Even though it feels otherwise, I haven’t always been coming to Doe Bay.
True. I grew up
going to Fleetwood Mac, Clapton, Moody Blues concerts
in a boat that worshiped Pink Floyd, The Who
in a Massachusetts home, my own record collection was beneath my parent’s 8-Track player.
When I was barely old enough to go to concerts by myself,
I went out on a crazy pre-adolescent limb, followed
New Kids on the Block, The Bangles, Skid Row, Tiffany, The Beasties, The Go-Gos, Poison, Slaughter, Guns and Roses. So many bands came to my corner of Massachusetts
I tried on all musical genres for a while like I tried perms and crazy bangs and Hypercolor sweatshirts.
In middle school I played lacrosse and liked how Slash played guitar. Serious.
In high school I played lacrosse and liked how Mickey Hart played drums.
Just how it all went down, in 1990 I saw Phish in Springfield with about 300 people. They used a vaccum as an instument and the parking lot scene was a whole lot more my style. I left behind big hair and boy bands, unsure if the new band from Vermont would make it. Ha! A best girl friend from this show still sees Phish many different times a year. Yup, they made it alright.
Early David Bowie and Neil Young became my very first cassette loves, and it wan’t long before I was playing a tomato red guitar, traveling up and down the eastern coast for Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia Band shows. Highgate, VT to Atlanta, Georgia, I drove a brown Honda accord; I was that girl who sold dresses, screen printed t-shirts, ate grilled cheese in the parking lots.
Now, I’m that girl with three little ladies, driving a minivan with my husband. We’re those people on the couch at 9:30 at night wondering how it got so late.
Music and shows found us in high school and we’ve been making a spot in our life ever since. Whether it’s Willie Nelson at Rodeo grounds, RL Burnside on Burnside, or Steve Earl at a Zoo, we’ll make it happen and vow to catch up on sleep another time.
Luckily, we live a short ferry ride from the greatest, most intimate and relaxed music festival: Doe Bay Fest.
We decided to attend the most family-friendly music festival without our children. Two of our girls were excited for grandparent time, while our oldest was sad to miss hula hoops and sunshine and dancing and just all-around good times by the sea. It was hard boarding the ferry with a smile over our shoulder, so happy for a little time together while feeling guilty about the tears of our firstborn daughter.
I’m a lyric lover, and I think I spent so much time in my early days watercoloring cassette tape covers beacuse I could just get lost in each note of a song, each line by the speaker and how it turned into the next song before I had to flip it over.
Doe Bay Fest is like a tape flip, the B-side:
the next band, next stage is all-together different and entirely awesome.
We were only a two minute walk from the Otter Cove Stage after we set up our tent under an evergreen.
It was flip-flop hot, with a blue sky begging for sunsreen on bare skin shaking above the sea. In the distance, folks lept off cliffs while boats arrived, anchored and swayed to the unusual arrangements and passionate lyrics of Chesapeake, Virginia’s The Last Bison.
With a 2, 5, and 7 year old in our days, we’re always answering questions, holding a tiny hand, or helping in one way or another. In eight years, we’d never been away for three days, two nights.
Hello, Doe Bay. This is going to be awesome, we said beneath the sun.
As we sat on an old quilt in the sunlight, taking in all the goodness Bison was sending out, we felt just how totally incredible the weekend was about to be.
A few hours in the sunshine, a quick walk through the woods, around the soaking tubs and over the creek, we sprawled out in front of the Main Stage.
With a lot of late-night Olympic viewing, we’d been super-into badmitten and other forgotten Olympic sports that look hilariously intense. But I just couldn’t get over the sunshine and the drawn out time to sit still, something that doesn’t often happen as a Mama.
Luke was asked by a band to play badmitten. They needed an extra, and at almost six and a half feet tall, he’s the one you’d look for. And that’s just the thing that makes coming to Doe Bay Fest so great. There aren’t huge barriers and wacked out security guards and unapproachable artists. There’s badmitten with a keyboardist, the sharing of knitting patterns with a bassist, and the swapping of a gluten-free recipe with a badass songstress.
We sat in the front row on an old quilt, with old friends and a picnic basket packed properly, in a way that only happens when little hands, little questions aren’t around.
In college, I lived in an old red farmhouse on the edge of town. New Hampshire’s foliage brought the time when we’d haul the furniture out into the barn, lock our bedroom doors and have bands from VT play in our kitchen. Good times.
Doe Bay Fest feels just like familiar traditions with friends known for years and new folks we’re excited to see in festivals and concerts again.
The Maldives What can I say. From the lyrics, to the smooth melodic transitions; from the badass drummer and right down to the Neil shirt, front and center, I dig them.
Portland Cello Project In my next life I’m going to play the cello. It’s a language I get, and this assembly played Pantera, Kanye West and everything in between. This music matched the surroundings: beautiful, in a enormously unique way.
In true island style, the gathering resembles a giant block party, and instead of the croquet my mind’s used to, there’s games like Kubb, a Sweedish lawn game where the object is to knock over wooden blocks by throwing wooden sticks at them, sort of like lawn horsehoe bowling, if that even existed. We played with strangers, left the game with new friends from Portland, Seattle and still never had to put our drinks on the grass. Seems like something that was invented by the firewood pile, but it’s hip enough to play all year. It might even work in a downpour.
We loved being able to walk down to the ocean and take an insta-cool-off dip in the chilly sea. Everywhere we turned, there were guitars and laughter and introductions. Songs starting, new duets forming and cell numbers exchanged.
