Day 1 – Friday, May 4th Since I don’t have access to the internet this weekend in the campground (haven’t figured out how to use the new Blackjack – cell phone – as a modem yet) I’ll keep a running diary and you’ll get it all in one whack. We pulled into the Anastasia State Park at around 2:30. Back in January I had reserved on line the LAST available campsite for a travel trailer (ours is an older 24’ Coachman), but it turned out to be a decent spot, not far from the walk thru to the Amphitheatre grounds where the festival takes place. We got settled in, immediately saw some of our folkie buds, and then headed back out to find the High Tide Café’ where I’m playing Saturday at noon. High Tide is on Old Dixie Highway in St. Augustine. It is an eclectic little café and gallery that just won the #1 spot in the voting for Taste of St. Augustine. It’s going to be an interesting set up as the café occupies and old house and, therefore, there are no larger open areas that would be an obvious first choice. Many folks set up outside on the porch, but frankly I think it’s a bit warm for that. So I’m considering doing a “strolling” type gig, room to room, and see what happens. At least that way I won’t have to set up sound and be rushed to tear down and get back for my 4:20 set on the Old Town Stage at the festival. The new Amphitheatre is impressive. Huge covered seating area that would accommodate, I’m sure, several thousand. It made the first night crowd of a few hundred or so look deceptively small. Amy Carol Webb opened the night with her usual high energy flair. I truly envy her stage “aura” – she draws every single person in and commands your willing attention and participation. It’s like the old Jedi mind trick from Star Wars – truly mystical. Ron & Bari Litschauer joined her for one of her popular numbers (sorry, don’t know the name - the recounting of finding the homemade biscuits and the firm, but loving waitress she encountered on the way to Willfest a couple of years back) and Wishing Chair joined her for one of her two encores. For her second encore she played Steve Blackwell’s “The Real Magic Kingdom” which was a special treat and continuing tribute to our dear friend who, as always, is right here with us in the music. I saw some new folks I haven’t seen before. David Jacobs-Strain from Oregon put on a spectacular blues show with amazing guitar work and powerful vocals. Wow! Watch for his name and check out some of his recording. I really enjoyed the warm, unassuming style and grace of Caroline Herring. She is a southern songwriter who I would liken to the style of Gillian Welch and Nanci Griffith. I can tell she’s someone who you’d enjoy sitting around the living room and swapping tunes with anytime. The Burns Sisters rounded out the night with their usual high energy and ultra tight, amazing harmonies. Alright enough of this – I need to get focused on playing tomorrow. It’s going to be a busy day! Saturday, May 5th – So, I got to High Tide a little before 11 am to scope it out again and make a final decision as to whether to set up a small sound system or not. As I walked through I noticed that all the floors were wood, very little in the way of fabric on the window, etc and very high, hard ceilings – you thinking what I was thinking? Yep, the acoustics were very good and sound really carried. I got out my guitar and “sound checked” a couple of spots and made the final decision to just go acoustic. That left me time to grab a sandwich. They do those pressed sandwiches on a variety of freshly baked breads and I now know why they won the Taste of St. Augustine – it’s terrific. Folks started flowing in at noon and I picked a spot near the two largest areas where sound would project well down a hallway between. It was an unusual situation for me in that I wasn’t introducing songs or having my usual patter with the audience. So I just played and played. The audience, as they came and went, were very appreciative and complimentary, stopping to ask the “who, what, when, where” and buying a few CD’s that I had placed on a table near the main traffic area. I picked up one true fan there. A young man (Trace, aged approximately 6 or 7 years) was absolutely transfixed. He kept edging out of the “kids” area in the very back of the café, where his mother had him and his younger sister, so that he could see me down the hallway. He finally convinced mom to let him take his small chair and put it in a corner just a few feet from me. He planted himself there and sat stone still and wordless through at least 8 songs, eating the sandwich that his mom brought to him and clapping after