On Sunday I reluctantly peeled loose the vestiges of an amazing weekend: BurntWoodsStock’s lingering embers, the clinging lawn of its festival grounds, the ticket that traveled from my pockets into a memento collection as proof that I Was There.
M’lady and I spent about, oh, six hours among its Saturday denizens; sadly, we missed the Vicki Stevens Band by a few stray notes — we’d spied ‘em at the ‘Pooia some months back and the sound was so hot we feared for the building’s structural integrity (“We want that big room now!” they yelled, and you don’t get bigger than the blue above) — but had plenty of time to settle into grassy comfort for husband/wife duo Truckstop Honeymoon’s lively banter, spiced by banjo-basher Mike West’s drawlin’ lobs and upright bassist Katie Euliss’ deadpan assists. And the songs: dang. Curse my lack of a spiral/biro combo and overreliance on blissed-out sponge, but I particularly dug “Johnny & June,” “Accidentally” and “Your Mother Is a Sociopath,” which might be funny if it weren’t so true.
We caught three bands in all. Austin, Texas’ Jitterbug Vipers offered sultry shelter from the encroaching cold (despite vocalist Sarah Sharp’s need for a jacket), plucking hot-jazz standards from an august repertoire. “Follow us on Twitter!” they said. Hidy-hidy-hokay, you asked for it.
Alice DiMicele and her band were fantastic as always; by then the temperature had dipped so low that bassist Damian Erskine (Peter Erskine’s nephew) had to plunge his digits pockets-deep between songs. But their “The way to peace is simplicity” chant lasted long after they’d finished their set, shot back at ‘em from an encore-craving dark.
Emcee James Kasner kept the stage from getting too cold between acts, bringing out a didgeridoo player (something I hadn’t seen since that Soulfly gig in ’99) and, later, Yemaya, a bellydancer whose unspoken poetry mesmerized a mass of observers, all of whom clamored to get That Much Closer. We capped our evening with Willow Kasner and the Sol Fire Dancers, thankful for the entertainment, the captivation, the illumination and the warmth.
Warmth and love were in abundance that day. We witnessed the delighted wonder on a little girl’s face as her father repeatedly spun a hula hoop toward her, manipulating it to hesitate mid-journey, then roll back to him. Cofounders James and Julz Kasner expressed themselves to everyone in gratitude and embraces; it was almost a standard, yet genuine greeting.
James told me a story about the night before, when sound man Larry Aitken exclaimed during headliner Pigs on the Wing’s performance: “I’m mixing Pink Floyd!” “Oh, man,” James said, shaking his head, recalling Keeley St. Clair’s maximum belt-out during what was surely “The Great Gig in the Sky.” “She was awesome.” I hated myself for missing that, imagining how her voice must have carried unburdened by walls or ceilings. Meanwhile, the Luminaries loaded their van and aimed it toward L.A. We fist-bumped and I told them to look me up if they ever came this way again.
I wanted to write about them. I probably wanted to write about you. I wanted to write about everybody everywhere. Hop in a car with my brain on fire and go. I felt great that day, better than I had in months. My grind as a churnalist was on hold for a while. Deadlines waiting, squealing at home, went unanswered. Instead, I observed and absorbed. Watched the sun fall back in no particular hurry. Surrendered to the laid-back pace. I could have lived like that forever.
Inspiration danced wherever you turned, from the chalkboard walls planted about to the atmosphere itself. Bodies capitulated to the call of the beat. Painted children hooted, lost in wild play. Toddlers tromped through nightfall, bedecked in wings, waving wands of traveling light, casting their quiet magic. Together they built a beautiful place, a verdant village of music and joy.