A Review of Frendly Gathering 2015
Timber Ridge, Windham, VT
June 26th – 27th, 2015
Written by Eliza Richmond
Photos by Teresa Taylor
For years, I’ve only heard incredible stories about the Frendly Gathering: whether it be the positive energy the crowd resonates, or the stunning environment it takes place in – I was prone to hearing that Frendly Gathering held an unexplainable magic.
This year – my first year at Frendly Gathering – I was able to discover what this magical festival was all about. Dying of anticipation, my friends and I had at last entered a place where the sun shines a little brighter and the air feels a little lighter – we had finally made it into the mountains of Vermont. We rolled in on Thursday for early admission at 10:30 in the morning. The gates were set to open at about 3 pm so we had a good 4 ½ hours to kill, a case of beer, and excitement flooding our hearts. All of us were slightly stoned, sleep deprived, and determined individuals on a voyage; ready and eager to allow the Frendly Gathering experience to take us. We were all blessed with the opportunity to enter a place that to allowed us the privilege of unifying with others; appreciating the divinity of the earth together. As we entered the gates, we were filled with the wonder of what was to emerge at Magic Mountain and how it would affect us. About two hours deep, while waiting in the lot, a giant German shepherd and I bonded for a moment, and he just might have been the first frend I made the whole weekend. Our frendship made it about two minutes in total until he bit me, but we had a fun run.
My crew and I waited it out until 2:30 in the afternoon when we entered the line at the box office. This actually ended up being the most difficult part of our experience at the gathering, for the line for check-in was not only unorganized but unusual. We all knew that the Frendly staff had reasoning towards the way they conducted the check-in, so we kept our cool and waited it out, but it took some of my frends that got to the mountain on the earlier side around three hours just to get to the inside of the building. Between the five of us at will call alone, it took up most of an hour, which wasn’t horrible. To top it off, we accidentally got locked out of our car. But we had no fear, and a frend inevitably came to save the day, helping us break into my crew member Colin’s car, not asking for anything but simply to be a kind person. Already, we had seen the kind of people that this festival attracted, and we loved the giving energy swarming around us! Once our dilemma had been solved, we were brought up on a bus – sure as hell the coolest bus ride I’ve ever taken. There were beers, ragin’ music and good people with anticipation building in their hearts: keeping the adventure alive.
We arrived and instantly realized we brought way too much stuff. The MOST important Frendly tip I had picked up is to PACK LIGHTLY! I personally like to get super groovy at festivals, and I sometimes end up bringing outfits I haven’t worn in years. I brought my sea shells, face paint and other items that bring me comfort, but I definitely had physically exerted all of my energy for the day just carrying my luggage up the mountain. It was about a 20-minute walk uphill to find a flat plateau that would fit our massive crew and our easy-up. My crew all helped each other set up as quickly and efficiently as possible, taking less than an hour to place the final stakes in our tents.
When I finally made it down the mountain, the first performer I caught was Lynx. I’d only heard good things about her music, and she truly lived up to the vibrancy and individuality people claimed she possessed. She had a badass vibe and a personality that kept the crowd intrigued! Someone even said that she’s almost like a female Zach Deputy with her vocal range and her beatboxing and rapping abilities. After her set, I made my way into Waker’s Barn – for all of those who have never attended Frendly but are interested in attending, I suggest that this is the first place you stop by at night.
The Barn’s perfect for: bag slappin’, dancing while eating your grass-fed, organic chicken wings, or getting down to some bluegrass or electric blues tunes late night! One of the bands I truly felt heart-to-heart with was Canyon Collected – a folk/blues/bluegrass band from Colorado who visibly put forth their hearts and souls into their music and spread it throughout the crowd. What took the cake during their first set that weekend was when Zdenek Gubb from Twiddle accompanied them on stage. Their music had already radiated great gifts while keeping the crowd amped up for the rest of the weekend, so Gubbs’ appearance had additionally created a higher frequency during that set. There were few sound problems, likely caused by the inconsistent, stormy weather throughout the weekend, but Canyon Collected worked with the feedback from the monitors. Gubbs even turned with his back towards the crowd for a couple of songs to avoid the feedback and to keep the music alive!
I ended up meeting Jake Heidrich, Leon Elam and Tia Martini – all members of the band – outside of the Martin Dome tent on Sunday afternoon. They were all genuine and super kind peeps. I started to conduct an interview with them but found that just talking to them about their influences and their craft was much nicer than holding a phone up – a barrier between a real conversation and an interview; because, conversation felt so much more natural and informative. One thing that really stuck out was when Leon Elam said that John Hartford and The Band were his two greatest influences in his playing, because both influences were completely evident in his style. In a more appropriate setting, I was lucky enough to speak with the girls from Upstate Rubdown about their influences and what they enjoyed most about the atmosphere of this smaller festival. Here is the interview:
Mary Kenney: What I like about being at Frendly is that it is very collective based. Everybody is trying to come together and be good to the world in many ways, but one of the ways is by sharing music. The great thing about our band is that we collectively write most of the songs. Somebody will come in with an idea and then we will come together and collaborate.
Kate (who intervenes in the sweetest way possible): You’ve got to be respectful and freeeeeeeeendly when you’re doing the process!
Mary: It’s tough sometimes – there’s passions, there’s passions flying all over the place! Oh, my influences, Kate Scarlet *laughter*-
Kate: We didn’t grow up together, but then we found each other and recognized that we have the same influences – kind of. Mine… soul singers mostly. I listened to a lot of Norah Jones when I was younger and Nina Simone, but we bonded over the Mountain Man. They’re a Vermont band, we hashtagged them on stage :). They’re Appalachian, which we strive for in our harmonies.
Mary: We busked last year here with just our little EP and now we’ve got the new studio recordings, and it feels really great to have a better piece to share with everyone here because everyone is just very sharing.
Kate: This was very much a milestone in our lives. I’ve never heard a crowd as loud as that after we’ve finished as I heard today – my stomach dropped.
After this extremely positive interview, I learned that Upstate Rubdown’s album, A Remedy, was released in mid-July and features soulful female vocal harmonies, a fast paced cajon drum and a whole lotta’ love. It can be found on Bandcamp!
As is evident, Frendly had a very open setting where artists were hanging out in every nook of the facilities and were very easy and interesting to interact with. I originally expected it to be overpopulated and was taken by surprise when I recognized the same faces multiple times throughout the weekend. The acts I felt brought these faces and people together the most, personally, were Nahko and Medicine for the People and Twiddle. Of course, there were other acts that created several bonds between many people, but I felt the most love from my frends during these sets. When the cold rain and breeze hit late on Saturday night, those who decided to stay for Twiddle’s set were in absolute bliss (for the most part). Most of the crowd was in tears, each individual on their own journey, and as the rain hit my shoulders I truly felt the magic of my existence and my experiences.
The Frendly Gathering experience possesses an unexplainable, magical bond between the crowd, the artists, and the patch of earth that the festival takes place on. Until next year, and potentially next fall (the Frendly Gathering crew spoke of a potential reunion then, but did not announce anything definite), I will wait to reunite with one of the closer homes to my heart.
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