Audiofeed Music Festival

Six years ago, the last ever Cornerstone festival took place. This underground faith festival was a big family reunion for many of us wayfaring travelers. A place where we were able to come together, create and commune, even if just for a moment.

In 2012, when it was announced that the 29-year-old festival was going to come to an end, many of us mourned. Some responded with anger, some sadness but there was a remnant of kinfolk who got together, plotted and prayed and the next year gathered together for what has come to be known as Audiofeed Music Festival. Now, this little festival does not claim to have replaced Cornerstone but it does claim to have carried on the communal spirit, with bands and fans all mingling, camping, creating and fellowshipping with one another.

It was raining when we arrived at our first ever Audiofeed in Urbana Illinois, on Thursday evening. Even so, there was excitement in the air as we anticipated seeing so many kinfolk. We had already picked up our friends, Renee and Di, who had flown from Australia into O’hare that day. We knew a handful of members and former alumni from JPUSA were going to be there as well as a contingency of kinfolk from our Louisiana community. Then there were all of the bands we’d played with out on the road. And finally, we were excited to see some of our bus rider alumni, including Chaz, Lindy, and Colleen. We were excited for all of them to join us for our performance slot Sunday morning as our “OnCall Orchestra.” (that’s the name we’ve given to all of our kinfolk around the globe who have played music with us).

We had put the word out that we were going to be hosting morning Chai tea at our bus all weekend long and were delighted to find many friends new and old stop by for tea and conversations.

On Friday afternoon, a handful of us led a time of sacred space, which offered us a much-needed upward soaking after months of hard travel.

We spent quite a bit of time in the complementary kitchen set up and run by the infamous “Mama Linda.” We learned about her history, inviting bands to come to her property for a hearty meal as they toured through her little town in Illinois and how she set up this hospitality space at the festival to continue to offer that blessing to all of us road warriors. It was a comfortable and open space, holding none of the insecure or prideful vibes that are often times found in a “green room” experience. There was a place for folks to unwind and play games and even a little area set up with toys for all of the children.

During a meal, we sat down with one of the core organizer, Jim Eisenmenger and had a conversation about the story of Audiofeed and the place he hopes it holds in the greater story. There was a humility and gentleness when he spoke and let us know a bit of history about this little “all volunteer” run, art and music festival. He made it clear that Audiofeed is not trying to become the next big thing but rather hopes to keep its communal focus offering a safe space for exploration, questioning, doubts, fears, hopes, joys. He expressed that ultimately, “we are people who want to support each other and experience great music and art with others who feel the same way.” And, that is exactly what we sensed as our weekend unfolded.

We spent the rest of Saturday catching up with many dear friends. We especially loved discovering one of Craig’s old Ballydowse band mates, Darren Davick’s band, The October Bird of Death. The band, Comrades, was another fun discovery! Of course, we loved hearing our mates, Nate Allen and Insomniac Folklore, who both came out with new albums. We were blessed to give our friend T and Veronica a big squeeze after their White Collar Sideshow. And besides sitting in with us, Brother ReD Squirrel offered us an opportunity to hear some of our old favorite “Seeds” songs and John Ruben took us back to our Cornerstone days and then launched us forward by sharing how life has unfolded for him over the past five-year through some of his new songs.

 

On Sunday afternoon, on the Arkansas stage, we found our way, with our On-call Orchestra, all nine of them, and played a rollicking thirty minute set of music. It was so special to hear our songs played with such gusto and to hear each member listening and working together best they could to create a unified sound.  It was one of the most refreshing and joyful performances we’ve had in a long time and gave us a thirst for more opportunities to include and join together with large ensembles.

After our afternoon performance we noticed that people were buzzing about and preparing video gamed themed costumes for the evening festivities. Banjo and his crew ended up making a combined costume, each playing a part in the game “Pong.”

That evening we connected with our mate, Tobin and found that his band, Flatfoot 56 held a sort of “cool” fatherly presence at the festival as they brought everyone into the fold during their Sunday night performance. As the crowd gathered in anticipation, classic video game music was playing over the PA. The show started with a fun little Mario skit featuring Tessa and Nate Allen. The crowd began to close in towards the front of the room and when the first guitar chords were strummed the crowd erupted in exuberance movement that continued throughout the night. As the band played, there were dance lines, circle pits, crowd surfing, and stage diving.

