10/10/09 Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival, Silk Hope, NC

Come to Life, Tides of Time, Voice in My Head, Beauty Within, It's Love Time,* Blue Sky, These Are Better Days, I'll Be Gone, Ding Dang Dong,* I Don't Need a Riddle, Conscious Evolution, Locket and Key, Family Picture, Rocking Horse, Forty Days and Forty Nights, Hot Tamale Baby, If You Only Could, No Place Like the Right Time
Encore: In Another World>Revolution

*Jeb on Kent guitar

By Paul Roberge

I woke early Saturday morning to do some work before heading down to the farm for what would be a long, but special day. There was intermittent drizzle during the morning hours up here in Durham, but happily the front passed through without dropping any significant rain on us. Indeed, the sun broke through during the afternoon, and it became rather warm (ca. 80 degrees) and humid.

Mags and I arrived at the farm a little before 1:00 pm, just in time for the Belleville Outfit's unplugged session on the Front Porch. (Casey Driessen sat in on a couple of songs.) The Belleville Outfit's performance under the Dance Tent was tight, fun, and enthusiastically received. We first heard them a year ago at Shakori Hills and have seen them several times since. It is remarkable how their songwriting and performance have developed. Phoebe Hunt (fiddle, lead vocals) brims over with talent and a stage presence beyond her years (mid twenties, I would guess). We just love this band.

Next up was the Mad Tea Party over on the Grove Stage. Amy Worthen and Jason Krekel have created an off-beat, indeed unique act, and we were pleased that they drew a good, appreciative crowd. I caught the tail end of Chatham County Line's set over at the Meadow Stage, from the base camp that our dear friend Monty Coggins had set up, which tided us over until David Gans's performance in the Cabaret Tent. I have long appreciated David's Grateful Dead Hour and have corresponded with him a few times over the years (not that he would or should remember me); but I must confess that I was wholly unfamiliar with his music. bviously, I had overlooked something or haven't been paying attention, for he was terrific. Highlights included "Lady with a Fan" from the Grateful Dead's Terrapin Station suite ("Inspiration, move me brightly...") and an original instrumental piece entitled "5:15," which is a tribute to a friend who died of cancer at that hour. Very beautiful and moving. (I thought briefly of my father, who also died at 5:15, of leukemia, many years back.) David Gans's appreciation of Donna the Buffalo is profound, one must add, and he honored them with a version of "In Another World," a story of his first encounter with Jeb Puryear, and finally a rendition of Jim Page's "Goin' Down to Eugene," which he dedicated to Tara Nevins:

"The car's gassed up and I'm ready to roll
I got one eye open for the highway patrol
I got the other eye open for the freeway sign
300 miles and I'm makin' good time
My stomach's growlin' but my head's been fed
I'm goin' down to Eugene to see the Grateful Dead."

Donna's Saturday Meadow Stage closer has a very different feel than the Thursday opener. The latter is a gathering of family, warm and intimate. The former involves a much larger crowd, including the "hard core," to be sure, but also more casual fans (many of whom know the band's work quite well) as well as others who are as interested in partying as in the music for its own sake. I took my position a little further back from the rail, where the sound was better and where conditions were not quite as close. The set began with "Come to Life, another opener that I would not have expected. David McCracken got out of the gate early with some nice work during this song and drew favorable opinions from a couple folks around me. I sighed a little when Tara strummed a chord in D (I think) that signaled "Blue Sky" was up next. It's not that I don't like the song (on the contrary!), but I have heard it often enough over the years. Nevertheless, it was a crowd pleaser, and I thoroughly enjoyed what was a hotter than usual jam. David donned a purple, conical wizard's hat (like the one in "Fantasia") during "These Are Better Days," which was an amusing moment. "Conscious Evolution" was one of the evening's highlights. The jam dissolved into free form and was beautifully reconstructed into an ethereal groove that widened until Jeb's slightly atonal vocal ("Conscious evolution in front of your eyes...") brought back the song's melody. I think: There is nowhere I'd rather be than in this moment and in this place, with this band, with the ones I love, with my daughter visible to me on the far side of the stage... Again: blessedness. Vic Stafford was outstanding during the "Family Picture" jam. The Donna "machine" was fully powered up during "Hot Tamale Baby," in which David and Jay Sanders featured prominently. I was struck by the lovely coda to "If You Only Could," but am unable to describe it in prose.

Rain started to fall seriously at about 1:10 am and lasted through the "In Another World>Revolution" sequence. I walked back to our base camp to put on poncho (I was wet and shivering) and returned to the stage to find that everyone I knew had dispersed, which was a strange experience. Ordinarily, most of us enjoy one another's company for a bit after the show has concluded.

Knucklehead factor: moderate to slightly elevated. A pool toy and a very large beach ball were batted around, the latter during the most interesting part of "Conscious Evolution" and thankfully removed by Gary Pudvan when it landed on stage. At two other points, someone sounded an air horn. (I mean: Come on! What is with this nonsense?)

All in all, though, a most satisfying Saturday at Shakori Hills.In addition to some outstanding music, I relished the opportunity to be in the company of the loved ones I've been lucky to have found.

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