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New post noti­fi­ca­tions:

Hail, Music

Note: This week’s syn­chroblog­ging topic is music. You may have noticed the sub­ject is a com­mon refrain around these parts. Here’s one more.

They said later it was a mini-tornado. If you’re hud­dled under a tarp in the mid­dle of an open field when it hap­pens, I can tell you that you’re curi­ously dis­in­clined to argue seman­tics when the sky goes black and the air pan­ics toward freez­ing. You’re busy pick­ing out sen­ti­men­tal favorites as your life flashes before your eyes, thank­ful that the Sun­day morn­ing gospel got you right with God and left you less time than usual to undo that bur­geon­ing right­eous­ness with what­ever every­day tribu­la­tion usu­ally shucks it off between sermons.

If it was my time, I think I’d have been cool with that. In ret­ro­spect, I mean. At the time, with the hail big as quar­ters drop­ping like mis­siles on my knuck­les as I held the tarp aloft, all I could muster was a mani­a­cal laugh that prob­a­bly unnerved my tarp­mate, who to that point in our long rela­tion­ship might still have been per­suaded that I was good in a cri­sis. But think­ing back on the long week­end of music, I can see its sym­phony of peo­ple and sun, gui­tars and danc­ing, rain and late-night bon­fires as a fit­ting end.

It may sur­prise you to know that I, abhorer of crowds and the noise they make, would vol­un­tar­ily join thou­sands of over­friendly strangers in an endeavor like a music fes­ti­val. But I grew up in the back yard of one, and once I’d learned their magic, I could never stay away. I have called that one, Mer­lefest, a pil­grim­age, but that’s not quite fair to say — I never had to travel far for it. We were far, far from home, on a farm in upstate New York, when we called down a tor­nado at Fal­con Ridge Folk Festival.

By the Sun­day of a nor­mal four-day music fes­ti­val, I am blitzed. That many hours of non­stop music and con­ver­sa­tion — from late morn­ing to around mid­night — builds to a pleas­ant inco­her­ence. At Fal­con Ridge, there’s also camp­ing, which means that after the stages go quiet, the tents tune up, fueled toward dawn by liquor, lyrics, and melody. At one point I was lured from a song swap and a few dozen new best friends back to my tent because one of the day’s head­lin­ers was vis­it­ing with our neigh­bors, play­ing favorites and telling sto­ries. There’s a rea­son none of the stages started up again too early each morning.

That par­tic­u­lar Sun­day, I rose early to meet up with some peo­ple who were plan­ning to par­tic­i­pate in a memo­r­ial song cir­cle for Dave Carter. Folkies are my peo­ple, and I’ve never been quite sure why, but I was never more sure of it, sit­ting in a cir­cle with a dozen or so men, women, and chil­dren, all will­ing to get up early enough to sing the songs of a dead man to each other, because it’s imper­a­tive that those songs con­tinue ring­ing through the air.

An arti­cle of my per­sonal faith: it may be heresy to know the words and not sing them.

I’ve been to enough out­door music fes­ti­vals to know what to expect: big crowds, lots of mud, and at least one day of rain. If I am an old hand at festival-going, I imag­ine the per­form­ers are even harder to rat­tle. So, on that soggy Sun­day in July 2008, it was dis­con­cert­ing to see the face of one such unflap­pable per­former fill with dread, to watch her unplug her gui­tar and dash toward shel­ter, to hear her toss an urgent “Run!” over her shoul­der toward the hud­dled masses in the field where a small tor­nado now threat­ened to roost.

As I said, I was laugh­ing inap­pro­pri­ately, rock­ing back and forth, and lis­ten­ing to peo­ple scream around me. Our line of sight was severely impaired, so other than a few peo­ple rooted beneath a tree (and some­times ges­tur­ing fran­ti­cally), I couldn’t tell whether or not the field had been vacated. Once the wind hurled itself into a gale, the only other sound was the hail, which I was cer­tain would tear our poor tarp to shreds any minute.

The wind went slack as sud­denly as it had arisen. The clouds fast-forwarded through the sky, chased by ill-looking omens behind them. We took advan­tage of the break to run toward the car. I had long since passed my break­ing point and wasn’t entirely con­vinced that I was still alive. At least, not until I saw the six year olds splash­ing in the largest mud pud­dle I’ve ever seen. Apoc­a­lypse or no, their glee at get­ting knee-deep in mud that was surely laced with manure from the farm was life-affirming. They may or may not have been singing.

Please note I am unaf­fil­i­ated with the loons who shot the footage above.


Every two weeks some friends and I cre­ate new posts on the same topic. This week’s syn­chroblog posts about music are listed below. Please read them, and if you’d like to par­tic­i­pate, let me know.

I play music at bars some­times. — i write to be rid of things
Music Ascend­ing — nights­bright­days
Nightsing­ing — mud­dled­dreamer
sing on, michael bolton — pas­sion­ately pensive

  1. […] Hail, Music—Word Shep­herd : sing on, michael bolton—passionately pen­sive : i play music at bars sometimes—i write to be rid of things : Nightsinging—muddleddreamer This entry was posted in Syn­chroblog. Book­mark the perma­link. ← Fish Food LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

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  2. […] Hail, Music, Word Shep­herd An arti­cle of my per­sonal faith: it may be heresy to know the words and not sing them. […]

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  3. This is all start­ing to freak me out — I. Was. There. The hail­storm started dur­ing Tracy Grammer’s main­stage set — I real­ized we were in trou­ble when stones the size of ping-pong balls… made of ice… started bounc­ing off my head and back and shoul­ders. We too ran for the car and stayed there the entirety — god, I love Fal­con Ridge! Been there 11 of the last 12 years — going back this sum­mer, too… :-)

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