I have a hard time believing that it took until 1995 before I attended my first Blue Skies Festival but I dug through my ticket books and all the evidence supports it. I actually started thinking that this might have been my first camping festival but no, turned out that was Woodstock ’94. Regardless, I showed up for my first Blue Skies on August 5th of that year, and I was almost ready for it too.
I say “almost” because I was still enough of a scallywag that I and my sizeable crew snuck in without paying (not that there would have been camping passes available), something I would never ever dream of doing today (or in most of the time since) and something I have a hard time remembering the justification for. Frankly, if memory serves “sneaking in” to things was kind of my thing back then, though that same memory reminds me that being superkind, superfriendly, and supereager were also my things back then. I’m hoping my internal justification had something to do with a neo-hippie music-should-be-free attitude blended with fairly acute poverty when it came to things like entertainment, but I suspect it was just a hobby/habit that was mostly dregs from my more earnest and authentic scallywag-leaning teenage years.
Anyways, it was a long time ago and I’m sure the karma has settled itself by now. As a matter of fact there was one Blue Skies several years back where security kicked me off the festival grounds late on Friday night despite my fully-verifiable true story that I had a weekend pass that would be arriving on Saturday morning and my tent was already pitched with a tent pass and everything. I ended up sleeping in the car that night. So even-Steven, right?
But back to this first time, I was led through the woods by the leader of our transgressions (who remains a Blue Skies lifetime attendee, by the way) and once inside we pitched our tents atop a rocky hill above The Finger, a spot that was rather unforgiving in it’s comfort but also safely inconvenient for anyone to get to, so we were less worried about not having festival wristbands. Unfortunately our tricky spot and bare wrists limited my involvement in the greatest parts of Blue Skies: the workshops, the hanging out with strangers, and the campfire jams. I still took part in all of these things – certainly enough to make me come back again and again over the years – but in a limited sense. I do recall that I attended a holistic incense bath humalong in the teepee with my much-more-hippie-than-I girlfriend Shannon and I also recall being astounded that my university classical guitar instructor was camped just below us with a slew of other classically trained musicians and they jammed string quartets around their campsite all weekend. They had music stands and everything.
I don’t recall who played on the mainstage but I’m sure it was all pretty fantastic, and I suspect much of the music presented was very new to my wide open ears*.
Clearly this was no Woodstock ’94, which was a very good thing. The proof: I never attended another Woodstock but I attended many, many more Blue Skieses (where, incidentally, I eventually hobnobbed with enough morality to learn not to sneak into things like Blue Skies. I still can’t believe I did in the first place.)
PS I was there all weekend but if I tried to write a memory from each day I would just be writing all of this again. Most of my Blue Skies weekends abbreviate themselves into a single amorphous memory montage inside my brain, so most of them will be written that way too.
*I found the program from this year. The fact that I possess such a thing suggests that this might not have been the year we snuck in; why would I have received a program if I didn’t go through the gate? And (come to think of it), if I didn’t pay for a ticket, why do I have a stub? So this very well might not have been my first Blue Skies after all, which wouldn’t surprise me a bit. The program tells me that the mainstage featured acts like Mark Haines & Tom Leighton, Lennie Gallant, Thomas Handy Trio (which included Oliver Schroer on fiddle), Lynn Miles, and a couple of African-influenced bands, Malaika and Cheza. So yeah, a bunch of great and influential music was there for the taking, and I’m sure I took it.