Grey Fox is the festival that inspired me to start this blog a few years ago and so I guess it is fitting that after returning from the 3rd year at Grey Fox on the Walsh Farm I return to this site which I have been remiss in updating - even though I have already been to a few other festivals this year (Jazzfest in New Orleans, Bayou & Boogie in Rehoboth, MA and Crawfish Fest in Augusta, NJ). Anyway, Grey Fox to me is more a state of mind than just another music festival where you run from stage to stage. From the moment I arrive on site, it's all about living in the present. What to set up and where? what to see? hear? eat? drink? do? Finding and connecting with old friends and making some new ones every single time. You don't need a TV to watch the weather forecast because you can see it coming in the sky, and when it gets there you just deal with it. I did not even take any pictures this year. I think I just never got around to it because photos are for remembering the past from the future, not for the present.
I arrived on Tuesday in the rain and set up a partial camp, played some guitar, ate some cold food because I didn't want to light my stove in the rain, and visited with some friends. The opportunity to be there before the masses arrive is one of the privileges of volunteering. On Wednesday I watched them roll in and waited around for other friends & family to arrive and fill out our camping area, not far from the dance tent. Late afternoon I visited with an old college friend who lives nearby and we passed a good time. The open mic in the dance tent on Wednesday night was a new feature this year and one that I hope will start a new tradition. It seemed to be really well run and kept moving and featured a variety of acts - some may have been established bands, some solo or duos, and some pickup bands who had been jamming together all week at the "Foxhole", the nearby run-up to GreyFox (I have not been there yet so I can't really comment but I hope to make it maybe next year.)
Thursday turned out to be the best day weather-wise.... hot and sunny but no rain. I didn't have to work til 7 so we spent part of the afternoon wandering the campgrounds looking to see where some other friends were set up. It was during this torpid stroll, while passing by a site inhabited by the "Flying Pigs" I overheard a line that made me smile: "Snowflake, what time is tie-dye?" That is the closest one gets to long range planning at Grey Fox! I wanted to go cool off in the creek in the woods bordering the campgrounds, but the part we tried to access was all taped off and I didn't feel like leaving the site, so we settled for a super-soaker battle back at our camp. That worked.
I couldn't make it to the tie dye at 6:30 so my friend graciously agreed to dip some garments for me so I would be properly attired the next day. From my post at the instrument raffle booth, where the festival sells chances on some very nice instruments to benefit educational programs such as the Kids' Bluegrass Academy and a scholarship program, I was able to hear Crooked Still, GreenSky Bluegrass and some of Donna the Buffalo, then caught the rest of their set from up the hill. Finished up the night with Planet Zydeco, who were much better than I remember from last time I heard them. After being reprimanded for talking in our "quiet" area next to the dance tent, we set off in search of more lively digs, and joined in some jams elsewhere.
Friday morning I had to work again, and got to hear all the mainstage bands who played short sets early. When I was through at around 3 pm, my husband had finally arrived with his friend, who set about grilling up some happy-hour shrimp and andouille just as the first rain-shower let loose while we listened to the music on the radio broadcast and also from the dance tent. I caught some of the Sweetback Sisters, fun retro style honky tonk, then just had to go up and see Del McCoury because the last few times they've been there it rained and I missed 'em. Loved hearing some of the old favorites, he always tries to accomodate everyone's requests, even though they have new material to play. "Forty Acres and a Fool" was my favorite, followed by "52 Black Vincent". I enjoyed Railroad Earth quite a bit, as I hadn't been in the mood for them last time I saw them at Crawfish Fest in June, but it seemed to fit better here. Donna the Buffalo finished up the night in the dance tent with with a record-breaking set that went 'til well past 2 am. Because we were in the "quiet" area... once again we set off in search of excitement elsewhere for fear of being talked to for talking. This time it was an "afterhours" club set up in the barn, illuminated by a spotlight that advertised "Club Silo", complete with giant disco ball under an oversized wooden guitar propped up in the loft. After a long and grueling trek to nowhere we ended up at another jam and I joined in a pre-dawn mando/banjo jam with my accordion, then closed my eyes just before sunrise.
Saturday morning I caught Rockin Acoustic Circus from the front row at the mainstage. What an amazing group of talented young musicians! The bass and cello player are brother and sister, and I don't think any of them are over 21 (except the guitar player who seems to be the director) The mando, banjo and fiddle players did some incredible trading off on a medley that stretched from Bach to Bluegrass. Then after that I left the site for the first time in 3 years and went with some friends to a nearby swimming hole that was a godsend! Nice cool waist deep water that was easy to get to down some natural stone steps. The rushing waters of the stream was a jacuzzi with no timer to reset, giving a full body massage. And then to top it all off a lone bagpiper appeared on the bridge above the stream, kilt and all, serenading the swimmers. Normally I am not a fan of bagpipes, but I appreciated this one, who actually knew more than the usual 2 bagpipe tunes everyone else always plays.
We stopped off for ice & refreshments before heading back to the fest, then I went back to selling raffle tickets while listening to the Wilders, the Greencards and Gibson Brothers, in-between battling two brief but violent storms that did nothing to cool us off but wreaked some havoc. I got word from the camp that some of our set up had not survived the onslaught, but at least the instruments and raffle tickets were safe! This was my busiest shift since the drawing was going to be that night. After that I got to see Kathy Mattea, who I really liked. I think she is probably more used to playing casinos and other such venues, and not accustomed to gazing out on a sea of tie-dyed hippies on a hill which inspired her to work a bit of "Kumbaya" into her set.
I returned to the camp for a bit of rest and was going to join Joe up on the hill for Tim O'Brien then Sam Bush, but it started raining again so we went over to the dance tent and were completely wowed by BlueSky Mission Club, a band that defies categorization, but that laid out some really funky grooves. Somesongs sounded a bit like Donna the Buffalo, but they had a guy on lap steel and electric guitar who did most of the singing too, and also a female singer, and a guy on rubboard. I had never heard of or seen them before and had no expectations of them but liked them a lot. More thunderstorms and lightning as we huddled in the camp, then when there was a break in the rain we made our way back to the dance tent where the Wilders throwdown that really was wild! Tim O'Brien and Sam Bush, whose mainstage set was cut short by the weather, were among the "and friends" that joined in , along with the Hillbenders. It was really quite the conglomeration, and even though we were way in the back - EVERYONE seemed to be there, due to the weather - we could hear fine and dance to it. When it was over no one was in a hurry to leave because the rain was still pouring down, not to mention some thrilling and hair-raising lightning....but at last we took the few steps to our camp, where we played a few songs (again trying to be "quiet"). Then around 3 am after it cleared up I strapped my accordion on my back and slogged through the mud in my big yellow boots and finally connected with my friends from Vermont who were jamming at a site called Camp Chaos.
Next day we packed up and checked out the last few sets including the Kids' Academy which is always fun to see.... dozens of fiddle players and few of everything else, all singing and playing in unison. This year they did Chris Thile's 'The Fox' which seemed like a good one for kids.... finally hit the road around 3 and got home by 8 just in time to cut grass. I always try to take a couple of days afterwards to re-adjust to the "real world" after spending nearly a week in this temporary town that forms every year in the hills of NY.
Now looking ahead to Lowell Folk Fest, followed by Newport Folk,then Podunk Bluegrass, all on different weekends this year so it might be possible catch at least some of each, before ending up the summer with Rhythm and Roots.