Thomas Point Beach Bluegrass Festival (Part 3)
My sister and I walked all around the grounds one afternoon and made some pictures of the various areas....what a lovely place! Besides the beach area where our friends camped and the little grove of trees where we set up our own camp there were wooded areas where hundreds of campers set up (with water and electrical hookups I think). There are several nice bathrooms with plenty of sinks and the nicest showers I've ever seen at a campground. I guess the area at TPB is a kind of bay or cove or inlet off the "main" ocean and there are little kind of "backwater" tidal areas where waterfowl abound along the edge of the "main" woods there....great blue herons, cormorants and any number of birds started up as we approached the waters' edge....every now and then we'd see someone in a kayak or other small watercraft pass by. All around us folks were picking traditional country music, brother duets, old-time music, traditional bluegrass songs (none of that slick Sportcoat Mtn. Boys junk I heard ad nauseum at Galax)....other folks were cooking food that always tastes better when cooked outside (isn't that an amazing thing about camping?) and kids were busy at play among the trees. Groups of two and three and more sat around picking or in quiet conversation. Here and there someone lazed in a hammock reading a book. Some folks knocked themselves out decorating their campsites with multi-colored parachutes, mailboxes, pink flamingoes, strings of lights, flying pigs and any number of eye-catching things. People were camped in everything from Prevost tour buses to shiny silver Airstreams to maxiumum-size motor home to tiny retro tear-shaped campers to pop-up Colemans to three-roomed dome tents to pup tents...to backseats of cars. Some folks did the old wagon-circle approach to camping together while others formed massive tent cities. Near to us a bunch of (apparent) hippies camped under tarps in tents with sun barriers made of batik and tie dye. Incense wafted through the air day and night and they were having just as much fun as anyone cooking and hanging out with their friends.
One of my favorite things about TPB is that it's tidal so there was always the contrast between low and high tides and the joy of watching the transformation, the sunset over the water. We even had a full moon to light our way the first couple of nights there. Sunsets and moonrises over the water add another touch that you don't find at many festivals. In the old days I saw a few sunrises too but I'll confess I never got up - or stayed up - early enough to see one this year. I was told there were massive amounts of monarch butterflies over behind the bathroom on the point.
Like so many festivals there were a variety of offerings at TPB - plenty of workshops covering vocal and instrumental interests, the great bands on stage, a "Children of Bluegrass"program for kids where they get up and pick and sing on the main stage on Sunday afternoon (always a heartwarming moment), and this full-service campground has a really nice play area for kids; there were also many kids fun activities such as movies, sand castle building, singalongs, crafts and bingo. As far as I know it's the only festival that has things like totem poles and 3 miniature lighthouses (decorated with replicas of old tourism postcards from Maine locations), and to top it all is a collection of chainsaw art - figures maybe 12 feet tall cut from logs - "Maine Woods Band" - various animals each playing bluegrass instruments! Pretty spectacular. Folks who have been going to TPB for years will remember watching Tim Picket at his craft as he created these from natural products...quite a sight. There's even a moose amongst them.
On the way back to our campsite we passed a cute little wagon loaded down with produce and baked goods from the fine folks at Want Not Farm. I was trying to figure out what they were - not Amish, not Mennonite, but sort of old fashioned. The girls and woman had tidy white kind of scarves holding their hair back; the man had an Amish-like hat on and they were all dressed sort of "plain" - someone said they were old order Brethren (?) like a real traditional German Baptist. Don't know but their produce was lovely and fresh and very welcome - they sold us the best corn I've had all season for just 50 cents an ear! I watched them pull off - the man towing the goody wagon with a riding lawnmower!!!! all the women walking alongside. As I left the festival grounds on Monday morning they were there at the exit selling their goods and waving with a friendly smile to all who passed by.
As I said I missed many of the bands who played onstage but some of the highlights for me were the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band featuring Leroy Troy, always a crowd-pleaser. They really got the folks going with their vintage music and good humor. Since they're all friends of ours we enjoyed many good laughs around our campsite as they prepared for their show, shared jokes and stories with our big gang. The Abrams Brothers and cousin Eli continue to impress me with their sweet good manners, talent and showmanship. I expect those guys to go far. And a big thrill for me was getting to hear James sing "Can I Get An Amen?" as the encore number on their evening show. They got an amen all right - and not just from me, either. Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper minus Audie Blaylock sure took the folks to another level with their rocketfire approach to music. I think music just comes out Michael's pores. Once again I was back at the campsite hanging with my friends and missed Michael's show but I got out to the Field Pickin' jam near the Caboose (an all night hot dog stand in the concert area) and climbed onto a picnic table to film Michael and his fine band holding court in the middle of a huge and appreciative crowd. I love those after-hours jams Pati schedules....folks like the spontaneity of it all and enjoy rubbing elbows with the stars, even if they can see their breath
My sister who isn't new to bluegrass but hasn't been to many festivals and hasn't seen many bands LIVE said her overall favorite bands were Rhonda Vincent and Marty Raybon; not surprising. I've been a huge fan of Marty's voice since I first heard it a few weeks ago. Even though he forgot to play my request for "Beulah Land" he delivered one of the best performances I've heard him do despite losing his long-time tenor singer, Edgar Loudermilk, to IIIrd Tyme Out. My sister was just gob-smacked by his singing. As I mentioned before The Peter Rowan Trio, despite the absence of Tony Rice's fabulous guitar playing, delivered two incredible sets of music and I don't believe anyone left disappointed....Peter pulled a lot of traditional music out of the hat and a lot of his most-requested numbers, too...and even from the distance of the beach area the sound came through the night air full and clear and rich. Sunday's show featured one of my favorite regional bands, White Mountain Bluegrass and though Mac and Hazel have had more than their share of health problems recently, they delivered several fine performances at the weekend; I always love best their Sunday morning gospel set which I'll admit I enjoyed while lying in my tent after a late Saturday night! Dan Paisley and the Southern Grass continue to gain new fans and no wonder! They delivered power-packed sets and hearing Donny play Dusty Miller (my favorite) and those Lundy boys tearing up the banjo and fiddle playing their "old-timey bluegrass" as Paisley calls it just made the weekend complete. The Lewis Family have been a favorite of mine for 25 years and it always fills my heart to see and hear them onstage. And finally the Gibson Brothers...I already talked about this but those guys were a great band to close out the festival. They come across as humble and sincere, honest...and gifted. Their singing and songwriting are right up there with the best and their late night jamming over at the Greenwood's just put another feather in their caps for me!