Monday, August 27, 2012

Doe Bay! Doe Bay!

Hot Damn Doe Bay Fest! Each year I fight going tooth and nail, out of sheer exhaustion. August is harvest, pitiful attempts at winter gardening, nights gazing up at the Perseids, endless customers, endless party invitations, endless everything. And each year, I end up not only going, but having the best time.

I get to meet the nicest people, see the awesomest bands, eat good food, write and just. Hang. Out. Such a treat in these hectic days of high summer.
What better way to start off the fest, than Doe Bay's own marching band?
The guy playing the sax is a calm digger and the author of an awesome zine on clam digging, books, tourist trade and well, island life.  That zine played quite part in my weekend's relaxation. The man with the tuba, on the other hand, heads the only Archipelago bred band at the fest. Local legends and nice folks. I'm rather partial to a good marching band.
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Speaking of awesome people, getting to hang out with these two amazing ladies, who both work at Doe Bay, was pretty much the high point for me. We are all so busy in the summer months that our hang-outs are mostly little stolen moments, nights at the bar, a quick chat. Plus, the both of them spend a lot of time on far-flung Whale Island, plying their respective trades. Ana is a massage therapist and Emmy, of course, a mistress of the Garden.
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 (photo by emmy)
Emmy generously offered me a berth at Tent City, the camp for DB employees, Woofers and during the fest, the volunteers. Located deep in back woods of DB, it was a pretty tranquil spot.
As for the bands, I have to say I'm always somewhat skeptical of all these young unknowns, endorsed by an army of hipsters and their dubious music cred and each time they blow me away.  Color me humbled, as I've had quite a few transcendental music moments at Doe Bay; the fog lifting off the cove as the band builds up momentum. This year was no different.
 The best bands were pretty much all on the Otter Cove Stage, which is the smaller of the two main stages. Not only were they the best, they were also super sweet folk.  DB fest seems to keep the artist/audience ratio at about 1/10 or something like that, and so all weekend long you chat with folks from bands at the cafe, the hot tubs or the line to the bathrooms.

The band above, The Last Bison, were the nicest of the nice, and the best band at the fest this year! And my view is not even colored by the fact that they picked me up hitchhiking on the way to the festival. Or that for the rest of the weekend they kept hollering "Hi Milla!" at me whenever our paths crossed.

The Last Bison are comprised of a variety of family members making sweet music together. The band includes not only a dad, and his son and daughter, but also another set of siblings siblings. Which is pretty rad, right?

My other favorite act also featured two siblings. Noah Gundersen and his sister Abby play the kind of music of which transcendental early mornings are made of; soft, pained, full of love and rage.
(Fun fact: both The Last Bison and Noah Gundersen have quite a few religious references in their music. Noah Gunderson first gained recognition at a tender age with a song called "Jesus, Jesus", a plea to heaven if you will, touching in its obvious youthful earnestness. Bison's awesome album Quill (get it now!) has several lyrics involving prayer and God and my current favorite song off the record "Iscariot" is about, well, Judas Iscariot. Christian folk rocks!)
I got to meet Abby in person and had a very impromptu and totally awesome conversation about books, mostly our favorite Southern writers. And Steinbeck. Girl has good taste in books, tell you what.

Conversations and transcendental experiences with complete strangers are all part of the charm of Doe Bay. Over the weekend I made "fest friends" with so many good people. Talking to strangers in the line to the bathroom, at the hot tubs, grabbing your arm at the mosh/dance pit at the main stage, nursing a morning coffee by the cliffs is only part of the magic.
Speaking of magic, you may remember me raving about a certain Dylanesque young feller busking up a storm in last year's post. Well guess what? Busking got Ben Fisher a slot on an actual stage and the rest is history. I didn't manage to snag his ep, but I'm pretty sure this guy is headed for some great things, so keep an ear open.
Other musical highlights included the energetic performance of Deep Sea Diver and the tribal drumming, earth magic madness of Kithkin. Oh and the surprise performance of last year's favorites Pickwick as Saturday's main stage headliners. Much mosh pit bouncing and jazz hands in the air happened.

