Summer Kickoff: Kate Wolf Festival

Tim and friends chill at our Kate Wolf camp in the late afternoon sun

I danced on stage with Los Lobos! (The band – not actual wolves.)

Okay, I know this might not be much of a big deal for many seasoned music show attenders – but hopping up on that stage was a bold move for me. One of those “What the hell, I’m almost 50, what am I holding back for?” moments. And yes, I was fueled by a couple of potent margaritas, and sure the band had invited audience members up on stage while they launched into their encore of Grateful Dead songs, and it’s true I gained courage and inspiration by seeing a couple of close friends up there – but still.

I, Sarah O’Leary, who is usually too shy to go front and center actually hopped up on the big stage and danced with the band. I grabbed my sister’s hand and we ran through the crowd and hoisted ourselves up on the stage.

Wow. That was fun.

And now I know I can burst through that cocoon of restrained shyness. No one pointed and laughed even though my skirt was a little loose and I had to pull it up right there in the spotlight. My friends didn’t shake their heads at me when I returned to our group – they gave me the High Five.

David Bromberg and band plays Friday night at Kate Wolf Festival. (Unfortunately didn't get any photos of Los Lobos.)

That was just one highlight of my weekend at one of my favorite summer excursions: The Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festival.

When I started this post last week, a few days after my return I planned to go into some funny stories and highlights from the weekend. Now that adventure is fading into post 4th-of-July memories, and anticipation and planning for more weekend summer fun looms. So I think I’ll just summarize with a few short paragraphs and some photos.

When I first heard about the Kate Wolf Memorial Festival (it must have been over a decade ago, since this was the 16th Annual), I was immediately attracted. I HAVE to go to that I thought.

Kate Wolf

You see, Kate’s songs have played as a backdrop to my life ever since I discovered her music shortly after her death in 1986. Her poetic and haunting lyrics, the simplicity and beauty of the melodies and her lovely voice held me in thrall throughout my late 20s and into my 30s. Her repertoire of songs (all on cassette tape at the time) made up the first music offerings sold at Moonrise Herbs, and I played those tapes over and over again on my little boom box at home.

Her untimely death at the age of 43, just three years after my own mom had died at the same age made me feel an even deeper connection to Kate.

Whenever I need some comfort, I can always find it by putting on some Kate Wolf music and singing along.

So, I was thrilled to learn an entire festival had been created in her honor. Now, that’s got to me my kind of music I thought. But, to my devastation, the annual date conflicted with an important Trade Show that I attended every year while I owned the store. So year after year passed without me ever making it to the big event.

Finally in ’04 I got there and have not looked back since. Spending three days watching great performers, participating in singalongs, dancing to hot jams, and being surrounded by good friends and fellow Kate Wolf fans is a little piece of heaven.

My sister Lisa and I back at the camp site

This year was no exception. Once again I joined with more than a dozen friends and family members and we created a camp overlooking the river. There, we ate and drank our way through the weekend, interspersing all that with dips in the river, discoveries of new and old friends who were also in attendance and visits to the four stages.

Joanne and Lisa making morning coffee

This year, another one of my favorite singer-songwriters performed: Bruce Cockburn. (I wrote about Bruce’s 2010 show in Arcata on this blog here.) The Sunday night set was highlighted by the accompaniment of a local girl turned hotshot fiddler – Jenny Scheinman. Photos and videos galore on Bobbi’s blog.

Bruce’s set, getting up on stage with Los Lobos, and getting turned on to a new favorite band – Red Molly- life really doesn’t get much better.

Leslie, Jasmine and Jeff playing music at camp

Okay, so some people call it the 'lawn chair festival.' But we still find room to dance!

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Summer Kickoff: Kate Wolf Festival

  1. Wow this post slipped right past me! It was great to meet you in real life.
    And in case you didn’t know.. I posted more of Kim Sallaway’s wonderful photos up :
    http://onmybeat.net/bruce-cockburn/2011/bruce-cockburn-and-jenny-scheinman-at-kate-wolf-photos/

    It was a great show.

    Kate used to be a regular at the Good Earth Natural Food store in Fairfax .. so sad she left us so young.

  2. solarbozo

    Ooh, did anyone get photos of you up on stage? I would really love to see them.

    • Sarah

      I wish! Don’t think anyone took photos – it was dark at that point. But, I’m hoping if someone has got some they’ll let me know if they see this blog.

  3. peri

    I couldn’t go this year, and I’m already feeling the lack of it: all those smiling faces under the summer sun, the stars framed by giant oak trees, and the music rising through it all. So glad you are keeping the spirit alive, Sarah! I’ll have to wait til next year to plug in to that energy! Keep dancing, Girl!

  4. jeff

    So nice to hear your memories of listening to Kate’s music way back then, me too –and I wish the festival had more times when they played her music–especially on the festival radio station!
    See you next year!
    Jeff

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