A musical interlude down on the farm
KEMPTON If there are no second acts in American life, as Scott Fitzgerald once thought and then found to be untrue, it’s not because Americans are particularly unforgiving – witness the tight schedule of shame and reappearance some of our politicians keep – but because we’ve never learned how to put an end to Act One.
Modern life is an ongoing farce of artificial demands that will not stop itself; its logic is to go on and on, then ask for more. People are lining up on Thanksgiving morning to buy TVs these days, for the love of Miles Standish. Man must make his own times and places for a break, an interlude, whenever and wherever he can.
The “interlude” was initially its own sort of farce. Like we have trampoline dunkers and cheerleaders during the timeouts of basketball games, the medieval morality plays had interludes to keep the crowds engaged between tales of a traveller encountering Charity and Chastity and all the other virtues in some fantastic land. Now that life is so fast-paced and farcical, and vacations often are more stressful than dull days at the desk or machine, our truest interludes, our breaks from the everyday, are ones of leisure and peace. Go out to a small festival, one where you’re not all crowded up against one another, and sometimes a few days of true interlude can be found.
Such was the case at the second Zucchini Moon, a gathering at a working farm in this northern corner of Berks County put on by Alex Archambault of Grateful Acres Veggie Farm. In these hills, within a mile of the nearest stoplight/ interstate interchange, you can find a tavern that still has the fryer and grill behind the bar; a Country Store that sells Rocky Mountain oysters from a goat; and a sleekly finished wine tasting room for the bypassing bougies looking for a daytime vino fix.
Up on the farm, campers found their breaks from the heat in the pond, complete with overhanging zip line, and found their breaks from the relentless beat of modern life in the music, which was full of push and pull, tension and release, and all manner of interludes, whether the texture and timbre of the music came from a digital processor or a lone foot stomping on the wooden stage.
The Boiled Owls, of the Lehigh Valley, take the acoustic approach: inside their bluegrassy songs, sung with humorous vim by lead singer Christopher Murphy, they spare no joy in strumming one more time through a simple bridge. Then they make that hard stop, with the banjo, guitar, mandolin, bass and box all hitting at once and going silent. Then they start back up into those simple chords, and again to the end.
You You Dark Forest, of Reading, played “traditional” rock rhythm that moved the heads to banging in a dozen different tempos. And Muppet’s Titanium Stardust Machine twirled saxophone, keyboards and drums into long interludes from structure and reason.
Face and the Filthies, of Philadelphia, used some classical interludes during their Friday night set. Armed with an unorthodox instrumentation, cellist Sam Frier, beatboxer Brendan O’Hara, pianist KayCee Garringer, and pianist/vibist Danny Wood scraped and plinked and spat and bounced through originals and covers, sometimes with a surprising heaviness. They then took a minute here and there to push reset in the minds of the audience by stealing a minute of music from a dead German or Lauryn Hill. The familiar melody was stated, then ended abruptly, without more notes that everyone expected to hear. Those moments of huh? are when people stop and feel that they’ve been granted a break in the action for a minute. Or, too rarely, for a whole weekend.