I left the east coast fourteen years ago, but somehow I’m still getting used to the friendliness of it all. I know I’m biased because I now call the islands home, but seriously, this is a happy spot.
To me, there’s a certain amount of foam which comes with an awesome latte and an adequate amount of humor that must accompany a good barista. Thankfully, Doe Bay Fest espresso’s Coffee Tyme does not disappoint.
A spectacular part of the festival were all the parts we were least expecting. The weather was insane, and traveling to a neighboring island without our daughters was just so good. Luke and I had the time to stroll around after Yoga Studio shows of Kung Foo Grip and Motopony, after midnight we crossed the creek beside our tent into what seemed like a secret and amazing mini-show. Guitar, vocals, moonlight until two o’clock in the morning.
Jake Hemming of Big Sur makes a wool suit in the hottest part of the day look cool.. The pedal steel guitar always takes me back to our days in Montana, AM radio in the old pickup. The lines of the songs and the beat held us happy for the not-long-enough fourty-five minute set.
By the second day, all three of our daughters had called crying and wondering if we were ever coming back to their island. Everywhere we looked, children were happily entertained, laughing, meeting immediate new BFFs and hula hooping by the sunflowers. We felt really guilty about not bringing them along to the super-family-friendly island festival and promised them we’d not only bring them a stuffed doe, but would bring them to the next one.
Land of Pines was like that moment when your wallet is empty and you find a few $20s in a back pocket of old jeans. Local music festivals are like that, I guess. We were blown away.
Where you hear a new band for the first time and wonder how it is you haven’t heard of them before, it’s easy to listen with every inch. We loved Land of Pines. They were fresh and heavy and rockin.’
Bobby Bare, Jr. was a festival favorite, a story-telling master with a serious history on the stage with Nashville roots. He had the best sort of old guitar and acoustic narratives like conversations between old friends. We could have listened to him for hours; it’s no wonder he hangs with Justin Townes Earl and Todd Snider. And after listening to a few of his songs/stories, we felt as if we knew him well. And, since it’s Doe Bay, we realized he’s the guy we’d ran into earlier that morning when the air was chilly and the smell of bacon drifted from campsite to campsite.
Ivan & Alyosha was fun and hip and poppy and took the stage as the light was just right in the evergreens behind the stage.
Blitzen Trapper was absolutely rad. Each song was such a lovely story and their music makes for a perfect backdrop, the perfect soundtrack for northwest days. We could have listened for hours.
Pickwick was the best kept secret of the second evening. Something happened to the Cave Singers, and maybe even one of the Pickwick members wore a Cave Singers shirt or someone in the audience requested a Cave Singers song, but what ever the reason the last minute decision to add Pickwick to the festival was brilliant. Our daughters helped break the stage the year before during Hacienda Motel, and everyone knew they’d bring the crowd to its feet. I love Otis Redding and vinyl and clever honesty and it’s all felt when listening to Pickwick.
I loved all those funky jazz fingers dancing up towards the sky, tickeling the celebration of a Perseid meteor shower.
On a date, we traveled last fall to The Rendezvous to see Bryan John Appleby, Joseph Giant, Smokey Brights, and Sons of Warren Oats. It had all the charm of folding up Doe Bay Fest and placing it in your pocket.
The Sons of Warren Oats’ songs tell such a story it’s like eavesdropping on a recording. But, this was the Doe Bay Cafe stage and there were drinks and food and someone’s birthday near the door so it was hard to listen to the songs in they way they were meant to be received. It was hard to hear and it was hard to bend the difference on those partying and chatting with those listening and attending a show.
I had a tape long ago of Neil Young in Texas, 1976. I’m pretty sure the Memorex evaporated after listening so often to the acoustic show. He played to about 400 people and I’m not even sure anyone took a breath for an hour and a half. In between songs he told stories and you’d only hear the occational clink of a glass or slither of a hand in a pocket.
Some bands are meant for rocking out with hands up in the air, eyes closed and boogying about. While others, like this one in my opinion, are meant to hang on every word. It was a bummer this stage, this space lacked the feel of a livingroom. With that all said, we still listened through the loud stories of a still-partying backdoor crowd and hung onto the lines, the chords.
So many amazing moments hang in mind’s view: John Roderick, Bobby Bare Jr., Noah Gundersen, and Daniel Blue around an apple tree, taking midnight acoustic or a capella turns with a tune before a Perseid meteor shower; our wedding song (Etta James’ At Last) sung by Adra Boo and backed up by the Portland Cello Project. Sigh. I could just keep going on. So many other bands I could describe..
On our last morning, I walked down and joined the long line at the espresso shack at Otter Cove.
I talked gluten-free recipes with a beautiful singer behind me, and spoke of my favorite neighborhood in Portland with a talented singer in front of me. I talked east coast bagels with someone from New York. With salt from yesterday’s swim still on our skin, we all couldn’t wait for shower’s home and crossed our fingers for managable ferry lines.
Once out of Eastsound, curving right and driving to the front of the Friday Harbor lane felt like hitting the lottery. Mainland lanes held truck gate sun bathers and backseat nappers for a sailing or two.
With an hour before our ferry, we had a quiet and slow breakfast at the Orcas Hotel. Soon, we’d be hanging with our girls where our afternoon would be anything but quiet and slow.
Breakfast was perfectly chill, and we decided it’s our favorite meal out, the best when smooth and delicious and our least frequent as just the two of us.
It’s no surprise that the appoachability and friendly, hip feel of the festival flows directly from Joe Brotherton. In true island style, he’s conscious of the neighbors, welcoming and good-hearted. Thanks, Joe. It was a great weekend.