Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Pickin,’ not drinkin

If you’re wondering if a three-day bluegrass music festival is still fun even if you’ve given up alcohol for Lent, the answer is YES!

In fact, it’s a totally different experience when you remember everything!!  

What a concept!!

Two weekends ago, my friend Meredith and I made our annual trip to Live Oak, Florida, for Suwannee Springfest, the perfect little music festival tucked away in a gorgeous park called Spirit of the Suwannee.

The thing I love most about this music festival is that every year, it’s the same.

Growing up, my family always vacationed at the same cabin in a Mississippi state park and I always found comfort in the fact that no matter how much my life had changed over the year, the place was always the same.

It looked the same, it smelled the same. It was like time had never passed.  

That’s how I feel about Springfest. The same park, the same stages, the same vendors, the same hammocks, the same large oak trees that we camp under - it was all the same, even though Meredith and I both made major life changes since Springfest 2013.

Most notably, we made the drive from South Carolina this year rather than New Orleans, after we each moved back to the east coast in late 2013.

(On our way back home, I even paused for a second at the Interstate 10 junction, debating whether to go east or west.)

NOT the same this year???

THE SUN!!!!!!

If you may remember, (here and here) the last two years have included torrential downpour rain on the bill.

This year, however, I did a double take at the forecast: 81 degrees and sunny???!!



     “whitey” (a portrait.)

The perfect weather for a beer!


I don’t think there’s any other genre of music as “spring” as bluegrass.  For one thing, STRING rhymes with SPRING.

Secondly, it’s a happy, upbeat genre of music that includes instruments far, far, far removed from the songs you hear on the radio.

I actually heard the slap of someone’s palm on a stand-up bass.

I counted the number of octaves a mandolin can span (not really, I just noticed for the first time.)

I fell in love with Sam Bush! (And his T-shirt)

Sam Bush was my favorite performer from the weekend. He’s a long-standing bluegrass legend and I soaked in all his talent while hearing the details of his biography and discography from the guy who was dancing next to me.

“Man, you need a LESSON on THIS MAN!” the guy told me when I admitted I was a new blue-grasser.

I was also new to the bat house.


Apparently, not everyone wants to get rid of bats (just the people at the Mississippi State Park, haha)

No, this park has an actual bat REFUGE!

A bona fide BAT HOUSE 50 feet high where the bats live during the daytime and probably where they make MORE bats.

We were told that every day at dusk all the bats wake up and all fly out of the wooden house and it’s a crazy sight with hundreds and hundreds of bats.

“Watch out, they’ll pee on you,” a nice lady warned.

At dusk, we walked over. A crowd of more than 50 people were already there, some holding umbrellas.

And then, at no particular time, the bats’ internal clock went off and they all decided it was time to leave and swarmed out of the house in perfect synch.

Small children shrieked.


It was hard to wrap my mind around it.

And then, a droplet fell onto my right cheek and I realized that a bat had peed on my face.


It was the perfect time for a beer.


(Now that I think about it, I should have worked my brush with nature into a bluegrass song.)

Because the absolute best thing each year about this music festival, the thing that makes it so special, is that the attendees themselves are musicians, big and small.

After the bands are over and everyone has retreated to their campsites, impromptu “pickin” happens. In some cases, it's even better than the acts on stage.

(Cue yearly reminder to learn how to play the fiddle.)

While in year’s past, I was able to sit around in a circle and hum along, this year, thanks to my new “I’M SOBER I GET TIRED AT 12:30 a.m.” way of life, I was able to fall asleep to the sweet pickin’ sounds just 20 feet away from my tent.

Screw white noise!! THIS is relaxation.

Strumming guitars, melodic voices, the tinkering of a banjo.

The crisp, clear spring night air.
Tucked under the oak trees.

At that moment, I craved nothing more.

Not even a beer.


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