Notes from the Road
by Catherine MacLellan
Three years after first being asked to play the Strawberry Music Festival in northern California, I finally was able to go. I had been anticipating this festival for so long it had become built up in my expectations, and, as an Ansel Adams fan, I was thrilled to be playing in Yosemite National Park that he loved and photographed so much.
Chris and I boarded the plane to San Francisco at the end of PEI’s month of rain. It was lovely to be walking around this hilly city with the clear blue sky bursting through. We had one gig in the city of flowers and fog and then we were off on the beautiful drive through the golden hills of California rising higher and higher in elevation on switchback mountain roads until we were among the giant pines and cedars of the outskirts of Yosemite.
The Strawberry Music Festival has been running for thirty years at Camp Mather (just at the edge of the national park) and is famous for it’s amazing acts and family atmosphere. Everyone was jamming and cooking up food and there were radios throughout the campground that played the music from the mainstage so everyone was connected to the heart of this festival, no matter where you were on the site. There really was a feeling of togetherness at Strawberry that makes it so unique.
Within a few hours of our arrival we ran into our good friend, Old Man Luedecke, who then became our constant companion during the weekend. I definitely felt like I was at camp, where instant bonds are made with strangers and old friends are found roaming the woods.
Friday morning Chris and I played our first set to a welcoming crowd, looking out on a vista of pure beauty. The main stage is set up in a meadow surrounded by trees and the beauty of the mountains in the distance. It actually brought tears to my eyes as I looked out upon the scene. Our set was an hour long, and having the privilege of so much time on stage we were able to relax and enjoy every moment of it, stretching out musically into the ease of the day.
On Saturday, with not much to do, Chris and I took the drive from Camp Mather deeper into the heart of Yosemite. It was Memorial Day weekend in the U.S. so the natural beauty of the drive was a bit marred by the endless lines of motorists meandering their way through the park. Despite that, the park was just stunning. We drove around the winding roads, looking out onto sights that I had only ever seen pictures of—giant waterfalls running fast from the last of the snow, the massive granite formations of El Capitan and Half Dome, and the tunnel view of the valley carved out by the Merced River.
Sunday morning we woke early to play at the gospel show, a kind of non-religious church service for festival goers. I played a few of my dad’s tunes and various other songs that I could squeeze into the “gospel” category. It was a nice ending to the festival for us. We headed out after that for the five hour drive back to San Francisco where we would fly out the next day. Luedecke followed us an hour or so later and we shared a great meal in a little Italian restaurant with enough red wine and pasta to celebrate the end of a great weekend.
The Strawberry Music Festival marked the beginning of another summer season of festivals. I’ll be heading to the Stan Fest, Cavendish, Newfoundland, Calgary, Ottawa and various other places throughout the summer. These events such a great way to experience music, people and the beauty of our earth—I’m looking forward to a summer of fun.