Thursday, July 03, 2008

The mellow scene at Kate Wolf

The just finished 13th Kate Wolf Memorial Folk Festival may just have been the best one ever, despite the pall of smoke in the air, the result of the fire situation in Northern California, including Mendocino county where the festival is held.

Black Oak Ranch in Laytonville, home to several festivals over the course of the summer, provides a lovely venue, with a natural music bowl, a wooded riverside location, unlimited camping, and convenient location right off the main highway.

Besides the fire concerns, gas prices and the economy could have impacted attendance and enthusiasm, but both seemed to be more than healthy. I don't have any attendance figures, but I can tell you that the music bowl was filled on Saturday and Sunday nights. The most desirable Riverside camping was well gone before I arrived Friday afternoon, but my party was perfectly happy set up in the field, especially since I now have a good canopy.

If you don't know, the atmosphere at Kate Wolf is even more mellow than other California roots festivals. Lucy Kaplansky sang "Peace, Love and Understanding," and that is basically the operative philosophy. Smoke if you want, but do it under the tree. Swimming is clothing-optional at one end of the river, but be respectful of the family area.

Speaking of Kaplansky, a New York City singer songwriter, couldn't get over just how relaxed a scene it was. Ani DiFranco. who closed Kate Wolf as her second stop on a brief California swing after a Disneyland gig the night before, said she was relieved to be in a place where she heard the name of Utah Phillips all day.

The festival was dedicated to Phillips' memory after the festival regular recently passed away. Utah's spirit, as well as that of festival muse Kate Wolf, seemed to lend the weekend's proceedings with a deeper significance than just thousands of people sharing a musical experience on a beautiful California early summer weekend.

And if the overall experience was enjoyable, the festival's music program was divine. Everybody has their own taste. For me the highlights were the Aussie invasion (The Waifs and Greencards), the opening night pairing of Keb' Mo' and Taj Mahal, and the lovely duet set with Kaplansky and John Gorka. I'll write about all that and more in some subsequent posts.

No comments: