Camp Barefoot 2013

Review by Elise Olmstead

Photographs by Appalachian Jamwich photography

and Roger Gupta (watermarked)

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What does it mean to be home? Is “home” the familiar landscape that surrounds you, the smell of a childhood blanket, or the smile of a lover?  No matter how it hits you, the sensation in your heart is always the same.  It is a flutter of fond sentiment, a gushy wet kiss of feeling that rubs you all over like fleecy pajamas.

We drove down those goddamn beautiful country roads towards Bartow, West   Virginia, feeling the fresh air between our fingers. The road takes us past Seneca Rocks and Spruce Knob, over majestic mountains and under shady trees, and finally to Camp Barefoot, a place where I belong. When our first staff attendant directs us with a smile and a dance, grins spread over our faces in anticipation for the fun in store.

We park our car and get to work right away setting up near our friends.  IMG_1605As we struggle with our tent someone emerges almost magically from the trees and dutifully jostles the camping gear with us. Helping hands appear everywhere to pitch in and help set up. Car camping can be purchased at Camp Barefoot as an add-on to your ticket with limited availability, but is worth the extra splurge if you have a lot of supplies or small children. General admission must park in the parking lot, but there are plenty of shuttles to help cart your stuff inside.  Much of the camping area is fields, but there are also woodsy areas and real estate by the soothing sounds of the creek water.  My dog Weetzie Bat explores the terrain, and I’m thankful I can finally enjoy a festival with my loyal friend this summer. Taco has little time to admire the cozy casa I have created before he runs off, fly fishing pole in hand, ready to catch some trout. Fishing is a unique feature of the venue and festival that sets it apart from the rest this summer, and for the deprived fisherman, it’s a dream come true.

The small, intimate West   Virginia campground is transformed into a funky friendly village for the weekend, where you can’t step two feet without running into a friend, and no stage is too far away.  There is a small stage in the parking area, “Martin’s Downtown Stage,” and of course the two main stages front and center, where food vendors are featured and open alcohol is (rejoice!) allowed. You can find tons of great bands playing the Cary Street Café Stage up over the hill, which is decorated with Christmas lights this year for easier navigation. The Silent Disco is hidden inside the general camping area, and though we didn’t make it to the stage, many of our friends raved about the DJs the next afternoon, their eyes heavy and happy from late night raging.

The music started before we could even finish getting situated and I started to hear IMG_1598the roots rock guitar and harmonica of The Deluge float happily over the hills.  The lineup spanned over several genres such as funk, jam, electronic, bluegrass, and soul, keeping true to the variety expected at Camp Barefoot while remaining mostly jam and improvisational.  Many artists return multiple years in a row, including the easy listening Moe. inspired jams of Vermont band Woodwork, who played at 6:15 on Thursday.  I had to run up to see my friends in People’s Blues of Richmond, who unapologetically brought the Cary Street Café Stage audience to their knees not once, but twice that weekend with their blistering blues rock reminiscent of the cynical weirdness of The White Stripes. Barefoot has an undeniable funk streak running through its lineup each year, and I can’t deny shaking my booty to the smooth Prince-like vocals and wiggly synth wobbles of The Pimps of Joytime.  I was in electronic heaven the rest of the night, vibrating to Conspirator’s dubstep tunes and then whirling with the harmonizing electric guitars of Pigeon’s Playing Ping Pong, who have been continuing to blow me away with the seamless intricacies of their jams, woven between funky sing-alongs and crowd pleasing covers like “Once in a Lifetime” by Talking Heads and “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf.

Rain taps gently on our tent home the next morning and the weather is not too hot nor too cold—we are a cozy cluster under the comforter, but Dangermuffin lures us out of our tent as the afternoon approaches. The sound of their blissful folk songs like “Big Suit” are begging us to sing along.  We skitter over to The Boatmen at Martin’s Downtown Stage, where I was happy to see a crowd accrue at almost every show I attended at the small, lower stage.  The Boatmen appeal to my southern rock, Widespread Panic “Spread Neck” sensibilities, and there’s no better way to start my day than with the robust rock-grass sounds of the harmonica and lap slide guitar.

The day starts to get weirder and the vibe starts to get wacky as we see more people  in costumes and carrying hilarious toys and props.  There are reports of a “Wook 011Trap” being set by a little girl and an accomplice, luring unsuspecting hippies towards a bush that turns out to be a person in an elaborate disguise.  Most are only slightly annoyed after the experience but it makes for a great story to take home.  A puppy bounds happily into our camp site that we had seen at Rootwire and nicknamed “Pupadosio,” making for a wave of surprise and laughter (and belly rubs.)  Friends appear around every corner and my voice is quickly disappearing from excited conversation as the day goes by. We are grateful to be allowed to set up an EZ up near the stage to shield us from the afternoon sun while we sip our beers and idly fumble with a hula hoop.

