Phases of the Moon Music & Art Festival
Kennekuk County Park in Danville, IL September 2014
The minute the line-up for the inaugural Phases of the Moon Music & Art Festival at the Kennekuk County Park in Danville, IL hit the web, I was intrigued. September was a good time to plan a get-a-way from the beach humidity. What finally swayed me to make the trip was the blending of music and art; a west coast vibe complimented with strong southern music. This was a Southern Rambler dream event. So, with camera in hand, I traveled north to meet up with other photographer friends for the long weekend.
I am not a seasoned festival go’er. In fact, I think this is the first time I have ever had to wear closed-toed shoes to a festival. Living on the gulf coast of Alabama, I have watched a festival (and community) grow and improve from the 2010 inaugural year when the BP Oil spill threw the coast a curve ball. Much of what I witnessed & experienced at Phases was familiar. The hurdles and challenges were different; but the dedication, effort and resiliency of the production team, the Danville community and festival attendees shined brighter than Tuesday’s full moon. It was here that I felt the heart and soul of Phases of the Moon.
The line-up was solid… stacked with acts that could sell out almost any concert venue on their own. Two sets each by Widespread Panic, The String Cheese Incident, and Jackie Greene. Then add Gov’t Mule, Railroad Earth, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Vintage Trouble, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Leftover Salmon, Leon Russell, Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, and some of my gulf coast favorites Galactic, The Revivalists, Dumpstaphunk, Anders Osbourne and J.J. Grey and Mofro. Others standouts are now some new favorites with Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Martin Sexton, Donavan Frankenreiter and The Brothers Comatose. The Towne Square stage delivered solid sets from local bands as well.
The sets were generous (except for some shortened ones on Thursday) at just under two hours. Main stages were in close proximity and no overlapping of start times between the two stages. When one show ended, the crowd simply migrated past quality food venues, vendor booths, art exhibits and live art performances to the other stage. There was not a bad ‘seat’ in the house… the music spread over the grounds like a warm blanket (although a blanket would have been nice, as it was chilly at night). Granted, after Wednesday’s 5+ inches of rain, the grounds on Thursday and Friday were saturated and muddy. Crews worked around the clock putting down truckload after truckload of mulch and hay. Sunshine on Saturday and Sunday helped dry out the drenched concert venue and campgrounds.
Let’s back up a bit to Thursday. It was a slow start as deliveries, venue prep, and flooded campground sites were tended to by tractors, helicopters and good ‘ole back breaking shovels. If you have read any of the festivals blogs or reviews, you won’t blame me for not getting in too deep about the much delayed opening of the camping and the concert gates. Many spent 10+ hours (and overnight) in their vehicles waiting and missed Thursday’s events.
So where was I? That’s right, weather. Let’s move on. Aside from a suitcase full of muddy clothes, my memories of Phases of the Moon 2014 center around the people and the vibe of the festival. I did not go with friends, but I made dozens. Happy people, relaxed and smiling, and helpful. There was no ‘age’ group domination and there were a lot of families. Kids camp was full of activity with the help of stilt walkers, arts & crafts, parades, faces painting, bubbles… and Big Fun Circus added a sense of joy everywhere with their presence. (picture) One festival mom told me this was the best children’s area that she has seen at a festival. Family-friendly includes family camp grounds, activities, and kids camp. There was space enough to explore, run and be technology-free… all while listening to the music on the main stages.
There were bigger than life puppets, live art exhibitions, fire hooping, and beautiful dance performances on stage and off stage. My senses were on overload. To be able to walk around the grounds enjoying the statues, art demonstrations and have an opportunity to talk to artist Peter Hudson at length about his 2011 Burning Man exhibit “Charon” while listening to the Chris Robinson Brotherhood or TTB was anything short of spectacular. This is the type of vacation I have been longing for all year. I did not stay on site, so I can’t comment on the camping, but from what I read on post festival blogs, there was a sense of community, healing and family that spilled over Kennekuk County Park on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I felt it. You could see it happening in the Sanctuary. Nothing can compare to watching the moon rise through the wild lightshows from SCI and WSP for four nights. It was hundreds of little moments that made this Phases of the Moon festival something very special. It is the people that I will remember the most. The feeling of belonging amongst 8,000+ people that I did not know. I remember specifically when I smiled to myself as I walked around… smiled because I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
I look forward to watching the sophomore year changes, improvements and execution of a 2015 Phases of the Moon Music & Arts Festival. I suspect it will be bigger and better, although I am not sure how they can rival the line-up they offered up in 2014.