Skip to main content

Falcon Ridge

Falcon Ridge 2008 Review by Pedro Jameson

Had to get this in writing before the sleep deprivation robbed me of all lucidity.

Left Falcon Ridge today after a wrath of god storm caused a cessation of planned performances for the first time in its 20 year existence. This, after last month's Clearwater Festival got whomped at very nearly the same time of day. I have volunteered at FRFF for 8 years on the Access Crew, and worked Peacekeeping with Pete's boys this years (there may be some reluctance on the part of the organizers to allow Pedro Jameson (Murphy) back in the fold, me fears. Last summer, I had the exquisite pleasure of being a ship's mate and environmental educator for one week aboard the legendary Clearwater Sloop â€" fabulous weather and a new moniker, Pedro the Pirate. So, maybe this sea warrior should take to the deep.

Back to "Woodstock for Families": For many of us, it was our 50th birthday this year (Vance Gilbert noted on stage that it was his, too). And, it was an incredible festival. We received the traditional rain a little early, as it arrived on Wednesday afternoon. Bridey and I rolled in at around 5:30, only to discover that we would not be allowed to bring our car onto the campground. Fortunately, my compatriot Tom "Mr. Tom Jangles" Beckman had arrived early enough to get his camper in a superb spot in the lower camping. Further, my cavorting amigo, the pirate Davey Jones was camped alongside Tomas. Good things were in store with neighboring Fort Fluffy and Club Hank song circles, hailing from Philly and Amherst.

Richard Shindell's absence was noted on many occasions. We had known for some time that he would not be in attendance, and several of my falconfolk spoke glowingly about last year's Sunday afternoon set. For me, with full band, their breezy evocation of the cine-song "Che" was the highlight of FRFF '07. Got turned onto Shindell on opening day '92, two days after my court martial from the Yankees, listening to wfuv, I heard "Are You Happy Now?" and sat spellbound and immediately called the d.j. (I had their number on mental auto-dial)¦the jock obliged my query, and I gave her the short of it: got fired, bummed but kinda relieved, and the song helped me to say, "wait one moment, mr. prince of darkness, I will be whole agin"¦two days later, a cassette of Sparrow's Point arrived with a note telling me that things would work out…if she's out there, she's got her wings, eh, Clarence?

Back to the Mud Palance: So, we do the greetings and the settling in. Thursday shows us a little more agua, but delivers a star-filled scene for the Main Stage gigs. The mud has become so gelatinous that we have all developed the Falcon Ridge walk. Me, I love mud. Mountain biker. But a lot of the festgoers were bumming, Bridey included.

Nice opening lineup of horse flies, red molly, jason spooner trio (they got it goin' on!), crooked still, and lori mckenna. The first 3 shows remind me of why I love this temporary-town. Crooked Still is becoming more cohesive, but still sounds like bluegrass-lite to these well-worn Eustachian tubes. McKenna has an extraordinary voice and warmth, but the production was too Faith/Tim influenced for this ol' Woody guy. I only really know Never Die Young, thanks to the Shindig recommendation a while back. Would love to see her solo in an intimate shed down the road.

Friday brings resplendent sunshine and more smiles as the goop coagulates. The Emerging Artist showcase is packed with 2-song wonders: Danny Schmidt, Blind Willies, and Amy "The Real Thing" Speace catch my attention. Zydeco, Massengill/Hardy, The Strangelings, and Bill Evans (cool jazz/bgrass fusion) set up the song swap finale. I have to say that the Strangelings shot me to Orion with White Bird. Second time I've seen them in the Berkshire Amphitheatre and Pete, Maura, Chris Thompson and fellow whirlers have conjured up a spell-binding act that is just far fucking out¦Gorka facilitates the swap, flanked by Eliza Gilkyson (another sorceress), the Traveller Patty Larkin, and the aforementioned Mr. Gilbert, who steals the night with his Round Midnight riff¦the man is the Jose Oquendo of folk. Oquendo once played all 9 positions in a game for the Redbirds, and pitched when the White Rat's bullpen was in tatters¦I apologize for the digression, I worked in baseball for 100 months in a former life.

Saturday¦gotta check the schedule at

Yeah, oh yeah, Sabado had fucking everything. Janis Ian on the workshop stage solo for a gig that includes talk of her new book Society's Child. I arrive with fortuitous timing with my 7 year old god-daughta Awj just in time to catch At Seventeen. Foolishly thought it would be the highlight of the day. Fast forward past the whirling wind flags, children playing Indian games, collared greens, and mud discussions for the 5:00 workshop A Change is Gonna Come. Vance opens with a slightly tweaked reading of the theme song, with a dig or 2 at our mis-Leaders. But, Anthony F. da Costa steals it, steals it like Alexander Mundy. Seventeen years young and on his way, filled with the Hibbing breakfast and a Westchester spoon. But, unlike the constellation Loudon, this cat is a public-schooler with a solid support structure. I can't tell you how gratifying it is to see him up there with the Fast Folk founder and Massengill. He kills with Ain't Much of a Soldier, and I'm told that he's got many more that evince his brilliance.

