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This must be the place: Ode to Albino Skunk, ode to the spirit of ‘Fes-Taa-Vul’

Kelsey Waldon. (photo: Garret K. Woodward) Kelsey Waldon. (photo: Garret K. Woodward)

It was just about 8:30 a.m. when I awoke in my pickup truck last Saturday. 

Although it was the backseat of the vehicle, I was warm and comfortable in the bright orange sleeping bag (with extra pillows). Reaching for the bottle of water nearby, I downed the entire container in a haste of thirst and dehydration. It was an hour and half from my apartment in Waynesville, but I was exactly where I wanted to be in that moment. 

For over 25 years, the Albino Skunk Music Festival in Greer, South Carolina, has remained a beacon of melodic light for music freaks and the curious alike. It’s a sprawling property in the rural countryside of the upstate. Acres and acres of farmland, now covered with tents and hammocks of folks from seemingly every state within a day’s drive. 

And for someone like myself who covers dozens of gatherings each year, Albino Skunk was my first festival in over a year and a half since the pandemic and complete shutdown of the music industry. 

It was almost poignant that the initial gig back to “normalcy” for me was Albino Skunk, this serendipitous place of people and instruments (of campfires and interactions), almost like a “pick your own adventure book” for adults. 

Packing up the truck Friday afternoon, it was an odd, yet deeply familiar feeling, to be doing so in the name of a music festival. Toss the sleeping bag and pillows into the backseat. Fill the cooler with ice, beer and Gatorade. Fill the tank up with gas. Crank the stereo and roll down the windows, the nose of the truck aimed towards Greer. 

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Though it was a three-day festival, I picked Friday seeing as the entire evening lineup featured three of the finest female-led acts out there today, regardless of genre. 

Encompassing powerhouse vocals and backed by rollicking chug-a-lug bands, the three groups (Kelsey Waldon, Sierra Ferrell, Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters) all represent the current state and robust, promising future for Americana, folk and country music. 

Pulling into the festival grounds on Friday afternoon, it was almost immediately that I began to run into so many familiar and beloved faces, many of which I hadn’t talked to or seen since at least March 2020. When you immerse yourself and your career in the music industry, you eventually realize actually how small the social circles are within what goes on behind the scenes. 

You cross paths with these same industry folks each weekend at festivals and concerts, with Albino Skunk usually the kickoff for “all of us” before we hit the road for the rest of the unknown musical adventures of the summer. 

Publicists. Managers. Radio DJs. Label executives. Promoters. Other journalists. And not to mention all of those incredibly talented musicians who we gather ‘round like moths to the flame. 

Standing backstage and sidestage throughout the night, I kept shaking hands and hugging old friends, that awkward moment lingering initially over whether you can and want to embrace. All of us vaccinated. Everyone eager to once again jump into hearty conversation and sincere gratitude for the moment at hand amid the sacred realm of live music and endless possibilities, onstage and off. 

By the time the final note was plucked, the last echo of the voices through the microphones, all present soon filtered out into the depths of the now dark, tranquil camping areas. Shutdown the stage. Grab a couple beers from the catering area and stuff them in your jacket, for another adventure has begun. Onward.

Underneath thick canopies of trees and brush, those wandering the property would see a campfire in the distance, this light at the end of the tunnel, pulling you ever so close towards other sources of humanity and compassion. Pull the beer can out from your jacket. Crack it open and sip with gusto. 

It was surreal to stroll up to the campfires and introduce yourself in a friendly tone, only to be addressed in a welcoming tone. Making friends with strangers, this thing that was once so normal and easy to do, now like trying to relearn how to ride a bike after years of not doing so. 

Remember how to make genuine small talk with others. Remember what it’s like to see people smile and extend their hand towards you to make your acquaintance.

Remember what it’s like to be present, to be in “the now,” this space of eternal time and place where your soul vibrates happily, triggering the same sentiments and euphoria in those surrounding you. Kindness breeds kindness, all of which occurring in real time.

Far past the midnight hour, you slowly find your way back to the truck. The songs from onstage earlier in the evening ricocheting through your head like some adult lullabies. Your clothes smell of campfire, this comforting, mesmerizing scent you never want to wash out of the fabric of your favorite thick plaid long-sleeve.

Your time at Albino Skunk has come and gone in the blink of an eye, just like it always does when you aim the truck nose in excitement and anticipation towards Greer. Hop into the backseat of the pickup truck. Unzip the sleeping bag. Take a sip of water and fall into a deep slumber in the backwoods of Upstate South Carolina. 

Sleep soundly and mightily, for we’ll all do it over again the following weekend (and the weekend after that, too), at some festival in some faraway place, the faces and interactions beloved and familiar — our souls vibrating happily, once again.

Life is beautiful, grasp for it, y’all. 

Leave a comment

2 comments

  • Thursday night was special with The War and Treaty, and my favorite for the weekend was Lovers Leap. Really great lyrics and melodies THANK for a fine article. Hope to see you in the fall

    posted by William R Thompson

    Sunday, 06/06/2021

  • Thursday night was special with The War and Treaty, and my favorite for the weekend was Lovers Leap. Really great lyrics and melodies THANK for a fine article. Hope to see you in the fall

    posted by William R Thompson

    Sunday, 06/06/2021

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