Friday, October 13, 2023

Front Porch Music, Part Two

The Bean

When we last left our hero, OK just me, I had allowed myself to get talked into a meeting at nine o'clock in the morning on a Saturday. A meeting to discuss another writer and his writing, supposedly. If you haven't seen Part One, you should read it first. 


The Bean is an Oriental institution; a coffee shop right across the street from the Town Dock. They have all the ubiquitous espresso coffee options, plus brewed coffee, smoothies, iced tea, bagels, brownies, muffins, and other treats. During the weekend of the festival, I suspected they might be busy, but I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived just before nine. I hadn’t eaten, so I got an Americano and a bagel. By the time my coffee was ready, a table had opened up.  

Being that I was slightly skeptical, and that I had planned to spend the whole day ashore at the music fest, I had come prepared. After eating my bagel, I got out a notebook (a writer always has a notebook) and started writing. I didn’t really have a plan, but one of the pieces of writing advice I had already given my curious friend – was to just start writing. Write about something, even if it is writing about the frustration of having nothing to write about.  

I’m a glutton for punishment and just to prove it -- I have three blogs. This blog about my sailing and misadventures around boats, a blog with my non-boat writing, and a blog about my journey into Buddhism. I wrote several pages for the oft-ignored Buddhist blog and then began writing this very piece. As a famous local institution, The Bean was busy on a Saturday morning; ever more so on the festival weekend. Most of the morning there were always a few customers in line. Luckily, nearly all of them were grabbing a coffee and heading out for their day. The tables were never all occupied, but there were a few of us there enjoying the space and working or conversing. 

My less than intrepid writer friend never showed. And the rest of my whole day in town, I never saw my ‘friend’ who was so desperate to get some writing advice; regardless whether I was actually an appropriate source for that.

After a couple hours of good writing, I was ready for a break. Inspired suddenly, I packed up and walked across the street to the Inland Waterway Provision Company; another local institution. The IWPC is a unique store that reminds me of some others that I have found in remote locales, like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. They have a wide variety of things because of their unique position far between bigger towns along the IntraCoastal Waterway. The store has souvenirs and knickknacks, t shirts and hats, sailing gear, books and charts, craft beer, gourmet snacks, as well as a good selection of boat parts, resin and paint, fishing gear, safety gear, and maintenance items like oil and fuel filters. I knew that I could find a couple Oriental, NC postcards there as well. 

"Downtown" Oriental

Postcards in hand and lots of time before the music started, I walked over to the Post Office. On their counter, I wrote a note on each card and then bought a couple stamps. I was starting to know my way around Oriental, so I was able to cross Broad Street, the main drag, and cut through the neighborhood over to the festival stage. I was still a little early and had worked up an appetite writing and walking around. One of the food vendors was offering Cuban Black Beans and Rice which sounded delicious. After securing a bowl, I sat at a picnic table by the river and dug in.  

The first music of the day was Christie Lenee, who I had seen talk the day before. She is an extraordinary finger-style guitar player and a beautiful singer. Her set was a mix of instrumentals, singer/songwriter craft, and perceptive stories. It was a great way to start the day.

The Ol’ Front Porch Music Festival is a unique music fest. First, Oriental is a very small town and to organize a two day festival with a half dozen venue locations – and keep it free – is incredible. Second, is the variety of venues. There is the main stage, called the Riverfront Stage, that is set up in a village park on the river. Every two hours, a one hour performance occurs there. On the odd hours between main stage performances, sets are performed in other locations around town; at the church I mentioned, at a brew pub, at a bed and breakfast, and at several private houses with front porches big enough to hold a small band and their equipment. The music ranged from bluegrass and traditional Appalachian, to gospel, folk rock, Americana, a local ensemble of ukuleles, and even some jazz. I couldn’t have been happier just wandering around and listening to music. Twice I happened to walk by someone telling the story of the incredible piano performance from the church the day before. 

At some point, I got an odd feeling that I should check on my dinghy. It had been tied up at a small boat dock at the state boat ramp for most of the day. I’ve developed an eerie sense for the welfare of each of my boats; Ruth Ann, the mothership, and my dinghy.  I walked back across town to the dock and, sure enough, the wind had picked up and changed direction. The dinghy was now getting bonked against the dock, nothing too serious but the wind had started blowing harder than was forecast. I decided to row out to check on Ruth Ann as well. There was one more act that I had wanted to see. Damn Tall Buildings, from Brooklyn, NY, was the Saturday headliner to close out the festival, but I needed to check on my girl. 

There was a North Carolina Marina Patrol boat getting pulled at the boat ramp. A teenager in a kayak near the ramp’s dock appeared to have been talking to the officer. I wondered if he had been towed back in or rescued somehow during the strengthening winds. It seems likely that that was true, because as I rowed away from the dock, the officer walked over to watch me from the high side of the parking lot. He didn’t gesture or seem to want to stop me, but his body language revealed that he had some concerns. Two creeks come together right near the ramp and it was hard rowing to get across the first creek as the wind blew straight down it, but once I got into Greens Creek, where Ruth Ann tugged at her anchor, the wind was mitigated by the trees and homes along the shore and I was fine.  

Once I was back onboard, I wasn’t sure that I would bother to get back to the festival. The safety of Ruth Ann and the dinghy is actually more important than music. Nevertheless, after an hour or so, the winds seemed to have fallen off. We were a half mile up the creek from the boat ramp and going back meant twenty minutes of rowing – each way. Yet the music tugged at my heart. 

I had been napping a bit, but with the wind softening I got up and stood in the cockpit to judge my situation. It wasn’t still but nearly so. Back down in the cabin, I called up Damn Tall Buildings on YouTube and twenty seconds into the first song, I was committed. I was going back into town. 

Damn Tall  Buildings

The Boston Globe described Damn Tall Buildings as "Old Crow Medicine Show meets Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros meets Flatt & Scruggs meets Nickel Creek, with a dash of Avett Brothers and a sprinkle of Johnny Cash. What they might have missed was the Patsy Cline and Janis Joplin erupting from their powerfully singing bass player. 

I changed my clothes into something slightly warmer and rowed back. It was exactly what I needed. Damn Tall Buildings are tremendous musicians and so much fun. They are a couple, Sasha and Max, plus Avery on the fiddle. Sasha plays the bass and has an incredibly powerful and versatile voice. Max is a bit of a kook, another great singer, and a really good guitar player; especially bluegrass and bluesy stylings. Avery is a helluva fiddle player and versatile harmony singer who has quite a shimmy under his fiddle and beard. They had driven all the from Sisters, Oregon, from a similar sounding festival, to close out their seven week tour at the fest in Oriental, NC. They were headed home to Brooklyn after their set and I was so glad that I had caught them.

Afterward, we all helped put away the folding chairs that the fest had rented for the main stage area. Then I walked back through town as it got darker and darker. When I got back to the dinghy dock, there was just a sliver of sunset in the clouds. Luckily, I had brought a lamp to be somewhat legal after dark. After taking the requisite sunset picture, I lit the lamp, put it in the bow, and rowed back out to Ruth Ann. 

What a weekend!

 

The dock after dark


All the images are mine except The Bean photo which I stole off of Flickr.

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