Tuesday, July 9, 2019

4Peaks 2019 - Festival Report

Ah yes, the annual report on what happened at 4Peaks. Before I start, I have to say that 4Peaks is an annual tradition for a reason. We absolutely love 4Peaks. So, please read any criticisms through that lens; we love it and we want it to be as great as it can be. I already posted on the travel adventures, and I'll post about the music next, so this post is just about the festival itself.

This year, Boo and I were joined by GratefulEd and our old friend Mayhem. As I mentioned in the Road Report (See 4Peaks 2019 - Road Report), we crashed at Mayhem's ranch the night before the gates opened. The following morning, we carabused to the lot with GratefulEd's Belle leading our 2-bus parade. Recall, Belle is a 1973 VW camperbus with a Riviera pop-top, but a fairly custom interior. Similar to Hapy, Belle is not really a looker, in that she was painted with dark green fence paint. She does have lots of cool old stickers and flags, though. This year, GratefulEd added an observation deck on top of his luggage rack, so he (or anyone else) could sit in a deck chair and look out across the festival grounds high above the cars. You can see the ladder access to the deck in the picture on the right, and me testing it out in the picture below that.

Who's Bus?
Between the stickers, flags and the observation deck, GratefulEd had lots of folks asking questions about Belle. Based on the way we were set up, I think Hapy just disappeared into the back ground. No, I'm NOT jealous; it's actually the way we prefer it. I didn't get many questions about Hapy; in fact, I think the only questions were out of reference to Belle, like after learning Belle was a '73, they would ask what year Hapy was. If I get around to painting his lower half over the winter (like I originally planned 10 years ago), it will be interesting to see if suddenly there is interest. Again, that's not what I want necessarily, it would simply be an interesting sociological experiment.

Last year (see 4Peaks 2018 - Festival Report), I said that I wasn't a huge fan of the GoWesty designated lot because it felt like we were hanging in an art gallery with a bunch of really nice looking art. Hapy is built for camping, not gawking, so he attracts very little attention, even when we're all by ourselves. This year, though, the GoWesty lot was not as formally laid out, so it didn't feel nearly as much like a car show. Maybe Ziggy heard some feedback after last year and changed it up. I dunno. Either way, I didn't overhear the "I like that one better" comments like I did last year, and we had far more passersby drop in, so regardless of why, it was better.

Arrival and Set Up
sunset by Peaks, Hapy nose on left
Anyway, we arrived at 4Peaks around 11:30. All printed and internet documentation said that early entry (before noon) was reserved for the "GoWesty" folks like us. That clearly wasn't the case, though, as we entered a scene of camps getting set up all over the grounds. Regardless, we found our way to the GoWesty zone, and parked in a "L" shape with Belle. Belle was parked facing head-tail perpendicular to the fire lane while Hapy was parked parallel, with his nose pointing towards the stage. This put our privacy screen where passersby on one of the main roads could see it. More importantly, this placed the observation deck pointing at the mountains, so GratefulEd could sit with a book, listen to the music and when he raised his eyes, he was looking at the 4Peaks for which the festival was named.

Central Oregon can be windy, and this year, the wind was fairly consistent. When the sun was out, the wind was blowing at least 10mph steadily, gusting higher. The predominant direction was from the stages up towards us striking Hapy's windscreen, so shortly after we had the Busdepot canopies up, GratefulEd and Mayhem put up a double-king size tie-dyed sheet along the wind side. We zip-tied the canopies together, and zip-tied the sheet to the poles, creating a mostly-wind-blocked zone. Within 30 minutes we had pop tops and canopies up, the lot couch out, carpets down, and beverages opened. Since it was barely past noon and the first band didn't start until 5, we had all afternoon to settle in and meet our neighbors.

Weather the Weather
While the wind was strong when the sun was up, the temperature was low most of the time (barely scraped into the mid-70F's on Saturday as the 4-day high) and very cold at night. The first night, it dropped into the upper 30F's, and the wind didn't entirely disappear. Fortunately, I had brought our Little Buddy heater, so we fired that up to semi-warm our living room space. It never rained, and after that first night it wasn't quite as cold, but it still got down to or below 40F overnight every night. Boo and I planned and packed for cold, so between lined pants, knit hats and a warm jacket, we held our own against the cold, and it didn't get us down. That first night, we made hot chocolate for the 4 of us to put some warm inside. Otherwise, we required no heroics. Turns out dancing is a great way to warm up.

Friends Found
Within the first hour, we found Mike-and-Suzie from last year. They, again, volunteered a couple of early shifts, but otherwise we didn't see them much this year. They brought a friend from their hometown who hadn't been to a festival before, so they spent most of their time separated in their own space. We met Jay and Alice from Bellingham, who told us about a small 2-day festival they have there. Alice was fighting a cold, so we didn't see her much, but we ran into Jay everywhere. Our next-door neighbor, JerseyPaul, was a chronic vagabonder, spending months on the road at a time. He had a story for every occasion. Boo played a round of corn-hole with a guy named Bip who we are fairly sure we met at the Black Sheep Family reunion a few years ago. He had an amazing energy.

