Sunset Over the Lawn::: Photo by Abbey Simmons
Located on the far side of Orcas island from the ferry dock, Doe Bay Resort is a calm retreat of cabins, yurts and campsites surrounding a spa and beach. Joe Bay (real name Joe Brotherton) is the proprietor of this idyllic wonderland and his warm and fatherly presence wandered the grounds with a permanent smile ready to right any wrong and generally make everyone feel welcome. His demeanor was not that of a worried and over-wound concert promoter or venue manager, but that of a host that was actually worried about you having fun. After his second announcement on Saturday evening extending happy hour (and half price beers) to the rest of the day I decided he would probably be genuinely offended if I didn’t have fun at his own personal Woodstock, happening on the same weekend of the 40th anniversary of the original music event.
Friday evening found us exploring the grounds and meeting our tent neighbor, Portland’s own Pet Marmoset before ending up cradling a bottle of Blue Moon and enjoying the festival’s first night of talent. The “Toast of Tacoma” Goldfinch kicked off the main stage as a six piece for the first time; the two piece string ensemble was taken into hire for the festival after the band met them coming over to the island on the ferry. A band with a strong two-piece core, Grace and Aaron were the naked folks with the idea to lead us astray in the Doe Bay promo video, and their polished alt-country made for a great start. 17th Chapter kept that vibe going, and kicked it up a notch with some pretty ripping guitar solo’s.
Slender Means had the set-time where we transitioned into darkness, and the notion of “starry-eyed pop” that these gents are famous for seemed to meet reality right before our eyes. The wide band of the milky way became clearly visible in the sky by the end of their hour, a many gemmed chandelier to get lost in as one laid in the grass. The Lonely Forest rounded out the night on the main stage with an hour of hyper-active anthems to please the slowly growing crowd, the teenage contingent making their way to stand at the foot of the stage.
On Saturday after a cloudy outdoor breakfast at the sustainably run Doe Bay Cafe overlooking the namesake bay, the sun made lengthy appearances, drawing me often to the shade of the apple tree situated off to the right of the stage. It’s expansive branches were full of nearly ripe fruit and provided a spot of relief from the growing heat. As I lay in it’s shade I thought, “Self: You made the right decision in missing your 10 year high school reunion this weekend. Moments like this are few and far between.” Music festivals these days are in general crowded, corporate and secured, yet Doe Bay Fest broke all those rules and 700+ people were able to enjoy themselves rather responsibly without any of that.
Seattle’s Spanish for 100 welcomed the early arrivals and announced the start of the day for the late risers, while Portland’s Weinland was well attended by an enthusiastic Portland contingent. Friday Mile reminded me a lot of Stars, an alt-country version of them maybe. The Moondoggies who’s roots in local taverns now seem right at home now in the sun in front of hundreds.
Hey Marseilles, whom we caught up with on the ferry over, was sans a guitarist/mandolinist in Nick; who the night before had likely broken his wrist playing drunk volleyball in camp. Not fully aware of what he had done found himself the next day in pain. We’ve seen this play out before somewhere haven’t we? Oh, yes. The temporary six piece balked not at all at the change in circumstances and ultimately delivered on their usual promise of a lively and uplifting set just the same.
In the waning hours of the intermittent sunlight, David Bazan brought a decidedly different feel to the evening. Apologizing for not being able to bring his new band, he played a number of songs from his new record but also “Priests and Paramedics” and “Transcontinental,” Pedro the Lion songs typical of his recent house show repertoire. The crowd was utterly quiet, reverent of the words pouring out of his mouth, and drinking in the weight of his expressed conflict. During one of his traditional mid-set question and answer sessions somebody asked an obvious surface question (“What’s Your Favorite Color?), and never one to be predictable, he gave an answer that spoke volumes about where he is right now saying, “The color my daughter thinks is my favorite is black. And I think that’s probably the best answer I can give at this point.” When somebody asked what his favorite Psalm was he responded “Psalm 23 I’ve still managed to find it comforting through all this time.” (For the curious and unfamiliar, that Psalm begins “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” See a recent Chicago Reader piece for more context about why this answer is important.)
The Maldives began their set late due to some tech issues, also a man short as they were missing pedal steel player Chris Zasche. In his absence, The Maldives live sound took on a rock dimension as the dueling electric guitars stepped up their presence, and the setlist leaned heavily in favor of that being the preference. They were the first of the day to elicit and all out rush to the front of the stage for dancing as they started, and considering the slightly negative crowd response at being cut off early, well before they had a chance to end with their usual cherry on top “By the Wind Sailor,” it was clear there were a fair number of people who considered the Maldives the reason for coming.
After some time off, the Long Winters headlined Saturday night with fill-in drummer Mike Musberger, having lost drummer Nabil Ayers to NYC. Recently front man John Roderick has been holed up in his South Seattle house, attempting to write the next Long Winters record, and so far, by all accounts, it’s been a challenge. One new song did make an appearance though, amongst a set of what I considered to be the band’s best. My ideal set list was pretty much met as they warmed up with “Pushover,” snuck in a few oldies like “Medicine Cabinet Pirate” and “Scared Straight,” and filled a request for “Cinnamon.” Aside from the music, one can pretty much guarantee Roderick will have all sorts of things to say about all sorts of things, and this night was no different. On algae bioluminesence: “my college nickname.” An inflatable earth ball floating on stage mid set became an opportunity to schedule an after show talk about “earth responsibility” with it’s young owner Oliver. By the end I was thinking maybe Roderick should strike out on a musical comedy tour a la Reggie Watts.
As the festival wound down we tramped down to the area of the camp overlooking the bay, in search of the Yoga studio where it turned out by the time we arrived, Goldfinch was already in action for the final set of the fest. Afterward a group of us, including Maldives, Moondoggies, John Roderick, and Dave Bazan, walked down to the beach to view the bioluminescence in all it’s glory. After a count down, we all at once threw rocks in the water to witness the glow as the algae was stirred. Soon realizing the meteor shower was still in full effect our eyes turned skyward, searching the milky way, and able to find success just often enough to keep us awestruck for a while. And as I passed a bottle of tequila around between the festival’s promoter and the sound man who were alternately digging up facts about the Pig War, I actually felt what everyone else had been saying all day long: right at that moment there was really no other place that I would rather be.
In the shade of the Apple Tree ::: Photo by Josh Lovseth
The Maldives are comfortable with Island chains ::: Photo by Abbey Simmons
It’s Not Called Doe Bay for Nothing ::: Photo by Abbey Simmons
A Selection of photos from each day are below the fold… or check our flickr page for the full bonanza.