I had a lot of first time experiences at CalderaFest. Not only was this my first camping festival, it was also my first pagan festival. I’ll admit that I knew very little about the pagan music scene going into this. Had it not been for a friend having a spare ticket, I wouldn’t even had known that CalderaFest existed.
Speaking of first time experiences, it’s important to mention that this festival is not only the first CalderaFest, but also the first time a very important album was released. Most of the musicians performing at CalderaFest got together to record an album called “The Green Album”. Each song on the album was brand new, plus the people who attended the festival were some of the first people to be able to hear the original tracks.
Day 1 (Thursday)
My friend and I decided it would be for the best if we showed up early to find a good camping spot. We managed to find a beautiful shaded spot under the trees. The stage that played music was located somewhere near “Gardener’s Green”, and we got to camp out near “Figg’s Passage”, so we could still hear the music clearly, even if we were at our tent.
I will say that one of the things I was excited about was the idea of swimming in the pond, but instead we found “do not swim” signs with the most horrific memes I’ve ever seen in my entire life.
May all the Gods and elements of this earth prevent me from ever being in a situation where “Parasitic Infected Naughty Bits” has to be uttered.
There were several signs all around the small pond and it was easily the most hilarious way to warn people about the dangers of swimming. I think it’s also worth mentioning that there was so much to see and do that I wasn’t upset about the pond.
Since there was no music going on, we decided to check out the vendors. Some vendors were still setting up their spot, But once all the tents were up, the entire field was filled with a crazy amount of shops. Everything ranging from wands, unique clothes, instruments, art of mythical creatures, homemade weapons, and specialty rocks.
I was happy we managed to get to the vendors and meet a lot of the musicians before they had to perform. That also gave us time to walk around the woods and check out the beautiful scenery.
Note: So many amazing bands performed at this event. There was honestly not one band that performed that I at least found something about them that I liked, so I’m going to mention as many as I can.
Day 2 (Friday)
*Robin Renee: The first act of the day. The ones that actually managed to crawl out of their tents around 9am, were treated to this lovely singer from New Jersey. Considering I didn’t know much about pagan music when I went into this fest, I was afraid a lot of the music wouldn’t be up my alley. I ended up really liking her music, so it made me more excited for the other bands that were going to play.
*Ginger Doss & Lynda Millard: I was really digging how some of her songs had a”pagan funk” sound to them. Then to my complete surprise, Ginger start rapping about Ganesha and it was actually done really well. It was the first time I had ever heard a Hindu inspired rap song and I was actually impressed with how it came out.
*Senam Palmer: Probably one of the more unique acts of this fest. His music was a bunch of guitar loops that kept building on top of one another. My only complaint about his set was that I wish it was a little bit louder. I wanted to be able to pick up more of the tones he was making. Beyond that, I actually really enjoyed it.
* Witch’s Mark: I didn’t know that there was going to be any metal bands playing this weekends. So when I spent the whole day listening to relaxing music, the fast paced drums and those amazing high-pitched metal vocals really woke me up for the rest of the day.
*Damn the Bard, a man who came all the way from England to perform in Georgia. During his set, he brought a child on stage to not only have everyone sing Happy Birthday to her, then having everyone light up the field with their cell phones, making it look a night sky. He ended his performance by singing The Cauldron Born, one of my favorite tracks from him.
*Dragon Ritual Drummers: The Friday headliners who came all the way from Canada to perform! Before they would perform a song, they would give a short history lesson about the drum rhythms and culture / religions they came from. They put on an amazing performance and had fantastic songs dedicated to Gods, such as Papa Legba and Ogun. I was very thankful that they traveled all the way from Canada to share their songs.
As my friend and I left, we realized that just because the music stopped on stage, that didn’t mean that everyone agreed it was time for bed. There were drum circles from far off in the field playing wildly in the night. It was such an amazing experience to lay in a tent, look at the stars, and hear these crazy parties echoing through the woods.
Day 3 (Saturday)
Despite the crazy drum circles and still not getting use to sleeping on a mattress, my friend and I came for the music and we weren’t going to let lack of sleep get in the way of that!
*Mama Gina: At this point, I’m blown away that so many musicians can wake up as early as they do and play music. I’m use to concerts starting at 9 PM, not 9 AM. Luckily for me and everyone else who made it down to the main stage, we were greeted to Mama Gina’s music. One of the tracks that stood out to me the most was Paladin Schmaladin, a song about a Paladin trading in his safe religious life for the life of a pirate. A good tongue-in-cheek song was a great way to start my day.
