Our last day at the 10,000 Lakes Festival began with a craving for a hot breakfast, which would generally necessitate the building of a fire and a careful selection of items from our waning grocery supply. Instead of all that trouble, Bern and I walked over to the vendors and got a delicious meal of eggs, sausage, hash browns and biscuits with gravy. I concentrated most of my fury toward the biscuits and gravy – back east, I was a huge fan of cream chipped beef, a very similar concoction which seems to have been completely replaced by this biscuits and gravy business. The day I find a restaurant with both on the menu, will be the day I renounce all other restaurants (at least for a month or so).
The fruits of our pre-festival WalMart shopping spree had lasted us fairly well to this point, but a few items were running low – most notably, the beer. We’d split four cases between the four of us and mowed through nearly all of it by this point. We did, however, have plenty of Bloody Mary fixings left over, and wouldn’t you know we made fine use of them on this final morning. Except for Bern, of course, who finds the drink to be shallow and pedantic.It’s not cheap to embark on this kind of a venture, so heavy reliance on groceries is a fundamental. Just as with any ticketed environment, once you’re inside everything costs about twice as much as if were outside. During my trips to Gratefulfest in 2006 and 2007, I was able to bring a bookbag full of beer right up to the front and dance in the sand – not an option here, where you could only bring bottled water in to the music, and the beers cost $6 a pint. The cost of food and beer were enough to keep us near to our campsite for more time than we probably should have been. But not altogether. We got out in the early afternoon to see Tea Leaf Green, a band which I’d discovered on the Internet Music Archive way back in college. I did so in the thick of a burgeoning interest for the Grateful Dead, which completely overshadowed the discovery and threatened its utter existence until now. But the name rang a bell in my head and we ambled over to check them out for a tick. They were as I remembered them, a good, generic jam band, but sounded better this time without Jerry Garcia upstaging them. Not long afterwards, Umphrey’s McGee took the stage, and I was chomping at the bit. I’d seen these guys twice before, once at Gratefulfest and again at Penn’s Landing in Philly last year, when they opened for STS9. I went for STS9 and got blown away by Umphrey’s, so my expectations today were high – a little too high, as it turned out. They didn’t deliver the way they had back on the East Coast, perhaps because they had less stage time here, or maybe because the vibe here was less than what they needed. Indeed, the atmosphere was changing. Tonight was the final night, and headliner night, led by none other than the Dave Matthews Band. This is a group that everyone I know (including Joey) was really, really into… about eight to ten years ago. I remember the big DMB craze hitting my school back in eighth grade. And since this was the last night of the festival, the folks in charge had sold a large number of one-day passes with no camping, for all those kids who were only interested in Dave. This sapped a lot of the beauty and serenity away from the crowd and from the general ambience, which was a shame after it’d been so pleasant just yesterday.
Dave and company took the stage and played the sun down over the hills. The music was good, don’t get me wrong. As a general rule, I’m fond of Dave’s music, with the exception of his most recent album, which I found to be unimpressive, bordering on intolerable. And the music tonight was generally good, and lasted for a long time. But by the end I found myself wishing for the end at every song. The crowd has such a profound effect on the experience that our festival had been utterly crippled.
As if a reward for our patience in not leaving the show early, a short fireworks display followed the band’s exit from the stage, long after night had fallen. A gradual departure from the grounds and back to our campsite included a check by security, to make sure we all had the proper wristband credentials to enter the campground. This made me sleep a little better.
We got to bed on the early side, poised for a long drive west the following day. More on that from Joey, coming soon.