Music — July 27, 2014 13:29 — 0 Comments

Timber! 2014 – Caleb Thompson

A winding drive around the north side of Lake Washington and into Carnation. Pete’s Grill and Bar for a pint and a decent Reuben, and then it’s on to check-in. The usual suspects at parking, two attendants in bright orange vests. There’s some confusion about whether or not I get a free parking pass. The confusion is probably my fault, but I’m not even sure about that.

After a fairly efficient volley of hagglings, we’re off to park and on to check-in. It’s plastic bracelet time. All checked in, and the tent’s up in the lawn just a stone’s throw from the entrance. Now it’s on toward the main stage, barefoot on the swaying truss bridge. The dang thing has a pretty decent give, but the bonus is a hefty jackass up ahead, stomping back and forth, affording the entire structure, and its many travelers, a swing of three or four feet to each side. Off the bridge, happily, gingerly treading the gravel and hopping around for muddy or grassy spots of relief, it’s a ten minute walk to the main stage.


Into the clearing…the Tea Cozies are finishing up a fine set of rock and roll. Beautiful sunlit bodies are strewn across the lawn…lolligaggers and dawdlers in various positions of repose. The music seems almost an after-thought. The main goal, I gather, is a dreamy state of utter relaxation…the word bliss crosses my mind. But I’m not there yet. I’m still unwinding from the get-out, the get-to, and the check-in. Into the beer garden for the liquid cool down. Whoops, I don’t have any drink tickets. Out to the ticket booth. Ok, now I’m stocked with one handsome tin Timber beer cup and six tickets. Back to the garden.

Grynch is setting up, the beer is starting to work, the trees and sky are starting to loom and somehow expand simultaneously. Grynch is great. There’s no audience in the traditional sense. There’s a loose smattering of applause at the close of each number, and two or three people are jangling their bodies near the stage, but otherwise the festival goers seem content to drape and stroll and laze about like figures from a nineteenth century French park painting. Grynch is rapping about his hood, Ballard, taking on the Mr. Rogers persona and welcoming everybody. He keeps talking about getting sunburned. He’s very white. Someone gives him a fedora as protection for his pate.

After the set I go to talk with the DJ, who is milling around, off stage left. I ask him about his experience performing for such a lackadaisical crowd. He’s vague and generous, and doesn’t bite on the chance to express any displeasure at the droopy indifference of the people. Everything is too cool and brilliant for that. I wander around, looking for my Timber contact, but to no avail. I mosey on and bump into Dominic Cortese, drummer for Julia Massey. He’s still scouring the grounds for his keys. He’s been looking for a few hours without any luck. I encourage him to quit looking. He says he will, in a minute. He said that a few hours ago.

Smokey Brights2

Back to the garden and I’m musing on the prospect of a literal beer garden, with pints and bottles thriving from vines and dangling from branches. Now I’m humming Big Rock Candy Mountain…”and the birds and the bees and the cigarette trees and the lemonade springs where the bluebird sings.”

Rocky Votalato is rocking away now (a lot of rock!) and I’ve ensconced myself in a gaggle of friends leaning on the fences and tables toward the stage. I bum a smoke. I sip beer. I banter and goof. I hear my name. It’s an old hometown friend! I haven’t seen him in fifteen years. We do the catch-up. We make vague plans to see each other back in the city. The light is changing. It’s dappling through the trees, the heat is coming off. Seattle Rock Orchestra is setting up, tuning…they’re about to perform Pet Sounds, no small ambition. I’m excited; Julia Massey is one of three gorgeous women who’ll be singing. I feel proud that one of my dear friends will be up there crooning.

I find a spot to sit, near the front, stage right. Mikey or Matty, I can’t keep them straight, sings. Then Matty or Mikey sings one. The bassist has a super deep sway in his hips. Everyone has sheet music or lyric sheets. It’s weird, but I guess that’s classical music for you. The ladies take turns at the lead. Each is wonderful in her own way, and easy to look at. The harmonies swirl and loop.

Dusk. Matty or Mikey is climbing the scaffolding and this must be the closing tune, Good Vibrations. Now there’s an audience! Fifty or sixty strong are bopping and stepping and grooving at the front of the stage. A slightly androgynous and ageless pixie with a blonde shock of a mullet catches my eye. She’s magic and dancing. Trying to beat the rush, it’s off through the new dark to camp for a costume change: shirt and tie, pants, shoes and socks. As I’m headed back toward the campfire stage, a fellow Monarchian yells my name. I recognize his voice instantly, and I’m delighted that he’s made it. I lift him from the ground with my embrace, and then we’re trekking the distance to the campfire stage.

When we get there, Mikey and Matty are finishing up a hot set. I’m chagrin to have only caught the last few songs. In the beer garden a love bundle of friends are loosely arranged, exchanging the day’s stories and gabbing excitedly. Julia and her band, Jesus Rehab, the Watt sisters pass through, and I’m hanging on the lady.

Damien Jurado is the night’s finale, and I have no idea what’s about to hit me. Jurado has been around as long as I’ve been in Seattle, nearing two decades now, and I’ve always kind of been a hater, even though I’ve never really listened much to his music. Anyway, the sound of his lone voice and guitar ring out into the rapt crowd like a giant golden bell. The sound is perfect and huge, and soon I’m hung on every word. At some point midway through the set I’m weeping, and I weep all the way to the end.


Love, freedom, sorrow…it’s all there in this one gorgeous voice floating out over the guitar and the throng and into my heart. I expected to have a good time at Timber, but I didn’t expect catharsis! And then it’s over. The crowd rambles out, off to the campfires and wind-downs and after-parties and sleeping bags and bright shining stars in the heavens.


For more information on Timber! and its presenter, Artist Home, click here.

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney