Labor Day weekend has meant Folkfest in my hometown of Johnstown, PA since 1992, if memory serves me correctly. It was a pretty neat concept and it really breathed some life into the depressed but beautiful town I'll probably always refer to as home. It is currently being threatened by town/church politics, and that's an interesting story, too, but not the one I want to tell today.
First of all, my birthday usually falls over Labor Day weekend, so I always feel like this is a big ole party just for me. Every year we get the opportunity to listen to a LOT of free music from national and international acts that we wouldn't otherwise be exposed to. It's also a great way to introduce the kids to a variety of genres. Almost every year we hear something that just knocks us on our asses and we can't wait to turn everyone we know on to it.
This year, for me, that act was Jason Ricci and New Blood. This was a really cool eclectic show. Click on the link now and thank me later. Let me know if I haven't turned you on to something swell.
Unfortunately, Olivia did not share my exuberance for Mr. Ricci and his band. When we went to see them Saturday night, Miss Liv was with us. She kept turning around and saying things like, "This is loud." "Why does it have to be loud?" "I hate this." "I hate this so much." "I can't hear myself think." "It's very loud." "When can we leave?" In her defense, she never raised her voice. But she was relentless. She just kept poking me and poking me with a little more desperation in her voice every time. If I wasn't digging the band so much I would have removed her after a song or two and taken her to sit somewhere quieter. Again, in fairness to her, a precedent had been set. I do that a lot, actually, and let Tom watch the rest of the set. But I was really enjoying this band and I had no intention of leaving. So she kept poking. And poking. And I finally lost my temper. In fairness to myself, I never raised my voice (too much) myself - just did the patented mom-hissing thing. Don't worry - I didn't do it in the middle of their set or anything - I marched her - and everyone else with us - outside the immediate performance area.
Then we went back to my parents house. At 7:30. On a festival night. I was an unhappy camper indeed.
The next night went better. A lot better.
Mom offered to keep Olivia occupied and that meant I got to hear a lot more of Jason Ricci and New Blood. We also listened to an excellent set by Jason and the Scorchers. And Lea got to listen to her favorite band from this years festival, Red Collar. There was a lot of energy in their set and frankly, I don't know which I enjoyed more - listening to and watching the band, or watching Lea watch the band. She was just digging on it so much, and it was so fun to watch her just being so moved - just - getting it. Red Collar had a female bass player. (Lea has recently rejected her guitar in favor of a bass, so this was really inspirational for her.) Lea approached her after the set and she talked with her at length, a festival highpoint for Miss Lea.
My father loves this festival, if it's possible, even more than I do. Mom likes it too, but she doesn't feel the need to be there from open to close all three days. Dad does. I like to pace myself, check a few things out, then really spend a nice chunk of time listening to the bands I really like. Dad looks at at more like a game he must win. He wears a little schedule around his neck and carefully plots his course so that he is sure to see every band there at least for a little while. He will leave in the middle of a set he is enjoying because he's scheduled to be at another stage in 5 minutes. I love that we "do" the festival so differently, but still manage to run into him and Mom a lot. And we're always happy to see each other.
Concurrently there is an Arts Festival that takes within walking distance from my parents house. Traditionally we start each morning there, then head down to the festival via the Johnstown Inclined Plane. I had been a little disappointed with the Arts Festival last year, I think it had become a little stale for me, but this year there were a lot of new vendors and I enjoyed it a lot. Dropped a little cash there, for sure. I did some Christmas shopping - nothing like a unique handmade gift, in my book - but I didn't exactly neglect myself, either. If the Folkfest is my birthday party, the Arts Festival is my birthday present.
The weather for both festivals was perfection - clear, dry, sunny and warm.
Labor Day weekend is my favorite.