The sun is going down and the stage is starting to glow an icy blue as Tiny Boxes lights it up with funky progressive rock.  The versatile Matt Williams shows off skills on violin, guitar, and mandolin, and blows me away with his spot-on vocals.  His precise rendition of “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough” by Michael Jackson has everyone gasping in disbelief.  I watch clusters of glowing balloons and UGFO’s (unidentified glowing flying objects) float and fly by in the sky as Tea Leaf Green weaves beautiful songs with screaming keyboard and metal-rock guitar solos, mixed with strenuous jams that push your mental limits as you try to keep up. EOTO is a CampBarefoot favorite, and their return is met by screaming fans who rush the stage as fast as their bare muddy toes can launch them.  Jason Hann even joins The Motet for their set, lending his talent to the already heavily percussion-led afro beat that drives everyone into a funk frenzy.

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We traditionally end the night at the Cary Street Café Stage, which feels like a cozy hideaway amongst live painters art gallery.  There are some seriously weird vibes going on, in only the best sense of the word, and everyone is staring wide-eyed at the stage, watching Deltanine beat the hell out of some drums while also soothing me with my beloved dubstep “womps.” We make new friends and I ask the fellow next to me, Jimmy, what brings him to CampBarefoot.  He tells me it’s his second year, and “the first year made me want to come back.  It’s the vibe here at the Cary Street Stage, you know what I’m talking about.”  Indeed.

Friday slips quietly into Saturday while we aren’t looking, the sky peeking a foggy white over the tree line while we sit in slumped camping chairs still shooting the shit.  We take the arriving sun as our cue to get some shut-eye, but barely close the curtains when Danny comes barreling through the campsite wrapped in a blanket burrito and telling jokes.  Is it Saturday already?  The sun is shining and before I have a chance to yawn, an iced coffee with Bailey’s is shoved in my hand and I’m whisked off to see The Kings of Belmont at the Martin’s stage.  A jubilant crowd wastes no time in breaking out the bubbles, afros, and any other silliness they can muster.  KOB brings their artful silliness to the mix, including Ace’s risqué rap lyrics in their song “Stomp It.”

I lazily spread out on a blanket while listening to DJ Williams Project, the jazzy beats complimented by Gordon Jones’s crooning saxophone.  We get to slingin’ some Jamwiches around the property and run into Nigel Hall, Anders Osborne, and Keller Williams, who all graciously take a copy and ignore my stunned silence.  I usually let Taco handle relations with the talent, since it takes all I have to even muster up a “hello” in their presence.  The promotion plan goes well, though, and my spirits are high as Keller and More than Little sings “aw shucks, I love you so,” from the late Isaac Hayes’ song “Don’t Let Go,” in his signature Keller style.

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A little later, Anders Osborne and The Motet horns join Kyle Hollingsworth for a rousing set. The high energy jams led by his rocking keyboard take you through a tunnel of intrigue before bursting into a triumphant light at the other end, punctuated by fireworks spouting off around us.  The highlight of my night is electronic/jam band Zoogma.  I press my chest to the fence at the front of the stage, reaching out to try to touch the soaring cascade of guitar licks of Justin and Brock before they crash like effervescent waves into vibrating synth.  Later when Segway takes the stage, a hooper joins them front and center to provide a Beats Antique-like female dance performance, her lithe body shining in candy colors against the light.  Segway, who has recently re-vamped their lineup with a new guitarist and a fresh new name, “ELM,” creates a heavy-hitting performance that is burned into the audience’s mind long after they unplug.

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I’m reluctant to leave the next day and we pack up as slow as possible, remaining one of the last tents in our neighborhood.  There are enough parting hugs to bide our time and I’m sad to say goodbye to so many friends.  Camp Barefoot is always a homecoming and I’m left with a feeling of supreme satisfaction one usually has after a successful family function.  Inside jokes repeat themselves inside my head and a silly smile is plastered on my silly face.  Instead of feeling sad and ragged like so many Sundays at a festival, I am refreshed and revitalized and ready for the beautiful ride through the West Virginia hills back to Shepherdstown.  I can’t wait until next year when those country roads take me home to Barefoot once again.