FAIRfest '15 Redux -- 50 Acts on 3 Stages Over 3 Days: What Are You, Crazy? No, We're Fairfield!
Fairfield Weekly Reader | June 25 by James Moore
Recapping the highlights of this past weekend's 3rd annual FAIRfest is a Herculean task. Why? Because there were so many great moments with 50 acts performing on 3 stages across 3 days. Iowa Public Radio featured FAIRfest on a segment of "Talk of Iowa" and the Des Moines Register juxtaposed the Mumford and Sons' Gentlemen of the Road concert in Waverly vs FAIRfest in a point by point comparison!
Attendance figures, even with Saturday's extreme weather disruption, are estimated by organizers at 12,000 over all the venues over three days. One vendor said he was on par to have his best weekend in 16 years of festivals had Saturday evening not been rained out early. But we'll get to that in a minute.
The vibe? Exquisite! On a near perfect evening, slight breeze, in the lower 80s, Colorado's Friday headliners Elephant Revival lit the sky with their blend of revelatory transcendental, almost incantational, folk harmonies and soaring musicality. And robust afterparties continued at a number of bars around town.
With acts starting at 10am Saturday at the Farmers Market and the Briggs Stage, and 10:30am in the Sondheim, with a great mix of local and regional vendors, plus literary events at the library, sustainability demonstrations and workshops, food exhibits, ballroom and dancers for peace, a misting fan, Singing Cedars kid's corner, tours of the historic Courthouse and Carnegie museum, and much more, a festive atmosphere for the whole family prevailed throughout all three days.
Because of Saturday's early evening storm, the headliner Cyril Neville's Royal Southern Brotherhood, was moved up to 6pm. The Grammy Award-winning lead singer and his band of wicked guitarslingers rocked it as long as they could, before organizers executed a timely and orderly evacuation into the convention center.
Then, as the storm raged, the center went black and something amazing happened. Two of the scheduled acts did their shows from the Sondheim Stage--without any electricity! The Shook Twins performed in the dark by candlelight, as did veteran roots rocker Sam Llanas who called it one of his most memorable concerts in 30 years. Saturday afterparties at the Arbor, Cafe Paradiso and Burning Oak were once again jam-packed and busting at the gills.
Singer/songwriter Sunday was clear skies and offered countless local and regional artists showcases. Sunday's headliner Greg Brown, he of the raspy voice and tender, keen storytelling, was a dream come true, four years in the making, since the very first meeting about creating such a community festival.
Accompanied by the transcendent guitar work of Bo Ramsey, Brown, who hails from nearby Eldon, opened his set with "Fairfield", his colorful ode to the city. After an inspired set that held the audience rapt, he brought daughter Pieta and Ramsey's children Benson and Alex, and other members of The Pines, back on stage for a heartfelt encore finale.
"Fairfield reminds me of Iowa City thirty years ago," he said afterward which strikes me as one of the nicest things anyone's ever said about Fairfield.
Imagine a perennial annual festival with our good neighbor Mr Brown and his family a part of it. Maybe the future is bright enough to buy new sunglasses after all.
[Next week: More on the organization, people and volunteer power that made FAIRfest possible and what it'll take to keep this beautiful cultural success and community amenity alive and growing!!]