Las Tortugas III | 10.30 – 11.02 | CA

Sunday, 11.02.08

Trevor Garrod - Las Tortugas '08
Home beckoning, I packed up and settled in at the buffet, bacon and biscuits piled high, to pour coffee and the oh-so-swell string band sounds of Victor Barnes and company into my aching bod. There's a point one reaches at festivals where no matter how great it's been, they are topped off, full to the brim with pleasures. Listening to Barnes and his gifted pickers run through Albert E. Brumley's immortal "Turn The Radio On," I knew my tank was close to overflowing.

If some of what I've related seems too idyllic, too good to be true, well, it isn't. I'm just reporting what I found at this emerging festival. If they can keep the scale close to this year (around a 1000 folks all-in with crew, bands, guests, ticket holders), if they just refine what they've already laid out, then this is gonna be a total keeper. Put even more bluntly, if I could do only one festival each year then I'd choose Las Tortugas, which embodies everything that first drew me to the jam scene (diversity, open-mindedness, high level musicianship and song craft, a hippie-like spirit) and none of the elements that currently repel me (insular groupies, rejection of new musical forms, non-critical fanship, a seeming need to crap on anything unfamiliar or just not to one's taste). Being amongst Tortugans, I felt at home-on-the-road in ways that reminded me of my first forays onto the touring highway with the Grateful Dead and Black Crowes. Our people, the ones that vibrate on our own strange frequency, don't always live next door, and we must seek them on the byways and hollers of this land. Over this Halloween weekend I felt positively buried in my sort of folks and I'll gladly dive into their bosom again a year hence.

My parting musical dose came courtesy of a mostly solo set by Tea Leaf's Trevor Garrod. Announcing that he "slept through Sunday" because he'd found God on Saturday night, Garrod in his pure, unique voice sliced a little hole in the sky and let us glad hand the Lord, picked up by his honey tone and ten fingered piano attack. Bright originals full of pretty birds eating all the ugly bugs mingled with well-chosen covers like a plaintive reading of John Lennon's "Instant Karma." Garrod is a different animal outside TLG, one where the gnarled Randy Newman within him emerges from his young frame. Aided in spots by a number of friends including Lebo and charming gal singer Lael, Garrod was the ideal send off towards the real world, bits of dreams and prayers and love songs to pull from my pockets as bumps and hardships emerged in my path. Like everything that'd preceded him, it was almost too nice but I suppose it's alright to be so blessed once in a while.

As I walked towards my car I heard Tistrya welcome everyone to the church of music, and then found myself grounded for a couple songs that unfurled with such country rock touched loveliness that I could not take a step. Music for music's sake. Music for the people's sake. Music for the sheer fucking joy, pleasure and beauty of it. That's what Las Tortugas – Dance of the Dead is about. What more could you ask of a festival?

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