Little Folk September1-3, 2006
Trip Start Sep 01, 2006
1Trip End Sep 03, 2006
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I pulled away from the curb at five minutes until seven am on a clear, cool, Laredo morning. It would be another half-hour before the sun would come up over the horizon. By that time I was pulling away form then new Border Patrol checkpoint thirty miles out. Traffic was sparse at this early hour and my 1969 VW Campmobile was purring along happily at 60 miles per hour.
I only slowed down to cash a check at the bank in old Bandera, The Cowboy Capitol of the World. It was eleven am when I passed through the gate at the Quiet Valley Ranch and drove down to the lower meadow to set up camp. There was already a tarp staked down under Mark and Liz's tree on the corner. At least I hoped that it belonged to Mark and Liz when I pulled in to the last bit of shade and began to unload
I hoped to resolve my lack of tickets problem before I went to town for lunch, so I headed up towards the mixmaster. I immediately spotted my old friend Dan the Tireman on the porch of the security shack with Joe Montgomery holding a guitar. I parked the van and jumped out and gave Dan a hug listened to one of his stories before I informed him of my dilemma. He suggested that we walk over to the ticket shack and ask about them. We talked to a man named David and as expected, they weren't open yet and the will-call ticket boxes were still in the office. I stated that I would just as soon tickle a bear with a feather as knock on that door right now. Dan said something unprintable about a bobcat in a phone booth and I responded with something about a mountain lion and a handful of cockleburs and we had a good laugh about that.
David suggested that I go on into town and not worry about it. I did just that and enjoyed a big plate of enchiladas at El Sombrero de Jalisco before heading to Gibson's for their annual Sidewalk/Garage Sale.
I was able to get everything on my list at Gibson's, they have a bit of everything
When I arrived, the ticket was open for business and Michael Rubin was on duty and I told him that I had seen him play at Hippie Church a few weeks ago. My tickets were not in the will-call box so Michael advised me to park at VIP and talk to the man on duty there. There I was told to ask at the office, so I took a deep breath and knocked on the door. Surprisingly, I was greeted by relative calm.
John, the office manager, was sitting at his computer by the door and told me that he had talked with Joe Werner on the phone and was expecting me. Now I had a three-day ticket and only needed to walk to the ticket shack to turn it in and get a wristband. Having done that, I drove out the exit and back into the campground.
When I arrived back at camp, I saw that the tarp belonged to Robert, who was erecting his tent on top of it. He informed me that Mark was on his way and that Liz was coming out after school let out
"The Ballad Tree," I answered, "it's going to start in a couple of minutes."
"Who is hosting it?" he asked.
I looked in the program and said, "Caroline Aiken, let's go!"
We arrived on top of the hill just in time to see her begin her song to open the session and I'm glad we did. Bill Nash was next and Bryan Ashley Johns was after him. Bryan is also from Atlanta and a friend of Caroline's. He had a lady with him who sang and played the bull fiddle. They played a song about an abandoned baby that was given the name "Angel Evergreen" and whose burial was paid for by the sheriff who discovered the body. The man can really pick the guitar and I want to check out more of his music. Kevin So, who I had not seen in a long time was in attendance and played a jazzy tune about New York City. There was a young lady whose song I really liked and I should have been taking notes as there were other good songwriters whose names I can't remember
There weren't that many songwriters so they began a second round. Caroline asked Bryan to play a song with her, but he said that he wasn't in the right tuning. She said she'd wait, so Bryan walked a short distance away and got in tune. While that was going on, Caroline sang a tune acapella. When he returned they played a great song together. I should have been writing this stuff down.
After that I walked back down the hill to see if Mark had arrived and I hadn't been back for more than a few minutes when Sibyl pulled in from El Paso. We got all of her gear unloaded her tent set up. Once that was done, we hung around camp until it was time to her car out and that coincided with the time for the opening of the main stage gates so we took a blanket so we could reserve a place to sit. We were able to secure a spot on the front row and would continue to throughout the festival.
We walked back down to camp since we had almost an hour to kill and I got my camera bag and made up a big cup of hibiscus tea to carry with me. Coming and going we encountered many old friends that we only get to see during the festivals.
Neither us knew anything about Sahara Smith, the opening act that night
Tom Kimmel came on next and I'll have to admit that we went to the food pavilion and got some of Big Earl's bar-b-q and missed must of his set. We returned to our seats just in time to hear his last song. He would be onstage again with The Sherpas later in the evening.
2004 New Folk Winner Claudia Nygaard from Nashville was up next. Claudia is an energetic performer who plays over 150 festivals a year. She played songs that were touching like J.C. and funny songs like Dumped By a Dweeb.
Guy Forsyth, one of the founders of the Asylum Street Spankers followed Claudia. His set was very powerful and emotional. One of the many high points was When It All Comes Down from his new CD, Love Songs: For and Against.
The Sherpas ended the evening's main stageshow
We walked back to the campground drained and musically satisfied from all of the great performances of the evening. Sibyl called it a night, worn out from driving in from El Paso that day. I had been up since 5:30, but was determined to get out in the campground and hear more music. We could hear a sing-along, or more aptly put, a yell along from up at Camp Duct Tape. I wandered around stopping at a few camps before finally crashing out at almost 3am.
Saturday, September 2, 2006
I slept late, for me, Saturday morning and crawled out of the van around 9am
We planned on making the New Folk In-The-Round concert at 1pm at the Threadgill Theater. Sibyl spread a blanket on the front row for us while I got cleaned up. The show consisted of Gordy Quist, Idgy, Vaughan, Robert Frith, and Lisa Richards.
