Artsfest 2010

by J.D. Cook

2010-0529_DarcieAndDylanMemorial Day weekend is the time for grilling, kicking back with a cold perspiring beer, and, if you are in the Harrisburg area, visiting Artsfest, a small festival held on the banks of the Susquehanna River. It’s been a staple of my Memorial Day weekend for a few years now and every year I have found it more enthralling, like a great bottle of wine that gets better with age. That is every year except this one.

Before explaining what I felt was wrong with this year’s Artsfest, I must first confess that I was in a bitterly sad mood. I had just been broken up with two days prior to the festival but I was looking forward to Artsfest cheering me up, and to an extent it did. Still, as a whole I did not come away, unlike in years past, feeling like it was a wonderfully executed festival.

For the first time, this year Artsfest was no longer free – you were charged five dollars on entry, and had to wear a bracelet. This actually did not bother me that much – if something is good you will inevitably have to pay for it, that is the American way. What bothered me was that this year the festival was a huge deal smaller than in years past. I understand that the city of Harrisburg is in financial crisis due to their efforts to go green, but they have to understand that if your suddenly charge for a previously free festival people will expect it to be even better than before or they will be disappointed.

That said, my favorite part of Artsfest every year, made my day this year. Darcie Miner, whose new album Loneliness Anoynomous I recently reviewed here, was just as good, if not better as in years past.

Although at the beginning of her set with the four-piece Darcie Miner Band, the sound technician could not seem get anything right, by the third song all the problems seemed to be resolved (but considering it was only an eight song set, this is a big problem). Luckily, guitarist Jimmy Patton stayed crisp through the entire set, and most of the songs sounded even better then on the album, which is something I did not think possible considering how good Loneliness Anonymous is. The guitar filling in for the (absent) synthesizer introduction in the song “Patience” was really interesting and Miner’s lyric “…Faith Flying up near the sun..” had a particularly strong effect on me. The only complaint I have from this performance, is not really a complaint at all. On the song “24” a lot of emphasis is put on a certain four-letter word that, of course, was impossible to say that at a family-oriented festival. Unfortunately, “24” builds up to that word with every syllable and without it the song feels like it never really hits the climax that it should. The set ended with “There is No Getting Through”, which is the same song the album concludes on, and just like on the album Patton’s steel guitar sounds vibrant and emotional.

In the end, seeing Darcie Miner live made my day, and meeting her afterward and finding that she remembered and enjoyed my past article, pulled me out of my depressed mood. Unfortunately, the Darcie Miner Band was really the only highlight at Artsfest for me this year. Maybe it was only me, but I just did not get the same vibes from walking around the festival as in years past. Everything seemed rushed and staged and targeted towards getting you to spend money. Art just should not be just about money. Art should be about something higher and deeper and it is conceived simply for money it tarnishes and corrupts the art itself. Look at any current Hollywood remake, or pop song these days and you will see exactly what I mean.