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Summer Camp for Grown-ups

August 4th, 2009

Craig, Linda, Bob Boilen, Anya Grundmann and Chris in front of the Folk Alley Express

Craig, Linda, Bob Boilen, Anya Grundmann and Chris in front of the Folk Alley Express

This weekend, I drove (splitting duties with my friend Linda) a 38′ RV/mobile recording studio to Rhodes Island for the Newport Folk Festival. There were four of us sleeping, eating and working from the vehicle for 5 days. Our boss, Al, drove separately with his friend Mike - and that was our crew for recording the performances on the Harbor Stage, where we were parked and had our promotional table set up as well. The Folk Alley crowd was working with NPR on live broadcasts from the festival, so we met (and hung out with) a bunch of people from NPR and the two other stations, WMVY and WFUV, working on the project.

The weekend was a lot of work. I was at my table for two days straight - telling hundreds of music fans about FolkAlley.com. It was simply amazing to see that many folk fans in one place - young people, old people, everyone in between. There was so much enthusiasm about what we are doing. We met people who already listen to Folk Alley and many more who are now excited to try out our stream. Linda, Chris and Craig spent their days recording and editing audio. We all worked like crazy (Al made food runs, helped man the table and took pictures - everyone pitched in).

And there were the new friendships we made. I took advantage of an offer from a young man named Galen to take photos for the Folk Alley Newport blog and added lots of content to our page. Bob, Anya, Alan and Kevin from NPR were so nice - even when they ended up at dinner with only us (everyone else got stuck in the traffic) and then had to drive us around. They let Chris stay with them after his air mattress sprung a leak - it was all very above and beyond.

The Iron & Wine crowd in front of the Folk Alley Express

The Iron & Wine crowd in front of the Folk Alley Express

The performances were amazing. And it wasn’t just the high-caliber musicians, the vibe was created in part by the audience that was so fully involved with the event - invested in making these musical moments stand out and really mean something more than a random concert series. I was brought to tears on more than one occasion (stand out performances: Mavis Staples, Iron & Wine, The Decemberists, Elvis Perkins in Dearland and - of course - Pete Seeger). Watching Pete Seeger perform with Del McCoury, Joan Baez and all of that day’s musicians on the final day - the audience standing in the rain - was the true definition of folk music. All of these people came together on that spot to join in the singing of songs that had been passed down from one generation to the next, building community through shared experience. It is something I will never forget.

Chris, Eleanor, Galen, Linda and Craig on the last day

Chris, Eleanor, Galen, Linda and Craig on the last day

As Pete and George Wein said good-night and closed the Newport Folk Fest, it was a little like saying camp good-byes. We had worked together to create something really exciting. So much energy in the air, so many new friends and memories to last a lifetime. Today, I still feel wiped out - trying to find my bearing after coming back to Earth. I’m sure that the euphoria we felt will fade as we go on and, just like camp, those people you bonded with will return to being co-workers and not co-conspirators.

But, we’ll always have Newport.

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