Monday, May 30, 2011

Silver City Blues Festival

Crowds are large but not as thick as last year, high winds most likely keeping them away. A boy walks by holding a Styrofoam plate of fresh hot salty potato chips. The wind flips it out of his hands and it sails, chips flying in all directions onto a group of gray haired ladies dressed in the tie-dye shirts and hippie dresses they just bought at the corner booth. The poor boy is horrified, and still hungry.

The sun by late afternoon is relentless but made easier to bare by the wind which keeps the air cool. People have stayed out without sunscreen longer than they should. Every now and then a hat sails up over the crowd.

The bands are amplified to uncomfortable levels unless one wears ear plugs or wadded up napkin balls soaked in spit. Some enterprising vendor has sold bubbles to children. Often, without seeing them coming, a cold bubble lands on the skin in a chilly pop. A man in cowboy hat and thick luscious beard wanders around with Mardi Gras beads, doling them out to little girls and a few boys, some women too. He looks a kind soul, maybe a wifeless man who would have adored to be a father but is now perhaps too old.

Those who staked out a spot under the shade trees are the smart ones by late afternoon. The bands will quit at 6:30 today. The Pleasure Pilots just finished with a blues tune after playing several Van Morrison’s.

The couple sitting next to me look like people I’ve heard about from Arkansas. Both of them are missing some front teeth and have grubby looking hair in dire need of conditioner. But they talk like they’re from California. Turns out they are really down on their luck, homeless and living in a tent in the woods near by. They’ve been here in Silver City for 2 years. Friends let them shower and do laundry. They eat free lunches at the Baptist church during the week, and get some food from the food bank. But they have no way to cook. You can’t build a fire in these tinder dry woods – so I gave them my gas stove and a gallon of white gas.

The last act of the day was a sitar-blues-guitar fusion act. Harry Manx (only one person) had a drum at his feet, a harmonica at his lips, a mic for voice and a specially made instrument that resembled a guitar with more strings than I could see in that late afternoon sun. It sometimes sounded like a guitar with sitar undertones, sometimes like a sitar alone. He tuned it for a long time and joked that when musicians tune a sitar you can’t tell where the tuning stops and the song begins. So it was as he moved into the tune.

Wonderful last act. Not dance tunes but then, we were all pretty well danced-out. I had spotted a woman in a yellow “Stand on the Side of Love” t-shirt. I knew immediately that she was Unitarian. Sure enough Maura and her friend Peggy had come down from Albuquerque. It was their third year. We met up after the last act and went to dinner at Isaac’s, a nice bar/restaurant downtown. They were delightful women, we drank and ate, chatted, and then they offered me their camping spot at Rose Valley. Maura has a Eurovan camper and there was plenty of room for both vehicles to fit into the long ‘slot’. So I had electricity all night, no need to park in front of the restrooms to recharge my batteries and run my computer!