One of the things I like most about our genre is that we’re so small; everyone pretty much knows everyone and we adore each other like family. BJ Christy and his wife, Coley, invited all of us over to their house in palatial Southern Pennsylvania last weekend for their own mico-festival, ChristyFest. Our friendships stem from Muddy Roots, live podcasts with chat rooms over the past few years, and Facebook. Due to lack of a working teleporter, there were some people who just weren’t able to make it, and they were so very missed by all of us.
I brought with me a visiting friend from London to experience what American music is without Auto-Tuned corporate commercialism. These bands are all working class people. Nobody showed up in a limo, brought an entourage, or presented any airs. Hell, Olds Sleeper slept in tent in the side yard. The rest of us were on air mattresses (why does my butt always wind up hitting floor?) couches, and spare beds.
We came in late Friday night to the hospitality of the Christy Family and friends: Blake Clayton, Podcasting God of IBWIP, Molly Nelson, Andy, Editor of RNZ Magazine, Kimberly Moore (we call her Rosie), Lone Wolf (Brunoooo!) and Mr. Cracker Swamp himself, Rev. Nix (Gary and Melissa got in by the hair of their chinny chin chin on Saturday). The Christy children, Sean, 11, and Liam, 5, are such great boys. Sean is 11 going on 25, and you just wanna smooch and snuggle little Liam. Beej was marinating meats, and futzing with the grill and smoker. Yum. We all stood in a circle under the magnificent night sky until we were too tired to talk.
Olds Sleeper was the first to arrive on Saturday and he and Lone Wolf hit it off and were jamming out on the front porch within minutes. We then moseyed off to the stage under the big tent and the festivities began.
Olds Sleeper started it all and he’s one of those artists that is like a fountain that just keeps giving. At the end of his set, he managed to completely sum up the high and low points of my life of the past year and I got to lay down in the grass and let his music wash over me as he weaved together the songs “May the Circle Be Unbroken” and “Rainy Day Women 12 & 35”. The man is a lyrical genius.
Next up was Lone Wolf OMB and man-oh-man can he shred banjo! His new cd, A Walk in my Pause, has the song “Bored” and it’s got the coolest riff that is the soundtrack in my head to ChristyFest memories.
Then came Robert Fireball Mitchell. Never heard of him before now. He came on stage with this fire engine red cowboy shirt and movie star good looks and I didn’t know what to make of him. Then he started playing and I got it. He’s absolutely bottled charm and puts on a show that makes you swoon before you even know what’s going on. Then he sings songs that let you know he’s actually experienced life and has things to say about it. His song “Workin’ Man” was my favorite and I will be seeing more of this guy as I’m converted into new-fan-ness.
Then Husky Burnette hit the stage and it became my dream of musical collaborations. Lone Wolf on banjo, Chad Rousseau from The Ten Foot Polecats on drums, and Jay Scheffler from the Ten Foot Polecats on Harmonica. Please note, these men have never played together before this; it’s the sign of a good musician to be able to hit the ground running like they did. Check out the YouTube below.
Following that was Danny Kay and the Nightlifers. Wow. As they were rocking out an on fire set, the upright bassist, Cory McGrath, climbs up on his bass and continues to rock it! I am such a sucker for musician tricks. Then the guitarist, CJ Benoit, joins in on the melee and they play their instruments over their heads! Holy awesomeness! And let me point out that CJ Benoit gets the Best New Artist award for the festival. This kid is only 20 and can play anything you put in front of him… well. The next few years of his musical career are going to be very interesting and I suggest you put him on your radar.
And then… The Ten Foot Polecats. They are musically what spinach is to Popeye. The Pinky and The Brain part of me wants to bottle their energy so I can take over the world (or at least Music Row). The Polecats are a combination of talented musicians in their own right joined together with the love of blues. Jim Chilson plays a guitar made out of a cigar box so fast, I’ve seen his fingers meld into one motion. Nobody has the voice of Jay Scheffler and can belt out gravely tunes in that key of blues. Chad Russeau is my new drummer crush. I have the soul of a drummer and if my landlord wouldn’t give birth at the mere thought of me bringing a drum kit into the building, I’d be a drumming fool. So I always place an extra eye on the drummer and Chad blows me away each time I see him play.
Sean K. Preston and the Loaded Pistols closed the festival. That man. Oh that man. His voice is a gift. What a difference a year makes. He’s developed this confidence and swagger that you think is quirky until you see him perform. He IS the headlining act. He IS the man. He closed with “Good Night Irene” and we all joined together arm-in-arm and sang along with him. This is why we’re all here with this amazing music that has brought us all together from all over the world.
As all of this awesomeness was happening on stage, there were jams in the living room, jams in the driveway, jams in the tent… And then there was BBQ. And Cole Shenebeck made pies; Holy Moses her pies. She does pies like Tiffany & Co. does diamonds. And whoever made those cookies; yo.
The official concert ended about 8 PM, but that just launched the unplugged version of the night. I met so many fantastic people and had so many great conversations. I can’t wait until most of us meet up again at Muddy Roots and I’ll absolutely be back next year for ChristyFest 2013!
I want to thank The Christy Family for their boundless awesomeness, hospitality, and festival planning expertise, all of the musicians who performed on and off stage, (Kara Clark, it’s my one regret of the evening that we didn’t spend more time together), and all of the people who came to hear the bands they love as much as I do. And most of all, the people who came not knowing anything about us; and left with discoveries of fantastic music and good people.
A few complaints that really just have to do with being a good guest:
People, do not bring your dog. Especially if you’re just going to tie him to a tree all alone, then loudly punish him in front of everyone when he barks. Or the one who got loose and licked the plates of people who were currently eating. Or the one who chased and terrified another guest’s dog. Or the one who weighed well over 100 pounds and was on one of those million foot expandable dog leashes and constantly got caught in between everyone. I’m not a hater; I love my dog to bits, that’s why I asked a friend to dog-sit so we’d both be happy with where we were.
Also, if you bring a friend with serious boundary issues and have to apologize constantly for him, don’t bring him. And if he shows up at Muddy Roots failing to hear when girls say NO repeatedly, there will be serious problems.
And whoever called the cops with a noise complaint at 7:30 on a Saturday evening: you suck.
And last but not least, NEVER EVER tell the host of a party bad news that has absolutely nothing to do with them other than providing the ultimate buzz kill and downer that they have to reach deep within themselves to recover from. That’s just a dick move, intentional or not.
SEE YA NEXT YEAR! XOXO