I wish there was a picture of Em, Ana and I dancing like maniacs, holding hands and laughing our heads off during their set, but some things just have to be lived and not photographed.
This year Emmy got me spot volunteering in exchange for a ticket. I counted folk coming in and out of the spa, stocked beer at the store and helped make staff lunches. Above is a typical image of me hard at work.

This zine is pretty much the most entertaining and insightful thing I've read all summer. I love blogs and zines where people actually manage to make their own limited experience meaningful and relevant to others.
Baby dir I love you. True dat little anonymous homie.
Emmy and her cousin Whitney hanging out.
"Doe Bay haikus." My favorite/ least favorite was:
"You're not in Ballard/
this is up the/
That about sums it up. Awesome as it is, we were all discussing how the fest seems to be changing towards more yuppie/mainstream scene. Funny as I found the hipster stylings of last year's fest, I found myself somewhat dismayed by the influx of REI-clad Seattle-ITites that came in numbers this year. Thus the joke of the Haiku is on Doe Bay itself. Ballard is the epitome of gentrification in Seattle; a traditionally working class, Scandinavian immigrant neighborhood, popularized by the young, poor and hip and then, after its transformation in to a cool place to be, the onslaught of condo-dwelling yuppie families. Now the dive bars give way to sushi bars and interior design boutiques. Let that be a lesson to you, Doe Bay Fest.
Yeah, resident poet, but they do like to pave roads and cut woods with it. Rant over.
These girls were some of those sweet folk mentioned. Kate, The Pie Queen sold quiches and pies by day and the most amazing hot dogs at night. What an awesome little enterprise.

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A little grease fire just makes for a yummier experience. Kate handles it like the pro that she is.
In case you can't decipher my expression it says: I missed Blitzen Trapper for this hot dog and I have no regrets!
The Doe Bay cafe has more amazing food and lovely wait staff to boot. I dream of a little vacation here sometime in the dead of winter, soaking tubs, dinner at the cafe, maybe anchor our boat of the cove...
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My "boss" for a night, Luca the store manager spreads her wings.
Flower children hanging out on the lawn and Ana stocking her snack case with organic blueberries and coconut water.
There were so many sweet, summery scenes.
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Doe Bay pretty much has the chillest festival-going crowd.
Check out Emmy's job site. Not entirely bad.
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Need a ride? Lost a friend? Found a friend and lost them again? Mom send money? There's a notice board for communiques.

The Last Bison goes looking for starfish. Being from the East Coast they were stoked on all Island exoticism and the PNW in general.

The busking station had the addition of a piano this year, not an entirely good thing in my humble opinion. An errant piano seems to inspire folks to "Tori Amos-it out" and if you're not Tori Amos, that can be a little uncomfortable. Ana and I also found it amazing that it seems most everyone knows how to play at least a bit of piano. A benchmark of a middle-class upbringing?
Doe Bay has a sweet little lending/trading library, of mostly heavy-weight classics, but inspired by my conversation with Abby, I managed to score some Steinbeck.
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My favorite part of this experience, as always, was simply sitting hugging my coffee mug, looking out over the bay around seven AM, with the other early risers all around, sometimes exchanging a friendly nod, or a few words, but mostly silent, writing pages and pages of thoughts and silliness into my journal. Just being there, now. A rare treat these summer months.
On Sunday morning, the marching band reconvened, with additions from the other bands, ruckus-ing their way trough the last sleepers.
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Off they went banging/clanging/honking into the future, everyone began scattering into the four winds, I got on my ferry and rode home. Until next year.
Speaking of which: seriously now, who wants to come? If we plan it early on I can get the tickets (they probably won't be even selling them online this year.) We could even maybe rent a cabin? Think about it, but not too long, 'cos Doe Bay Fest 2013 is just around the corner, really.


  1. Well I want to. But logistically....we'll have to see huh. I always have a great time here at home reading your adventure posts, I literally sit her goofy smiling nodding and peering into your pics to see way up close. Much needed this rainy morning. And on THIS particular morning, I'm reading instead of getting my babes ready for their education! So I must up and start pouring out cereals and ordering small nekkid kids into showers. Love ya. xoxo

  2. i would love to go! really. it looks like so much fun and is obviously such a beautiful place. i love the marching band, so cool! and that hot dog! hello! it looks frickin delicious!

    oh steinbeck, how i love you so! :D i'm actually reading the winter of our discontent right now. i'm not sure if any other book could top east of eden, but that's how i felt about cannery row when i first read it so we'll see. which book of his did you get?

