(One of the joys of having no pets or children.)
This is exactly what my friend Meredith and I did two weeks ago, when we drove 464 miles from New Orleans to Live Oak, Florida for the Suwanee Springfest Bluegrass Festival. Far enough away to be in another world.
Peace out Gulf South!!!
I had never been to a bluegrass festival before, and never really heard bluegrass other than a “pickin’” night at a local bar.
Now, I’m an expert.
NO REALLY! ASK ME!!!
“Jenny, isn’t bluegrass music really just “hillbilly crap” with beat- up instruments and people who wear burlap sacks as pants?”
NO! NO, IT IS NOT!!!
I heard bluegrass bands that sounded like rock-n-roll bands, bluegrass bands that sounded like blues bands (and some songs that could have been from lost B-side Paul Simon albums.)
I heard bluegrass that sounded like jazz. Even a cover of a Louis Armstrong song.
Some bands had just two people playing, others that had 15 people playing.
Somewhere in the middle
I heard both “traditional” and “contemporary” bluegrass styles, with musicians of all ages.
I heard bands with funny lyrics about drinking moonshine and falling off bar stools (yesss) while others were purely instrumental.
This one guy even played a stand-up bass with a bow, making it, in my opinion, the Biggest Violin in the World.
(He also wore crazy pants)
Over the entire three days, I heard so much bluegrass that by the time I got back to the real world, I had the sound of a fiddle ringing in my ears.
No joke. I first noticed it the shower (the first shower I had taken after the dance-filled weekend) and was confused about why the water pressure had a distinct “duh nuh nuh nuh nuh nuh” fiddle sound.
(I actually peeked outside the shower curtain to make sure no one was....uh, playing a fiddle...while sitting on the toilet.)
Another thing I learned over that weekend is that you won’t meet a nicer group of people than those who camp out at a bluegrass festival.
You know how everyone gets all freaked out about angry, angst-y music like Insane Clown Posse and Marilyn Mason and OMG IT MAKES HIGH SCHOOLERS WANT TO BLOW UP THEIR OWN SCHOOLS?
Bluegrass is the opposite of that.
It reminded me of the age-old question: Do these people listen to bluegrass because they are happy? Or are they happy because they listen to bluegrass music?
Either way, Meredith and I reaped the benefits of everyone’s kindness as so:
1.) We made friends everywhere we went, including at the “country store” when we were buying ice, and we hung out with a group of guys all day, dancing and laughing.
(Perhaps our popularity was due to the fact that we both looked alike with our blonde hair, aviators and printed dresses.)
2.) We were invited back to someone’s campsite for dinner and ate the best catfish I’ve ever had. If I wasn’t half drunk when the guy explained how he was making it, I would have written down the instructions and kept it close to my chest.
3.) We were offered rides in people’s golf carts, and graciously took them.
4.) We were given free beer
and, most importantly,
5.) When I got lost after dark, alone, getting back to our campsite, a bearded guy with a Phish T-shirt helped me navigate so I wouldn’t have to sleep in a ditch. And he called me “darlin.”
I know this is nauseatingly pleasant, isn’t it? Well, allow me to tell you something that SUCKED about the weekend. Effing rain.
I’ve written before about how rain has ruined things (and I’m not sure I want to plan any more outdoor outings to Florida), but thankfully, Meredith and I fit into the mold of the happy bluegrass festival-goers, and made the most of it.
(It wasn’t that hard, really. We both subscribe to the “have music, will dance” attitude.)
In typical bluegrass-crowd-mentality, we told ourselves that man, the rain just makes it THAT much more awesome when the sun comes out, ya know?
So we had to take photos of ourselves in the sun.
The last day of a music festival is always a sad scene, when everyone packs up their tents and RVs and cars and goes back to the real world.
“It really is the saddest thing ever,” I said to Meredith as hungover hippies loaded up all their stuff and had to put shoes on.
But, alas, all good weekends must end, and even though we stayed for the very last band, we, too, had to pack up our car, put on shoes and leave the sanctuary of trees and lakes to get on the stupid interstate to go home.
Yet, right when the festival turned into a memory and the fiddle music faded from my ears, I got an email from someone I met that weekend.
It was a video of the Packaway Handle Band, whose members jumped off stage and played in the crowd, and I happened to be dancing in the front row (imagine that).
This guy thought I’d like to have a copy of the video and ended his email with, “have a great festival season!” (Kindness. TYPICAL.)
Immediately I was brought right back to the festival, to the pickin’ world where delicious catfish and kind people flow like wine.
(Ten bucks for anyone who can pick me out)
Now, if you will excuse me, have to go buy my ticket for next year.