Sunday, June 04, 2006

Port-A-Potty Screams and Appel Farm Dreams

Confucius say, "He who has low expectations is seldom disappointed."

Okay, I just made that up (unless it was subconscious plagiarism) and now I'm feeling all profound, on so many levels.

Profundity aside, it was with low expectations that my husband and I set off for the Appel Farm Arts & Music Festival Saturday.

For the unfamiliar, this is an annual outdoor festival featuring an impressive lineup of musical acts on two stages. And this year, two of our favorites were playing -- a reunited Toad the Wet Sprocket and hookmeister popsters Fountains of Wayne.

Why the low expectations with such a groovy lineup? Three reasons:

1) It had been pouring rain for much of the past three days.
2) & 3) Our party included two grade-school children (who happen to share our last name and I vaguely remember giving birth to) with a penchant for loud whining at inopportune moments.

But we had free tickets (Thanks Erica - -YOU ROCK!) and the rain was forecast to end by 3 PM . Toad was scheduled to start at 3:30 and we weren't interested in seeing any of the earlier acts anyway. Given that the weather would probably keep the crowds down (and at least it wouldn't be hot) we decided to make the hour drive out to Elmer, NJ.

Our only previous pilgrimage to Appel Farm was six years ago -- with a breastfeeding baby and a 3-year-old, temps in the 90s and a blistering hot sun that made it feel far hotter than that.

So anything other than a torrential downpour would seem fine in comparison

Unfortunately, I was so obsessed with loading up an old Hello Kitty backpack with raingear that we didn't even leave our hometown until after 2:30 and surely would miss the bulk of Toad's set.

But somehow, 3:45 found us throwing down our tarp and blanket and mere moments later WXPN's Michaela Majoun was introducing TTWS. Not only were we on time for Toad, but my husband's suggestion to head to the far side of the field paid off as we snaked through the sea of blankets to a prime spot close to the stage.

And the rain had stopped -- with the temperature hovering around a comfortable 70 degrees -- and cloudy late afternoon skies that meant no sunscreen required (so much easier to child-wrangle when they're not as slippery as greased pigs.)

Our expectations had already been met, and soon would be exceeded.

GLEN PHILLIPS/TOAD THE WET SPROCKET

We own every TTWS CD and nearly all of Glen's solo work, so I guess you could say we are huge fans. Supposedly the band is only reuniting for a couple of shows, so this was a treat.

Glen has one of those great voices that rewards the listener with its agility and brightness. What do I mean by that lovely yet vague phrase? Check out Glen's myspace page to hear some of his latest stuff.

Toad did justice to all their greatest hits -- it was a true pleasure to hear them perform again.

Glen did a couple of his solo songs too. He bantered about how he's been with his wife for 17 years (since they were 18 years old!) and that limits his songwriting (in that he can't write about trying to get a date with some cute girl...) so he tends to write of his disbelief that he's in such a good relationship, that it can't possibly last - even though it has for 17 years!...as he introduced his a solo song that spoke of "waiting for the other boot to drop."

Best of all, our girls were bopping along through the entire hour, including enthusiastic shouts of "Yay!" between songs.

Here's what Glen had to say about yesterday's show (from his MySpace blog):

"The second show was at a festival, throw and go style (put the stuff on the stage, start playing, and hope the soundguy can make sense of it all before the end of the set). It was fun. Just like being in a band...Loud and fun. Everyone has been in good spirits, and we have a laid back, great crew. Lots of old friends. The years have mellowed us all, and it's been a pleasure to be on stage with Toad again and feel like we're not being haunted by the past. Maybe all it takes is time, or maturity, or perhaps a crew of warlocks painting protective diagrams around us to keep the ghosts at bay. Whatever it is, it's working."

The guys were doing a meet-and-greet after their set, and we had a bunch of stuff signed. The girls were totally psyched when Glen and the Toadsters signed their newly-purchased Appel Farm T-shirts.

It wouldn't be a meet or greet if I didn't say something disconcerting to the artist.

But to keep this from becoming an epic (too late, you say?) details will follow when I post photos from the event in a day or two.

DUNCAN SHEIK

Went on after TTWS-- unfortunately we missed half his set while we were in the Toad line.

DS holds a warm spot in my heart, because our oldest really loved the Barely Breathing video way when she was a toddler. And our second daughter was nearly named "Serena" after one of Duncan's songs -- not that we were particularly enamored with the song, but we were looking to give her a name with its own theme song as we did for our first daughter. (Second daughter ended up named after a Jellyfish song which is much more indicative of our musical tastes -- no offense Duncan!)

Anyway, Mr. Sheik did what he does very well. He probably had the best sound mix of the three acts we saw. Got to hear "Barely Breathing" and "She Runs Away" and some other ditties of the same ilk.

Duncan came out after his set and signed stuff (as much of the audience booked to the other stage to see Richard Thompson.) He autographed our girls shirts -- not only was he super-nice about it, but I'm pleased to say he has a very lovely signature. (Again, photos to follow in a future blog.)

Tune in next time for the conclusion of our Appel Farm extravaganza, which will include the action-packed MOZZARELLA STICK INCIDENT and the horror classic SCREAMS FROM A STINKY PORT-A-POTTY.

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