Volkswagen buses line up outside the gates of a wide grassy expanse, where barefoot girls in calico dresses whirl and hemp-clad guys kick around a hackey sack. Circles of people beating bongo drums or passing a joint dot the field, awaiting the next act.
A guitarist, drummer and occasionally a fiddle or mandolin player take the stage, bringing the audience to its feet. A cheer arises from the crowd as the first strains of the “jamband” tune float over dreadlocked heads.
No, the scene described above is not occurring at Woodstock in 1969 but will be popular at festivals around the country this summer.
Many innovative and eclectic bands join music festivals to play for thousands of people looking for a relaxing weekend of music. Highlights of the summer of 2002 will include Telluride Blue Grass Festival, Jam on the River, Gathering of the Vibes, Adirondack Mountain Music Festival and Bonnaroo in Tennessee.
Telluride Bluegrass Festival
The 29th Telluride Bluegrass Festival is scheduled for June 20- 23 in a canyon nestled in the heart of the San Juan Mountains in Telluride, Colo. Telluride’s first festival in 1974 included mostly Colorado bluegrass bands, but has since grown into a festival for crowds up to 10,000 a day.
“We typically don’t have huge headlines,” festival marketing representative Emily Voorhees said. “We have small bluegrass bands, not from the radio. It’s like a family.”
Returning regulars include Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, David Grisman, Peter Rowan, Sam Bush and Leftover Salmon. Voorhees said Ben Harper and Cake will provide a different sound at the primarily-bluegrass shows.
“Their music has the same sort of goal (as bluegrass), with a down to earth appeal instead of a mainstream sound found on the radio,” she said.
In the past Telluride has featured James Taylor, Shawn Colvin, the Indigo Girls, Lyle Lovett, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bonnie Raitt and The String Cheese Incident.
Voorhees said festival organizers like to give new and upcoming bands a chance to perform, and this year she thinks Yonder Mountain String Band “will be huge.”
Voorhees said with the success of roots music at this year’s Grammy awards, at which the bluegrass-themed “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack won best album, the festival will probably sell out.
Many festival-goers choose to camp overnight near or at the festival grounds and tickets for some camping areas have already sold out.
In a 2002 Telluride Bluegrass survey, 16 percent of attendees are between 18 and 25 years old, and more than one-fourth are over the age of 35.
The survey said more than half this year’s crowd will travel from outside Colorado to attend. Voorhees said many people meet through a message board on the Web site www.bluegrass.com and end up traveling to the festival together.
Voorhees reminds attendees to bring a tarp, a blanket or sheet to sit on. She said the tarps become part of the festival culture and organizers have received several letters about tarp experiences and tarp romances.
GW sophomore Jake Greenbaum said he plans on attending the Telluride festival with friends for the third time. He said he will fly to Denver and then “hitch rides” more than 350 miles to the festival grounds.
“The whole tarp thing is the best thing,” said Greenbaum. “You get there early in the morning and you put your tarp down and you leave all your stuff down there all day. People are respectful. People sit on your tarp while you’re not there, but when you get back they get up.”
Greenbaum said he’s met many people, from kids to professionals, sitting and talking on the tarps, but he said he is still waiting for his first tarp romance.
Gathering of the Vibes
In its seventh year, Gathering of the Vibes is a camping, arts and music festival that will take place July 4-7 in Danbury, Conn., about 20 miles southeast of Albany, N.Y.
Gathering of the Vibes will feature more improvisational music than popular. The festival was originally called Gathering of the Tribe and started in 1996 to honor Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead. Attendees are invited to pitch a tent or car camp for the weekend. Tickets are still available for the event through the Web site, gatheringofthevibes.com.
Tom Hays, president of Terrapin Presents, the festival’s producer, said several bands audition for just a few spots, but most of the bands return each year.
This year the festival will be featuring Phil Lesh and Friends, The Bomb Squad, Strangefolk, Les Claypool, Government Mule, Max Creek and Soulive.
Hays said the diverse and eclectic types of music bring all ages, but he expects to see an older crowd with Phil and Friends headlining than in past years.
Hays said about 25,000 people attended last year but this year they are reducing the number, and he expects to sell out in advance.
“We’re reducing the size to increase the intimacy over the weekend,” Hays said.
Last August, Terrapin Presents hosted The Summit, a three-day event which featured The String Cheese Incident and Jazz Mandolin Project among other bands.
Jam on the River
Every year tens of thousands of people attend Jam on the River at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia, part of a city initiative to boost tourism. The festival combines food, crafts, events and musicians and will be held May 25-27 for the seventeenth consecutive year. Past performers include James Brown and George Clinton.
Each day consists of an eight-hour festival for $15 in advance or $20 at the gate. Jam on the River this year will feature Ratdog, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Better than Ezra, Marva Wright, Marcia Ball, Pete Francis, Little Feat, Billy Bob Thornton, Pat Mcgee Band and local band K-floor.
There will be more than 50 food vendors cooking the best of Philadelphia and New Orleans cuisines, including classic Philly cheesesteaks and jambalaya.
Joe Cahn, founder of the New Orleans School of Cooking, will be around throughout the festival welcoming the “jammers” and sharing his food expertise.
Joe Brooks, vice president of operations, said the crowd will mostly be from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but the types of people are always diverse.
Bonnaroo, a first year festival taking place June 21- 23 in Manchester, Tenn., is completely sold out and no more tickets will be released.
Keller Williams & The String Cheese Incident, Trey Anastasio, Ben Harper and moe. are among bands scheduled to perform at a 500-acre farm about 60 miles southeast of Nashville, Tenn. Other acts will include Jurassic 5, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Widespread Panic and Government Mule.
Camping and parking will be available at the festival.
Adirondack Mountain Music Festival
Another first-year event called Adirondack Mountain Music Festival will be at Moose River Camp Ground in Lyonsdale, N.Y. June 7- 9.
Bands scheduled include Strangefolk, Max Creek, Deep Banana Blackout, Soulive and John Scofield. Tickets are still available through jambase.com.
Greenbaum said the main rule at festivals is to respect other festival attendees, staff, the local community and the bands. He said most importantly, festival-goers should get their tickets early or face bidding wars on E-bay and high prices for popular tickets.
Sophomore Erik Kintzel said he is lucky that he already bought a ticket for Bonnaroo but he would do anything to get into a concert that was sold out. He said he once jumped a barbed wire fence to get into a sold-out show.
Kintzel’s favorite aspect of festivals is the environment.
“The atmosphere is so relaxed, and everybody just gathers to forget all worries and have a good time,” Kintzel said.