We have been blissfully trekking from one end of the country to the other this month. Last weekend we made our way to upstate New York for the HOOT music festival at Ashokan. I have been wondering how to convey how much awesomeness was packed into this three day music festival. The vibe, the people, the weather, the location, the details, and of course the MUSIC!
We drove to New Paltz to see our old friends who we visited with last year around this time. Then we all drove up to Olivebridge, NY to the Ashokan Center. Oh my, what an stunning slice of planet earth this place is. Waterfalls and mountains and forest and rolling hills and beautiful farms around every corner. We were a little unsure about how camping with four kids ages 2, 5, 8, and 9 would go, and how they would do with 3 solid days of concerts and people and activity. But it all fell so beautifully into place.
For various logistical reasons we camped in what was known as the "noisy" campsite. We planned on the quiet site, thinking it would be better for the kids to sleep and nap, but that didn't work out. So we were a little nervous about what noisy meant.
It ended up being a gift rather than a curse. Noisy is not the right word, they should have named it the amazing musical campsite. Extremely talented musicians were all around us and in this campsite the deal was that they could make music anytime they wanted 24/7. Now this was not Lollapalooza, so we're talking folk music, easy going, really fabulous guitar, banjo, fiddle, ukulele, and the like. I am talking really talented people making really good music, music you would pay to hear but they were just jamming (and this wasn't even an official part of the festival!) I was a little shocked when I made a 2am trip to the port-o-potty and heard soft singing voices in perfect 3-part harmony along with a variety of string instruments going strong. Sure enough, they were out there. I was serenaded under a full moon. The kids stayed asleep and I got to listen throughout the night and I drifted in and out of sleep.
Around 7am we realized that being in the noisy campsite was a good choice for another reason. Uh, kids are not exactly quiet. Especially our kids. Especially our kids catching frogs (man there were A LOT of frogs too!) Sorry late night music makers! They were incredibly gracious about it.
The festival was so well organized and really kid friendly. There were food vendors for folks who were just in for the day or if you didn't want to cook at your campsite the whole time. There was ice cream, of course! There were very clean bathrooms, showers!, two different kids areas with games and crafts and water. There was a hands on blacksmith class for the kids. And yet overall it was very intimate, calm, family friendly, and not crowded at all.
But the reason we came, of course, was the music. Oh the music!
So many new amazing acts to hear, kids dancing in the field, and a solar powered stage! For me the highlight of the whole weekend was getting to hear Elizabeth Mitchell who was performing with Dan Zanes. She is literally the soundtrack to Naia's childhood so far, and we adore her music and all that she does (not to mention her beautiful music videos are the only way I get Naia's hair combed and braided in the mornings!) This is the second time we've seen them in concert and they were so energetic and so genuine, it was such a treat. And then of course having not just Dan Zanes on stage... but... Natalie Merchant too (she had done a solo set the night before, but we only caught a little of it because it was way past tired kids hour!)
The centerpiece of the whole festival though was right after Elizabeth Mitchell when Pete Seeger performed and chatted on stage. He is truly a legend and yet also so real and genuine. 94 years old, he is the taproot of the whole folk and children's music world today as we know it. Even if you don't think you know a Pete Seeger song, trust me you do. Have you ever sat around a campfire and sang with people? Have you ever done a sing along at camp or school? Have you ever hummed a tune and you're not sure who wrote it, but it's just in your veins since you can remember. Then you know Pete Seeger's music. He's the grand-daddy of them all.
It was really cool to see performers become audience members as everyone hushed to hear him do his thing on stage.
Finally, Elizabeth Mitchell and her family, and Natalie Merchant, Jay and Molly Ungar, Mike + Ruthy, and so many more joined Seeger on stage for a moving sing along of Turn, Turn, Turn with lyrics Seeger's recently deceased wife Toshi wrote especially for children and This Land Is Your Land. (You can see a wonderful photo of it here.) There wasn't a dry eye at the festival at this point.
So, the question is... who's coming next year?