I sleep pretty well in a tent and so I wake up feeling refreshed even though it’s pretty early and I didn't get all that much sleep. The morning is dry and cool enough for me to put on a light fleece jacket. I whip up a breakfast that’s much like home, save for the Starbucks Via Brew instant coffee in place of my usual cup. Oh, coffee deities, please do not strike me down for drinking instant!
One of the great aspects of Clearwater is its link to the river. The festival’s raison d’etre is raising awareness of the Hudson’s ecology and environment. The festival takes place on a peninsula jutting out into the Hudson. You can see the river from most of the park and you can even watch one of the stages from the water. There’s also a “working waterfront” area where people can experience the river directly: row, paddle and go for a sail on the sloop Clearwater. In keeping with the festival theme, I start my day by hitting the water in my kayak. The car-top launch is just down the hill from the campground and so just a few minutes after finishing my last sip of coffee I’ve got the boat in the water and am ready to go. There's another car at the launch with two CLC Shearwaters (the same kayak I have) on it - two beautifully constructed wooden boats. I never see the owner, but by fate I notice a post of his later on Facebook and needless to say we are now "Friends".
Last year I paddled around the peninsula on which Croton Point Park sits. This year I head in the opposite direction, heading north across the bay and up the shoreline. The river is majestic, with the Hudson Highlands towering above the west shore. The Hudson is much more of a working river than the Potomac, so there’s commercial boat traffic, but the river is so wide that it’s miles away. My side of the river is quiet, save for the occasional commuter train.
At the end of my paddle I stop at the working waterfront and check out the displays, which include an antique ice boat – a catamaran designed to be used when the river is frozen. I also talk to the people at the Hudson River Water Trail booth. Then I grandstand a little bit, doing rolls and braces just off shore where the crowd can see. Then it’s time to head back, dry off and have a little lunch before heading into the fray of the festival.
My first target at the festival is the Klezmatics at the Sloop Stage. I get there a little early and so see the end of Buskin & Battaeu’s set. I don’t know these guys but they’re good – and apparently Sherry knows of them since she’s there. She's torn but ultimately decides not to stay for the Klezmatics; before she leaves she clues me in as to where to find her at the main stage area. The Klezmatics are great as always. This set is a mix of klezmer and the folkie stuff they do. Somewhat mellow, as they are saving the high energy numbers for their set at the dance stage. Having lived in Virginia for two decades, the demographics of a New York folk festival surprise me – I think the audience for the Klezmatics at the Sloop Stage had a higher percentage of Jews than Kol Nidre Services at my temple in Virginia. I shouldn’t have been surprised: on Saturday, the MC had introduced Janis Ian as being “a mensch”, an expression you’d be less likely to hear in an introduction at, say, Wolf Trap. As Sherry said, “we’re home.”
After the Klezmatics’ set (BTW, Lorin Sklamberg has the same accordion I do!) I headed over to the main (Rainbow) stage to see Suzanne Vega. She was performing with a guitarist who did some neat looping to create a very layered sound. Good stuff, even though she kept forgetting her songs! I meant to go over to the Hudson Stage after that to see Chris Smither but wound up yakking with Ken, Sherry and their friends and wound up staying at the Rainbow Stage to see the Indigo Girls. I wasn’t a big Indigo Girls fan in their heyday, but they put on a really enjoyable set. They were playing with a violinist and a really good keyboardist/accordionist named Julie Wolf (good enough that I remembered her name). I next caught the beginning of the Driveby Truckers, but I wasn’t that taken with them and so headed over to the dance tent to see the Klezmatics – that’s right, two sets of the Klezmatics in the same day! At the dance tent you can really get up close to the stage. Unfortunately, my injured leg kept me from doing much dancing so I swayed for a while then went off to the side to sit. I ended the day by seeing Justin Townes Earle – that’s right, Steve’s boy. I have his latest CD and I must say that he’s an excellent live performer as well.
I just bought a new (used) camera which works (via an adapter) with my Canon lenses from the 1970’s and over the course of the day I further entertained myself taking pictures. Got some good ones.
As on Saturday, I skipped the “Clearwater Generations” set in favor of falafel. By this point the food vendors were starting to pack up. The falafel place sold me a heaping plate of leftovers – falafel, carrots, some dolma, and tahini – for half price. I also got a small ice cream and a cup of (brewed) coffee. Then it was time for the hike up to the campsite. Boy, my leg was hurting – it was a slow walk up the hill, with several breaks. There was a much smaller version of the jam session going on – just three people – which I decided to skip. I was saturated with music and I wanted to get an early start the next day.
I wake up fairly early on Monday - around 6 AM. Basically, it's just breakfast (two Via Brews this time), pack up and hit the road. Uneventful trip home, save for my GPS realllly wanting me to take the GW Bridge rather than the Tappan Zee.