Dave, Corey and his girlfriend, Leah, and I left the Bunker around nine on Friday night. We headed east on 36 to New Richmond, Wisconsin.
Drew was waiting for us in a Subway parking lot on the main drag. We met up and made the final journey to Osceola. When we arrived at Lily Springs Farm, they were expecting us and we unloaded our musical gear in the green room/granary barn and then drove our cars back to the lake campsite and set up our tents by our headlights. We were pretty close to where we were last year. There were already five or six tents by the lake shore. So we snuggled our tents together. When we had finished setting up tents for everyone, and one for Liz who would arrive the next day, we drove our cars across the street to the parking lot. The stars were intense. The center of our tent city was a magnificent screened room. We set up rope lights on the ceiling of our temporary headquarters and soon after Beau and Caitlin arrived and began to set up their sleeping quarters. We congregated in the screened room and conversed late into the black night as steam rose off the surface of the lake.
The next morning we woke up and drove into town and ate at the Watershed Café. The place had amazing food and the coffee we desperately needed. We sat on the patio next to a rushing brook that raced away into the woods and down a gorge. After lunch, we missed breakfast hours, we headed back to the farm and soon after Shane and Liz arrived on the grounds. They unloaded their gear and we waited for the drum kit to arrive. The drums arrived a little before two o’clock and we set up all of our gear on the main stage and walked back to our screen fortress. We wouldn’t play until six thirty and had plenty of time to chat and relax as our camp was right next to the Lake stage. Gretta and Olivia provided plenty of entertainment during the down time.
I scribbled out the set list with a sharpie Drew brought as we listened to Ben Weaver kick off the festival. Ben’s been on tour biking around the Midwest and his lyrics are raw and organic. There is the spirit of the wilderness in his music and he is supremely professional. He was accompanied by a fiddle and his voice and songs were perfect with the lake as a backdrop. There were even paddle boarders listening from behind the stage. I set my sites on the lake. I wasn’t missing out this year.
As Ben Weaver wrapped up his set, we were over at the Granery Stage making final preparations to our gear. We sound checked with Deciduous and rolled into our set. It was a sunny, beautiful day and we had the shade of the granary barn to rock out in. The crowd was hanging out all over the grounds. They were excited and awaiting dinner. We rocked through six songs and took a break for the dinner announcement. We then rolled right back into our set and finished with Sweet Desperation.
It’s a magnificent stage to play, facing the barn and the farm house of Lily Springs. It’s the heart of the homestead. The crowd was gathered on the boulder walls and on the hay bales placed out in front of the stage. The magic was in the sharing of the moment on a perfect evening with everyone who was there.
We happily opened the main stage and as we tore down our gear, the Wailing Loons began to set up their guitar, banjo and upright bass. The Loons can put on a show. They are seasoned festival veterans, playing multiple shows at Bonnaroo the last two years. (Not to mention a write up in National Geographic.) Liz and I met Dan and Emily years ago at an open mic at the Chatterbox in South Minneapolis. They know how to get the people to dance. They bring tight groves and a genuine love of life to their performances. And as the sun was going down they sang their hearts out and got the crowd moving.
After the Loons set, I went back to camp and put on my swim trunks and headed to the dock with Corey and Beau and Caitlin. We jumped in as the Red Daughters were starting their set. We swam through the relatively warm water and watched the light show in the trees and off of the barn. It was the perfect cool down to a hot day and a great way to listen to a band rock the Granary Stage at Lily Springs Farm. And the Red Daughters boomed over the lake.
The next bands were supposed to switch to the Barn Stage, but it was too beautiful of an evening to bring the party inside the barn. So Chill Witch sang into the cooling evening, into the shimmering trees. She was energetic and eccentric and she was followed by the blues bad asses, Flatwater Mississippi. This band takes the stage and controls it with a swampy power. Led by a lead singer/bass player who howls with a passion that dwarfs her frame and top notch guitar players, the band is solid and technical and so much fun to watch. They range from heavy blues to surf rock and were a perfect end to evening festivities. Their set ended at 12:15 and that was it for the first day of music. Two campfires were ablaze and people walked around and mingled until the early hours of the morning.
Sunday morning started with coffee and orange juice, a fantastic breakfast spread and Good Morning Bedlam, who laid down a laid back mix of gypsy folk. With ukulele, upright bass, banjo and a fantastic female singer, they were an ideal closer for the blue skies of Lily Springs Farm.
We packed up our tents and waited to grab our gear from the green room. When the gravel drive was clear, we drove our cars onto the grounds and loaded camping and then musical gear. We said our goodbyes and thanked those who allowed us to be a part of such a special weekend.
Looking back, I want to tell you how fantastic the farm to table food was and how worthwhile the ticket really is. If you have the chance, go next year. It is everything you wanted a festival to be.
At three on Saturday, when the festival began, they put out a spread of fresh vegetables, including purple carrots and roasted cauliflower with three different kinds of hummus. They were the freshest snacks. Dinner was no different and they spared no expense with fantastic vegetarian and chicken sandwiches and black bean salad. After dinner, and after we had gotten off stage, there were volunteers walking around with pies for everyone to try. I tried the vegan Mexican chocolate pie and it was superb. Later in the evening, Wild Earth Wood Fired was pulling sourdough crust pizzas out of their brick oven and people were genuinely feasting on all the food and music and community that was created at Lily Springs farm.
If I say anything, I say thank you to Eat for Equity and Sky Water Studios and all the volunteers that made the weekend possible and I say, I hope I see you there next year.
“If you feel like there’s something out there that you’re supposed to be doing, if you have a passion for it, then stop wishing and just do it.” – Wanda Sykes