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And off I went on Thursday night for my first festival of the season! I rolled solo. I’m always a bit nervous to break out the all the gear again, since the process is rusty. My fears materialized quickly:
About 90 minutes into the two hour ride, it was like I drove thru a “Vortex of Evil.” While driving out on I-78, doing 75 mph, a passing motorist gave me the frantic “something’s wrong” wave you never ever want to see. Turns out my bike had come loose from my bike rack and was dragging behind the van, only held on by the cable lock. I don’t know how long it was dragging, probably not very long, but it was like putting the bike on a giant sander. Fortunately all damage was contained to about $100 worth of accessories (Handlebar, seat, tire, and cargo rack all ground down about 2″) but the frame remained undamaged. Fortunately this was on my inexpensive festival bike, and not one of the “real” Mt bikes. (As I post this, the bike is already repaired…like it never happened!) When I pulled over, I smelled the strong smell of burning brake pads.
Once I got back on the road again, my van was pulling hard right due to a front right stuck brake caliper. Seemed to resolve itself for the rest of the trip. This is what happens when trucks sit unused all winter. (As I post this, the van has already been fixed…$475 later, new front brakes and calipers). Ok, now that that’s out of the way, the festival….
I’m now a season ticket holder for Jibberjazz’s festival series. This year will feature two festivals, spring (Some Kind of Jam) and fall (Meeting of the Minds). They’re not hosting the summer installment this year though (Mad Summer Meltdown). One of the perks of the season pass is that I’m invited to arrive for Thursday night’s preliminary festivities, which usually is an extra fee. Also gives me the choice of campsites. I keep taking the same quiet spot which is very near the stage, and in a small strip where there’s not too many neighbors. While I acknowledge that camping in more densely populated areas would lead to an improved social experience, the downside is the late night noise of drunkenness and idiocy. My choice spot is so quiet that I had several awesome nights of sleep. A rarity at most festivals!
The weather wasn’t the most cooperative, although Saturday afternoon was gorgeous. On and off rain all weekend led to the festival grounds being rather muddy and saturated. While a good percentage of the fairgrounds “downtown area” is paved, the main stage area is an open-air field, and it got muddy despite tons of hay being spread. Also some of the lower-lying lots were like pits of brownie mix, especially the RV lot. Fortunately this ain’t my first rodeo and I’m well-provisioned for this sort of thing. All the right wet/cold weather gear, boots, etc. There’s “one of everything” in my cargo van, so nature can throw a fit at me, and I mostly laugh at it.
There are many pole barn outbuildings to support the agricultural goings-on of normal fairground events. Festival goers are free to set up tents inside these pole barns, so many people were “High and Dry.” Seemed to be enough coverage for maybe 30% of the campers. The production was mostly un-influenced by the weather. The main stage acts kept on schedule. One act was cut short by a few minutes.
The other two stages were covered, so when active and raining, they became the better choice for music. The weather didn’t seem to impact attendance too much…there were people all over the place! What it did do was keep people from going to the stages as many people hung back at their camps where they can still hear the music clear as a bell.
As is always the case with Jibberjazz’s series, they go out of their way to attract “out of market” acts. Great bands from all over the US! (and even an Icelandic band this time)! Normally speaking, I gravitate towards festival lineups for known/favorite bands. But in this case, the lineup contains mostly bands I’ve never heard of before, which becomes a distinct advantage here. Huge Exposure to new music. While that can be hit or miss sometimes, some 75% of the music is really, really good to my weird ears. If I ever found myself not liking what I was listening to, I’d head to the other stage, walk around, interact, eat, hike, chill back at my campsite (where I could hear the music just fine!).
I should also mention that the band’s placement (Main, 2nd or 3rd stage) is in no way reflective of how much I enjoy them! My favorite bands of the weekend were found at a late night set on the 3rd stage (Octave Cats), and a dinner time set on the 2nd Stage (Ginada Pinatas), and well before the headliners on the Mainstage (The Jon Stickley Trio).
Saturday’s lineup was my favorite of the weekend. Just some stellar stuff going on, one band after the other. Favorites were Kind Country, Squaring the Circle, And You Do You! There were a few more that I liked, but I’m spacing on their names right now. With a damaged bike, I really wasn’t able to go on any epic rides in the area during the daytime before the music started. So I set off on foot, rolled through the various campgrounds, interacted with plenty of folks and vendors. Perhaps even more social actions on foot than I’d have on bike, since I’m forced to go slower. I even did some local hiking in and around the festival grounds. I was actually in “trail maintenance” mode for a bit.
At some point, I noticed how unkempt the main stage itself was: Crooked landscaping blocks, big piles of dead leaves and weeds everywhere. “Somebody should clean that mess up! Who wants to look at that all day?!” And then I realized that “somebody” ought to be me! So I did just that! I went to my van, got a rake, gloves, and a trash bag, and cleaned up the eyesore. Well, it made me feel productive anyway!
Rolling solo is an interesting personal experiment, and quite enjoyable from time to time. Not all the time, but once in a while. Obviously I’d prefer to attend festivals with my likeminded friends, which would be a huge boost to my enjoyment of the overall weekend. But that’s not always possible. When it’s not, I can’t pout about it and stay home. Back in the day, lack of “partners in crime” would’ve completely grounded me, but I learned long ago to go anyway!!
Now I look at it as a great adventure! I don’t let myself get all wrapped up in “Alone in a Crowd” feelings, which admittedly do come now and then. And I endure some boredom from time to time. But what I do like is that rolling solo pushes my comfort zone a little bit, forces me to be even more outgoing than I normally am. I find it to be a whole lot of fun to connect with some new people, or some old ones who I keep meeting over and over again. I actually enjoy the ability to turn corners without putting everything up for a committee vote. There’s a certain sense of freedom that comes from having zero responsibilities to your travel buddies. Anyway, a great start to the festival season. I’m already tuning up for the next one: 2 weeks from now!
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