David Bromberg says he doesn’t trust air he can’t see. That may be his belief, but he threw caution to the wind and belted out fine performance after performance Sunday at Floyd Fest in
Again I visited the festival with my brother and sister-in-law. Once there, my brother kept bumping in to friends. By evening, we were sitting in a friend pack of about 10 of us.
Floyd Fest is an incredible event staged over four days in late July in the hills near
The festival operates five performance areas. The porch/workshop, The Hollar Hill Stage, The Dance Tent, The Pink Floyd Garden Stage, and the main Shooting Star Stage. The latter is a huge, dynamic structure created from reclaimed timbers from the long forgotten Shooting Star roller coaster at
It dawns on me that we (us...humans) love to slap people into categories. So often, I’ve heard people comment about what “those hippies are doing up in Floyd.” Now, I’m not the type to become embroiled in confrontation. Quite the opposite, I tend to slink away from boiling waters when the heat’s on. When people quip about others, I tend to simply listen without response. Observation is my yardstick.
I'm juggling Special K bars and car keys
It’s easy to miss me in most places. I’m a white male carrying about 30 pounds too many. My uniform consists of shorts with pockets, a relatively plain t-shirt, white calf socks scrunched down to my Nike shoes, and a green "Bar 66" hat. I wear progressive lenses (bifocals) with clip on shades, but don’t let that fool you. I’m always watching. That’s probably a good thing because my hearing isn’t too good.
So over the last two days, I found out what those hippies were doing at Floyd Fest. They were smiling. They went out of their way to be polite to one another. Their children seemed comfortable finding ways to have fun without trampling the space of others. In fact, over the course of the two days I spent watching at Floyd Fest, I never once saw a child out of control or in control of their parents. There were a lot of people who were together, not just for a wild weekend ride, but obviously together in a more loving and long-term way. Some people seemed concerned about being seen. These people would dress up in various predictable costumes: funny hat, ant helmet, special sandal footwear, special cultivated hair-style, special dirty t-shirt. Some people, like me, brought things to entertain themselves. In my case, I brought a harmonica and three bean bag balls for juggling. I saw many people seeking an inner groove by marching to different drummers, like one bronzed follically-challenged guy who stripped down to his cut-off jean shorts set away by himself, rhythmically rocking and gyrating to the swells of music pouring over him; his god-like tan refracting light from the sun on his sweat-glistened body. That man found his groove. So the visitors to Floyd Fest, based on my observations, were up to things, good things.
The actual festival grounds were quite a bit like an old amusement park game row. Vendors lined the central avenue. A person could wander aimlessly like I did just enjoying the sideshows. Yurts (gers) were popular. These modern renditions of ancient Mongolian/Russian dwellings were lavish with the wood-grained interior and finely stretched canvas roofs. After having taught more than a handful of Mongolian children in the past couple of years, I can tell you that the native people are fleeing their yurts and choosing instead to stay in crowded apartments in
Further down the avenue, there was a food court which had tents of delights. The most aggressive advertiser was the soul food vendor. I’m not sure what kind of soul food they were selling in there, but it was wildly popular and people smiled a lot when they exited that tent. Further down the line, you could get sandwiches, Thai stir fry, pulled pork barbeque. You could even get hamburgers and hot dogs. Although we were a bit concerned that the hot dogs were very artificially red, bordering on electric red and by the fact that they left the consumer with a very nasty hot dog after bite. The prize food crown most definitely goes to the vendor selling the home-made corn dogs. We stopped by their booth on the way out Saturday night and watched as they put the dog on a sick, wrapped batter about it, then instantly cooked the batter up into some breaded concoction. I’ve never been a big corn dog fan, but that 11 pm dog was one of the best burning things I’ve ever experienced.
Further down the avenue, vendors were hawking all of their wares. Toe rings, American tie-dyed lives, Central African tie-dye-like garments, hoops, tattoos, eclectic music, acupuncture, healing vapors, very strange leather boots that were furry and laced all the way to the knees (perhaps they were Mongolian), safari hats, and pan hats.
In my life, if I could have my own private
And then there’s David…
David Bromberg got me through college. Whenever I was down, lonely, feeling shut out, or in the mood to celebrate, I always went to David for medicine. “Demon in Disguise,” “Wanted Dead or Alive,” “David Bromberg”-white album, and “How Late’ll Ya Play ‘til?” formed the heart of my Bromberg experiences. I play those records over and over, wearing grooves into my soul. I saw David back in 1982 or 83 at
Sunday, for me and I suspect my brother, wife and friends was about paying homage to a man who was a positive force in our lives.
David appeared in two venues at Floyd Fest. He woke up early to play the 1:30pm workshop on the festival porch stage. David and his three mates chatted with the intimate crowd and played some amazing acoustic stuff. Bromberg seemed to bristle a bit when people started yelling out song suggestions to him, but in the end he decided to play “Tennessee Waltz,” a song he is able to intensify better than any other artist. David said he hadn’t played that in a long time. To hear his voice crack (a trademark of sorts) as he hit the most genuine parts of the song brought tears of remembrance to my eyes.
At that show in front of about 75 people or so, we bumped in to long time friends Jimmy and John Buttram. I’ve only met John a few times at parties, but I’ve known Jimmy many years. Jimmy and John have a family band of sorts. John plays drums and Jimmy plays guitars and some fiddle. Many evenings, groups would gather either out by some stream or at my brother’s house and Jimmy and friends would go through their play list. (Check out “Bedford Friday Night” a blog entry from May 2006 for more on Buttram) To this day, I believe Jimmy is the most natural guitar player I’ve ever heard. So after Bromberg finished playing, I encouraged Jimmy to go up and chat with him. He was concerned about what to say to this man who had impacted him. Jimmy, always quick with a clever line, told me (I’ll do my best to remember the gist of what he said),
“What am I gonna say to the man… ‘Hey, man thanks for inspiring me and influencing my musical career.’
Bromberg would then look and me and size me up, seeing me as a broken man...
‘What’s your career been like, man…”
‘Well actually, it’s been a lot like yours.’”
Of course, Jimmy and David never had that conversation, but David did promise to play the song “Summer Wages” at the evening show. I was very happy Jimmy asked for that one. David told him that he appreciated the personal request as opposed to being shouted out at from the audience and that’s why he’d perform the song (It was probably on his play-list anyway)
Jimmy chats with David Bromberg
We filtered away and watched a few anonymous bands and audience actors perform as we sat in the shade. Bronze man was busy finding his groove when we eventually moved on to get our seats for the evening tribute. I couldn’t believe that as the concert time rolled up we were able to get grassy spots within about 20 yards of the stage. The crowd was beginning to thin out. I suppose many people had many miles to travel so they could get to work on Monday. I simply couldn’t understand, however, why there weren’t 15,000 people trying to wedge up to the stage, but then again I guess not everyone has Bromberg on their
The show went just as the show should have gone. David came out solo and blasted the audience, shocked them really, with some dynamic vocalizations. After a few solo pieces, he brought out the band and they cranked some tunes for about an hour. Then he was cleverly joined by a trio of wonderful singers called “Angel Band.” These ladies were amazing angels. Bromberg took Zappa’s advice and just shut up and played his guitar while the girls became music. “
David Bromberg ended his show yesterday the way he’s been ending his recent shows, by playing “Kaatskill Serenade.” After he sings a few haunting verses, he explains the story behind the song, the story of Rip van Winkle. He explains that in
So I spent Sunday with David Bromberg, and he was doing good things along with
all other good people.