Now, I’m more of a granola girl but I married a punk rocker and I’ve always wanted to stage dive. I had been contemplating it all night but felt like I was too old. But, then I saw my friend Tessa do it and I thought, that’s it, I’m doing it! Tobin was singing a punk version of “I’ll Fly Away” and as I approached the edge of the stage, I looked out over the crowd I bowed and offered a sort of prayer sign with my hands begging them to not drop me. Those looking at me, held their arms out strong and wide and yelled JUMP! And, I did! It was so freaking fun! Really it was the highlight of the festival for me; to be in a place of total trust, surrender and to just jump, to be caught and held high, then lowered ever so gently. For me, it was a beautiful picture of community and I will never forget it!

Look, if you ever find yourself longing for a little family reunion, keep Audiofeed on your radar. It is not just a music and arts festival. It’s exactly what Jim said, “it’s community.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Bendigo Blues And Roots

12009717_1102206499807362_8107545009976256329_nTwo years ago we passed through Bendigo for the first time. The historical city and the kinfolk we met then made such an impression that we couldn’t wait to get back to visit! And so, when we found out that we were booked for the Bendigo Blues and Roots festival we were ecstatic!

The festival attracts thousands of music lovers and top-notch performers from across the country and beyond. And, with over 30 venues scatters throughout the city and 40 plus sponsors, the Bendigo Blues and Roots festival has a real cohesive community vibe. As their website states, the family friendly festival is the brainchild of renowned Bendigo musician and promoter Colin Thompson. It’s inaugural kickoff was in 2011 and it’s been rolling along successfully ever since. We had a chance to meet Colin, who volunteers as a labour of love to run the festival, and we were very impressed by his kind and humble demeanor. We found his dedication to promoting local and region music inspiring and were humbled to be included in this truly global/local festival, administered by the people for the people.

IMG_6732We performed throughout the weekend at The Golden Vine, Goldmines Hotel, Handle Bar, and the Bendigo Art Gallery. All of our sets were about 45 min and the sound and hosts in each venue was fantastic. Each show had its own unique flow depending on the vibe of the venue, which made each performance distinct and engaging. We enjoyed every single performance but especially enjoyed the jolly atmosphere of the newly opened Handle Bar.

To top it off many of our fellow muso kinfolk were also playing the festival. And, we also found remnants of one of Craig’s mates, artist Juan Ford, when we walked into the Art Gallery for our show and saw his painting hanging front and center!

IMG_6832During our off time, we visited most of the venues, heard fantastic music, and explored the city and its historical gold rush roots. We spent a bit of time rummaging through Bendigo’s best in Op Shops (Thrift stores) and enjoyed dining in many of Bendigo’s local restaurants. We especially enjoyed breakfast at Percy & Percy Cafe where we met and sat across from the Thomas family from South Australia and learned of their life on a sheep farm. We also stopped in to the Dispensary Enoteca to savor an afternoon drink before crossing the little laneway to Royal Jim’s Barber shop so our son could get a much-needed haircut. We shared a cuppa with Campbell the swagman, lounged on the green grass and watched bands, we, well Graciana, stayed out late with all the cool kids, including Sal Kimber, Hailey Calvart and Miss Eileen and King Lear, we danced heartily to Cisco Caesar, and sang “I’m Traveling” with kinfolk, Sisken River.

IMG_6790The weekend finally was sharing a home cooked meal at the Vincent abode, swapping stories and reminiscing about all of the amazing music, community and connecting that was had over the weekend.

If a festival could feel like home, it would be The Bendigo Blues and Roots festival. And for us, that’s a rare treat, one we’ll look forward to savoring again down the line.

Thank you BB&RF2015 for Such Rich memories and a fantastic way to end our two month tour in Australia!

 

 

 

 

 

Midsommer in Bishop Hill

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There is something quite delightful about small town USA. Homespun shops, beautiful gardens, rich history and interesting architecture. Bishop Hill is no exception. This little town sits between Moline and Galesburg, IL and you have to be purposeful to visit the historic site as it’s not on any of the main highway routes. It’s worth the effort to make a detour however.

