Monday, September 3, 2012
Muddy Roots 2012... My Thoughts
The 3rd annual Muddy Roots Festival again graced the hills of Cookeville Tennessee last weekend. Though I've been able to visit the festival for its prior two years, I have never been without the kids. The prospect of enjoying two days ( I didnt get to stay for Sunday) of great music and a night sleeping under the stars with my husband was an exhiliarating one, to say the least.
We arrived Friday evening and scoped out a camping spot, most of which had already been taken. The event takes place in a large open space in the Tennessee hills, a spot called the June Bug Ranch. Hard to find, but worth the drive. While there is a permanant stage at one end of the field, the area is otherwise free of obstructions and provides excellent accoustics for the scheduled performances. Camping takes place in a wide circle surrounding the stages and vendors, without any real order or structure to it. It's pretty much 'first come, first served', with the spaces closest to the tree line going first, and the rest of the tents slowly closing in on the main strip. Car clubs and traveling buddies tend to set up close together, forming tight little communities for the duration, and this year the organizers made it possible for small air conditioned cabins to be rented as well. These latter structures were roughly made of new wood and smelled like a gerbil cage. A quick glance inside revealed a tiny bunk or two and not much else. I couldnt help but think of Cool Hand Luke.
Most of the attendees opted for a tent or an RV and quickly set up their camp in time to catch the first acts. We were anxious not to miss the Dirt Daubers and their signature old timey sound, which has been featured in several of my videos. Even with a few technical difficulties, they didnt disappoint.
Friday's weather was lovely and mild, hot and humid as always, but not many bugs and no rain. A blessing considering last year's gully washer. I wore my cowboy rain boots and a white eyelet sundress from Delia's. It turned out to be an ideal fashion choice and although the nights weren't nearly as chilly as prior years, cotton is always a great option for humid weather. My hair had been rolled in pillow rollers before I arrived but the humidity quickly made an end to any curl that was left. So I twisted the back into a ponytail and threw some flowers in it. The victory rolls (you can't see them in these pictures) stayed around all night.
Vendors this year included healthier food options, lots of bohemian creations for sale, really good coffee (really!), and even some delicious flavored moonshine (that apple pie stuff was deadly). For those who may have forgotten their own.
Other Friday acts included legendary performers Little Jimmy Dickens and Don Maddox who were warmly welcomed by the crowd, consisting of loyal fans and fellow musicians alike. As the blue moon rose, more great music closed out the evening. Dale Watson (pictured above left)delivered an amazing performance, churning out traditional country like only he can. His mellow vocals perfectly blended with the atmosphere, creating a mood that can only be described as contagious. Wayne Hancock also played an incredible set, crooning 'California Blues' and 'Juke Joint Jumpin' into the Tennessee night air like a lullabye. It wasnt quite time for sleep though, since the 2nd stage was just getting itself prepared for an attack from the Legendary Shack Shakers! Again JD Wilkes terrified and thrilled the audience with his insane antics, proving once again that he is one of the world's greatest front men. It was an explosive way to end the day and though I've seen the Shack Shakers many times, they seem to always give something new and exciting to take away from a performance.
We settled into our deflating air mattress for the night, after I made myself feel a little less sticky and 'out of my element' by removing all makeup and rolling up my hair. Yeah, that's how I camp.
Saturday morning, we woke to cloudy skies and the promise of rain. The night was sticky and a shower sounded great to my friend Moose who was camping alongside us. Thankfully, hot showers were available to all and we trooped across the field to wait with other sticky patrons, wondering if the rain would beat us to the punch. On the way back, we found that coffee was available with almond milk and sugar, thanks to the vegan-friendly vendor whose name I forget though I stopped there no less than 6 times during our stay. No, I'm not vegan, but healthy food is always a plus when one has access only to a port-a-potty for 2 days. They offered delicious smoothies, hearty breakfast burritos, and cheesy potatoes with curry as well.
Thankfully, the rain held off and the day ended up being a bright and sunny one. I threw my curly hair into some combs a'la my Festival tutorial, added some flowers, and did some quick sun-burn resistant makeup before enjoying my breakfast and
with a beer. Yep, I do beer for breakfast when I camp. Give me one good reason why I should'nt?
Today,I wore a black jersey knit dress I found at the Bass Outlet for 9.00 and some comfy old sandals I usually reserve for theme parks. By 5pm my feet were so dirty I could have kicked myself for not heeding my own advice and sticking to the boots. I had also found a great big floppy hat at the Bass Outlet...marked down to 6 bucks from 49! It proved to be a LIFE SAVER by the hottest part of the day.
Speaking of fashion, I happened to catch the end of Valerie June's performance. She is a Memphis based singer with a bluesy rootsy vibe. I liked her music, but I LOVED her style. She had these amazing dreds that were styled into rolls and curls. The effect was very 'Medusa'-esque. Not to mention she was flawlessly accessorized and absolutely gorgeous.
Just after Valerie came one of my most anticipated sets of the weekend, Sean and Zander.
Sean Wheeler (of Throw Rag fame) and Zander Schloss (The Circle Jerks) performed last year and were extremely memorable. I adore the way their voices mesh and the song writing is great. Zander's solo performance of 'Song About Songs' never fails to move, and Sean has a gift for audience interraction. Check them out, if you haven't already, since the music is folk influenced but almost impossible to describe. Moose and I were lucky enough to catch a photo with both fellas after the performance(and after I had changed yet again, into pig tails and a playsuit, to accomodate the heat).
Yeah again, the fashion thing is fun at Muddy Roots. You see all types. I love snapping shots of random folks who are hot and not in the mood for a photo.
I also need to mention that the 'ginger beards' were everywhere this year. I think they're taking over the planet. Kinda hope so.
As the day drew to a close, the music got progressively more high-energy and dynamic. I was thrilled to see The Hillbilly Casino deliver one of the best performances of their career, that I've seen. Sandwiched between the insane stage shows of ANTiSEEN and The Reverend Horton Heat, they not only held their own; they stole the night! They were my favorites of the fully packed and enjoyable weekend; and you'd think I'd be sick of them by now.
Though we had intended to leave by midnight, we still managed to stick around for Slim Cessna's Auto Club, blues man L.C. Ulmer, and a few songs by the good Reverend before we called it a night.
I'll close this by saying that even though the showing may have been slim for the first two years, the third year of the festival proves that people are finally embracing this celebration of Roots music and all its derivatives. It's great to see such a well organized event making a name for itself, not only for being held in the state responsible for much of the music it applauds, but also for paying tribute to such a wide variety of genres and ages.
Next year, I'm bringing my own toilet. ;-)