every tune. I suggested that he should get his mother to bring him out to the festival, but he explained quite solemnly that he couldn’t because he had “lost his privileges” (his words exactly). He wouldn’t tell me what he’d done, but I commiserated and told him that I occasionally lose my privileges too. So, as it turned out, The High Tide Cafe was a very relaxed (and profitable – always good) two hour warm up for my 4:20 pm set back at the festival. If you’re up this way, check them out – great food and very nice folks working hard at a tough, tough business. My set back at the festival went exceptionally well. It was at the only indoor stage (that translates to air conditioning!!) which is in the Amphitheatre building. The sound was excellent and I got to debut a new tune “Sinner’s Song” which was very well received. So well, in fact, that I might make it the next installment in my “The Story Behind the Song” postings coming soon. We went out for an early dinner with a group of friends, Chuck and Patricia Spano (whose Live at Eagle Rock series I will open for Laurie McClain next Friday in Ormond Beach), their family and two folk “super fans,” Bill and Barbara Derby. We ate at the famous (or infamous) Gypsy Cab Co. It’s yet another spot you shouldn’t miss in St. Augustine. The evening performances were superb. I will admit to another personal favorite – VTW. Lis and Lon Williamson with Gabe Valla (but absent my friend Jason Thomas who has been drafted as the new fiddler for the Claire Lynch Band – way to go Jason! You’ve earned it) were joined by Tuck on Dobro. These guys are TIGHT! Lis (this year’s Will McLean Award winner) is a rock solid rhythm guitar and banjo player with a stunning voice. Lon is equally rock solid on bass and showed off his own pipes on a couple of tunes. I like that they are playing more original stuff and I particularly liked a couple of Lon’s tunes, including “Under the Radar.” I expect that now that Lis is concentrating more on writing that we’ll get to hear a lot of her work too. Gabe Valla is absolutely “knock your socks off” spectacular on lead guitar. These folks, besides being extraordinary musicians, are just great people too. If you ever get a chance to see VTW (which stands for Valla, Turner, Williamson) in any format do not, I repeat DO NOT, miss them. You will instantly be a devoted fan I guarantee. VTW was followed by 17 year old Josh Pinkham and his family. This kid has been playing mandolin since he was 11 and I doubt there are many veteran pickers out there who can keep up with him. Very impressive. The Burns Sisters then came on for another stellar set. The legendary Michael Smith followed and had the whole amphitheatre singing the chorus on “The Dutchman,” possibly one of the greatest pieces of musical poetry ever written. And, The Lovell Sisters rounded out the evening. Judy retired early at that point and I wandered over to Ron and Bari Litschauer’s campsite. We never got out a single instrument, but instead sat and told stories, made jokes (most of which can’t be printed here for sure!) and laughed until the wee hours. Much fun with good friends. Sunday, May 6th I got drafted as a judge in the “I Remember Gamble” songwriting / storytelling contest with Charlie Simmons and Jim Carrick. 12 terrific entrants played songs and told stories over the course of an hour and a half and three winners were chosen. Sorry, but you’ll have to visit the festival webpage for the announced winners. Well the rain held off Friday and Saturday, but today it struck fast and hard right about 1 pm. A torrential drenching with an impressive lightning display put an early end to Wishing Chair’s set on the main stage. Even under cover the wind drove the rain in on sound equipment as everyone capable scurried to help the crew cover speakers, etc. with tarps to protect them. But the rain lasted less than an hour and things picked back up. I caught a show on the Old Town Stage by my old friend, Don Oja-Dunaway. Great set including a couple of my favorite tunes. Don is the resident musician at the Milltop Tavern in St. Augustine. If you’re up there, stop in and catch his show. Ask for “Halloween in Marblehead” and tell him I sent you. With the sky still looking questionable I figured discretion was the better part of valor. We loaded the camper and headed out sorry as always to be heading back to the real world, but already looking forward to: Friday, May 11 – Live at Eagle Rock in Ormond Beach Saturday, May 19 – Infusion Tea in Orlando (College Park) Friday – Sunday, May 25 – 27th – Florida Folk Festival in White Springs Ain’t May a great month! See you soon.