The Doe Bay Sessions: John Vanderslice
John Vanderslice and Dianna Potter ::: photo by Dylan Priest
“The longer I’m out here, the more I forget who I was.” - John Vanderslice, D.I.A.L.O
We’ve talked a lot about artists embracing “the spirit of Doe Bay” in these write ups. Whether you call it “Doe Bay Magic” or a “community of collaboration” or you don’t have a name for it, there is undeniably something about that weekend on Orcas Island that banishes barriers and encourages artists to engage with each other and fellow festival goers in a way unseen the other 51 weekends of the year. And its not just the artists for who the barriers are banished, somewhere between Anacortes and Olga, the Seattle freeze thaws and people seem more friendly and open walking down a trail than they do walking down Pine. Gone are the quiet, awkward passings and avoiding a stranger’s eye-contact. Here, “hello’s” and “good day” bounce through the alder grove with every person who walks by.
“The longer I’m out here, the more I forget who I was” sings John Vanderslice at the beginning of D.I.A.L.O And in the context of time spent at Doe Bay, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing. Vanderslice, one of the few artists who flew in from outside the Cascadian borders to perform at Doe Bay Fest dove head first into the spirit and experience of the Festival. With ties to the Northwest, but not roots, one worried he might feel like an outsider, but few if any artists embraced the collaborative spirit of Doe Bay tighter than JV. During his sunny afternoon sing-along he invited new and old friends on stage to sing harmonies with him, including Melodie Knight (from Campfire OK), Jace Krause (from Friday Mile & Fort Union) and his old merch girl, Dianna Potter. Then, of course, there was his torchlit word-of-mouth set under the Doe Bay apple tree with Damien Jurado, where he was also joined by Potter on harmonies. Nearly every song and collaboration Vanderslice participated in was punctuated by a toothy grin, a tight squeeze or some exclamation of delight.
So too was Vaderslice’s crack of dawn Doe Bay Session. With all that collaborating, exploring and enjoying, there just wasn’t another moment that worked to film JV, save 30 minutes on Sunday morning before he tried to catch a 6-something-AM ferry to the mainland. With a scheduled start time of 5:15am, Vanderslice was still bursting with positive energy and kind words. Joined again by his vocal sidekick and friend Dianna Potter, Vanderslice sang the sun up as a misty morning light crept through the Doe Bay Alder grove. As 99% of the rest of the festival slept, a couple fellow early morning risers and ferry catchers, stumbled through the filming, backpacks in tow, rubbing sleep from their eyes, looking around and wondering “am I dreaming?” Hell, we wondered ourselves as our sound guy Chris Proff dozed off mid-trail to LSD-inspired-lullabies and then as we watched Vanderslice bound through the trees as soon as the final cut ended in hopes of catching the early ferry. Standing there in the trail, still rubbing sleep from our eyes ourselves, the Session filmed in less than half an hour, we wondered aloud “was that a dream?”
No, it was better.