In the Pursuit of Music | “The Festival Fanatic”

The only time I’ve been south of the Mason-Dixon Line was to go to Austin City Limits in 2007 and, quite frankly, I barely count the liberal oasis of Austin, Texas as the South. In fact, I had never heard a real Southern accent until I went to Nateva this summer and met James. And, let me tell you, James is from the South. Hailing from Shreveport, Louisiana, he was the last person I expected to meet in rural Maine. But there he was, sitting at our friend Kelsi’s campsite on Saturday morning, and when we started to chat, his Southern accent is what admittedly drew me in, but his story is what kept me listening.Going to a music festival had always been on James’s bucket list, and he had never been to one before this summer. I was in the same boat and wanted to go to a music festival, but James is much ballsier than I am. In his words, “I figured go big or go home for the first trip, so I planned it around as many festivals as I could,” and he’s not exaggerating when he says he tried to go to as many as he could. He started with Wakarusa in the Ozarks, worked his was to Bonnaroo and then drove up the East coast to get to Nateva. By the time we met him in early July, James had become a pro at, well, attending music festivals. And James’s cross-country touring has extended well beyond Labor Day. In fact, when I finally got a chance to chat with him, he had just returned from a trip to Red Rocks, Colorado for a three-day Furthur concert, which he happily told me was “Just over 1,000 miles away!” His Facebook profile is plastered with the dates of the different concerts and festivals he’s planning on attending over the next couple months, and they’re all over the map.

But it’s also important to note that James isn’t some kind of groupie. He clearly has favorite bands, but he is not following a single group around the country. Rather, James is in the pursuit of finding good music and, maybe more importantly, good people. In fact, it isn’t just the music that has drawn him toward this quasi-nomadic lifestyle. When I asked him why he loved going to concerts, his response was somewhat vague, but I think that’s indicative of why he does what he does: “I’m not really sure what exactly it is about live music that gets me going. I just know that when I’m at a show the rest of the world disappears and nothing matters but right now.” When you go to a festival, you already know that you have one thing in common with everyone else in the venue, and being with people who are all looking for the same, positive experience is sort of magical.

After spending so many months trekking cross-country to find music festivals, James is now trying to bring that experience to his hometown of Shreveport. He travels to find music because he believes that there is “an extreme lack of good music in the Shreveport area. Rather than move somewhere else I want to fix Shreveport’s music scene.” Apparently, Shreveport used to be a mecca for live music and James claims that Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, and Elvis all got their starts there. Now, James is straight out of Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.” And if he finds the land for this festival, you can expect this New Yorker to take the trip to the Deep South for the first time in her life because I know that James understands what makes a music festival, and live music in general, such a positive and memorable experience for all.

P.S. If you’re interested in reading about all of James’s summer adventures, I highly recommend checking out his blog at http://www.onejamminsummer.blogspot.com.

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Maxine Builder is a sophomore majoring in International Relations and Community Health. If you want her to serenade you on ukulele or just know someone who is a music fanatic that should be featured in this column, shoot her an e-mail at maxine.builder@tufts.edu.

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