The weather verged on miserable, snow daily with 10-20 degree wind chills brought evenings down into the minus numbers, conditions that seemed to impact attendance. Donner Pass was closed on and off throughout the Gathering, and driving in from the north was fraught with blowing snow white-outs as was I-80 from Salt Lake City on Wednesday. You had to really want to be there.
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As always, my personal ‘high-notes’ weren’t on the program – wonderful slices of time that Elko makes possible:
Sarah, the little girl with curly blond hair I caught from the corner of my eye going through my chapbooks, randomly reading from each while I autographed others at the table nearby. She might have been 12. Fifteen or twenty minutes later she was standing before me with “Poems from Dry Creek”. With such a special aura as we talked, I was not surprised to learn that she wrote poetry. Daughter of a master boat maker in Sausalito, it felt good to shake her father's hand, one rougher than most horseshoers. A magnificent moment, really, and it turns out that she is a friend of a friend of mine.
Down at the Stray Dog, Mike Beck brought electric ‘back-up’, having had to struggle over beer-drinking conversation in past years with only his acoustic guitar. Somehow he managed to get drums, bass and 12-string Rickenbacher in the corner with him to blast the inattentive out into the alley. Great selection of songs. Lost my hearing in 1969, but got it back Friday night.
At the Star Restaurant, Lost Weekend played western swing from the coat closet for whatever fell into their hat. With a lively and unique sound, Robbin bought several CDs. Joined by Kenny Maines, we caught them later upstairs at the Stockman’s Saturday night – a wonderful crystalline sound, both vocals and instrumentals.
Replacing Michael Martin Murphy at the last minute as a relative unknown, Andy Wilkinson and his group did the show at the Stockman’s. We caught two of his three shows. Most songs were Wilkinson originals, solid, well-written pieces with researched backgrounds, Texas history saved in song.
Though I never saw Ernie Sites this year, I know he was playing across from the Red Lion. Also, there had to be 3 or 4 gear and art shows.
It seems so healthy to have such a diversity of music ‘happening’ unofficially on the periphery of the Gathering, essentially competing with the ticketed night shows. Perhaps true validation occurs when a genre attracts these outside influences and the whole becomes enhanced by them, as was the case this year. For me, it demonstrates a sense of security for both artists and audiences that may have been undermined by stricter or more judgmental definitions in years past.
Unfortunately, I spent Sunday bundled-up with a God-awful fever that stayed with me all the way home. I don't remember ever being so sick - walking pnemonia, no doubt, with so little lung capacity I couldn't get a cigarette lit. With no appetite, coffee and tobacco tasting awful, I've pretty much done without.
Nearly 2.5 inches of rain while we were gone. Nothing like the green, green grass of home.