I was able to connect with Chris the coffee-roaster from last year and give him a pint of Kahlua I had made with some of the coffee beans he gifted us last year. He gifted more beans this year, so we may have started some kind of quid-pro-quo thing. NewTrailerRussel was set up across the fire lane from us. He turned us on to some really good, kinda trippy music from a band named Beirut and showed us the inside of his trailer. It is amazing how light and well-considered new trailers are. He had adorned the walls with little electric candles giving the entire space a terrific warm glow. So nice.

We met lots of other folks too, whose names escape me. For us, the personal connections are why we go to smaller festivals, so having had so much time to meet and connect was especially important to us. We head for the festival with the intent to "see more music this year", but what we clearly really want is more personal connections, so that is ultimately how we direct our time. We vote with our wallets, and we vote with our feet. Everyone does. Sometimes, it takes some thinking to realize what you voted for.

The Junction
Similar to last year, we were within 15 meters of the major intersection at the center of the camp zone, called "The Junction". Many of the complaints I had about last year's Junction were resolved. The coffee place actually sold coffee. The Dump City Dumplings were not located at The Junction, they were inside. There was a caged trailer for axe-throwing. That's right. $5US for 5 throws. We didn't see many takers, but the proprietors were in good spirits. Boo and I met with a guy who drove from Central America and back again twice a year, hauling clothing for selling at festivals like this one in an old Ford Econoline van (picture on the right). We bought a couple of gifts, but it was the getting to know him, and how he approaches life that was the gift to ourselves. He lives in central Oregon, working a "normal" job for 6 months to support his other life of 6 months in Central America where he acquires cloth and clothing to sell.

It wasn't all perfect, though. The coffee cart only had coffee, so requests for anything requiring espresso was not available. Also, there was a Subaru dealership set up right at the corner who would set up this massive super-bright light as they were leaving for the night. Presumably, this was so that passersby would look at their table of pamphlets when the dealership representative left. It was so bright, it disturbed the light-art installation across the street, detracting from it such that you really couldn't see the lights. It was awful, so, we solved that problem for everyone by unplugging the light each night after they left. The twilight that remained was from the light glow of the art installation. Ahh... that's right.

It's rare to comment about the row of plastic cubicles at festivals. When it happens it usually isn't good. So, mark this: the porta-potties at 4Peaks this year were the best managed, cleanest services I have ever experienced. When freshly cleaned, they smelled like Bubble Yum bubble gum, and that smell lasted well into the cubicle being heavily used. Only on the very last day as we were leaving did they start to resemble porta-potties pretty much everywhere: gross.

Vendors and Food
Kidlandia tent
For the most part, we bring our own food and drink. This year, we were each given a Silipint cup so we festival-goers would produce less waste. It will be interesting to see how well that shook out, once they tally the garbage costs. I visited the Silipint booth at The Junction (their booth was a Unimog), but they were il-prepared to talk about their products, nor did they have any for sale or even for show. I'm honestly not sure why they were there.

Within the venue, there are many craft and food vendors. We usually check them all out a little bit, and sometimes we buy something. This year, we were less generous after the trump tax bill killing our finances, but the wares were pretty amazing.

more Kidlandia
For food, there were local restaurants and farms represented. We got peaches and kettle corn from a Tumalo Farm, and got tacos from a Bend taco stand. With Taco's in hand, and Andy Frasco cranking on the tent stage, Boo and I walked through the scattered tables looking for a place to sit. One table was occupied by one person, Brenda, so we asked to sit. We talked as we ate, and learned about another festival at the end of July (Newberry Event) that we are going to try very hard to make. Brenda's friend Alisa joined us and was super-passionate about it. Brenda shared that getting the word out about that festival had been difficult, so it was no surprise that we hadn't heard of it. Since it is a MS benefit, the lack of awareness is all the more important to solve. She decided to post handbills by the end of our conversation, but I wonder if we would have heard about it at all had we not joined her at her table to eat. To me, again, it is the interpersonal connections which draws us to 4Peaks every year.

Overall, this year's 4Peaks was a total hit. I'll get to the music in my next post, but the vibe and the people we met were fantastic. We didn't want to leave, when the time came, but we could feel the draw of home. We stayed almost to the end of the final performer before dropping the pop-top, loading up the last few bits of gear and firing up Hapy's engine for the drive home. Of course, we plan to go again next year. I expect GratefulEd will again, perhaps with his wife. I suspect that Mayhem will join us again; perhaps he will bring his family with him.

1... 2... 3... 4Peaks!

No comments: