freaking powerful stuff. Their whole set was pretty powerful. I’m all about them now!
Feufollet was a part of the Cedric Watson Trio and they were also a good dancing time. Plus Cedric was in the audience dancing with us.
The Steel Wheels are a highlight for me because they only play the West Coast once a year if I’m lucky and I do think they are amazingly talented. I really would see them so much more if I could. Over they course of this weekend, they played their entire new album. It was the only purchase I made during the festival (besides food and a fan).
I didn’t go see The Fruit Bats. I was tired. I listened to them from the beer garden. I thought there was a woman singer, but halfway through the dude switched from singing in a falsetto. Fascinating!
I did stick around for Lucinda Williams. I’m glad that I did, but I won’t lie that I won’t pay to go see her again. As Susan and I discussed, watching her perform ‘Righteously’ with these super non-sexy hand and body movements was awkward and it was ever more awkward to have these tweens (maybe not even tweens) behind me singing and dancing along to lyrics ‘When you run your hand, All up and run it back down my leg, Get excited and bite my neck, Get me all worked up like that’. It felt wrong. That’s the best way I can describe it.
So the ride back up the hill was much less of an adventure since the trolley had been discontinued and we were now using golf carts to make the journey. Apparently this was not true for all of us, but it was for me and my late night crew.
After another evening of snacks, beverages and highlights, we retired only to be forced out of our tents early (some of us had to sleep next to the road on a blanket and hope that 3:00 didn’t come around and yell at us for having something other than a car ‘parked’ next to the road. There was some discussion of drawing wheels onto Amy, but we decided not to risk the wrath.)
Sunday is always my favorite day because it starts with the Gospel Set; it’s the best way to start the day. The Steel Wheels and friends, including The David Wax Museum, perform songs that they define as gospel and it totally works for me. Also during the gospel set, Lindsay Lou performed and almost knocked me off my feet. I’ve seen her before, but this was different. It’s like she’s come into her own and it made me really look forward to seeing her set later in the day (which I did not see).
This year, Sunday started with the WNRN breakfast where we got early access to the beer garden and free food from our friends at WNRN. I’m good with this change! Also WNRN might have saved my life this year when they gave away the bandana that were such a nice vehicle for ice and cold water. Here’s a pic of me with my life-saving bandana, reunioning with Burt.
After the gospel set, we had Dead Horses and boy do I love this duo. They are mellow and pretty and soft and oh-so-wonderful. I can’t recommend them enough and have been following them since I saw them open for Elephant Revival years ago!
Next up was Sean McConnell. I missed this story, but apparently he arrived without his band and without his equipment. I still enjoyed his set, so I’d see him again. He was a bit curmudgeonly and told people not to clap. I know another singer that I love who has scolded his audience for clapping and singing and he just announced a date in the Bay Area (Justin Townes Earle — November 1st at August Hall). I’d check Sean McConnell out again.
I was worried that I had talked up Birds of Chicago too much, but no… they brought it, just like they always do. My friends loved them. I loved them. I can’t wait to see them again. We got our picture taken with them afterwards (thanks again WNRN) and got to talk to them. Go see them if you haven’t. Really!!!! Please keep bringing them back RWR!!! They belong here. Their song ‘American Flowers’ brought me to tears (not for the first time, but I was still surprised).
Tim O’Brien seems a bit like a misogynist asshole. I might be wrong about that, but there were enough other things to do at the festival that didn’t involve watching him, so I didn’t and I didn’t feel a loss.
I was going to go check out Lindsay Lou, but the timing and location was a conflict with the Birds of Chicago photo op and additionally, the band playing at the Roots Stage (closer to photo op) had been recommended by Chuck and Judy. I thought I’d catch the end of Lindsay Lou and so I followed Susan to the Roots stage for Fireside Collective. I’m so glad I did because these boys were rocking!! In some ways (all stringed instruments and 5 young guys), they reminded me of The Brothers Comatose. They had the audience dancing and they were fun! We had to stop watching them so that we could go in for our photo op, but we could still hear them and they were a delight! I’m hoping they’ll make it to SF one of these days. Also, in case it wasn’t clear, I never made it to see Lindsay Lou and now I’m gonna have to make an effort to see her when she tours out here because she really was impressive both during the Gospel set and then during the Tribute set as well.
The Tribute Set was next and instead of tributing a person this year, they tributed an album by Tony Rice, Jerry Garcia and David Grisman called ‘The Pizza Tapes’. I thought it was an amazing tribute and I truly enjoyed the songs and the bands that performed them.
Though there is always a band after the Tribute Set, I rarely catch that band. So it was back to the beer garden for The Gibson Brothers, coming out at the end to catch the last songs and to catch The Steel Wheels come sing us home with Red Wing. We made our way back up to our camp (some of us singing Red Wing in our head all night) and used our new fire pit to burn the ‘wood’ we collected over the weekend. We did our best to finish everything in the cooler. I ate a lot of carrots but despite my carrot-eating, I’m pretty sure that next year I’m not going to be allowed to buy carrots.
And that’s my story about the festival. The highlights. The gratitude. The heat and humidity. The people and the friendships. The memories and so much laughter in such a beautiful setting! Yeah, I’ll be back again next year! Maybe I’ll see you there!