By Steven Graham
There is magic at Doe Bay.
You hear people talk about it all the time. You tell them you are making your first trip to Doe Bay Fest and veterans of the festival spend the next 15 minutes telling you how incredible of a place it is and how it’s the perfect setting for live music. You can listen to them and nod your head all you want but the bottom line is that you can’t truly understand until you go to see it for yourself, and even then you aren’t completely certain you believe what you saw.
You wait in line for hours at the Anacortes ferry landing wondering if you will ever actually make it out to Orcas because the lines are so long. Then, while you sit on the beach waiting for your turn to cross and talking to your campmate about how excited you are to see Gold Leaves perform, there they go walking past you with their instruments in hand. You finally take your seat on the ferry and realize you are sitting three seats from Kris Orlowski, you look up just in time to see Kendra and Meagan from Lemolo walk by you and it becomes clear that even though you aren’t at Doe Bay yet, Doe Bay has started.
You finally arrive much later than expected to assemble your tent in the dark and make your way to the Doe Bay Cafe, where you find a very large crowd has gathered inside to watch Josiah from The Head and the Heart hosting open mic and setting up to play a couple of songs himself. He tells a story about the origin of the song and announces that it’s the first time he’s ever performed it and you feel like you are part of something special.
Each day is loaded with great music from bands as local as Orcas Island or as far away as Virginia and Tennessee. Every set amazingly seems better than the last, whether you are familiar with the band or not, and the landscape is as beautiful as you could ask for.
As impressive as the lineup always is at Doe Bay Fest, the most exciting and special moments are the ones that aren’t on the schedule. Like the “secret” show under the apple tree at midnight when Noah Gunderson, Daniel Blue, John Roderick, and Bobby Bare Jr. took turns playing songs for at least an hour and a half in front of over 100 fans. It was clear that for many, this unexpected gem was the highlight of the festival.
Doe Bay owner Joe Brotherton said it best when he said, “Welcome to Doe Bay, the land of the worst-kept secrets” while explaining that The Cavesingers, who were supposed to headline the event, weren’t going to be there and that Pickwick had arrived last minute to save the day and replace them. Hours before Pickwick took the stage, word had spread through the campgrounds and through the crowds that there had been a Pickwick sighting and that the band was unloading gear. Pickwick delivered and fans rejoiced.
After a weekend of incredible performances, beautiful sights, new friendships and once-in-a-lifetime encounters with some of your favorite artists, you have to ask yourself, “Is this real? Did it actually happen the way I remember?” and somehow the answer is yes.
“Keep an eye open for magic. It has been here before and we expect it this weekend” — Joe