For my London friends who think that I step into the wilderness when I leave England for the States, let this photo speak for itself. True, I have access to fewer cultural offerings, but that is not to say that Custer County is devoid of all things cultural.
First off, I live three blocks from the site at which this picture was taken. Proximity to town and to the countryside is a huge plus. This past weekend, the annual Bluegrass festival came to town, and it was a memorable four days.
I love Bluegrass. It is right up there with Baroque. And if you fail to see any relationship at all, let me hasten to add that in both cases I like hearing the individual instruments and the interplay between a limited number of instruments. The musicianship leaves me open-mouthed in wonder. And then to underscore the musicians’ excellence, I go home, sit down at the piano, and fumble-finger through a few easy classical pieces. Oh yes! Trained musicians are a marvel.
Given my enthusiasm, you can imagine my dismay at seeing so many teens wearing earbuds and wired for urban sounds. Kicking and screaming, the teenagers were dragged to the countryside where their parents hoped that the kids would to listen to Bluegrass. Ever resourceful, the teens were there in body but removed: they were all listening to their I-pods!
High Mountain Hay Fever is an annual affair under a big sunburst tent at the end of Main Street, Westcliffe. The tent sides open to the Sangres and while the music has you tapping your toes, the Valley and the mountains gladden your heart. It is a complete sensual experience.
Sunday is my favorite day to attend. I like all Bluegrass, but bluegrass/gospel tops the list. Some of the following lines might be titles, others not. Don’t you love these titles/phrases?
The church bells will ring / His lost sheep to find.
When the gates swing wide on the other side / there’ll be miles of elbow room.
My Savior lives inside me and I’m gonna set him free.
When I touched Jesus, he made me whole
This aint no place for the weary. Get in touch with God, turn the radio on.
Many in the audience knew the standards. It was a community moment (devoid of politics or even religion) to join in singing “Let the circle Be Unbroken,” “Amazing Grace,” and “Mary, Don’t You Weep.”
Other titles/lines I really liked were “My baby loves me and no Blues is too blue,” and “If my nose was running money, Honey, I’d blow it all on you.”
Ah yes, the range of entertainers was wide indeed. Some comments really gave me pause. Consider the following from one of the entertainers: “We need to take this country back and put it into God’s hands. Don’t you wish we could go back to 1961 again?”
Which puts me in mind of a favorite FDR quote: “A Conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward.”
And what is a festival without food? Lucky for us, we have any number of summer festivals and it is only a short walk to funnel cakes, fry bread, fajitas, and pulled pork. The pulled pork is to die for. And yes, I eat it. Followed by a week of fruit, veg, oat bran and tofu.
Personally, I think that if you are too squeeky clean, you aren’t very approachable. And I am not one to pack a tight suitcase. I like to say that I tote a duffel bag and everyone is welcome.
New to this year’s festival, was the Red Molly Trio. Someone said that the Red Mollies put the Blues in Bluegrass. Oh yes! Treat yourself and go to www.redmolly.com where you can give them a listen.
And while I’m recommending, check out http://www.porcelainunicorn.com. You probably know the director Ridley Scott. Following his Cannes award-winning short film project “Parallel Lives,” he challenged the rest of us. The challenge was to submit a three-minute film with precisely six lines of dialogue. The Porcelain Unicorn was the winner.