The Harvest Moon Festival in Yorkville this past weekend was an awesome night. Good music, a fun audience, killer Octoberfest brew, and a beautiful vibe under the harvest moon on the banks of the Fox River.
It got me thinking… what IS the music festival all about experience about? Why do we, as a culture, worship Jimi Hendrix’s set at Woodstock, Miles and Dylan at their respective Newport shows? Sure, great performances are key. But for truly transcendent performances, there’s something else in the air—and festivals provide their own special version of that. There’s something essential and near mystical in the rare atmosphere of a good musical festival. Maybe it’s the idea of tribe.
Lately, I’ve been reading “The Story of B” by Daniel Quinn. A major theme in his works is the idea of the tribe, a group of people who come together for the purpose of working together. A tribe isn’t a commune. A commune is exclusionary: it’s an attempt to get away from the rest of the world, and only open to people who hold a certain value or point-of-view. But a tribe is inclusionary: it assembles around an activity or way to make a living. If you can extend the group’s living to include yourself, says Quinn, and can do so without being a hindrance to others, you’re welcome to join.
A great music festival is just this; the only difference is that the activity—instead of making a living—is enjoying music and art together. There’s no need to sort through who’s “in” or “out” of the group: the fact that everyone’s made the choice to go makes them part of the tribe.
The festival: Relax, it says. This music means something to all of us. We’re all here together. These people are my people. We share this thing and love this music enough to come here, so… yeah. We’re good to go.
I think festivals relax us on a subconscious level, fire up our old psychological instincts, and open us up to unique experiences. As long as you’re not disrupting someone else’s experience… you can do what you want. You can sit front row, or at the back of the scene. You can dance like a nutcase, or chuckle at the people who do. You can hang out at the edges and share the moment with a friend or lover. You can do anything you want. Yes, the music is central to the experience, but the music is also the framework for something bigger… for the atmosphere and energy that feed right back into the music itself. That’s the point.
Our good friend Tim Easton gets it. Here’s a song of his about all that:
I’ve had a string of amazing, beautiful, crazy experiences since joining TUS six months and about 100 performances ago. Playing a couple of beautiful autumn festivals has been a really great way to cap off my first season of touring with these folks.
Take care! We hope to see some of you in Rosedale, MS this weekend, or wherever, whenever we next roll through your town. I am already looking forward to it!