BY CHRIS LORWAY
There is nothing like a good outdoor folk festival to your summer started. Sleeping in a tent, eating concession food, listening to a dozen duelling banjo players while sitting on a muddy floor is enough to make anyone lose their mind… in a good way. That’s what this year’s Stan Rogers festival was all about…late nights, flash floods, bugs galore & lots o’ music. For any folks who may head down next year, here is my little guide on how to survive it all.
Step 1 – Getting to Canso
Anyone who thinks that the town of Canso is anywhere near the Causeway is wrong! I was somewhat prepared after I looked up Canso in the dictionary and discovered that it meant ‘the end of the earth’. Begin your trek early on Friday afternoon after stocking up on the essentials… beer, ice and aspirin. You should be able to make it to the Monastery turnoff in well under two hours. Then you will begin your venture into unknown territory. After looking at a map, you will discover that your route from here on in looks like a snakes and ladders game board… without the ladders. To make matters worse, the signs posted by the festival staff will continually lie to you, telling you that you are only minutes away (maybe by Concorde!). You will eventually arrive in the most picturesque little town with a view, well worth the $1000 you spent on gas.
Step 2 – Pitching Your Tent: What You Feel Like Doing at the End of the Weekend
Anyone who tells you that the campground on the hill is the ‘place to be’ is wrong! Sure, you are close to the action but you are also exposed to the wind, the rain and the over aggressive seagulls. Don’t pitch your tent near the porta-potties. Once again, you may be close to the action but the slamming doors will keep you awake all night. Make sure to bring an air mattress. Not only are the comfortable, they float when your tent fills with water. If you have a car powered air mattress pump, bring it. You make lots of friends and get free beer. Oh, and make sure that your tent is weatherproof.
Step 3 – Get a Guest Pass
Anyone who tells you that it is impossible to get backstage unless you are important is wrong! Anybody can be important if they can impersonate someone who really is. Believe me… I’ve tried and it works. Once you enter the illustrious ‘backstage’ area, you will be accosted by a harem of madly cooking women whose sandwich making would put the Ford Assembly Line to shame. Be sure to make friends with them. Once you are in the main room, proceed to the food table and fill your boots (don’t worry, you can wash them out later). Then grab a beer or two and start up conversations with people who you don’t really know. Your alias name tag will be sure to throw them off as they pretend to know who you are. Remember, whatever you chose to do can always be blamed on the person whose name adorns your neck. Have fun with this.
Step 4 – The Early Bird Gets the Hot Shower
Anyone who tells you that it’s all right to sleep in is wrong. Not only are you cutting into your drinking time, but you may also miss whatever hot water is available. Start your morning off by cracking open a beer. Remember what they say about the ‘hair of the dog’. Try to have at least a small snauzer down by noon. Proceed to the local high school for a shower. Keep it short and don’t sing. Your rendition of “Barrett’s Privateers” will not be appreciated by the crusty masses with heads a throbbing who overindulged a little the evening before. After you shower, enjoy breakfast prepared by a local family. Compliment the cook on her hair even if it is buried under a hair net. You may get an extra sausage out of it.
Step 5 – Don’t Even Think About Resting
Anyone who says that you have to take time during the day to rest is wrong! Not even Dolly the Sheep would be able to attend all of the events that are scheduled but do try and see as many as you can. Keep your adrenaline rushing by dashing from tent to tent. Don’t stop or else you may never start again. Make new friends or spend time with the ‘Old Friends’. That’s what folk festivals are all about. If you have trouble making friends, find the ‘balloon animal man’. He’ll whip you up a new friend in a matter of minutes. Just don’t hug your new friend too tight. Don’t let your ex-girlfriend’s mocking comments about your hair bother you. What does she know anyway? Be sure to talk to Valdy. He is always floating around, eager to chat and may even let you pet the furry thing that he wears around his neck. If you are really lucky, you might catch him teaming up with a Klezmer Band and performing his Yiddish Hit “Speil Me ein Rock und Roll Lied”.
Step 6 – Head for Higher Ground: Bunking with the Stars
Anyone who tells you that ‘suffering puts muscles on your character’ is wrong! Any ‘idiot’ can suffer. When the wind howls, the rain comes down in the sheets and your tent is looking like the Royal Suite on the Titanic, it is time to convert to Plan B. Find out where the ‘important people’ are staying and bunk in with them. Use your alias to get you into a warm dry bed. Remember, you cannot be personally blamed for your actions. While you are there, take in some of the late night sessions. Pull a milk crate up next to the skinny old dog and listen to the fiddles and banjos. Close your eyes and pretend you are in the movie Deliverance. Hang out with the Barra MacNeils. You know that they aren’t going to be in bed before the sun comes up. Dance with a musician’s wife or girlfriend. They are always neglected at these type of events.
Step 7 – Bringing Home the Memories
Anyone who says that you can’t take it with you is wrong! Before you head back to reality, stop and purchase a memory or two. Buy a t-shirt to add to your collection of t-shirts that you never wear. Buy the tape of a band that you really enjoyed and play it in the car on the way home. Buy the tape of a band that you really hated and drive over it. It will make you feel better knowing that there is one less copy of their tape lying around. Say goodbye to your new friends and hug as many people as possible. Cry if you feel moved to, but don’t overdo it. People despise a sap. Keep your memories precious and remember that next year’s festival is 363 days away.