Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My First Music Festival, Walla Walla Wine Country and a 15 Year Celebration.

This past weekend was a celebration.  In a few days it will be our 15 year wedding anniversary.  Three years of dating, fifteen years of marriage, two children,three different cities, one dog and the same cat through it all.  We were just kids when we met...18 year olds ready to take on the world.  What a journey it has been.  To celebrate we decided to have ourselves a little weekend journey.  As with most journeys, adventures were had.

Never ones to shy away from an excuse to get away and celebrate we started making anniversary plans months ago.  Both of us are the type of people who like to have something to look forward to.  We went from thinking of heading to a yoga retreat in northern California, to maybe a road trip to Seattle or a hiking and camping somewhere along the Pacific Crest Trail.  Talk about ideas from all extremes.  One thing we both kept searching for was some sort of music concert...something to give us a reason to choose a destination.  Searching our favorite bands only to find they were playing in places too far from home.  One day I stumbled across a music festival put on by Mumford and Sons.  The Gentlemen of the Road Stopover Event.  It was for two days, affordable, within driving distance and had things we both loved...wine country for me and Foo Fighters headlining one night for Matt.  The tickets were bought that very night and the planning began.  This was to be my first big music festival.  As the trip approached I got nervous.  The thought of camping with thousands of people and watching these big name bands with as many people as live in Bozeman made me anxious.  I'm all about live music but have always preferred small venues.  However...tickets had been bought, girls were with Grandma, tent was in the car...I pushed my worries aside and we were off.

The festival was in Walla Walla Washington, a small town neither of us had ever been too. Once we got off the main highway we found ourselves traveling through miles and miles of golden wheat fields with nothing but the occasional car, the smokey haze in the background, and the car telling us it was 106-degrees outside.  After a bit of unease with the lack of cell service and water we finally rolled into Walla Walla.  Our plan was to be in town a couple days before the festival.  Two days for my version of the trip...a hotel room, good meals and visits to the local vineyards.  I'm so glad we did it this way.  It was nice to be there before the influx of festival goers got to town.  This gave us an opportunity to get into the good restaurants everyone was telling us to go to.  Because as it turned out once the town doubled in population the wait for most places was at least 2 hours.  Instead we got to walk right in and enjoy the local cuisine.  Even better for us was our very first night we ran into the nicest locals.  This town is named the friendliest city and they did not disappoint.  After making instant new friends with this couple (who happen to visit Bozeman once a year...love that!) we learned all the best places to go and added them to our list of things to see.  Continuing with my part of the trip I took advantage the next two days of trying lots of wine...

and taking in the beautiful scenery.  Something about vineyards I find so peaceful.
The bonus was enjoying a soft bed and indoor plumbing knowing things were going to change once we checked out of the hotel.  

Onto part two.  A music festival like this is unlike anything I've ever experienced.  I will be forever grateful to have gotten the opportunity to do so.  Some of it was not great for me.  A lot of it took me out of my comfort zone.  I would do it again in a minute.

We headed to the camping area to set up our tents as soon as they opened it up.  In my planning personality going early for this was totally good for me.  As we pulled into a giant dirt field we saw people already lining up with all their camping things.  Now, I am a Montana girl through and through and have no problem roughing it and camping.  However I have never stood in line, had someone go through my camp things, taken a pedi-cab (cost was $15 plus a beer)...

and then waited in another line for someone to mark off our 12x12 square of camping area.  As I watched more and more (approximately 7,000 to be exact) people begin setting up tents as far as we could see I knew I was in for something different.

This is where I could have began freaking out about what we were doing.  However, we were too busy making new friends with our very close tent neighbors.  Traveling nurses who we'd met in line and who had previously been to a GOTR Stopover event like this, a couple from Seattle who were hilarious and a doctor and his wife, who like us had left kids with grandma to come kick back.  These people became our group over the next couple of days.  Not in the annoying we have to hang out the whole time and have meals with way but in the let's have some beers outside our tiny tent area while waiting for the nights bands to begin.  Finding out things about other peoples lives in the chill way you can when you know you will probably never see them again.  Bonding over your love of music and life and everyone being in the happiest of moods because how could you not.  It's weird meeting and connecting people with like that.  A brief passing.  As I was tyring to explain how much I loved this to Matt on the way home he described it best with a quote he heard..."We're all just supporting cast members in each others lives".  I love this.  These people were just a moment in our adventure but will permanently be a part of our story and memories of this time.  These were great people...kind, generous and always looking for you with a duck sign so we could find each other in the crowd.  

