080312 Blue Skies Music Festival, Clarendon, ON

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Do you believe in magic?  

Every child believes in magic.  One can argue that they are easily fooled because of their inexperience or naiveté while another might posit that children’s eyes are simply better-equipped to know magic when they see it.  Either way, children are exclusively believers in magic until they are taught otherwise by clever adults.

There are, however, a fortunate few who manage to hold on to their magical beliefs no matter what the rest of the world tells them.  Even more unusual is the adult who manages to undo the damage caused by rational society and learns to re-believe in the magic he had forgotten.

Believe it or not, I am one of these rare unicorns.

But really, what is one to do when they consistently come face-to-face with something they have been told is nonexistent, as happens to me every second or third summer?  I’ll admit, due to my cocky confidence it took a few years before I realized that Blue Skies Music Festival was magic – real, honest-to-goodness magic – but eventually it became impossible to deny the truth.

The magic starts in the lineup – and not the lineup as in “the acts scheduled to perform”, I mean the lineup as in “those queued up to gain entry” – as it did for me yet again on Friday, August 3rd, 2012.  You’ve just finished a fairly long drive, you’re car is packed to the roof, some even have a whack of kids jumping up and down in the backseat and yet magically we all wait along the side of that dirt road with broad smiles on our faces.  And it’s not like everyone is being patient and just sucking it up.  No, the smiles are genuine, and I think it’s because we are close enough to the hallowed Blue Skies space for the magic to have already infected us.  Or it could be the wandering minstrels that occasionally stroll up and down the road playing wistful melodies on flutes or mandolins for those in line.  

When you get onsite and get out of the car your feet can feel the rush of the enchanted dirt and your head swivels to eat up the visual magic.  Smiling people moving in all directions, outhouse doors being held open for the next, flags and banners decorate the wind, and through some sorcery of mad kindness someone magically walks up and asks if you’d like to use their luggage cart.  And yes, of course you do.  More magical smiles.

And then you find a spot to pitch your tent right next to your friends (pretty magical) or next to a bunch of new ones (even more magical, and good future magic for next time), you get everything set up just perfect and before you reach for your first drink or your first snack someone has already handed you one of each.  Magical.

You peruse the schedule and the magic just jumps out at you.  The list of workshops in the program reads like a list of abracadabra lessons.  It’s a real-life Hogwarts, with sessions on how to do yoga or play the bazouki or learn which plants are edible or how to make a sock puppet.  These are all valuable skills for conjurors, wizards, and charmers.  

Then the mainstage starts up and some serious magic begins, generally in the form of astounding acts of sonic beauty coming from artists you’ve never heard of nor imagined.  For example, at this weekend’s festival I saw some remarkable bands with such unknown names as world music Juno nominees Eccodek, Afro/Brazilian-beat percussion and horn-drenched New Orleans party band Drumhand, electro-trad jazzers MAZ, clever folkie/storyteller Jory Nash, young old-timey jazz upstarts Boxcar Boys, and the very funny Arrogant Worms.  But honestly the lineup never matters.  All music is magic and all deep-lifer music fans know this implicitly.  Heck, I knew it already by the time I was three years old when my already-astute brain used the words “magician” and “musician” interchangeably.  But like I say, children know stuff about magic.

Which brings us to the most magical thing about Blue Skies Music Festival, the fact that it’s chock-full of children.  They are everywhere all the time.  And no, the children aren’t magic; I know that and you know that.  Kids are disgusting noisy smelly clingy sticky animals, and very far from magic.  But they see magic and they believe magic, and the acreage, the dirt, and the very ground where Blue Skies happens is magic.  The kids revel in the magic and it wears off on us adults.  Without the kids there acting as antennas I doubt most of the adults would feel the magic at all.

I won’t even get started on the mystical, astoundingly beautiful, and yes, magical late-night campfire jams, or how on certain nights the floor of the forest surrounding the festival literally glows in the dark.  Don’t believe me?  It’s because it’s magic, and you’re an adult.  But I assure you it’s true.  And so is all the other stuff I just wrote about.  It’s all true.

And so is magic.

It could be that magic is like God and as such it only exists if there are people who choose to believe in it.  All I can say to that is: À la peanut-butter sandwiches!  

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