Shakori Hills 2009 Highlights

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Apr 212009
Spent Saturday at the Shakori Hills Festival with my girlfriend. It was the picture perfect day. Sunny but not hot. Dry. Early enough that there weren’t many bugs out although we kept getting advised to get naked and check for ticks. 
We arrived around 3:30 in the afternoon, just in time to hear Eilen Jewel play her set.  I’d been playing her Letters From Sinners And Strangers CD for months and have become a big fan of her combination of folk and early jazz sound. She’s got a new CD out too, called Sea of Tears, which I bought at Shakori but have not had a chance to listen to yet. But her live performance was really enjoyable. I got a bootleg of a couple of her songs and have uploaded her closing number, which was a medley of Bessie Smith tunes, which I thought was a fantasic choice and she did a great job on them. I’ve uploaded the recording for you to hear. Please forgive the screaming banshee of a child that let loose an ear piercing scream when some sibling threatened his Doritos. 


One thing I discovered was that I’d been pronouncing her name wrong. It’s spelled “Eilen” which I had been pronouncing EYE-lin but it’s actually EEE-lin. 

After Eilen Jewel, there weren’t any acts that really interested us until the closing act, Donna The buffalo. So we wandered around watching the hippies do their thing. We stacked rocks, we played with fire. We walked the nature trails.  




Some of the acts in the minor stages were fun. There is a “coffee barn” wth a side stage where they do back porch kinda acts. That was lots of fun to sit and listen to people singing and playing really old-school country tunes. There was at least one song performed by a group called the Ocean Valley Boys that I know my grandmother used to sing. 


The dance tent had dance lessons every couple of ours or so. Swing, two-step, contra, aand I don’t know what all else. I didn’t have my nerve up to try it this time, But I’m getting sold on the idea that it could be fun. The bands they had playing at the dance tent were mostly amateur bands but they sounded really good and they had a good enthusiastic vibe. 


Quite by accident, we discovered that this one tent had a whole series of blues muscians lined up from the Music Maker Relief Foundation. I don’t think they were even on the official schedule of the event. And it amazed me because they had John Dee Holeman, Captain Luke (whose “Outsider Lounge” CD I play alot on my show). We also saw Abe Reid, but we didn’t get a chance to hang around and see if he played or not. But we did get a great recording of John Dee Holeman singing “Hoochie Coochie Man,” which I’ve uploaded here.  

“Hoochie Coochie Man” by John Dee Holeman



So then we wandered back to where we’d staked our claim at the main stage. We had several hours to go still until Donna The Buffalo came on. But we were tired of walking around. 

Good God,  the acts that they had lined up for the evening at the main stage were awful. A rap artist from Durham who spewed every politically correct buzz phrase all at once. A very self-absorbed valley girl-esque singer songwriter type who spend more time talking to the audience than, you know, actually playing music, but like you know, it’s just as much fun to, like, you know chat with the audience and not worry about talent and stuff. And then there was a trippy band from up north who had this middle eastern/folk/electric fusion thing going on. Which I grant was kinda cool for, i dunno, the first 5-10 minutes. But after that you began to realize all oftheir songs had exactly the same rhythm over and over and over again. 

So I was NOT impressed with whoever did the bookings for the main stage. To think that Eilen Jewel had to go on before these turkeys really made me mad. And to think that these acts got billing on the main stage while some very well resected Blues legends were shuttled off to a secondary tent and not even properly put on the schedule so that people could know they were there was just a crying shame. 

Donna The Buffalo was in fine form. As always they set just the right vibe for the whole weekend. Happy. Upbeat. Positive. I’ve uploaded “These Are Better Days” from their performance that night. 
All  in all, it was a great day for music and I’d encourage all of you to think about attending the next one this fall if music festivals are your thing at all.