Anyway, this weekend was the Old Songs folk festival. I think of Old Songs as "the festival that came after Fox Hollow", the formative festival that I grew up at, but I was reminded that this is the 29th year Old Songs has been running, far longer than Fox Hollow did, so it's become quite the tradition unto itself. A few impressions:
The highlight of Saturday evening's concert was, no real surprise, Christine Lavin. To my astonishment, she played "What Was I Thinking?", after having played it just a few hours earlier -- Christine rarely repeats herself that quickly, so I was puzzled. Turned out, though, that this was because the afternoon show had included a quickly written verse about Governor Mark Sanford, and some Republican in the crowd had taken her to task about it afterwards, and demanded a retraction. So in "apology", Christine played it again -- replacing the offending verse with her much funnier and nastier McCain/Palin "What Was He Thinking?" verse instead. Moral of the story: never piss off a folk singer, and *especially* never piss off Christine Lavin. She will smile that sweet grin of hers and proceed to gore every ox in your herd.
She followed this with "It's a Good Thing He Can't Read My Mind", and the new, frighteningly funny, dude's-view version of the song "Good Thing She Can't Read My Mind". After which, she proceeded to pull in the audience members who admitted to identifying with the song, resulting in a mammoth 30-some-odd backup band for "Sensitive New Age Guys". (Most of whom were folk singers themselves, so she got a backup band singing in harmony, no less.)
The last session we got to this weekend was a difficult choice. On the one hand, Jez Lowe was performing, and he's one of my favorites. But he was up against the silliest session with the best lineup of the weekend. The topic was, "How's the Weather?", and was, indeed, songs about weather. But it consisted of Michael Cooney; Cindy Mangsen and Steve Gillette; Christine Lavin; John Roberts and Tony Barrand; and Lou and Peter Berryman. It's fair to say we'd go to almost any workshop with that lineup: it was almost a who's-who of the best folk songwriters alive today, all of whom our family has been following for decades.
Anyway, the venue for that workshop appeared to be poorly chosen: it was the Dutch Barn, fully enclosed and ridiculously over-crowded. But 2/3 of the way through, it turned out to be the perfect spot: power for the entire town went out, putting out all amplification for the festival. So while most performances were suddenly hard to hear, we happened to be in the one place small enough for unamplified folk singers. (And having the power go out while they were in the middle of singing about lightning and hurricanes seemed oddly apt.)
Saw huge numbers of people I knew, many of whom I hadn't expected there, ranging from Dad Kay to Baron Sallamallah. The SCAdian crossover crowd was apparently enormous: I happened to be chatting with one member of Quintavia who I hadn't seen in ten years or so, and our conversational references to "Crown Tourney" caught the attention to two random passersby, who turned out to be members of Concordia. And then, while describing the encounter to msmemory in the clothing stand a few minutes later, the girl at the next rack perked up with, "The SCA? My boyfriend was in that!". We really do seem to be everywhere.
Wound up with a fair amount of shopping, of course, including rather too many CDs. I also bought two hats. First was a very cheap palm hat -- Old Songs is where I traditionally get my palm hats, because they are inexpensive and decently sturdy, so good value for the money. And then I got seduced by an absolutely beautiful leather hat, sort of a cowboy fedora. By no means free, but still an offer-you-can't-refuse price.
The big purchase, though, was less of an impulse buy: at the refurbished-instrument store, I bought a mandolin. It's an instrument I've been fascinated with for years: I think it sounds really lovely, and the neck is small enough that I believe it'll be easier for my small hands than a guitar. So I have a new toy for noodling and learning -- hopefully I will persist in it long enough to get halfway decent at it...