Thursday, October 16, 2014

Show Review: Shakori Hills Fall 2014

Paperhand Puppet Intervention Harvest Parade
Every festival one attends has the capacity of becoming a learning experience. Many learn their limits, like how much music you can fit into one day or how many tacos you can eat in one sitting. Many learn how willing they are to stand in the middle of a rain storm to see a band they've never heard of, but for some reason strangely connect with at this point in time. But most importantly a lot of folks learn how to let go of the little things, kick off your shoes and run around in the mud, and soak in the joys of humanity. Shakori Hills is a festival that celebrates all things good in life, music, friends, family, arts and crafts, food, beer, diversity. Really the list goes on. From all around the country folks travel to this 74-acre farm that becomes a temporary mecca for people from all walks of life. Walk around the woods in the middle of the day and you're liable to find a man with peppered grey hair and a braided beard discussing music, life and everything in between with a group of drunken twenty-somethings covered in dirt. Take another turn in the same woods and you can find a couple making french toast for any festivalgoer that's willing to sing them a song. It's a place where everyone feels at home, everyone feels like family and most importantly, everyone can get down.

Whether you spent your days on a back and forth dash between tents, posted up in a lawn chair in the middle of a field, or huddled up in your campsite recovering from the night before, you've got memories and experiences you'll likely cherish for the rest of your life. Getting the chance to see members of Lost in the Trees, Loamlands, Sylvan Esso and Butterflies on stage all at once leading a massive singalong to Lionel Ritchie's "All Night Long," is something that will always stick with me. I got to watch a fur-coat clad Jonny Tunnel lead a trap-fueled dance party inside of the same tent that I saw Frank Fairfield performing hundred year old songs with a fiddle and banjo in tow. Shakori Hills provides an opportunity for people to get out of their comfort zone and listen to something they may not have heard before or befriend a stranger because you obviously enjoy the same music. It's a place where you can gladly fit fifteen people underneath an E-Z UP because it may or may not be hailing, but that doesn't matter because you'll likely be seeing music in another half hour anyways.

This isn't particularly a very conventional festival review, but Shakori isn't really a conventional festival either. Sure there's plenty of absolutely incredible acts that performed throughout the festival's four stages throughout the weekend. Lobo Marino put on a riveting performance at Carsons Grove that blended enchanting instrumentation with passionate, soul-shaking vocals. Lowland Hum somehow made a stomp box feel like a cannonball as they punctuated their heartfelt tunes with brisk, sharp knocks on the wood beneath their feet. Laura Reed put on an R&B clinic, from the moment she began her soundcheck to the end of her star-studded set that featured members of Chit Nasty Band, Saints Apollo, The Beast and more, she had the crowd dancing and shouting along to every song in a joyous fashion. Dark Water Rising, as always, kicked the early afternoon on Saturday into high gear. The band started out with their anthemic song "Love Me" one that always draws folks in thanks to Charly Lowry's soaring vocals and unforgettable melodies. By the time you sprint out of the woods to see what's going on you can see people bouncing around in a field with drinks, hoops and smiles aplenty. Fans drew in close and the show continued to connect with more and more people as the crowd gradually grew. Of course after Dark Water Rising came another one of the festival's highlights, the puppet parade. Lead by an ensemble of local musicians with horns and drums and batons, a seemingly endless line of children, teens and adults alike don absurd masks and carry towering puppets throughout the festival grounds in one of the zaniest yet enjoyable parades I've ever seen. That led into another gorgeous main stage performance from Swear & Shake with absolutely perfect weather conditions.

So obviously there was a lot to love musically about Shakori, but that's only what brings everyone onto the campgrounds. But don't get me wrong the lineup is continually stellar, it features some of the most impressive musicians I see throughout each year of shows. But it's not the lineup that keeps people coming back to this festival tucked away in Chatham County, it's the people. It's the sights and sounds and smells. It's the memories you've made and the ones in progress. It's the experience of shedding yourself of your real world problems, putting life on pause, and simply getting back to your roots. And it's the duck tots. Always the duck tots.

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