I landed at O'Hare Airport last night after 11 days of jaunting around Oregon, Montana, and Washington State - with a very special two night stop in Carnation, WA for the very first Timber! Music Festival. Timber! was put on by the wonderful people at Artist Home, the same folks responsible for the magic that is Doe Bay Fest. It featured a slew of talented artists from the Pacific Northwest, and was built on the same principles as Doe Bay: community, kindness, and a respect for music.
When we arrived at the beautiful Tolt MacDonald Park,, less than an hour outside of Seattle, the first thing I noticed was the sense of calm. This was no Bonnaroo, no Lollapalooza. There were no corporations, they hadn't packed everyone in like a sardine. This was a beautiful County Park, wide open spaces, and a pair of quiet stages brimming with talent.
To get to the stages from the camping area, we crossed a beautiful suspension bridge into the park area itself.
Our group of four crossed over, exploring the merchandise, and wandering over to the Campfire Stage, where the incredibly talented Andrew Joslyn and the Passenger String Quartet started the weekend off in about the best way possible. Their blend of covers, original compositions, and contemporary pieces washed over us as we sipped our first beers, laid down in the grass, and enjoyed the breeze gently rolling off the river.
We lazed around this stage for most of the day, relaxing as we listened to fantastic performances from S and Avians Alight, then meandered around the grounds, checking out the main stage area then changing into evening clothes (it got chilly!) to prepare for my most anticipated set of the evening, the incredibly talented Bryan John Appleby. He commanded the campfire stage, quelling chatter from the beer garden with his soul-searching voice and beautiful songwriting. His cover of Simon and Garfunkel's Sound of Silence silenced the crowd as the stars glistened over head.
Thanks to Kelly Alexander for this incredible video:
After basking under the stars briefly, we wandered back to our tents, and in a delightfully impromptu twist, we found ourselves wandering the grounds, my friend Chris playing his banjo, with some new friends in tow (playing a drum and another banjo). We wandered the darkness until we stumble upon a midnight jam around a lantern tucked behind some bushes. Lucky for us, this wasn't an ordinary jam session - it was Jacob Miller and the Bridge City Crooners, and they were happy to have a couple of banjos jamming along. I can't say enough about how nice these guys were, and how electrifyingly talented they are. If you get a chance, put on some dancing shoes and check them out. Trust me. Check out this song and buy this album. Do it!
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My girlfriend and I wandered away from the jam session after an exhilarating 45 minutes, and as we stumbled through the dark back to camp, I heard a familiar voice arcing over the trees of the park. We ran up the hills, to a campfire outside of one of the yurts, to find none other than Matt and Aubrey of the unbelievably talented band The Local Strangers playing a set around the campfire. Even as I type this, I struggle to believe the incredible amount of things we witnessed in such a short time. And this was only the first day!
We woke up early on Saturday, wandered around, hung out with neighbors and new friends, and then wandered down to the Main Stage where the day was starting off. After a fantastic set from Jacob Miller and the Bridge City Crooners, we walked behind the stage to take a swim in the river while we listened to Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers. We swam around, listening to the fantastic set, and ran into some of the artists who had played the day before taking a swim. It felt like a really special opportunity.
We stayed at the Main Stage for the next four sets, and man oh man, was there some incredible music played. We witnessed a stunning early afternoon set from the fabulous Lemolo, who played for an absolutely entrancing 45 minutes. They're a band that everyone should be listening to. Seriously.
We then found ourselves dancing, jumping, and hollering along with infectious drum-filled choruses of Kithkin, and the catchy pop-folk of Ivan and Alyosha. Both of these bands also fall under the category of not to be missed.
After Ivan and Alyosha finished, we felt the need to take a break. While wandering through the field near the quiet camping area - we stumbled upon Noah Gundersen filming a session of his song 'Dying Now'. We settled into the grass and watched him play the song a few times, just incredibly grateful for that twist of fate.
We found our way back to camp, changed into clothes for the evening, and headed down to the campfire stage to catch the final two sets of Timber! The first, a stunning set from Boston transplant Vikesh Kapoor, performing with the Passenger String Quartet. His careful, contemplative brand of folk whistled through the air, sending shivers up all of our spines. That paved the way for the last, and most memorable set of the fest. Noah Gundersen, performing with a full band. He wove his way through songs new and old, and performed maybe the most heartbreaking rendition of the Joni Mitchell song 'A Case of You' that I've ever heard. Thinking back on the weekend now, Noah's set still renders me a little speechless. Here's another video from Kelly Alexander - this one of Noah performing his track 'Fire'.
As I struggle to find a way to get back into the spirit of work, and Chicago, I needed to write this just to express my incredible gratitude for having had the opportunity to experience such a perfect, perfect music festival.