TheHollandsBishopHill.jpgWe were invited by the Bishop Hill Arts Council to perform at their Midsommer Music Festival, a summer solstice celebration filled with music, dance and the traditional decorating of the Maypole.

We rolled into Bishop Hill the night before our performance and thanks to the Heritage Association we parked our bus next to the Livery Stable. We were tired from a days travel and hungry, and on recommendation we went to the Filling Station for dinner. Linda, the owner, struck up a conversation with us and invited us to dine on the house. The meal was hardy and Linda was a fantastic host, funny and down to earth.

On our walk back to the Livery Stable we took a side trail to the grave yard. We noted many of the grave stones dating back to the early 1800’s, probably of settlers that were actually born in Sweden. There were buzzards flying over head as the sun was setting on the horizon and air was still.

Blackhawkpipesanddrums.jpgAfter a good night sleep we awoke to the brilliant sounds of the Blackhawk pipe and drum band wafting throughout the air.  The beginning our exploration of what has been frequently been called “Utopia on the Prairie” was off to a good start. Our first stop, the Bishop Hill Bakery and Eatery where we found the most amazing old world cinnamon roll you can imagine. After breakfast we explored many of the historical buildings including the Blacksmith Shop, home to the Prairie Arts Center and VagnHall Galleri. We met Jeffrey Goard, the potter, we met a broom crafter, and a luthier named Gary Carey, who makes beautiful mountain dulcimers and other lovely instruments. We also met a  fella who was showcasing photography from his time as a field worker (missionary) in South America. It was inspiring to hear his story of travel and service to the widow, orphan and poor.

Steeplebuilding.jpgNext we visited the Steeple Building, where we learned about the Swedish heritage and history of those that settled in this area. We learned that this little town of 125 was established in 1846 as a commune by 75 Swedish settlers led by religious radical, Eric Janson. Nearly a quarter of the Colonists died that first winter and about four years later Janson was murdered by a member for not allowing a marriage to take place. Despite other set backs, they colony persevered and grew to about 600 members until dissolving in 1861. A hundred years later, in 1961, the Bishop Hill Heritage association organized and the town was designated a National Historic Landmark and is on the National register of Historic Places. We also visited the Bishop Hill Museum to take in one of the most renowned folk artists, Olof Krans. His paintings provided a fascinating glimpse into the story of the first Old Settlers Reunion in 1896.

In the afternoon, we performed for delightful crowd despite the heat of 89 degrees. Our performance was followed by the crowning of the Midsommer Queen and the decorating of the Maypole. A gent in his 80’s played rollicking traditional tunes on his accordion while we marched the Maypole to the old School House. Craig was invited to be one of the Maypole carriers. Three blocks later the Maypole arrived at its destination where it was erected and the dance ensued. There were a few folks dressed in Scandinavian garb who lead the processions around the pole. After about an hour of dance the leaders lead a snake line of participants into the School house for a light supper. Later in the evening we attended our first barn dance, held in the old school-house. Many there were learning for the first time and the band/callers were very gracious in teaching us all. The night was filled with laughter and joy. It was what one might call, ‘good, clean fun.’ The night concluded with a stroll by moonlight back to the bus and a final farewell to this darling community. Until we meet again.

SxSW Music Festival

20130319-123548.jpgWe usually take a pretty distant stance in the music business, hanging on the fringes, drifting in and out but really doing our own thing. Mostly because we have come to realize that our families motivations for how we live and what we create together is probably countercultural to all of the pandering that has to happen in that world. However, over the course of the last month we began to see that our routing was going to take us right into the heart of the big beast of an industry to SxSW.

If we could describe SxSW (means South by Southwest) in one word it would be “toiling.” There was a happy slappy, almost devilish type energy through out the air as the streets and local venues were filled with muso’s, business executives, college students on spring break and locals. It was a distorted joy and we sensed a deep undertone of awkwardness, disconnect, and angst. And so, we began to petition for understanding as to our purpose at this festival. We knew two things, we were going to seek opportunities to serve and to encourage. If we were presented with opportunities to share musically great, but not the point. We found an opportunity to volunteer at the Folk Alliance stage on Saturday. Offering a smile as a greeter and selling merch for the bands that showcased on that stage. We also connected with a few friends who were showcasing their talents and sought them out for a chat, to offer encouragement and a moment to just be. These are dear friends who are road weary and have tasted the rotten fruit of the industry. And yet, they continue on, sharing their beautiful gifts and talents, inspiring others through song as they work through their upbringings, beliefs and ideals.

