This time of year is reserved for the “Post Shakori Festival Let Down Blues.”
The days are shortening, and growing cold. The leaves are falling from the trees. But worst of all the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance has drawn to a close. This year we did a “plant shutdown” for Shakori weekend so that we could maximize our festival experience
Every year we take a fuel truck out to the festival grounds and conduct “Shakori Fills.” We fill up members, and newcomers with tanks of B100 biodiesel. Sometimes we do “Valet Fills,” where one of us will take a member’s car out of its parking space, fill it up, and return it. This year Sam did a Valet Fill for Larry Larson, the creator of Larry’s Beans. He was delighted to get his old Mercedes topped up for his drive back to Raleigh.
At one point Carol arranged a fill for Elephant Revival, a band with a church bus from Colorado.
I have to say that Piedmont has long served as a fuel attendant to the stars, and that Elephant Revival reminds us of the reason we make fuel. We’ve filled up Willie Nelson, and Jack Johnson (twice), and Ben Harper, and Donna the Buffalo, and some other acts that I can’t even recall.
Once, at a Guster concert at Duke University, I got into trouble for telling the guy in our booth that I thought B20 was for posers. He was the lead singer for Guster. And our relationship didn’t get off to a very good footing.
Elephant Revival was different. When they heard they could get B100 they pursued it. They were persistent. When they couldn’t reach Piedmont, they got Carol Hewitt to reach Piedmont. She is on our Coop board of directors and is a powerful influence at Shakori.
I met Bridget, their vocalist and violin player in the dead of the night before they went onstage. Carol took this photo with her phone by the light of the fuel truck. Tami cleaned it up for us.
I was struck by their fuel cap. Someone had gone to the trouble of attaching a sticker around their fuel tank opening which read “Biofuel Preferred.”
I put a few hundred dollars worth of fuel into their bus, but they didn’t have the cash to cover it. They invited me to stop by their merchandise table after the show.
That was a problem for me, since I was scheduled for a chess match on the big board in front of the Coffee Barn. My opponent, Ray, set an alarm on his phone so that I could interrupt our game, and run to the dance tent to collect money for the fill.
When I got to the merch table they were crushed by fans. Sarah was counting out piles of twenty dollar bills, and was a $1.60 light of paying their tab. It wasn’t that they didn’t have it. It was the crowd of people trying to buy their stuff that overwhelmed us. I told her not to worry about it and vanished back to my chess match.
Later I was handed a copy of “Break in the Clouds,” which was one of their CDS. Someone from Elephant Revival had thought it was important for us to get a copy to hear their sound. That was nice.
Perhaps more importantly, as the stubborn chess match pushed into the night, and a quiet fell over the Dance Tent, Sarah showed up with $1.60. She would have had to have sought me out. I was blown away.
When I awoke the next morning, they were gone. Probably on to another gig in a far away town. Lesser bands would have taken our fuel and vanished. Lesser bands would have rounded off the trivial unpaid portion.
As I read the liner notes for Break in the Clouds I noticed they gave thanks to “renewable energy.” It clearly matters to them.
These days I have been listening to their tunes. I would say they are part Cowboy Junkies, part Crash Test Dummies. Haunting melodies and earth centered lyrics dance around the Celtic fringe. At Shakori they inherit the stage from the Duhks.
Wonderful. My only regret is that Shakori has ended, that our biodiesel plant has re-opened, and that we all need to go back to our usual worlds.
I have no idea where Elephant Revival will be playing tomorrow, but I do know that we will be back at it, making fuel, commissioning our enzymatic plant, fixing leaks, rendering fish goo, or doing whatever needs to be done to keep the fuel flowing…