So … I headed up north … as I did last year … looking forward to the Mahtowa Highway 61 Folks Festival. I had got my tent out early in the week to find it mildewed, torn and generally nasty … and being a cheap tent it just wasn't worth saving. I emailed Jim from the festival and got some names of some motels. So the drive started around 3 … I stopped at the bank and the post office and finally got myself out of town around 4.
After making the drive so often to Chicago it's nice to have a drive that is not as familiar. The drive is pretty unexceptional till you get past the Twin Cities.
Iowa is pretty settled, even the places where there are still lots of trees look settled somehow. Not so in Northern Minnesota. You get the impression that if you didn't keep up the roads often enough that they would vanish back into the woods. It's startingly beautiful.
I drove till around 8:30 and decided that rather than end up in Mahtowa looking for someplace to stay around 10 that I would find a place to sleep while I still had time to get some food. I ended up in the town of Pine City and found a likely looking place.
I didn't want to stop in some modern looking place, I wanted one of those old fashioned little "L" shaped motels that sprang up in the 40s and 50s as the automobile age really started. I was looking for relaxation and instead what I got was a combination of Fawlty Towers and the Bates Motel.
The office looked promising, they had big racks of movies to watch and a sign saying that they had VCRs in every room. I thought "great, I had thought about finding dinner and a movie, this way I don't have to go out cept for dinner". The movie I picked ... Red Dragon ... about a serial killer. Smart choice.
As I was heading to the room the owner, I don't know whether to call him Basil Bates or Norman Fawlty, was heading to a room to kick someone out for "lying to him". Now if I had only heard this before I probably would have just turned around and got back in the car and found a different place.
There was a list of offenses that could get you kicked out inside the room. Included were,
Smoking (no problem, and he had already asked me about that ... twice)
Loud noises (I snore a bit but hopefully not loud enough ... I was worried about taking my guitar out of the car, but I needed to change the strings)
Running (so much for that jog I was going to take, but I think he means kids)
Visitors (damn, I couldn't bring in that Pine City hooker that I was going to look for)
And apparantly lying as well, but I do tend to be truthful so I didn't figger that would be a problem.
I ran out and got a pizza and came back to watch the movie.
The night went by without any weirdness (although I did put the big armchair in front of the door) and I got up in the morning to head to Mahtowa.
I got to Mahtowa around 10:30 and it was a lovely day indeed.
I really can't say enough about how impressed I am by this tiny little festival. The level of the songwriting is incredible. Last year I went feeling a little cocky (kinda unlike myself really, I suppose I was trying to pump myself up) and went away humbled and astounded. And this year was no different. Few pros, few semi-pros, just a lot of people who take their songwriting very very seriously. Some of the highlights for me
Sara Softich - One of those people who I could really listen to sing the phone book. She has a classic old fashioned country sort of voice. High, lilting and sad and joyous at the same time.
Bill Gausman - His extremely twisted song Lawyers makes me think that we may be kindred spirits. A wonderful song about fish ... really ...
Jake Donze - A semi-pro perhaps, but his sparkling stage presence and wonderful songs perked up the crowd and won him 2nd place (I thought it was going to take it all personally)
And Brian Dack - Wow ... his song Loon Lake Lift-Off won last year and his song Voyagers won this year. And it was well deserved. There is a lyricism and a grace to his style that is astounding.
There were some more folks who I really like but the list on the website is incomplete at the moment and I wasn't taking notes.
The thing that amazes me is that there was not a bad song in the bunch all day. There were some folks who were not as good of performers as some, some people for whom nerves hampered them a bit. But the songwriting was incredible. Like last year I don't think there was a bad song in the bunch.
The day's festivities wound down and I headed home. I'd sold a CD, handed out some promos to various people (I hope to get some shows in Duluth, I want to get back up into the area ... it's amazing how you can fall for an area).
There is so much more to say, but I can't clear my mind enough at the moment to do it.
Check out their page at www.festivalbrew.com. And expect to see me there next year, and the year after ... etc.