Doe Bay Fest 2012: The High-Five OasisPosted by Lindsey Scully
Magical. That was the most used word over the weekend during the fifth annual Doe Bay Fest. The location on Orcas Island was magical, the midnight secret shows were magical, and the community vibe was magical. Joe and Maureen Brotherton have created an oasis far enough away from the Seattle city limits where Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Tumblr, cell phones and email do not exist and not a single person missed any of them.
Thursday kicked off the first day of the festival with the Conor Byrne Open Mic at the Cafe with Josiah Johnson (The Head & The Heart). Many of the scheduled Fest performers did quick numbers, including Pretty Broken Things and Adra Boo, but it was the festival attendees who brought down the house especially in Naomi Wachira’s performance.
While Saturday pitted two stages against one another, Friday had no overlaps and everyone had the chance to experience every performer. Tom Eddy kicked off the festival on the Otter Cove Stage overlooking Doe Bay followed by The Last Bison, Radiation City and Pretty Broken Things. One of the biggest breakout artists of this year’s Doe Bay Fest was The Last Bison (formerly Bison) who came all the way from Virginia to play their chamber-folk at the festival. The seven-piece band features quite the family bond with a father playing mandolin, the son doing lead vocals, a daughter also on vocals, and if that wasn’t enough the two percussionists are brothers. After their last song the crowd erupted onto their feet while lead singer Ben covered his heart with hands and just smiled widely as he witnessed a standing ovation for The Last Bison’s very first West Coast show. These are the exact moments that encapsulate Doe Bay Fest and make it magical. Another awe-inspiring moment was Adra Boo’s rendition of Etta James’ “At Last”, backed by Portland Cello Project. It was a Kodak moment, full of inspiration, tears, and true talent. Doe Bay veterans The Maldives performed on the Main Stage, where they have a permanent open-ended invitation every year. Sub Pop artists Gold Leaves and THEESatisfaction performed as well as Hey Marseilles and Lemolo, who got upgraded after their destructive Yoga Studio performance last year.
Noah Gundersen started off Saturday’s festivities on a high note complete with an American flag draped around his microphone. Gundersen was joined by his sister Abby who sang harmonies and enchanted everyone with her violin skills. Big Sur opened up the Main Stage and ended with a fan favorite, “Big Sexy Man” which Jake Hemming performed solo at the Doe Bay lineup announcement party at the Tractor Tavern. The crowd-pleaser got many on their feet and set the mood for Land of Pines. Ivan & Alyosha and Kithkin stole the show on the Main Stage with the energy, pyrotechnics and tribal drumming. Last year’s busking sensation Ben Fisher was an official artist this year on the Otter Cove Stage and had an impressive turn out despite Land of Pines and Bobby Bare Jr. having competing timeslots. Following Fisher was Kris Orlowski, who during his soundcheck sang to the crowd thanking them for being at his show and not at the Main Stage and also tried persuading those diving off the cliffs into the water to come listen. While the divers did not join, many other Doe Bay artists (new and old) did, including members of Motopony, Tony Kevin Jr., and Kevin Long. The unofficial last day of Doe Bay Fest was on Sunday and is when the traditional Slip N Slide action happens. A slew of children and adults alike all got their turn at the massive make-shift Slip N Slide that covered a good chunk of the Main Stage Field. Even Ryan from The Grizzled Mighty gave it a go after the rock duo finished their crashed set on the Stage. Sunday is also when many people left via the eco-friendly foot ferries, where many artists like The Local Strangers and Ben Fisher performed as the ferry set sail.
The Yoga Studio was intended as a stage with the idea of bringing back old school, late night punk shows and their sweaty, intimate settings. Last year during Lemolo’s set one person passed out and the Studio was beyond over-capacity and this year Motopony, Kung Foo Grip, Kingdom Crumbs, and Birds & Batteries did not disappoint and definitely brought the sweat. Kung Foo Grip later joined Kithkin on stage Saturday during their Main Stage set.
