Tuesday, August 18, 2015

5th Annual Pennybrook Festival Report

The 5th Annual.

It sounds so official, doesn't it?

But this year's festival was the least official yet, I think.

With a busy summer (and a little bit of volunteer burnout) happening, we decided to be very casual in our organization of the Pennybrook Festival this year. With the stage already built, the preparations were not as physically demanding, which was good.

There was still a lot to do – site and food preparation mostly – getting the field bush-hogged, raking, setting up the tents, making food for the musicians and for the potluck. Sadly one of our three core volunteer organizers had to be away for work during the festival itself, so there was lots of multi-tasking going on. Fortunately, a few good friends volunteered to give us a hand on Friday night and Saturday.

Despite the generally lackadaisical approach to the festival, we had a stellar line-up: Sahara Jane and Daunt Lee came back for a second year. Steve Keith participated in a set of smoking hot bluegrass with Kevin Roach and Jude Pelley and then came back up on stage again for a set of smoking hot jazz. John Muller cracked us up with this awesome anti-Harper song:

Even I played a set – a rare occurence for me these days.

Half of the audience consisted of super-talented musicians themselves and once the stage wound down, there were two separate after-hours jams – the folkies sang around the campfire while the bluegrassers tore it up in the green room (which was not located in my house this year). As usual, I collapsed way before the festivities ended, but once again I had the joy of listening to the fun as I drifted off to sleep in my Tiny Home, comfortably situated about 40 feet away from the bonfire with all of its windows open to the warm evening air.

Sunday morning was all chat and bacon and caffeine. After we got the cobwebs shaken out, we settled in for more tunes – well, I say "we" but I'm afraid I was mostly listening from my house while I plowed away on some desk work to meet an unfortunately-timed deadline that I had committed to months ago. I had begged the client to try to steer work away from this past weekend, but to no avail.

Oh well. Sometimes it goes that way. I was feeling a bit emotionally shaky on Sunday anyway, for one reason and another, so it was kind of soothing to sit and zen out with my work, with an amazing soundtrack unfolding in my front yard.

We're not sure if we have another festival in us, but if this was the last Pennybrook Festival, we ended on a high note. And it certainly has been an amazing, fully-alive five years.

I always have a favourite moment in each festival. This year it was listening to Sahara Jane recite an English translation of a Rumi poem right before she sang it the poem as a song in Dari. The tears streamed down my face as I listened to her speak Rumi's words: so thoughtful, thought-provoking, complex and unexpected.

I can't find the exact translation that Sahara recited online, but here is a link with several translations of the same Ghazal:

It was a truly beautiful weekend – so many big warm hearts and hugs. Songs of truth, heartbreak, hope, giddy joy.

I came away filled to the brim and utterly exhausted. My heart is full of gratitude and love – for my fellow organizers, our volunteers, musicians and audience.

We made something beautiful happen.

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