Doe Bay is What You Make It
I got back home after Doe Bay exhausted, with a lot of other, non- Doe Bay worries on my mind. On the ferry my breath tasted of cheap coffee, yawns, and stale cigarette smoke. I didn’t want to see the angular expanse of Seattle pierce the horizon like the rudest of wake up calls, but at the same time I longed for just the merest bit of reality. Doe Bay had robbed me of my perspective.
My friend Adam said it best:
“Yeah. Doe Bay is the fitted sheet of festivals. Can’t be folded.”
When a thing is burdened with so much expectation, often no amount of natural accomplishment can live up to it. Or, conversely, nothing can taint it in the minds of the rabid believers. Doe Bay Festival has gained both frenzied apostles, and cynics who doubt the truth behind the claims that Doe Bay is the best thing that has ever happened to music or the world. Even better than Jimi Hendrix waking Woodstock up with a flaming guitar and the national anthem. Even better than Thom Yorke coming into your house and snuggling with you while singing you lullabies. Even better than candy with no high fructose corn syrup, because, like, THAT MEANS IT’S FINALLY GOOD FOR ME!!
I fell somewhere uncomfortably between the two camps- wanting Doe Bay Fest to be wonderful, to be healing in some way that perhaps shakers can be, but also remembering it’s just a festival, so maybe it’ll be ok if it’s not wide-eyed perfection. So I went with apprehension and excitement, and a line-up of bands of which I knew very few.
Through the weekend, there was beautiful scenery, and laughter blissfully echoing over the emerald expanse of the grounds, and drinks flowing, and beautiful people who I tried very hard to like even though they seemed to not look deranged after camping for three days. And there was the music.
This year’s line up was relaxed, with no one band drawing the entire festival. In that lenient spirit, I wandered into some standout sets. I probably also missed some, because of afternoon naps. There was the rambling, patchwork charm of Blitzen Trapper, the space age funk-psych rap of THEESatisfaction, the stormy bliss of The Devil Whale. There were moments when it seemed so natural and clear that it takes a breeze and the craggy grandeur of Orcas’ cliffs to split people’s hearts open to new music. Like Radiation City in the hot afternoon, both thrilling with their clatter, and simultaneously sending a yearning cool over the rolling lawn. How the marine acoustics of the Sound carried Tom Eddy’s Paul Simon covers to wake me up, and when I stumbled out to look at the idyllic blue and white of the capping ocean swells, Noah Gunderson covered Radiohead and it felt so close I swore the trees were wired into the Otter Cove stage.
Music is secondary, a complement, to Doe Bay’s appeal. Doe Bay is an escape; one with tambourines and riffs that threaten to dismantle the Washington clouds, but what I remember is Thursday when I woke up. And the bay was quiet, and my skin was Seattle pale, and there was the licking of waves before the Friday marching band would shatter it with their interminable cow bell. And I believed for a second in the silent hallelujah, and the harmonious whispers of the wind touching my cheek, as if it was a friend trying to say, “oh honey, it’s been so long, where have you been?”
I decided then to focus on the real DIY (Do It Yourself) mentality of the festival, and maybe help this self-contained mythos of the “Doe Bay magic” along by seeking it out, and believing in the fleeting moments of it.
The magic of Doe Bay, specifically Doe Bay 2012, is in the unexpected moments- Kithkin shattering the gently strumming minds of the Doe Bay alumni, and when I wandered into the frigid Sound in my navy blue dress so I could see the fish eye world rimmed with robin egg’s blue and Douglas Fir. It was in stubbing my toe to the delight of my friends as I sailed through the early afternoon air in a desperate attempt to not spill my water. Singing along to Lemolo through the feedback, lifting my sloshing beer glass to the clear sky as they sang about open air. There was evergreen alchemy in Pickwick taking over for Cave Singers while little kids went wild with dancing too close to the stacks for their ears to handle. It was there when I saw couples camped out in front of the main stage, holding hands, their knuckles dirty from days of dusty camping.
Doe Bay is not the same as it was last year- plenty of reviews will tell you this. But nor are we, and the magic is in whatever hallelujah you sing along to. Doe Bay is a place that will not force your exalted moment upon you- be it in the water just freed from ice floes, to the campfire sing-along, no doubt rehearsed, keeping people clapping until the sun feels coerced to join.
Doe Bay Festival is what you make it, a true DIY event, and whether you’re a cynic, a singer, or a disciple, you can do with it what you want and find company. What makes it special beyond that hype and heresy is that it’s lifting all of the excess of every day life out of the equation and bringing it over the water. And in the far-flung reaches of the northern Puget Sound, there are guitars and shakers and some kids making loud noise, and it’s easier to see those small stars when there aren’t so many bright lights crowding them out.