So this past Memorial Day Weekend, the wife and I attended the Papa Joe's Banjo-B-Que at the Lady Antebellum Amphitheater. We were pretty excited to see Jason Isbell as the headliner Saturday night in our local metro area. The clouds on Friday afternoon looked pretty ominous out my office window in downtown and I kept calling my buddy who was setting up for the competition cook-off to get some local up to the date weather reports. It was not looking good out in Evans. I left work a little early to stop and buy a rain jacket from Half Moon Outfitters. I really like their store, but sometimes I feel like I need to do more stuff outside before I have earned the right to shop there. Or at least I should embrace my poseurness and stop mocking others for doing basically the same thing.
We make it out to the site and I run across my old friend Trey who is running sound on the side Saloon stage. After hearing about his start this afternoon involving drenched junction boxes, I appreciated the fact that my current line of work was rarely impacted by the elements. Tech work is fun and you get so many opportunities to do cool things and meet a lot of talented folks, but sometimes it can just be rough. And fighting the elements on a small stage in the mud has to be close to the top of the list of bad times as I can think of in live sound. I shuddered to think of all the gear cleaning that would have to be done back at the shop after the weekend. We got to listen to our old friends, The Mason Jars, and then headed over to our friends competition site to say hello.
We had never really been this close to any kind of professional cook-off like this. These trailers and rigs these cats had were nice! They were from all over as well. The event is a Kansas City BBQ Society event which is a top tier BBQ competition level. There is a season and points that are accumulated, intense stuff! Maybe it was since it was after the setup and before the cooking got started, but it was a super congenial atmosphere in the different cooking areas with folks going around and visiting other teams to say hello and catch up. After saying our hellos we headed over to the main stage to see John Moreland. Beth and I had seem him open for Dawes solo, but not with his full band. Man, that guy can write some songs that are so touching and heart wrenching! Later in the night we were going over to catch Robert Randolph and do a little dancing, but the skies decided to open up so we stayed put under the tent at the cook site. It did not stop the show from going on and the guys from Custom Audio and Lighting did a great job of covering the whole park so we were able to hear the band from where we were. We opted not to stay for Friday's headliner, Old Crow Medicine Show, partially because of the weather and partially because we aren't the hugest OCMS fans. We heard from others the next day that they put on a really good show even through the rain and the crowd stuck with them too!
We approached Saturday a little bit wiser with regard to our attire and also packing for the whole day. We had worn jeans on Friday which just ended up getting muddy and soaked. We opted for shorts on Saturday and packed extra shirts in Zip-Loc bags, along with our rain coats, and camera in a backpack. I was totally not aware of what you could bring with you to these outdoor shows. It made all the difference being able to pack a bag in there. The day Saturday ended up being really sunny and warm instead of rainy. Carrying or wearing our raincoats all day would have been absolutely miserable, so I am glad I asked the security guy about what we could bring on our way out Friday night. We were beginning to feel like we had some of this festival stuff down! If we could handle both the rain and the sun without running back to our house, we might be able to do one of these out of town with camping and all! The true festival experience!
Once we got to the park on Saturday, we made a bee-line to the cook site. I was told to come with an appetite. They cooked more food than was necessary to turn in to the judges so we got to partake of the stuff that didn't make it into the pretty box for the official tasting. There were ribs and chicken and pork and brisket! Oh, the brisket! I am a relative newcomer to the brisket eating and I don't know why I cheated myself out of briskety goodness for so many years! It is some good stuff! After filling our gullet, we walked around to take in the day's music offerings. We braved the sun beating down on us to hear The War and Treaty. I had hear some buzz about them and apparently their performance at Shaky Knees this year was fantastic, so I was excited to see them myself. They were definitely deserving of the buzz! They had a great southern soulfulness to them. I was surprised that we were able to get right up at the front. I am guessing that the combination of the heat and the fact that there was a section for setting up chairs right behind the concrete pad in front of the stage was part of the reason, but I couldn't imaging sitting down for that set. Later on in the evening the Infamous Stringdusters were playing on the main stage. I was also excited to see these guys. I am not a super bluegrass fan, but the musicianship of these guys is legendary and that I could really get into and appreciate. They were just killing it and everyone was dancing and having a great time, especially the guy in front of me. I suspect that his enjoyment was accentuated by pharmaceuticals, but he was having a good time and not bothering anyone. Dance on my friend, dance on! Unfortunately, the Stringdusters had their set cut short due to weather and all the crowd was urged to find shelter. In an open field.
The park had a pavilion near the entrance that we were able to get under for shelter while we waited for the all clear. The same shelter where I had left my phone unattended for an hour earlier in the day! Almost had a real bad day! As the night went on during the weather delay, I began to wonder if we would get to hear Isbell that night at all. Then I noticed the lights on the stage were moving and the hazers were pumping out some haze, so we went back down to the front of the stage to await the 400 Unit. Unfortunately, the wait would continue for us as the horn rang out again signalling severe weather and the sky began to pour rain down again. We decided to brave it and stay standing in front of the stage since it was late enough that they were either going to call it and send us all home or the weather would clear. As the stage crew huddled and discussed things it seemed that we would not be getting to see Isbell. But they decided to move the stage back for more shelter from the rain and see if they could pull it off. The band came out and gave us 40 minutes of goodness. The county has a hard cutoff of 11, but I appreciated the fact that the crew and the band worked to get those in attendance that 40 minutes. They could have just said, nope and taken their money and traveled down the road on their merry way. That showed me a good bit about the character that he has and how much he cares about his fans.
I also took the weekend as an opportunity to use my recently purchased camera, a Sony a5100 mirrorless. I bought it to take short videos and pictures for our Tech Talk Augusta events, but I really have to get better at knowing how to use it! I figured that I could do some practicing on some bands and maybe I would even get some keepers out of it. I am posting some below. They weren't great and I had to do a bunch of tinkering in LightRoom to get them even halfway decent(that is a pretty generous assessment). But you got to start somewhere and I got the opportunity to talk to some of the photographers out shooting to get some tips and learn a little something. So thanks XT and Eric.