Review by Kara Wilbeck
Photos by Alexander Maso
It was a pretty stressful day. From waking up late and rushing to get to work on time, to making sure my boyfriend remembered to pack everything in the car, to convincing my boss to let me leave early, everything that happened that day was frazzling. But as soon as we got on the grounds of Emerald Meadows in Eugene, all the stress disappeared. We drove up the tree-lined road to the inaugural Cascadia Music Festival, and were greeted by cheerful parking attendants. There was no line, no wait, no body cavity search… it was all really easy-going.
Having heard that Cascadia wasn’t car camping, we were expecting to lug all our gear to our campsite, sweating and panting by the end of it all. Imagine our delight, then, to find that camping was right next to the parking lot in a wooded grove! No one told us where to go, and we were easily able to set up with all our friends. No hassles, no problems — lots of shade.
Cascadia being a one-night festival, we made sure to get in the venue as quickly as we could. After the Shook Twins opened up the day with their beautiful harmonies and really fun show, funk band Jelly Bread took over and turned the place into a party. Playing mostly crowd-pleasing covers, Jelly Bread gets the job done right. Some highlights of their set included a funked-up version of Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman,” the Motown hit “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” and Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground.”
I love small festivals. It’s so easy to meet everyone around you, and it always feels like everyone there is your friend. The intimacy between the crowd and the musicians is unbeatable, and the venue always feels like home. Another great advantage is the close proximity of the campsites to the stage area! Between every set, we were able to make the short trek back to home base, and cook, enjoy a beverage and goof off until the music started up again.
After a bit of a time out, everyone made their way back over to the stage for banjo master Tony Furtado. Man, we are so lucky that we have this guy living in our backyards! He started up his set on guitar, but soon switched to his main instrument, playing some raucous bluegrass jams that left almost no one still sitting. The hula hoops started spinning, and the crowd started to boogie out in the sunshine. Some highlights were a beautiful cover of the Grateful Dead’s “Peggy-O” and a great traditional version of “Stagger Lee.”
After a short break, piano legend Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers took the stage. Known mostly in the jamband festival circuit due to his stint in the Grateful Dead, Hornsby’s show featured mostly songs of his own creation. His sound is fun, bluesy, funky and edgy, with lots of references to other musicians’ tunes (without going as far as playing full-on covers). I heard a hint of “Big Rock Candy Mountain” in there, and later in the set, Hornsby played his “China Cat Sunflower”-inspired tune, “Sunflower Cat (Some Dour Cat) (Down With That).”
Hornsby’s set continued through the sunset, and then it was time for the night’s headliner: Railroad Earth! Having only seen the band in indoor venues, I was excited to see how they did in a beautiful, outdoor festival setting — and I wasn’t disappointed. Not in the least. In fact, I left the show positively elated!
Railroad Earth’s set opened with “Goat,” maybe inspired by the goats that could be seen lining the road up to the festival. Some highlights of the set were “Potter’s Field,” “Elko,” “Gold Rush”>”Forecast,” and an awesomely long and psychedelic “Warhead” into “Spring-Heeled Jack.” The encore was a beautiful song called “On the Banks.” During this song, my boyfriend ran to the stage to shoot photos, came back and said, “I just witnessed such a beautiful moment. I turned around and all of the older people behind me were crying.”
That is the image that will stay with me when I think of Cascadia Music Festival. The festival was so genuinely full of beauty that it could bring an entire crowd to tears.
We woke up the next morning wishing there was more — and next year there will be. Cascadia has plans to expand to a three-night festival in 2014, and is scheduled for June 27-29 at the same venue. Methinks I will be there — and I highly suggest you join us.
Cascadia Music Festival
Bread and Water
Donkey For Sale
Gold Rush >
E: On the Banks