Shoe Fest: A First Year Success
You know when you travel away from home with a couple of buddies and sometimes get the slightest feeling of displacement? Maybe due to no one knowing your names and giving you the “tourist look”, or perhaps, in live-music/festival world, the only band playing makes you want to smash your face into the wall to take the attention off of your poor, burning ears. In said festival world, both can be detrimental to a full-blown good time. Though those small doubts awkwardly danced around my head on our way to Shoe Fest, when all was said and done, I deserved a reality-check-face-slap for even allowing such doubts to linger. There was not even the slightest downer possible at Shoe Fest; some could even say euphoric. The bands were nothing short of beautifully tasty to all ears, the grounds were a delicious dessert to all eyes, and the people were a zany fluffy blanket to all hearts. Self-proclaimed three main parts to a stellar time are framed around the venue, the people and, obviously, the tunes. Main brief verdict being I believe it took approximately three weeks to soften the ridiculous grin perma-stamped on my face.
Smashlee Checking out her "Substitute Home"
Not only were the grounds of Shoe Fest new to me, but it was the premiere of the festival in general, so that would naturally be the first part to check out as this is substitute home for the weekend. When finally exploring the forests and natures, although being slightly worn from driving four hours at dawn, I felt instantly re-vamped from abundance of clean oxygen. The colors were beautiful greens slightly sprinkled with fall touch as few scattered crunchy vibrant colored leaves gently lay upon the greens. The weather was perfect, light-flannel feeling giving the right amount of crispness to widen your eyes, as if the sight didn’t do that enough. Even in the first hour after arriving, the feeling of being exactly where I should be started the perma-grin effect immediately. If the saying, “first impressions are everything”, in that moment and circumstance, I would definitely have to agree. The weather continued to impress all weekend as well. The river was refreshing in the hot sun, plus if you wanted a quick work out all you had to do was swim a little too far and swim for your life. The grounds were like staying in a nice hotel hippie-wise. A nice outdoor hotel with all included but also with an awesome reconstructed war bunker hidden in the back of the campground under grasses and trees. So. Cool. Substitute home just for the weekend? (groan)
Herbert Wiser in The Barn (Click the photo for more Wiser!)
Venue: check! Next was to seek out the most important structure that literally levitated the musicians to a new, higher level: the stages. The main stage was a mini-amphitheater-like open field holding plenty of room. The space was plenty and the dancing ground flat. Perfect. Now add skilled music mechanics, light wizards and giant speakers to project across camp. Heavenly. The second stage was equally perfect to the whole gathering. It was an old open red barn with high windows that allowed glimpses of colored lights to escape late at night. During the day: a mellow flair to the roots music and feeling and by night a farmer’s rave station for a full-on raging time. Even in a rustic lookin’ barn, the sound and lights were of good quality.
The stages are important at shows because they hold the, in my opinion, the most important and rewarding thing of the whole festival, the delivery service. I don’t really recall ever ordering a top-notch dish of thirty-five of the sweetest desserts, but I got it. The music was non-stop helping of tastiness yet I never got too full to keep from indulging. Much like Old Shoe, nearly all bands had that soulful roots feeling and sound to them. I much prefer a Grateful Dead tribute band over a late-night DJ anytime. From early in the morn to really early in the morn, the music played on. In fact, I find great difficulty mentioning any bands by name since all proved their worthy of recognition. Check out the line-up and see any of those bands you can. Speaking of, the whole line-up was done so magically. One good sound into another differently good sound. The musicians all seemingly oozed the same appreciation as their crowds. In fact, many band members were seen rocking out to another fellow band, singing word-for-word. As the WIJAM website represents a community staying connected with the rest of the state and neighboring states, the Chicago jam-folk are what we should strive for on a large basis. That’s really what ShoeFest was about, their own family gathering of badass rocking proportions. As my three main parts to a perfect gathering are grounds, bands and people, for the premiere of such a shindig all the heart possible was in and surrounding ShoeFest. Everyone there was in for the fresh air and good time. My worries of displacement were obviously never rewarded as the people were wonderfully and politely rowdy folk. Old Shoe and their immediate musical family really threw a damn good party and showcased the stellar talent from Chicago and, really, all around in the Midwest. For all involved even slightly in the happenings at ShoeFest, I thank you and say my thoughts while writing this just makes me get ancy for next year. Who knows, as Chad Staehly of Great American Taxi said in his utmost serious tone, “we’re all here for the same reason, to find a ‘sole-mate’”, maybe this festival is mine. ;)
Click here for the full Shoe Fest Photo Gallery!
Words by Smashlee Stenerson
Photos and captions by Ryan "Rhy-Kno" Kulpa of Rhy-Kno Photogrpahy