Once again, we walked to the mainstage at 6pm and secured a place on the first row, but it was a bit more difficult this time as there was a large group waiting for the gates to open and they took off running once the gates opened. Since the big festival, the sound has been too loud and sometimes distorted. This shouldn't be a problem since the same system has been used for about three years now. I heard complaints about the sound again at this festival, but since we were up front, the sound we heard was from the stage monitors and amplifiers and the sound was fine.
Walt Wilkin, who recently moved back to Texas after ten years of writing songs in Nashville opened the mainstage show
Dana Cooper and his band played songs from his newest CD Made of Mud including Woody Guthrie's Pretty Boy Floyd, the first cover song he has ever included on an album. His song Great Day in the Morning was another highlight of a fine set by a Kerrville veteran. I thought of many great mornings I've had on the ranch.
Michael Lille, 1993 New Folk Winner played Don't Have to Love You Anymore, a song that he wrote with Jimmy LaFave and is on his CD Suitable Disguise. At one point, he told a story about how he had gotten a Harley-Davidson and was attending motorcycle rallies. At night he would pull out his guitar, but the sensitive songwriter guy stuff he does just doesn't cut it with that crowd. So he learned Mars Bonfire's immortal biker anthem, Born To Be Wild and he played it for us. It actually works quite well with a solo acoustic guitar arrangement and the crowd loved it!
Multi-instrumentalist and 2002 New Folk winner ZoŽ Lewis wowed the crowd with her high-energy Breakfast in Bangkok from her latest CD Small is Tremendous
Tom Prasada-Rao was also aided by the expert rhythm section of Paul Pearcy and Freebo and Chris Rosser on piano and dotar, a traditional Indian stringed instrument, Kristin DeWitt and Patti Prasda-Rao and his wife Carrie Cooper on vocals.
Caroline Aiken's 2005 performance at Big Folk on this stage was rained out and we were anxiously awaiting her set. Caroline Aiken hit the stage with a big twelve-string guitar and played an instrumental number that was reminiscent of Leo Kottke. By the end of the song she was really strumming that guitar! Then she was joined by Kenny Edwards of the original Stone Ponies on guitar. This cat's discography looks like a who's who of Southern California country rock!
Caroline sat down at the piano and did a killer version of Elton John's Madman Across the Water that just blew everyone away!
It was already after one when we reached camp, but I went out to see what I could find in the campground. A huge crowd was a Camp Mixed Nuts as I walked by
Sunday, September, 3, 2006
Rising late once again,
We went into Kerrville for a wonderful lunch at the El Sombrero de Jalisco. The manager was nice enough to let Sibyl plug in her computer and charge up here batteries while we ate. From there we went to Hastings Books and Records and checked our emails and spent some money before heading back to the ranch.
The afternoon was spent hanging around camp and talking with friends. Charles came in from Houston for the afternoon and evening and it was good to have him around to mess with!
Tim Grimm was an actor with many movie and television credits who left Los Angeles and moved back to his native Indiana and bought a farm near where he grew up and has released four albums. The great Mark Stuart joined him on guitar for a few of his songs.
Sara Hickman, no stranger to this stage, was joined by Dirje Smith on cello, Kristen DeWitt on vocals and a fiddle player whose name I can't remember. Sara was energetic and funny as always and the string section was exceptional.
Pierce Pettis is not one of my favorite songwriters and I used his set as an opportunity to get something to eat. Sorry Pierce.
Stacey Earle and Mark Stuart played a stunning set featuring Stacey's songs and Mark's dazzling guitar playing. At times while accompanying Stacey, Mark would play only the bass strings and with his fingers pressing down on the strings from the top side. I'm not sure why he played that way, maybe because he can. Show-off!
Lucky Tomblin Band included some of the hottest pickers in Austin, all veterans of Nashville and Austin. Redd Volkaert and John X. Reed on electric guitars, Sarah Brown on bass, Bobby Arnold on rhythm guitar, Earl Poole Ball on piano, and Jon Hahn on drums. Redd is a truly amazing guitarist and a lot of fun to watch. He plays with a mind boggling dexterity that hard to believe considering that he has big thick fingers that look like fat links of sausage! Jon X. Reed is no slouch either when it comes to slinging out hot licks on the guitar. Sarah Brown has been part of the house band at Antone's for decades and has played with almost everyone! Earl Poole Ball played piano on what was perhaps the first country rock record ever, Safe at Home by Gram Parson's International Submarine Band and just about everyone who recorded in Nashville in the sixties and seventies. Each member of the band took turns singing old country standards with lots of hot breaks from the players. They returned for an encore featuring Earl Poole Ball singing Chuck Berry's You Never Can Tell.
We then went up onstage and joined hands and sang the festival anthem, Heal in the Wisdom led by Tom Prasada-Rao. We walked back to the campground drained of energy after such a rip-roaring closing act.
I hung out with Mark and Charles in camp for awhile listening to Mark's fine originals and a couple by one of our favorites, Terry Allen. I then wondered off and didn't find much going on, there was not a soul at Camp On This and down the hill and in the trees was pretty quiet, too. I decided to just call it a night. It had been a great festival, but there was no denying that it was just about over.
I packed up quickly the next morning and left for Castroville, stopping to see my brother and sister before going on home to Laredo.