After a hiatus last year I attended the Great Hudson River Revival, better known as the Clearwater Festival, this year. I have written about this festival before and so won't describe it at length here, but being a weekend filled with music, jam sessions, camping in a beautiful setting by the river, kayaking, lightweight hippie-dippiness and really good felafel, it hits a lot of high points for me. If only there was an on-site coffee roaster, it would be pretty much perfect :)
This year I managed to convince a couple of my kayaking friends to attend, including Suzanne from Baltimore and Jen from the Adirondacks. The trip up was a logistical and traffic nightmare that I will not describe, except to say that it involved driving from Arlington to Baltimore, Baltimore to Manhattan, then Manhattan to Croton on Hudson, all in heavy traffic. Eventually, after about what seemed like ten days on the road, Suzanne and I (we carpooled) got there. Jen was already there, had her part of camp set up, and had dinner and cold beer ready for us (we had texted our travel travails from the road so she knew what we had been through). We settled in and made camp just in time as the light was fading, despite a slight equipment failure on my part (the bungie in one of my tent poles broke). Alas, it was too late for an evening paddle, but at 9PM the campsite jam session started, led, as usual, by Mingo Lodge of New Jersey band Big Boss Sausage. As usual, I was the best accordionist there (by virtue of being the only accordionist there). We were joined by Tom Chapin's bass player, which was pretty cool. I left the jam a little after midnight and crawled back to my tent, exhausted and a lot more relaxed than I had been when we pulled in.
Clearwater is a lot of fun, but it is not a restful weekend. We got up fairly early Saturday to get some kayaking in. First, at Suzanne's insistence we headed down to the festival and got in just as the gates opened so we could stake out some space with our tarp and chairs at the Rainbow Stage. We bumped into Ken, my friend Sherry's husband, who was also there staking out territory. Then we headed to the car-top launch.
|Red hawk by the kayak launch|
We paddled about 8-9 miles: over to the "working waterfront" area to eyeball the sloop Clearwater and the schooner Mystic Whaler, then downriver around the Croton Point peninsula, under a railroad bridge, and into a pretty little stream. On the way back we detoured across the river to get a look at the Lettie B. Howard, another schooner that happened to be anchored there. Mystic Whaler is a fairly modern replica, but Lettie. B. Howard is an original 19th century ship. Both are beautiful.
After paddling we changed and ate lunch at the campsite, then headed down the hill to the festival. Wow, there's almost too much music to describe, and more than one person could see. Dar Williams, Rufus Wainwright, Richard Thompson, The Mavericks, and more. Plus breaks to walk around through the ultra-leftie politics area, the ultra-leftie food area (kombucha, organic seed crackers ...), the hippie-dippie vendor area (tie-dye shirts and djembe drums) and the working waterfront. Plus felafel. Suzanne was clearly clicking with the vibe of the place as she was already talking about what we'll do differently next year, now that she knows how the place runs. Her only concern was that she had brought the wrong wardrobe - camping clothing rather than flowy clothing appropriate for a folkie baby boomer gathering. This surprised me since I don't usually think of Suzanne as being someone whose #1 concern is having the right outfits. In truth I usually see Suzanne in settings like paddling and camping where wardrobe is totally about function, not appearance, so maybe I was just seeing a different side of her.
|The Mavericks at the River Stage|
After the music finished Saturday at about 8:45 we schlepped back up the hill, showered (a trailer with shower stalls was an exciting new feature this year!) and then headed to the camp site jam session. Saturday night Mingo was sharing hosting duties with another guy. This guy was a talented musician and entertainer, but he was clearly more interested in being the center of attention than in creating an inclusive jam environment. This made for a much less enjoyable jam. For that reason, coupled with my exhaustion, I didn't stay long at the jam before heading off to bed.
Another day starting staking turf at the stage then kayaking - this time a shorter, 4.5 mile paddle upriver. We grabbed lunch to bring with us to the festival and then headed down. I wanted to see Lake Street Dive (a hot up and coming band recommended to me by Mingo) but my friend Charles was coming to the festival for the day with his wife and kids, so I went to meet them at Tom Chapin's set - good folk music from an old pro. Then we got into that festival mode of wandering to different stages, losing and finding each other again and again. Charles and family went to see Laurie Berkner, while I headed to The Klezmatics. Charles and Suzanne found me there, then Suzanne and I (and eventually Jen) met up at the River Stage to see Toshi Reagon while Charles went off to meet up with Ken and Sherry to see David Bromberg. In the late afternoon Suzanne, Jen and I broke camp and said our farewells. Jen headed back up north and Suzanne and I headed south. The festival was being broadcast live on a local radio station and we were able to listen for quite a while - heard Nora Jones and a little bit of Lucinda Williams before losing signal. Suzanne was behind the wheel on the way home and pushed through as fast as possible - no dinner break. I dropped her off and then headed the rest of the way home, digging into my leftover supply of energy bars and snack foods along the way because I was starving. I made it home around midnight and of driven by compulsion unloaded everything except my kayak from the car.
|The Klezmatics at the Dance Tent|
Yes, I went to work the next day (well, teleworked). How productive I was, I can't say. But I felt good, having spent the weekend good friends, music, paddling, and food, along with great weather.