Once again, for the eleventh year running, I managed to make it down to Okemah for the annual Woody Guthrie Free Folk Festival. I've been sweating my way though this festival for over a decade now, and it has always been a communion of some of my favorite musicians and non-musicians from across the country. I have friends that I get to see only so often, and it's usually during this festival that we can be in the same physical space as opposed to chatting via email, phone, text message, or telepathic thought. I generally end up watching a movie with Ellis Paul, discussing the merits and pitfalls of being a professional songwriter and making fun of Sean Penn in the process while Don Con makes fun of Ellis for watching a Sean Penn movie. Then there's the occasional run in with David Amram and his tiny necklace drums, whistles, recorders, flutes, pan pipes, and whatever else he found along the way. One year, he rehashed some pretty amazing Kerouac stories from the beat days while we passed a doobie and reveled in the cosmic absurdity of it all. I love everything about this festival..
Except the heat.
And it was definitely hot this year. So hot, in fact, that the usual walking a few blocks downtown to the different venues was almost impossible without passing out. Not that the heat is new or anything, but we've had so much of it this year and with such an intensity that it seemed more unbearable than in any years previous. Which begs the question that Woodyfest goers have been asking for years.
Why don't they move the festival to a cooler time of year?
The obvious answer is that they should. But they won't. Because it's Woody's birthday in the hottest part of July.
Now, if there's one thing Woody Guthrie wanted, it was comfort and reasonable conditions for the working man. This would logically extend to the working musician as well, and comfort was about the farthest thing from anything that anyone at the festival felt this year. The Guthrie family themselves have been reported as saying that they have no qualms about moving the festival, but there are some folks that just won't have it. I would beseech anyone with any pull to start thinking about how many more people would come to a festival that was a pleasant 78 degrees through the week as opposed to the rigorously uncomfortable 107 degrees that the mercury hit last week. Uggggghhhh...still sweating just thinking about it.
Nevertheless, it was great to see my friends again, even though we were all sweaty and smelled pretty ripe by the end of the week. The fun continues tonight at the Deli in Norman with my homie from Taos, Mr. Don Conoscenti, sitting in with the Damn Quails Philharmonic tonight at 10:30pm. See you at the show...