While I was driving back to Atlanta from Charleston in torrential downpours, I was once again reminded of the charm of High Water Festival. There is truly something magical, mystical, and glorious about the festival’s ability to place itself in the perfect location and find the perfect weekend of the most pleasant spring weather. I don’t think it is luck….This festival has camaraderie, friendship, and joy in its very DNA. This year there were happy surprises with emerging bands and instead of heat and humidity we had brisk winds with chilly nights.
From the ease of parking, strolling to the entrance, and passing through the High Water gates, the worries of work, school, and life shrug off magically.
Were you there? Did you feel it?
If you weren’t able to come this year, I hope I can give you that sense of happiness through my photos and my descriptions….If you were there this year, let’s reminisce and soak the goodness into our heart & soul and make the feeling last a long time (round about 51 weeks?).
We entered the High Water gates, hurriedly placed our blanket down under the trees, and I changed photo lenses and ran off to the Edisto stage to see Weaves. As I have said before, they are a phenomenal band out of Toronto, and the lead singer has the ability to use her voice to warble and hit interesting notes with serious range. I refrain from saying her voice is almost baby-like, but it does take on la-la’s and sounds that manage to intersect the edge, then her voice moves beyond flawlessly.
She is expressive on stage, and her band mates are all talented musicians that truly hold their own.
The set began with a small crowd, but with their commanding, infectious sound, the crowd grew quickly and everyone seemed totally into it. I have seen them multiple times, and they just get better and better! A perfect way to begin the weekend of music.
Wanting to stay till the last note, I had to run lickety split to the Stono stage to catch Nicole Atkins. Because the Stono stage was farther from the entrance, it wasn’t as packed and I had an easy access to the photo pit. Nicole’s sultry soothing voice would perhaps be a more laid back set.
When she arrived on stage in a bold leopard jumpsuit and black and white wingtips, I knew we were in for music with personality. I love her lyrics of struggle and sheer survival from difficult times in her life. She writes what she knows. I hear a bit of Linda Ronstadt in her voice and her style. She can sing a good cry, and question everything with her voice. Talent and deep insight can be a very powerful combination.
On my way to see Ian Felice, I stopped to marvel at an empty container ship navigate its way up the river. They are huge, and something to behold close up. Their horn will make you jump out of your shoes if you are nearby. Every once in a while, a ship’s horn would interject in a band’s tune. We would all take a quick look….
I was excited about hearing Ian Felice. I listened to him on repeat prior to the festival. I liked his laid back story telling, folk, rock and roll. I heard a bit of Bob Dylan, Conor Oberst, and maybe even a little Dawes in his solo music. He was originally with The Felice Brothers (four of them), and perhaps their brotherly project is a little more festive and upbeat, but similar in style. He just recently made music on his own.
Ian Felice’s set was thoughtful, relaxed, and the perfect way to sit on your blanket and just hang out and appreciate the music. I was happy I was up close and could see his well-worn guitar. I imagined hours and hours of play on that beloved instrument. I know as a music writer, a musician’s success comes through serious dedication, passion, and a sprinkling of good luck. His lyrics were expressive and wove the story, Ian Felice rarely moved and sang mostly with his eyes gently closed, as if he was a million miles away. One of his brothers accompanied him on bass and then moved to the drums.
Those who were fortunate enough to be up front were really listening and enjoying.
I think I’d like to hear him again in a small venue, where I can truly focus on his talent. He sure has it, and I hope it translated around the park on Saturday, because people were pouring in at this point.
It was difficult for me to move from photo pit to photo pit/stage to stage (no I am not complaining, it was a sweet privilege that I would never take for granted). I meandered around the crowd slipping between colorful blankets where laughter spilled past the edges or even the occasional cold beverage. I enjoyed the challenge of creative foot placement and I was able to get a sense of the party mood.
Everyone was elated and happy to be out and about on such a beautiful day. Bar and food lines were long, but everyone seemed friendly, sociable, and agreeable.
I spotted the resourceful people that spread out their blankets in the middle of the two stages on the hill, so they could just stand to hear the other stage performances.