The first night of the festival was Foo Fighters and Matt was beside himself about this.  He's a longtime fan.  I will admit their music freaks me out.  What's with all the screaming?  Why are you all so angry?  I don't get it.  Because of these preconceived notions I really wasn't excited to find ourselves in the middle of the audience so close to the stage with 22,000 people around us.  Right before they took the stage, Matt could tell I wasn't going to be able to handle it.  I really wanted to be okay with it...wanting Matt to get the experience to see close up one of his favorites.  We moved to the side, still close and I tried really hard to be okay with the pushing, shoving, and a head banging Dave Grohl on stage.  I wish I could have, but again best husband ever knows me better and we moved back further.  Finally with air to breath, a fresh perspective and reassurance from Matt that he didn't care where we watched (he was probably totally lying about that but I will be forever grateful for his thoughtfulness to me), I was able to relax.  I was able to enjoy the passion that this band has for their music.  I took in the screaming, head banging (which I still don't understand), the lights and the fans enthusiasm.  It was contagious and that night, I became a Foo Fighters fan as well.  I mean the dude played on a throne with a broken leg and it didn't slow him down at all.  That is passion.  This first night was up and down for me.  The realizing once we got back to the tent that no one apparently sleeps at festivals  was tough for me.  I woke up the next morning after little sleep with mixed feelings.  Part of me wanting to say, this is not for me and head out of town.  Part of me knowing this new day could be amazing.  Not wanting to end the adventure I bought some ear plugs, sleeping pills and was ready to rock day two of the festival.  

Day two we got to see things more my speed.  The  smaller bands took the main stage during the day, a few I was really excited about.  Instead of worrying about getting trampled in the crowd we could sit in the sunshine close to the stage and really enjoy the shows.

I loved everything about this part.  (Two new favorites are Jenny Lewis and Dawes...both are so good).  Then it was back to the "campground" to have a few beers with our festival neighbors before the big show that night.  (Pre-funking was absolutely necessary with beers $10 a piece once inside the venue!)  For Mumford and Sons that evening the whole group decided to watch the show further back...away from the people who had been staking out their spot since the early morning in front of the stage.  Their performance was off the hook.  

Two hours of amazing music, the best vibe from the crowd and happiness all around.  At one point they had everyone take out their phones and turn on the flashlight...it lit up the venue...such a sight to behold.  Over twenty five thousand people with good energy and making memories that I'm sure will stick with all.  As I crashed out that night (and actually slept!) I felt so glad we had stuck it out and experienced the full festival...with all it's ups and downs.  

Early Sunday we woke and afraid of getting trapped in the parking lot with everyone else taking down camp we decided to get out then.  Quietly packing our stuff and trekking across the golf course with our things while many still dozed and a few others had the same idea as us.  Gone was the jovial mood and energy of the previous couple of days and in it's place was looks of getting back into the real world.  No one looked ready to leave it.  For the first hour in the car, winding through beautiful wheat fields, watching the sun rise above the hills giving a golden glow, Matt and I didn't say much.  Not quite ready to let go of the feelings of vacation or to speak of all the experiences.  Letting it all soak into our own minds and processing what we wanted to take away from it.  Once the coffee kicked in the reminiscing began, the chatter of what fun had been had, the friends we had met, the music we had experienced.  Both of us knowing it had been a wonderful adventure.  Another one to add to the many memories we have had together.  Another one to be so grateful for.  

As a first time festival goer, I didn't know what to expect.  Now I know all you need to expect is to have a good time.  To go into it with your mind wide open.  To soak it up because all too quickly it is over.  And, to always bring ear plugs and sleeping pills.  It was my first...it will not be my last.  

I even told Matt that I'd see Foo Fighters again if given the chance.  However, I'll still be a little scared of all the screaming and head banging.  

Happy fifteen years to us.