  3. I just checked out The Last Bison on Youtube and they are great; just ordered their album online! They really remind me of one of my fav bands, The Wilderness of Manitoba...they are an awesome Canadian folk band that you should really check out if you have never heard them.

  4. I so wanted to go this year! I almost bought tickets, but couldn't:( And now they won't sell online, you say??!!!! I live in the Pacific Northwest [farther inland- Idaho], they should let me come:)I'll get there eventually. Your pictures always make it look so fun and I actually rather enjoy hipsters... as long as they're entertaining;) I need to go before it gets too normal though.

  5. you attract such beauty in your life, milla. now if I can only eat a piece of your hair to spawn into such a fawn as yourself, then I would be one happy toad.

  6. i'm coming!!! count me in for some music, milla, and baby dirs. jeez i had no idea what i was missing.

  7. i am trying so hard not to be green with envy...really trying hard!

  8. This is so lovely Milla-what an experience! On another note, seeing Ana's blue tank top I have never coveted any material object so feircely in years! I have a blue obsession ("excrement of the moon" color). Do you know how I can ask her where to find it, if anywhere?

    1. I'd bet my bottom dollar that it's thrifted but I'll ask her.

  9. I WILL be there next year!! Dang it! I will!! Um, so I live in Ballard and yeah it's annoying, it's gotten so that I can't even go into the main town area on weekends cuz the yuppies have totally taken over and forget about weekend nights. it's just so gross and awful. My friend and I overheard these very square looking yuppie bros talking about how much they loved my hood saying "yeah it's sooo great here, it's the brooklyn of seattle, so hip." and we guffawed out loud. it's funny.. but still better than some areas of the city. i mean, it'll do until i'm ready to get "propertied"... xo ,

  10. heavenly.

    especially cute you in your sundress reading that book.

  11. i want to come...but i think i have commitment issues, because it makes me nervous to make plans this far in advance :-/
    p.s. yay, partner! i feel happy to have a bit of focus when preparing my next box for you. already looking forward to it coming together....

    1. next box!?!??! I'm still working on my last box for you! How are you so dynamic girl. I feel like knowing the swap is coming up and that your own sweet self is my partner, makes me more ambitious in my gathering and canning ;)
      I need motivation these days it seems.

  12. YOU, my dear, are a magic magnet. Seriously. YES!!!!!!! I'm hoping we'll be able to grab Abby on our way up too :D

    1. Yes Abby! Talk to her stat.I feel so embarrassed that I haven't even gone to Seattle once since you last saw me. We never go. I'm gonna get ahold of her one of these days. That girl rocks.

  13. How did I miss this post?! Ugh, I will most DEFINITELY be there next year!!


  14. ooooh dreamlands here i come. about time i pay you and your island that visit i've been threatening huh?! i think my papoose would love the festival too. why can't all the world and life be like this?!! bartering, volunteering, zines, wings, drums, tents, libraries, gardens? all for trading and taking and giving and loving and sharing. not to mention MUSIC!!! minus the annoying piano balladeers. let's create it. let's all just make life be a big (little) festival. i would just add one thing: a cat parade. LOVE YOU SISTER.

  15. I love posts like these, they make me so homesick (but in a good way). Clean air, real food, big trees, salty water, and of course all the wonderful people! Thanks for reminding me how magical and special it is on the edge of the Salish Sea, it helps keep me sane in the city.

  16. Hi Milla! Thanks for capturing the moments.
    I was directed here by my friend Carlos, who says to me, he says "how is it you are all over this hot girl's blog?" And I am like, "What is a blog?" I only am making the zines for the people. Soapbox is my baby, and there have been a few editions that have arrived since summer. Let me know if you want them and then suddenly you shall have them.
    Also, that is me on the saxophone in the marching band, which will definitely be marching again this summer, where I hope to meet you. Perhaps I already have?
    Al Bentley

  17. Um, hi. I know it is weird to be creeping on this blog post three plus years after it was posted but I'm trying to get ahold of Al because I need a regular supply of Soapbox. Pleeeease like the tourists need their deer photos. Get ahold of me at and hopefully something can be arranged.