Doe Bay Fest sold out in a virtual blink of an eye this year, and after attending it, it’s easy to see why.
First,there’s the location; an incredibly scenic corner of Orcas Island that feels relatively unspoiled, yet still close enough to civilization for all but the most jaded city slickers. Nestled in the Eastern portion of Puget Sound, it’s surrounded by salt water and encrusted with more gorgeous wilderness than you can shake a (walking) stick at.
Second, the Fest combined the best of both worlds on an organizational level. Efficiency (quick check-in lines, a relatively small cap of 750 paying Fest-goers, clearly-marked signage) merged effectively with good old-fashioned courtesy and customer service (Doe Bay’s staff, and the Fest’s own employees and volunteers, proved helpful and courteous to visitors throughout the weekend).
Oh, and there was the music.
Organizer Kevin Sur and company have boiled down the band selection to a fine art by now (this was the third Doe Bay Fest in as many years), somehow managing to find a roster that felt diverse, yet still very much spiritually-kindred. Friday night’s mainstage lineup started out with the Black Whales, whose blend of psychedelia and Americana went down well in the late-afternoon sun.The Elliot-Smith-esque poetic pop of Fences (AKA Seattle songwriter Christopher Mansfield and band) followed with sharply-observed songs of love and loss; and the wonderful Portland Cello Project contrast their impassioned readings of obscure classical pieces with a riotous and playful cover of OutKast’s “Hey Ya”. Hey Marseilles cut through the night sky with a rousing dose of European-tinged songs that owed a nod to cabaret and Devotchka-styled eclecticism; and the audience ate it up.
Many of the acts on Saturday reflected (and felt reflected by) the placid beauty of the surroundings: Grand Hallway played their gorgeous brand of orchestral pop bathed in Saturday afternoon solar glow (‘Blessed Be, Honeybee,” for real). The mournful country princess Zoe Muth and her Lost High Rollers, and the earthy roots sound of the Maldives, felt carved from the conifers that rose from the grounds surrounding them. It was great to see Drew Grow and the Pastors’ Wives shouting their pop hymnals to a shining blue sky, and to hear the Fruit Bats’ imaginative pop play to a receptive and happy evening crowd. Great as they all were, though, Ye Olde Concerts Examiner’s favorite mainstage discovery turned out to be Seattle’s Curtains for You. This fabulous ensemble throws together vintage Kinks loping piano, sunny Beach Boys harmonies, and heartfelt-but-witty lyrics with a verve that’d make local power pop mainstays The Posies proud.
In addition to the Main Stage, the Doe Bay Patio (a lovely little performance space that overlooked Otter Cove) and the resort’s Yoga Studio played host to several great performances. Friday night saw Ye Olde Concerts Examiner discover another jewel of a band, Ravenna Woods, whose frantically strummed and jumpy acoustic songs had the Yoga Studio crowd thoroughly energized; Saturday’s Yoga Studio acts represented a great contrast: Kelli Schaefer put aside her dusky country crown of thorns to rock out for an extra-sweaty combo of covers and originals, and the set by local hip-hop duo THEESatisfaction brought a much-appreciated cocktail of booty-shaking beats and tuneful smarts to said studio (open request to Doe Bay’s brain trust: please give these ladies some mainstage space next time, on account of the fact that they cooked). The Patio Stage hosted several solo acoustic acts, including great sets by Grand Hallway’s Tomo Nakayama and Shenandoah Davis and the pop-minded Ivan and Alyosha.
Sadly, Ye Olde Concerts Examiner was forced to cut Sunday short (and miss sets from the wonderful Indian Valley Line and Youth Rescue Mission) to get home, pointing up the one sore point of Doe Bay Fest–namely, the maddeningly long ferry lines. A few more boats on the water for the next Doe Bay Fest, and it’ll go straight from really, really, really awesome to complete and total heaven on earth.