It was a great test of our character to be able to function well in this environment and to see our purpose clearly. Both of our children were able to discern and share some key observations that we believe will take them into adulthood with much wisdom. We felt energized as a family being able to share such depth in such shallow waters. We find serendipity as we travel and are thankful that nothing that we do is meaningless.  We are thankful for the opportunity to see the big picture and to be able to function in that faithfulness, knowing that at the end of the day, when all is stripped away, we are all made of the same mud. We are all one. We continue to move in that reality.

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The Last Ever Cornerstone Festival

“Burn down the building and let free the body.” Lyrics by Tyler Hentschel.

Our hearts mourn as we say good-bye to Cornerstone Music Festival one last time.

I am at a loss for words and struggle to convey the intense feelings of love that we hold towards this community of creative and precious Saints, sinners and all of those in between. Cornerstone festival is unlike any festival we’ve ever attended. It is liberating and life-giving. It really is otherworldly, as John Joseph Thompson quotes in his article, “Goodnight, Cornerstone.”

We are thankful for all those who have worked so hard these past 29 years to provide a beautiful and relevant place to share sacred space, to struggle, to commune and to create.

This was our week in review:

Day one: We pulled into the Cornerstone Farm and set up shop on a central corner. Windows open and sweat on our brow, we found ourselves barring down mentally for a long, humid, dusty, hot week without the refuge of air conditioning. Very quickly our attention shifted as we began to see familiar and kind faces. We were excited to see friends, Connie and Dereck arrive in their custom made gypsy wagon, Philip and Sari with their suitcase sideshow, the Baumgartners, Helle’s and all of the rest of our kinfolk. All of our darling muso friends from all across the country and more!  Home, we’re home!

Day two: Our children really enjoyed the freedom of connecting with friends and running around the grounds like they owned the place. Swimming, staying up late, skatepark, seeing new bands but most of all, the loosening of our parental strings.

Craig and Seth Martin hatched a plan to set up a generator stage outside of our bus, Celu’haven, on Thurs. (A generator stage is one that is unofficial, meaning permission from the fest isn’t necessarily granted, although, security at C-stone has always been very gracious. It’s impromptu, and underground)

That night we settled into the Chelsea House/Gallery Stage and watched our favorite musical kinfolk including an early evening performance by Lauren Peacock. Her gentle spirit and melodic sound was the perfect start to our evening. Later, we enjoyed The Illalogical Spoon. The beauty of the “Spoon” is their unassuming innocence and sheer delight in sharing their music, which is extremely well made.

We ended the night with Soil and the Sun. These darlings are genuinely creative. They produce the most deliciously, organic, soulful sound I’ve ever heard.

Day Three: Tonight is our performance at the Chelsea House/Gallery stage. In the morning we held rehearsal in the Village. Joy began to brew as Scott Knies, Joby Morey, Colleen Davick, Darren Davick, David Baumgartner and Pilgrim Metts joined in to create a sound the angels could dance to.

Knowing this was the last Cornerstone, we decided to add in a little treat for our finally, a Ballydowse cover, “The Yiddish Song,” a traditional Jewish instrumental. There is a gleam in everyone’s eyes as the song comes together, specially Craig’s. There is a strong sense of camaraderie and knowing that this might be the last time Craig and his former band mates might play this song.  Although the heat is beating down on us, there is an excitement brewing and we’re ready to celebrate!

We all took refuge from the heat and met up at the stage at 5:15. Show starts at 6pm. We played a 50 min set. I’m not even sure how to sum it up except for joy joy and more joy. I couldn’t stop smiling. Craig broke two strings, I tossed instruments to the crowd and beamed a lady on the head with one of the little purple shakers, Grace and I jumped off stage and danced in the pit, ha! The sound was amazing as the 700 or so folks in the crowd sang along to “Old Man’s Town” and we became one big band!