While there were over 30 scheduled bands on the roster, some of the best and most intimate performances were unofficial sets at the Busking Station or in the woods under the moonlight. Friday evening a group met secretly at the Main Stage Field, where they were given strobing rings then asked to be quiet and follow. The horde snapped branches and twigs as they weaved through trails into the woods so they can sit and watch a midnight solo performance by John Roderick (The Long Winters). Saturday night was less cryptic, meet at the large apple tree by the Main Stage at midnight. When you are told something like that at Doe Bay you don’t ask questions, you just follow suit. It was there under the apple tree and the promise of the Perseid meteor shower overhead that people witnessed a round of solo acoustic acts from John Roderick, Bobby Bare Jr., Noah Gundersen and Daniel Blue (Motopony). To say Daniel Blue stole the show would be an understatement, Blue chose to be a cappella and needed nothing more than his vocals to grab everyone’s attention. The Busking Station got an upgrade with a used piano this year, which turned out to be a very nice addition. Ben Fisher got back to his roots by playing at the station a few times, including doing a round with Travis Barker (Elk & Boar) and Jake Hemming (Big Sur), or joining in on piano while Doe Bay veteran Tony Kevin Jr. performed originals like “Don’t Tell Mama”.
“We’re not the best at keeping secrets”, declared Brotherton after many attendees noticed members of Pickwick setting up for the headlining spot Saturday evening instead of the Cave Singers. Brotherton went on to tell the tale of how the Cave Singers had to cancel last-minute and his first thought was to ask Pickwick. However, Cassady Lillstrom (keys) was scheduled at his dayjob to work, but Brotherton made a joke out of it and stated Doe Bay had bought out the company so Lillstrom could play. Truth be told, even the die-hard Cave Singers fans were elated Pickwick was able to play again this year. Doe Bay Fest officials have a strict rule of no Main Stage repeats, so to have broken this rule meant Pickwick blew the socks off everyone last year. And they did again for the High-Five Fest. The Pickwick Revival was almost spiritual, with the regulars throwing their hands and jazz fingers in the air during “Hacienda Motel” or Galen Disston’s gospel stuttering during “Halls of Columbia”.
Doe Bay Fest wishes to be a non-corporate festival, but they also have to pay the bills and artists. With that, they did have New Belgium Brewing back to host and pour the Beer Garden at the Main Stage this year, and many other attendees noticed the new banners promoting Vitamin Water, Smart Water, and Guestlist. After the initial disgruntled murmurs, attendees lined up to snatch up free Vitamin Waters to stay hydrated in the intense, brutal heat. The weather was perfect but also extremely hot, whereas the nights were shivering cold.
While last year there were numerous camera crews taping everything for the Welcome To Doe Bay documentary, this year that void was filled with “doe babies” and numerous age groups. Through various conversations with attendees, my conclusion was that this year must have the highest amount of non-Washingtonians. People flew all over from Brooklyn, Boston, California and there were several first timers at Doe Bay Fest as well. It appeared that several (hundred) people took the Brotherton’s advice and came early on Thursday afternoon and stayed through Monday, leaving all stress and worry to those with jobs on the mainland. Those who stayed Sunday evening were rewarded with a viewing of the Welcome To Doe Bay documentary in the Yoga Studio, which was quite the packed house. One might think that the snowball hype over the annual Doe Bay Fest is exaggerated, when in fact it’s legit. The festival sold out in three minutes last year and under a minute this year, both with no lineup announced or leaked. The hype behind the Doe Bay Fest is all because of the memories and stories people bring back and wish to share with others and the future experiences they hope to achieve. Above all, the Doe Bay Resort and Cafe is a stunning place to visit. One of the best vacations and weekend get-aways you can take is up to the resort. One recommendation is to go up there any other month than August so you can enjoy the quiet, serene oasis that is Doe Bay and the scrumptious full menu at the Cafe. It is when you leave your agenda and itinerary behind that you truly get to experience the beauty that is Doe Bay.