Steve and I took a small vacation. We left Thursday evening and flew to Portland, where Lainie and Paul picked us up at PDX. After a dinner in the airport that was better than standard airport food, there was the long drive back to their place. I had forgotten how long that drive was and it made me feel bad for them, and grateful for them.
Friday we lounged around, rested some, read some, and generally just took it easy until about 5:00. After a light, early supper of fabulous salad concocted by Miss Lainie, we headed over to the OSU campus. Turns out waiting was a very good idea. Silly us, we thought we'd escape the summer heat by flying north, but it was 95 up there on Friday!
By that late in the afternoon, though, we skipped over the hottest part of the day. We wandered through "Green Town" to see all the displays of "green" innovations. We learned about making cob, saw a people-sized camera obscura (that was closed for the day, but we made a note of it), watched the tail end of the kinetic sculpture introductions, and enjoyed looking at all the electric vehicles on display. I discovered I want to make a greenwall.
There were also community art projects happening outside the entry gates. The theme of this year's festival was water, or rather, "H2 Oh!" Folks had created freestanding art accordingly. Lainie covered a flat, fish-shaped piece of wood with paper printed in a sushi graphic, attached a depiction of an Elvis movie to the front of it, and added the Darkside logo. She called it "Dinner And a Movie." Even if people couldn't guess her title for the piece, we could tell they loved it, as we spied many, many visitors shooting pictures of it!
Friday night we saw the Jacob Merlin band open for Cherry Poppin' Daddies. Jacob Merlin was really pretty great; CPD was great at the beginning and end but, I have to admit, kinda boring in the middle of their show.
It was a late night for these two who are used to nodding off by about 9:00. By the time we got home and relaxed, it was about 1:00. Some of us slept delightfully late Saturday morning. After breakfast and showers, we got a bit of an earlier start, though. The weather was cooler than Friday and we got out to the campus by about 11:00 to discover the sidewalk chalk art. It was a lot of fun wandering around checking it out and, thankfully, we remembered our camera that day!
Unfortunately, Paul had to work most of the day. While Lainie went off on her own to see the Wave Exhibit, Steve and I checked out the Art Village. The carousel animal restorations were amazingly gorgeous.
We sat awhile, listening to Common Pulse and Bon Ton Roulet at the Shady Stage. After pigging out on festival food Friday and half of Saturday, I discovered an amazing salad at one of the stands. It was spinach and mixed greens with strawberries, dried cranberries, candied pecans and a balsamic vinaigrette. Oh, man! It was absolutely delightful to eat such a cool, fresh, healthy meal in the shade while listening to those bands!
Behind us, on the Main Stage, a sound check for that night's headliner had begun. After hearing the usual, "One, two check. Ooonneee, twwwooooo, CHK!" for about five minutes, I glanced over my shoulder and saw in the distance several bodies standing at several microphones. Without waiting to figure out if what I was seeing was what I thought I was seeing, I jumped up (as much as my old bones can jump up from sitting on the ground) and raced across the grass. I was right! It was them! Out of their usual costume, dressed in kakhis and polo shirts, there were my boys! No one at the festival seemed to be paying attention, except for about ten of us who settled to the ground on the only patch of shade available, about 10 feet from where they stood.
Those of you who know me and my past must know that I am not easily starstruck. In fact, 99% of musicians kind of piss me off. Not these guys. I worship them. I've been wanting to see them live since the mid-80's. Now, not only was I seeing them live, but I was almost in their personal bubbles! It was like they were doing a pre-concert concert just for ME!
Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a group of guys from South Africa, an a capella group, spreading peace, love and joy as they tour the world. Whenever I talk about them to people, I generally get the same response: "I've never heard of them." Yes you have, but you don't know it. Think back to Paul Simon's big hit, Diamonds on The Souls of Her Shoes. Remember the smooth harmonies and African beat in the background? That was Ladysmith.
Their less commercial music stirs something very deep inside me. I sat there on the grass, completely rapt in their presence. They did three numbers. At the end of it, I wept.
After a bit, we three went off to meet up with Paul at a Mexican restaurant in town. Giggles, really good food, blessed hydration - it was a good dinner break for all of us. Paul then had to go back to the theater to work until closing; Lainie, Steve and I headed back to the festival.
While Steve was great about schlepping the lawn chairs and picking a spot with a view right up the aisle for that night's musical events, Lainie and I wandered the chalk pictures some more. There were so many really great ones! We found Steve and settled in to wait.
A band from Zimbabwe called Bongo Love was opening that night. They weren't bad, but we all agreed they just didn't have "the groove." Maybe that was why we didn't notice - or care - that because of the aisle all we could see was people's butts as they wandered up and down, looking for a spare piece of grass on which to sit. When Ladysmith started their portion of the show, it only took a few minutes for me to know this Just Wasn't Going To Work For Me. Lainie and I both popped up and wandered forward, eventually finding some friends who allowed us to sit at their feet. This put us about 75 feet from center stage - a pretty good vantage point.
I don't know if I can describe the show without gushing too much. They were energized. They were funny. They were glorious, golden gods. (See?)
Because Lainie was a VIP (on the Board of Directors for the festival), she managed to do some schmoozing and get us backstage after the show. I bought a DVD and most of the boys sicned it for me (some were still cooling their heels in the RVs). We all shook hands, took a couple of pics, and there were huge smiles all around. When it became clear I'd have to let go and wouldn't be able to bring them all home with me, we made our exit and floated home.