Monday, September 15, 2014

Campfire Music Festival

With all the stuff that's been happening around me lately, taking a mental trip back in time to two weeks ago, when I attended the Campfire Festival, has brought me back to my happy place.

So how was the inaugural festival? Let me put it this way: I was invited as a member of the media. If I'm not invited back next year, I'd gladly pay to go as a civilian. I'd love to give a shout-out to the staff for being so energetic and accommodating. (There weren't enough people from NYC requesting to take a shuttle directly to "camp," so somebody came to pick us up at the Scranton bus depot.)

Spirit Family Reunion This festival took place at a summer camp in the Poconos (as a matter of fact, parts of Wet Hot American Summer were filmed there.) The founder of the festival was a former camper and friends with the gentleman who now runs the place. As a result, the attendees (an intimate 700-ish of us) had full run of the campus -- cabins, the lake, paintball court, basketball courts, etc. etc. (Hopefully the rope course will be available next year.) But the festival also provided us "campers" with lanyard, beads, friendship bracelet threads, as well as other camp-like activities like a cabin spirit contest. (I didn't get to experience the last one...we camped in actual tents.)

Pat and the Hats playing by the boathouse. It was like something out of an Elvis movie.
There were three stages -- the main stage and a smaller acoustic stage alternated sets while there was a setup down by the waterfront. Sitting on the beach and watching New Hampshire-based Pat in the Hat kick out some good old-fashioned pop rock felt like another time and place. However, since most of the bands were not as well-known, people tended to pursue the camp-like activities during the day. I mostly watched the bands but the crows hardly topped 100 until the openers for the headliners came on.

All of the bands were from the Northeast -- while most of them were from New York City and Philly, I'd never heard of many of them since they're more clean-cut and friendly than the scoundrels who congregate around here. But by far the best lineup of the weekend was Friday's: Spirit Family Reunion, Amy Helm (who played a powerful Band-heavy set), Langhorne Slim, and, topping it off, an electrifying set from Charles Bradley.

Langhorne Slim harangues us like a country gospel church
This was my first Langhorne Slim set and it was everything I've ever wanted from a rock'n'roll show: beauty (both in terms of scenery and the music), self-love, joy, and even pain ("Song For Sid" broke my heart all over again.) I imagine this is what a young Fred LeBlanc was like. Slim's set was easily the best of the weekend. There'll be more about the show in an upcoming post.

The Black Rose of Soul struts his stuff
Now let's take a moment to talk about Charles Bradley. I had never heard of him before this but I guess you all are hepper than I am. Bradley released his first album in his 60s and has been lighting up stages ever since. While I didn't necessarily care for the music (the man's amazing but he unfortunately didn't take care of his voice) he's an incredible performer. He's got moves that'd make my teenage students sweet. I dunno -- he must be bionic. His elaborate costume changes and overall positive message bowled over the small crowd on Friday night.

The Delta Spirit, who I guess headlined the festival, played on Saturday night. Thirty minutes into the set I could barely stifle my yawns, so we played laser tag instead.

But the party didn't end after the headlining concerts. Impromptu sets sprung up in the cabins after hours, both with attendees who brought their guitars and performers who were soaking in the casual atmosphere. Campfire brought us back to rock'n'roll's roots: music to be shared and enjoyed without all of that bullshit posturing.

Though the rave reviews the festival has been getting will undoubtedly mean an increase in attendance, I hope the intimacy of this summer will remain. (I understand that the organizers were thinking of putting up a sponsored stage in the cabins but formalizing those sessions will kill what made them so great in the first place.) That all being said, I hope everyone reading this has a great school year because I can't wait to see you (again) this summer!

Campfire Outdoor Music Festival's Official Site