Three things stand out for me from this year’s Sound Summit in September at the amphitheater at Mt. Tam: history, beauty and courage.
History because the opening band at this now annual festival to raise funds for the park was Vetiver. This was a blast from my past. I interviewed the front man, Andy Cabic, when the band did an intimate performance at a hipster Italian restaurant in Carroll Gardens in the late 2000s. We bonded over the fact that we both grew up in the Springfield, Virginia, area, as did Dave Grohl. I remember talking about the local libraries with him. We were both library buffs as kids. I haven’t followed the band over the years, but they played a good amount of their older songs at the festival, which are familiar to me. Not long after the concert, I saw an ad on TV featuring their song “Rolling Sea.” This indie-darling band just might have a shot at a larger audience.
On beauty: Bob Weir was a big attraction at the festival, and he came out as a surprise guest (before his headlining performance with Phil Lesh) joining Jim James of My Morning Jacket on stage. James was doing his solo stuff, and he did a touching acoustic rendition of “Brokedown Palace” with Weir. It was good. So good, I must admit I got teary. If you play music, you know that you can think of it logically, understand its patterns. But what makes it good, what makes it meaningful, is gloriously mysterious.
On courage: The amphitheater is high up on Mt. Tam. Nerve-wrackingly high. There are no guardrails and minimal room for error on the road. We took the festival bus to get us there and back, and both drivers were women. On the ride up, I was impressed. On the ride down, I was amazed. Going down means driving on the outside lane, the one with no protection from the edge. It was dark by the time we got on the bus after the concert. The woman at the wheel was chipper and kind enough to pick up hitchhikers from the concert. The driver had a lot to deal with. The hitchhikers had nowhere to sit, so they stood in the aisle, and they were loud. And obnoxious. They were clearly high. One of them even suggested we all shift our weight to one side of the bus to take us over the edge of the mountain. Someone kept telling the hitchhikers to shush, and I was hoping the driver would be able to concentrate in handling the turns despite the racket. I would not look out the right-side windows because I didn’t want to make myself more nervous. The driver, however, proved to have nerves of steel. She made her way down that mountain with unshakable skill. I was grateful–and will remember her strength under pressure. When I thanked her as we disembarked, I was impressed by how calm and cheerful she was, like an expert at meditation, unflappable. She went right back up that mountain to pick up the next set of passengers. I have no doubt she brought them safely down.