VIP had it made. Best view, best seats, and few lines for drinks. Media was off limits this year. It was a real bummer for me because it was so much easier to get to the stage from their side.
Here’s a zoom to show what I mean…
Old 97’s cranked it up and played with jam band mentality. They have been together for a while, so there was definitely a synergy and vibrancy about their set.
There were some swooners for sure….
I went backstage to give you a sense of the crowds gathered for their set. Wow!
While back there, I couldn’t help but snap this pic of Nicole Atkins. So fun that she let me take a pic before she joined Old 97’s on stage.
So fierce! You go girl!
After Old 97’s, I had a chance to chat around. I stumbled upon this beautiful couple. We chatted favorite music, favorite venues, and who they wanted to see. I found out he knew Susto’s lead singer from Florence, SC. What a small world, I lived some skinny minutes in Florence as well…
Shrimp Records Family Band
This is a music surprise of sorts, where the Shrimp Records family of musicians jam together. It was a cool scene.
After watching the fun they were having on stage, I decided it was time for an adult beverage…I had a skinny minute to indulge and I stood in line behind this crazy beautiful group. Aren’t they sumpin’?
So I actually had a tiny bit of time to sit and soak in the day. I just couldn’t stop taking photos. Life was happenin’ all around me and I wanted to capture the sweet moments.
Yep, there was a traveling pickle!
A beautiful baby discovering and playing with her shadow.
So very precious.
Reunions with friends.
St Paul and The Broken Bones
When you experience St Paul and The Broken Bones live…you will never want to miss their show. Yep, it is that good! Always creative, different, powerpacked, and a dancing, singing spectacle…St Paul andThe Broken Bones brings everything they have to provide the ultimate live experience. Talented in so many ways, they once again set the bar for performance surprise!
Did you witness the under the rug gatoring? This guy jams!
And who can resist enjoying his shoe choice?
And the crowd follows with crazy abandon…
The Wild Reeds
The Wild Reeds were the happy surprise to Saturday’s High Water. I spoke with so many that mentioned their performance and how it impacted and wowed them. The music, their energy, and talent all garnished many new fans. They went on when the sun was setting, the wind was whipping, and the temperatures were dropping. It proved to add to the electricity of their set. We all felt the power, girl power (+one guy) and it was sizzling!
As I have said before, I think her latest release will be one of the top albums of the year. Brandi Carlile has struck a deep nerve with her heartfelt lyrics and sound. Now she has won over so many more with her electrifying live performance. Passionate about her craft, we couldn’t help but notice her ease at slipping between country, folk, rock, and Americana. It was magical and riveting. Despite the obvious life struggling that occurs in her song’s lyrics, she has catchy choruses that are unforgettable.
Wow, just wow!
At this point I was scrambling around to find a bite to eat and catch up with friends before the next set. There was so much to see and experience as I wandered around the park. Here are a few fun scenes.
Dear friends who have great taste in music.
A hat adorned with lovely acoutraments.
It was really cold when the sun went down and she was prepared! The rest of us bought Band of Horses hoodies! They had the most warmth, thank you Band of Horses!
What I love about Jeff Tweedy is his no nonsense approach to a music performance. He just walks out, picks up his guitar and begins playing. He creates stories in songs and you feel as if he might just be singing specifically to you around a campfire on a cold night. Did I mention his harmonica playing? He brings warmth and humor as well as the take it or leave it attitude. I’ll take it gladly and be there again and again. He has a quiet genius in his gift of sound and words. Without a backing band, he still held his own and as the sun drifted out of view, he guided us to listen willingly to his wit and his soft guitar picking.
We felt all the feels.
What else is there to say? Jason Isbell has won multiple awards, continues to sell out shows, and has the gift of creating important lyrics and putting it all to powerful music.
Jason Isbel & The 400 Unit were an excellent ending to a day of music perfection. The evening was cold but there was warmth in every last note. Many even linguered long after the end and didn’t want to leave.
He was sporting a new look with a new beard.
Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires
Goodnight y’all! Feel free to stop by anytime when you need a joy fix. Here’s my favorite parting shot! Power to the night! Peace out!
Stay tuned for the second day of High Water Festival… coming soon!