The sixth annual Doe Bay Music Fest — the instantly sold-out music festival on Orcas Island, where families and singles gather for outdoor eating, tent camping, and music performances scattered in the woods like Easter eggs — is a wrap.
There likely won’t be a negative review among the 1,200 guests and 250 musicians who convened there Friday and Saturday. That’s partly because Doe Bay Fest happens at the Doe Bay Resort, where lush acres slope to a natural cove with a spectacular view of Blakely, Cypress, Lummi and Sinclair Islands. If you don’t like the view, you don’t like the Pacific Northwest.
The other reason is the blanket of positivity that covered everything. The official vibe of Doe Bay Fest is peace and love, no matter what. The upside side of this vibe was increased kinship and safety. Strangers were motivated to share Rainier beer and leave $1,000 bikes unlocked. They didn’t judge one others’ nude bodies in the hot tubs. The downside side was that it all felt like a Youth Group summer camp for adults. Everyone wanted to know, “Is this your first time?”
So, it’s scenery and scene first — and music, of course, much of which was notable.
This year’s highlight came via Pacific Northwest indie stalwarts Built to Spill, who, for the finale of their headlining set Saturday night, brought a dozen guitar players together for a wailing version of Neil Young’s “Cowgirl in the Sand.” Standing in a field as the guitar notes leapt into the woods, it was like experiencing an indie rock Lynyrd Skynyrd moment. If you paid close attention, you might have seen Built to Spill leader Doug Martsch slip offstage and out through the audience to the sound engineer’s booth. Deep in the crowd, he put his hands on his hips and nodded, seemingly pleased with what he’d created.
Other musical feats over the weekend included Seattle surf band La Luz riling up the open-field audience to the point where a woman jumped on stage and did “the worm”; country rock band the Maldives transforming a tiny yoga studio into a packed nightclub; and hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces playing free-form rap ballads back out in the field, sounding like a spaceship was about to touch down.
Rumors at Doe Bay swirled that this would be the last fest, but resort owner Joe Brotherton said next year’s festival is a sure thing. A Doe Bay representative said the plan is for it to be booked by Sur and Klibborn again, and for Doe Bay Fest to continue to its 10th anniversary, in 2017.
As for what’s behind it all — a respite from Internet fueled alienation? recession depression? — it’s hard to say. But there is medicine at Doe Bay. As Bellingham native Ken Stringfellow (Posies, R.E.M., Big Star) put it, still drunk on an 8:30 a.m. water taxi ride back to Anacortes Sunday, after jamming all night with Built to Spill:
“Doe Bay is a hug.”
Andrew Matson: firstname.lastname@example.org or @andrewmatson