Monday, July 6, 2009

The Live Oak Music Festival

On our way back from back-to-back festivals, I told my wife Becky that, even if other festivals might be better, Live Oak will always be our "home" festival. It takes place at Live Oak Camp which is next to Lake Cachuma, CA , about 20 minutes north of Santa Barbara and a little more than an hour north of our home. Its quite convenient for us.

The festival is run as a benefit for KCBX radio, a public radio outlet on CA's central coast. It is held every year on Father's Day Weekend and consists of three days and nights of music camping and all around fun. This was the 21st annual but only our third year going and it was on June 19,20,21. Live Oak is a pretty eclectic festival, some acoustic acts, some full bands, a smattering of world music, a little dash of rock and roll. It definitely leans towards folk,bluegrass,blues sort of direction but always with some diversity and at least a few bands that rock out a bit. Most of the music takes place in what is called the Main Stage, a pretty professional stage set up in a large field, where the audience sets up their low backed chairs and blankets. See a picture up above. There are also a few other venues at the festival, one at the other end of the property that they call Stage Too where they hold smaller concert/workshops during the day and at night host the dances they put on for teens. Another venue closer to the Main Stage,called the Hot Licks Stage, hosts the early morning concerts and late night dances for grown-ups. There is also a stage for kid's shows.

One of the Live Oak traditions is the Thursday night Line Up. On Thursday afternoon, the day before the festival starts, you can put your vehicle in the lineup for camping spaces on Friday morning but you must sleep in or next to your vehicle. On Friday morning at 8:00 am they let you in, in the order you are lined up and there is a mad dash to claim camping spots. Becky loves my description of this - " a latter day hippie land rush". There is a picture of this in lower picture above.

The area for camping is varied, much of it has many oak trees for shade but there are also areas that are pretty much out in the sun. BTW this is a very hot area, a bit inland. Our first year here the weather was in triple digits all weekend but the past 2 years have been in the mid to high 80s. Some years camping can be really crowded. We have tried to go to sleep listening to the couple in the next tent make noisy love, been woken up in the morning by screaming kids, and this year were even kept awake by a band with a full drum kit in a campsite right near us. But everyone is pretty nice and proximity can just help you make new friends, and we made quite a few this year.

There are quite a few porta-potties spread over the property and they are cleaned once or twice a day. There are showers near the central area by the main stage, but they are in a roofless structure, with just a men's side and a woman's side and then a big open shower area with about six showers but no stalls or anything for privacy. There is hot water but it is non adjustable and can vary from very hot to cold depending on luck. The festival area has food vendors and some crafts etc. Not a great variety of food available and only one vendor sells coffee which can make for some looongg early morning lines.

In general this is a very laid-back, well run festival. It attracts a wide variety of people, lots of older people but many young people also, many have "grown up" attending the festival with their family. It does tend to attract a bit older crowd then some other festivals though. The majority of people come from the central coast area around San Luis Obispo, where the festival started, with added folks from the Santa Barbara and Ventura areas. I actually ran into three different people I know from Ventura College, where I work. My major criticism with how this festival runs is the "down time" between acts on the Main Stage, sometimes a half an hour. It seems a better alternation of small acts/ big acts, and acoustic/electric could keep things moving as some of the other festivals do.

Well that's an overview of the Live Oak Festival. In the next day or so I'll try to get my music reviews from this festival up on this site. And,oh yeah, if anyone actually reads this and has comments or questions or their own experience to share, I'd love to hear it all!

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