Archive - Aug 8, 2010

Our fest, WE fest

Yesterday was a big day. We had the open house at the nursery, which meant three performances in the peat building. Joe, who had a cold, also gave three hour-long garden tours. I don't know how he had any voice left. He feeds of these things while I had to go back and take a couple of naps in between. 

After that part of the day ended, Lance and I headed to WE Fest. Now, WE Fest would not normally be on our agenda, but we had free tickets. They came as a result of a phone call I received a month back from a man named Don who had just finished my book Pirates on the Prairie the night before. He had played against the Halstad bunch in 1952, so there was a connection. In addition, his parents were good customers of the nursery way back. I remembered them well, as Don's mother would play the old piano in the schoolhouse in the 1970s.

You know you've led a weird life when you meet a 75-year-old man and you don't really figure out who he is until he answers the question "So, whose boy are you?"

As we visited, Don said he worked for WE Fest and had since the beginning and wondered if I wanted tickets. He mentioned Kenny Chesney. Well, Kenny's lead guitarist and fiddle player is Nick Hoffman, who has Twin Valley roots. I met him through Aunt Olla a few times about fifteen years ago and have always wanted to see him play. 

Don fixed us up. We drove in the production entrance. He had set aside a small patch of grass about the size of my car within the shadow of the stage. He led the car on foot through the throngs of people to the spot. 

Then we went back stage. Back stage at WE fest is about the size of  a football field. 

We saw Gretchen Wilson walk by and then we eventually ended up shaking hands with Dierks Bentley, who I had never heard of. 

We didn't see Chesney back stage, but we saw his concert out front. We were seated in Don's seats which, we found out, were each priced at $1,000 for the festival. We were 10 rows from the stage. There were 45,000 people on hand. 

Before we took our seats, we wandered back in the big section where most of the people were. It was a drunk fest and I was surprised that the crowd was mostly twenty-something. It was a real circus. 

We then sat down to watch Chesney's show. Or, should I say, we found the spot where we stood. He is entertaining, but all the songs were in the same key, if I remember right! Here Joe and I go to great lengths to avoid two consecutive songs in the same key for fear that our audience of 100 in the peat building will get bored while four-time Entertainer of the Year Kenny Chesney didn't change keys all night!

The stage was huge, as was Chesney's entourage. Six guitar players, two drummers, two trumpets, a trombone, a sax, a dobro guitar player, a keyboardist and then a lot of support staff. Seldom was it possible to establish a connection between the person sawing away passionately on their instrument on stage and the sound that actually reached one's ear. But the effect electrified the crowd, of course, and they sang along to all the songs. 

The strangest part of the experience was turning around to see a sea of 45,000 faces lit by the stage lights. 

Security was so tight. We were stopped many, many times and asked for our credentials, which hung around our neck. Even when Don was leading us around, if either Lance or I fell more than three feet behind him we were immediately stopped. "We're with Don!" we'd say, and they'd let us through. 

It was quite an evening. I think it was well captured in today's Fargo Forum by John Lamb.