*Bekah Kelso: She ended up bringing her child with her and a lot of the musicians were awesome enough to watch after the kid while she performed. You gotta respect someone who can balance the musician life and the mom life.
*Wendy Rule: I found myself zoning out and mentally traveling to my own little world while listening to her music. Songs like “Elemental Chant” and “The Circle Song” were perfect songs to listen to while the sun was going down and the wind was finally beginning to pick up.
*THE GREEN ALBUM: As I’ve already mentioned, this was the first time anyone got to hear these songs. I could tell it was an emotional experience for a lot of the musicians on stage. The album that they worked so hard on had finally became a reality that they could share with their fans. I really felt privileged to be apart of that moment.
Tuatha Dea: This was one of the few bands I managed to look up and was one of the reasons I was excited to come. They played deep into the night and seemed to have no intentions at slowing down the energy of the festival… So much so that the cops decided to come… Thankfully, the cops were find with just giving a warning. I was just happy that they managed to play Long Black Curl before the night ended.
At the end of the day, I started reflecting on the past two days and I realized how tight the pagan music community is. It was very common to see members from other bands to be invited on stage to perform. I would even argue that S.J Tucker alone was on stage a good 40% of the whole weekend. At this point the entire weekend was like watching one big family reunion.
Day 4 (Sunday)
Normally, the last day of vacation can be a bit of a downer. Slowly, you begin to realize that you’re gonna have to go back into the “real world” and get things back to “normal”. But there was so much to do that day that I didn’t have that “the end is near” feeling.
*Wendy Rules Workshop: I wanted to try at least ONE workshop this weekend, So I decided to check out the workshop by Wendy Rule. It seemed appropriate that I’d attend the workshop since her regular music was already making me feel like I was going into a trance.
Everyone attending sat in a circle while Wendy gave us various instructions regarding the 4 elements (Earth, Water, Air, and Fire). Wendy had us close our eyes, focus on one element at a time, then she would have two guitar players play a 5-8 minute song that was unique to that element. For example, air was very calm, fire was very intense, etc.
* Cepheus: After the workshop, my friend and I were going to take a break from music, but then we noticed this beautiful and harsh post-rock echoing through the woods. Which completely took me by surprise because I wasn’t expecting a band like that to be playing CalderaFest. We managed to get to the stage near the end of their set when the lead singer started screaming the lyrics to his song. He didn’t even use a microphone and his voice would echo through the field over the softly played guitar riffs.
*Rowena of the Glen: She has this very unique raspy voice that goes so well with her “spooky witch” theme. During her set, the power generator when out. Despite that happening, she managed to keep her set rolling by doing an improv acoustic set.
* Black Sun Prophets: One of the few heavier rock bands of the fest and a great one at that. The song of theirs that caught my attention the most was “Jesus was a Witch”. Which wasn’t a song meant to insult Jesus, but to explain their interpretation on why he was crucified. And on a side-note, the fact that they call their drummer, who is the only white guy in the group “Gringo-Starr” is fucking hilarious.
*S.J Tucker: After seeing her appear on stage numerous times to perform with other musicians, it was a pleasure to finally see her perform her original songs. I ended up gaining a lot of respect for her on her songs regarding the LGBT community.
*Didges Christ Superdrum: The final band of this fest. This band was one of the few bands I knew about that convinced me that I had to go to CalderaFest. Didges Christ Superdrum completely blew me away with their live performance. Each song they performed had a dancer on stage with a unique costume representing the message behind the song.
They ended their set by playing their song “Snake Oil”. My friend was kind enough to let me borrow her phone to film the last bit. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the night.
~*~ Honorable mention~*~
My friend and I meet a talented musician named Bryan Boring Van Unen and his wife. He was not playing this fest, but after talking to him and his wife in between sets, we got to know each other and discussed the kind of music we like to write. Also, his wife looked at me and said “I feel this strong need to give these to you…. For some reason, I think these socks are calling your name”.
And dammit, she was right.
Day 5 (Monday morning)
After an amazing 4 days, it was time to pack up and leave.
I was tired, my body hurt from sleeping on the ground, and I was a little sun burnt…
And yes, it was 100% worth it.