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Good Vibes, Harmony and Cool Convenience Make the First Gathering a Solid Success (by Lee Zimmerman)
It’s hard to deny the fact that today’s best festivals bask in a kind of Woodstockian afterglow. Granted, no one wants to experience the rain or the mud or the brown acid at this point, and some measure of convenience is definitely due. However, the communal feelings shared among those who come to bask in the good vibes of an outdoor arena while listening to artists that are proven fan favorites make these experiences something akin to a gathering of the tribes in a world where distancing and discord seem to be a constant calamity.
Add to all that the magical environs of a venue like the Caverns, located in the hilly countryside of middle Tennessee, and that feeling of happiness and happenstance finds the kind of connection that can easily lift one out of any everyday doldrums and into a state of supreme serenity. With its initial Cavefest festival, which took place Saturday October 8th and Sunday October 9th, 2022, the Caverns provides a fine showcase of current Nu-Grass talent — among them, such certified standouts as Yonder Mountain String Band, the Infamous Stringdusters, the Sam Bush Band, Rising Appalachia, Leftover Salmon, Sierra Hull, and Jim Lauderdale — and, in the process, created a joyous weekend retreat, courtesy of a beautiful fall landscape and moderate October temperatures (warm during the day and a bit of a chill at night).
The Caverns has long been a popular gathering spot for those who come from other parts of Tennessee as well as folks willing to put some mileage on their vehicles and take a drive that could encompass up to ten or twelve hours of travel. Indeed, a quick glance at the license plates affixed to cars in the campsite revealed revelers who journeyed from as far away as New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Iowa, and Minnesota. It’s a credit to the venue itself — a natural underground cavern awash in lights like one might experience in a Disney Park fantasy ride and an outdoor amphitheater located on an easy slope spread out in front of a tree line bathed in luminous lighting on the surrounding hills — that the weekend was in fact so wonderful.
It’s hard to imagine a more perfect place as far as any festival and/or festivities are concerned.
Of course, it’s the people that attend and those involved in ensuring it runs well that are essential to an ideal experience and there again, Cavefest succeeded admirably. The crowd was friendly, good natured and eager to enjoy the experience, while extending that warmth to others as well. Tie-dye was the fashion of choice and costumes of various varieties added more than hint of mirth to the music and the merriment.
So too, the festival’s staff was friendly, courteous, and eager to make their guests feel welcome. Although the site had an ample audience of both day-trippers and overnight campers, everyone was kind and respectful. There was plenty of room for comfortable seating on lawn chairs and blankets, and a VIP area ensured an ample vantage point with proximity to the side of the stage.
If the absence of hassles is a prime criterion, then Cavefest scored superbly. This was the first event of its type at this locale but it’s hard to imagine an exorbitant amount of tweaking would be required next year.
Of course, the fact that the musical line-up was impressive as well provided the bond that held it all together. It consisted of artists and ensembles that were very much attuned to populist precepts. Jim Lauderdale’s understated sense of humor, Sam Bush’s unflappable smile, the fan-friendly appeal of The Infamous Stringdusters and Yonder Mountain String Band, the open-ended enthusiasm of Rising Appalachia, the Grateful Dead-like vibe of Leftover Salmon, and the omnipresent appearances of artist in residence Lindsay Lou ensured an intrinsic connection that underscored both the vibe and the vitality.
Granted, any comparison to Woodstock and its utopian embrace seems to smack of nostalgia but in the case of Cavefest 2022, any other reference seems to pale in proper proportion.
Please go to the Cavefest website for more information
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