Arriving the grounds with our last $50 in our pockets we had anticipated there would need to be some financial miracle for us to leave. The generosity of the crowd totally took us by surprise as they blessed us with enough to fill our bus and fridge and keep us on our way! If you know how much it costs to fill our bus, you know this is huge! Plus, they offered encouragement and affirmation by taking us home via CD. That is priceless.

When we laid our head at the end of the night it was 98 degree’s in our bus but we slept well.

Day four;  This morning we hosted a generator stage, showcasing our friends Insomniac Folklore, Jonni Greth, Ellen Morey, Lauren Peacock, Erin Eichenberger, The Illalogical Spoon, Seth Martin and The Suitcase Sideshow.

A handful of kinfolk came through out the morning to have a listen and a sing. We served fruit and veggies with hummas, H2O and shade from the hot sun. It was a magical morning with Celu’haven as our backdrop.

Later that afternoon, my cousins arrived and we enjoyed a night of reminiscing with  a performance by our favorite from 1998, Squad Five-0. The fella’s pulled out all the stops! Although, they still had their quick sense of humor and cheeky grins there was a maturity about them that was encouraging and hopeful. Jeff offered words of wisdom and humility as we all cried out, “We are the Youth.” Once again, although the heat was an intense 94 at 2am, the relief in the spirit was penetrating and we slept well.

Day five: We moved slowly as the heat, humidity and dust started to take its toll. Most of our day was spent in the lake or 20 min away in the town of Macomb, cooling off at the local Walmart. We played a short but fun set for the kids at Creation Station and later enjoyed the bright and invigorating music of our friends Destroy Nate Allen. Once the sun went down the air thickened and we started to feel a little delirious. Flatfoot 56‘s Pool Party concert was the perfect solution and a great way to end our day. Those fella’s are so creative and high energy. They had sprinklers going, a pool slide on stage with a line of kids waiting to go down and landing in the mosh pit; don’t worry there was a life guard on duty. At one point, they sent buoy’s out and made pool lanes. Then they hosted a little crowd surfing relay. They ended the set with rollicking version of Amazing Grace and some words of wisdom. We left blessed and encouraged!

Day six: Only 1 1/2 days left. There is a tenderness in the air. We all know it’s about to end. Exhausted and dirty, we want relief but we don’t want it to end. The kids are becoming more and more emotional as they realize the end is almost here. In the past, these emotions would rise up but we could just say, “it’s ok, because we always have next year.” But this is it. The last time all of us riff raff will be able to gather under these circumstances. Starting that morning we set out to find kinfolk and say goodbye, not until next time but until we meet again, “here, there or in the air.” I had tears in my eyes as I sang, Insomniac Folklores, “Burn down the building…” and, “Farther Along” with Josh Garrels.

As the sun set, a parade of bikes, golf carts and the masses marched the viking ship filled with Cornerstone memories down to the lake. The procession was dramatic and tearful as the crowd passed the Gallery stage, then the Underground, skate park, generator stages and camp sites. All the while, folks bellowed out “I’ll fly away.” Once we reached the lake, the boat was set sail and we watched silently as arrows of fire were launched into the floating vessel. Finally, the boat was set on fire and we said waved goodbye.

The last band we heard at Cornerstone 2012 was epic hardcore band, Norma Jean, one of Craig’s favorites. Moments after they finished the crowd rush out of the tent to the skate park where a rumor had been brewing about the Chariot showing up to do an impromptu generator show. It was a con and the crowd was left in a quandary, a bon fire was set in the middle of the skatepark and a controlled chaos ensued.

The irony of that moment was intense. Last show of the night and instead of soaking it in, there was a mad rush to the next thing. I guess folks just wanted to keep that Cornerstone high going as long as they could.

Day Seven: A sad departure and end of an era.

“Heaven come to earth and there won’t be no church, we’ll meet down by the riverside. There we’ll swim with all creation, never get tired, never bored. Don’t worry one day there will be no dam between us and our Lord.” ~the Illalogical Spoon

There are 6000 weary travelers out there, somewhere. And, we look forward to the day we can all meet again… down by the riverside.

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