It was a strange weekend. Amazing music makers were assembled at the Kate Wolf Music Festival in Laytonville, CA, many many more than usual due to the fact that Covid had cancelled 2020 and 2021, and due to the fact that this was not only the 25th KWF but the final one.
We didn’t get out of the house at 6 AM, we got out at 6:30 and then had to get gas, so it was 8:45 when we got to the gates—45 minutes later than opening. That meant we stood in line in the blazing sun for two hours to get stamped and braceleted, then found that the only places still open for camping were at the complete ass-end of the site, a twenty-minute walk from the music stages.
Every day hit 100 degrees. Those who had come for many years said it wasn’t hotter than usual, but I was three years older than I’d been before, and it sure clobbered me harder. The Supreme Court decisions were an additional blow, and it wasn’t the celebratory high I’d been expecting.
It was a different high. I got into more long lovely conversations than ever before. I was blissed sitting in the dappled shade by the little river watching the clad and unclad people of all ages reveling in the clear cold water. I oozed tears of gratitude when a camp security guy stopped his little putt-putt cart to ask if I could use a ride. I was profoundly moved when an artist I’d been anticipating for the whole festival was wobbly from age and heat and was lovingly (and respectfully) supported by the artist who shared his in-the-round slot. They rocked gospel together to a standing-room crowd.
Kate Wolf is/was a different kind of festival. The volunteers patrolling the roadways to pick up trash could hardly find any. The volunteers keeping the check-in line of standees off the road were saying, “Keep yourself safe, we love you, you’re doing great.” Strangers passing each other on the paths said things like “Great hat!” and “You’re lookin’ good!” Somebody with a lusty lemon tree at home brought a carton of lemons to give away, and a guy on the fire crew asked, “Can I take them all? I can give them to my guys and bribe them to stay hydrated.”
We got home Sunday morning, picked up our regular sushi and hauled ass to the ocean for our ritual picnic. It took a moment to realize that the car’s thermometer said it was 66 outside, not 99. I thought for a moment I was upside down.