The night has Gandalf Murphy & the Slambovian Circus of Dreams in the Dance Tent, to which I rarely venture¦but, on this occasion, it is the show to which I most look forward¦the contra dancers exit and in come graybeards, collegians, the curious and even one dad who had both kids in his arms late in the set¦caught them in a similar setting at Clearwater, and they popped a few seams in the ol' carny tent that time¦this was better, with a fired-up Slambovian citizenry, found my place in the belly of the beast near the end (3 Slammers back) and pogo-ed my way to the best cardio workout I've had in months. Their mid-song medley of Wipeout, Miserlou, China Girl, Let's Dance, and White Wedding gave me visions of a burial at sea.

Out of that sauna, and back on the street: Martin Sexton wowed us at Main Stage ("I'm lucky, like the first day of summa vacation") The skies didn't quite regale us, and, looking back, I can recall wondering whether there was more thunderfunk in the offing.

Sunday, I get home late again, after a visit to a Vermont song oval, and a few tunes with some Cortez-lovers. Tom meets a fellow Beckman (with a silent "e" betwixt the parts, but she is young and in the throes of a 2 hour laughing fit â€" my bad jokes actually helped her recede from sanitoria). We set out to find Hardy's notorious buccaneer flag, and I hear a tune that draws me to another less-mod squad, and I inject "Room for a coupla Wayfaring Strangers?", knowing the reply, turns out the hypnotic notes are none other than Senor Cortez and we stayed until the usual cries of "I have to work in 2 hours!"

Back at Happy Camp, we rally for Domingo services held at the main stage, courtesy of Julie Murphy of E.F.O. She is a cancer survivor, and her love of Maker and Makees is clarion clear.

I have a rare spar with an obdurate blanket dweller, who refuses to move from the designated dance area, less I show him my i.d. I'm wearing my "Join the Circus" button and I point to it, but he insists that I show him something official. I return with my festival 2008 staff shirt, and now he wants a badge¦ bad juju¦ he goes his way and I get a few thanks later on, but that ain't supposed to be the vibe¦ Wild Asparagus serves florets of celtic goodness, including a reconstruction of a Guy Lombardo number, Enjoy Yourself (It's Later than You Think).

Off work now @ 1:10 p.m., I join a lovely fellow named Rick Rock and his wife Mary Beth for the Tracy Grammer/Jim Henry set. We get Dave Carter's Gentle Arms of Eden and I leap to my feet with arms thrust skyward as we all sing, "this is my home, this is my only home, this is the only sacred ground that I have ever known." Tracy feels the rumble of the cumulous and worries that the crowd should perhaps take cover. M.B. thinks they should play, but the Rocker and I differ as we ascend the well-trod path to his tent on high.

With alacrity, we approach the Tribes Hill kindred folk pavilion (

More Grammer: "That sounds like some motorcycle thunder" as her partner gives us the immediately recognizable notes of Richard Thompson's '1952 Black Vincent (um) Thunder¦ portentously, the board guy had played this new cover between sets on at least 2 occasions this fest.

When it hits, you know it's gonna be a rocky ride, and I'm transported back to a night above Ligonier with my buddy Raz watching a light show¦ I try bravery, but it's tinged with fascination, like the denizens of the Gawkers' Lane.

Our covering is solid, but the wind knows no caution, and we do our own medley of Windy, The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow, All for Me Grog, anything that keeps us strong, as we (now seven strong with some of Rick's mates) hold on to a support cross rope as though we were the crew of the Minnow¦ misshapen crystalline hail strafes and the mercury heads subterranean¦I now regret not having broken into Growin' Up (no game when it's on the line) -- but I was worried about Bridey, my sister and her gang of four when I remember that I had challenged Zeus a few minutes earlier by invoking Lieutenant Dan's, "You call this a storm?"¦After probably 20 minutes (but it could have been 10 or 30), soaked like Girls Gone Wild we get the tent off its legs, and I ask one of my new foxhole-mates-for-life to please tell me not to slide down the tempting torture trail on my arse¦ "Don't do it, man," he says, looking at the splint on my left arm.

I do the new Falcon slide, a combination of flat-walking and scurrying that reminds me of how I drove my Mitsubishi bedmobile first 90 then 65 mph on my way to my burning house eleven years ago when last the Deities smote my shite¦I arrive at the first aid tent, which now is a mad sea of pros and cons, those who can do the gallows chortle, and those who imagine themselves oddly heroic¦the water is shin-deep, and now all I can think of is Bangladesh¦I've located my shoes and socks (I try and go barefoot as often as possible in this love-land), wring my socks of their unwanted spittle, and join the team of tent supporters, feet braced against the posts, hands held high to push the water off…someone hands me a 6 foot duct-taped paddle of some kind and I begin the work of trying to coax the molecules off the canvas. I am told that it looks like I'm giving a "tent massage"¦I return to my post to find Bridey completely drenched, but somehow resplendent in her navy Swell Season shirt¦She breaks down, telling me a Twister-like tale of their flight from the kids' tent to a large food tent, people screaming, she with my wunderkind nieces whose combined age is a mere decade¦then the cry: "We can't hold it any longer, GET OUT, GET OUT NOW!" the blessed trinity arrives in a performer trailer, with the grub house crumbling in their wake¦little Bridgey needs to pee, and, magically, there is a bathroom (with a flush toilet!)¦she is upset because her French fries have been smushed by her fears¦we all live, and the show's over¦it's Myanmar, but the feds are keeping their distance on their satellite monitors.

Dave Carter whispers from cloud #7:

Shine the Merlin moonbeam eye,

Set my dancin' feet to fly,

o'er the dark and nervous sky,

I go like the Raven,"

Shaken, but stirred,

Pedro the Lion