[Interview] Lost Bayou Ramblers & A Full Review of LEAF Festival
I have been a regular at the Lake Eden Arts Festival (commonly known as LEAF) for about four years now. We live in Wilmington, N.C. and drive six hours to get there. It must be a remarkable event to drag my three kids and camp for four days straight, but I promise it doesn’t disappoint! My enthusiasm for this festival grows every year and my children’s interest in music grows as well.
When arriving at the festival, there is a very coordinated check in process that explains all details needed and you are given a program that outlines the entire weekend. You are then given wristbands and sent on your way. This my friends is the start of an incredible weekend that you won’t forget.
During this spring session of LEAF (which is a biannual event), is held May 10-14. The festival provides an abundance of amazing musicians that play cultural music from all over the globe and the United States. There was no shortage of variety to suit anyone who attended. The lake, water sports, healing arts, family adventures, kid’s village are all additional attractions to take in.
Leafer’s can also enjoy a selection of local brews from Pisgah Brewing Company, Sierra Nevada and Green Man Beer; along with the extensive food options (vegetarian and not) from The Sugar Shack to Okie Dokie Smokehouse.
There's a total of six stages for music and no shortage all weekend. Lakeside, which everyone calls the mainstage, is the largest area for seating and dancing while watching the show. Eden Hall still has a large seating area and doubles as the food venue for people who chose to buy a meal ticket. The Barn is quite a hike up the mountain and is a quaint venue for more intimate gatherings and smaller music groups. Brookside is a large barn just up the hill from the lake and can hold a few hundred people for numerous functions. The Jam Tavern is essentially a tent that has open seating and a bar with beer on tap. And for the children, there is the Family Stage where events like children’s yoga and kids hip-hop dance party happen at all times of the day.
We showed up at the check in at 4:30 pm, right on schedule so we didn’t have to wait in the line that inevitably forms with all the Leaf Members. Leaf has changed their policy recently and now you need to be a Leaf Member to be able to purchase “weekend plus” tickets. The difference being is that ability to come on Thursday instead of Friday. We choose to go on Thursdays to get our pick of campsites before the crowds. Usually we setup up camp in the “Dancing Tent” camping section. I’ve noticed over the last few festivals that there is a company called Dancin Dave’s Festival Camping that has grown in the number of tents they supply. So, if you are ever not in the mood to drag all your camping gear, he’s the guy to call! Everything besides your clothes, food, and sense of adventure is included in your rental!
After we set up our mini home away from home and met our new neighbors for the weekend, we strolled down to the lake and sat on the grass to listen to the Welcome Drum Circle. There aren’t many vendors or musicians on Thursday because the bulk of the performances are scheduled for the rest of the weekend. After relaxing and getting acquainted with our surrounds again we head back to camp, grill some hotdogs and get a good night’s rest for all the adventure that Friday holds.
Friday was another great day to be at Leaf. Although the weather ended up not cooperating due to an afternoon torrential downpour, we were still able to work in a day full of eventful fun and enjoyed making memories. Early in the day, we took our kids to breakfast so they could enjoy some delicious fried egg sandwiches from the Sugar Shack. Meanwhile, my husband and I were just as eager to indulge in their signature "Breakfast Thing" wrap, a must have if you've never tried one before.
We then explored some other areas of the festival and took the kids to the Kidstage where they enjoyed the entertainment along with some shaved ice.
Afterward, we headed over to the thoroughly enjoyed the Jon Stickley Trio (read our previous interview with them here). They are a progressive newgrass band and their music is amazing. Their sound is eclectic with a touch of traditional bluegrass added in with just enough new age funk to make their music unique with wonderful sound and rhythm that makes you want to get up and dance. I highly recommend checking them out if you ever get the opportunity.
We made it back to our tent right before we had a downpour for a couple hours or so. Upon evaluating our tent and belongings, we decided that we weren’t going to brave soaking wet bed and blankets overnight when the temp was getting down to 55 degrees. Note to Leafers, make sure your rain fly on your tent is adequate!
All wasn’t lost though. We all went to Brookside and attempted to beginner contra dance class. I still have two left feet and opted to watch the kids instead. After that, we packed our clothes and headed for a dry bed at a local hotel.
Saturday morning, we got up from our hotel and went back to LEAF for my daughter and me to be there for 9:30 AM yoga. There are so many events that children and parents can do together. After yoga, the kids and I walked over to The Elven Caravan and decided to become Elves for the rest of the festival with the addition of latex elf ears fitted to each of us. They garnered more attention than I expected and stayed on all the way until we took showers the following night back at home!
The kids wanted to wander some more and we ended up all getting henna designs painted on our hands and arms. River Dawn, our artist was friendly and incredibly talented. We were all very happy with our work and expect that it will last for a couple weeks or so, which is a bonus the kids get to show off in school the following week.
Most of the morning we hung out at the family stage letting the kids walk on the slack lines and watch the juggling and hula hoop troupes. We headed to the zip line and on our way, we stopped to check out the fiddle contest in the Jam Tavern. We watched a couple of very talented kids fiddle their way into everyone’s hearts. I was impressed, to say the least. During the time we were waiting on our kids to do the zip line a couple times, we sat in our chairs listening to Dirtwire at the Lakeside stage. Playing Global Electro Acoustics, it was a mysterious crossroad of beats, blues, African, Asian And South American sounds.
I also had the opportunity to interview the Lost Bayou Ramblers on Saturday, they had a couple of slots in the festival and I was happy to hear them very shortly after our meeting. Lost Bayou Ramblers was formed in 1999 by brothers Andre and Louis Michot, performing the roots Cajun music they learned as members of Les Frères Michot, the family band their father and uncles formed in the '80s. The brothers now take the traditional music they were raised with to new levels of rhythmic energy and spontaneity, producing the punk and psychedelic labels given to the band by reviews over the years.
After my interview, we all went down to the lake and the kids went belly yacking. For those who don’t know what that it, think laying on your belly on a kayak shaped boat and paddling with webbed gloves. They loved it, and we ended up buying more passes for them to go again and again. After all the physical excitement, we took the kids back to our tent and made some dinner. We all hung out with our neighbors while they were singing and kids rested for a while.
At 9:00 pm, we all went down to the lake for the Fire Performance by Unifire Theater. These performers skills involved juggling, baton twirling, poi spinning, fire breathing, fire eating, and much more. We were all amazed and left very happy.
Waking up to a single flute player and the lake covered in a rolling fog in one of the most peaceful experiences I’ve ever had. I wish we didn’t ever have to leave. This festival has such a community feel and I will be bringing my family back every year. If you get a chance to go and experience LEAF, you will not regret it!