Rockin' in the WRV
Photography: Dev Khalsa
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One thing is for sure, the Wood River Valley offers a great live music scene. But, Whiskey’s, The Mint and the Silver Dollar aren’t the only places to catch great rock ’n’ roll. Summertime presents two more incredible regular venues for live music lovers: The Northern Rockies Folk Festival and Ketch’em Alive!
It’s the beginning of August, 2006. I stop at the tiny taqueria in Bellevue to pick up a couple of burritos, some fresh sweet limes and an ice-cold sixpack. I’m on my way to the Northern Rockies Folk Festival, at Hop Porter Park in Hailey, and need sustenance.
“We don’t promote anything,” says festival director Kit Neraas, “so you can bring in your own beer and wine, and any food you might want to eat. We do have some food booths too.”
As I spread my fare over a striped blanket, I spot others’ goodies: coolers packed with iced drinks and elaborate picnics, blankets and lawn chairs dotted around. Everyone is getting ready for a night of music and dancing.
Neraas is proud of the fact that the festival has not had to rely on corporate sponsorship. “That way, we’ve let the community dictate the vibe,” he says.
And, what a vibe. While I breathe in the atmosphere, I’m reminded of an old Grateful Dead tune:
“Sun went down in honey and the moon came up in wine, You know stars were spinnin’ dizzy, Lord The band kept us too busy, we forgot about the time.”
Tonight, The Bonedaddys fuse the crowd with their signature funk. It’s impossible not to party. As I frantically scribble in my notebook, an older gent in psychedelic pants grabs me by the arm. “Quit your writin’ and come and dance,” he yells.
While I mambo in and out of the crowd, I am delighted by my fellow revelers. The atmosphere is balmy and the stars are out. Kids, sweethearts, and grandparents are chanting and laughing. Psychedelic pants bops around me and hollers, “This is my 29th folk festival.”
Without a doubt, Neraas and festival president Pete Kramer put on quite a show. I ask Neraas how he goes about picking bands, for it seems the festival doesn’t limit itself to folk music.
“Folk music,” Neraas informs me, “means that the music is verbally handed down. We’ve had rock, bluegrass, drums, and electric guitars from the beginning.”
As for the latest in the music scene, he continues. “I see what’s going on at the big festivals in Colorado—Telluride, the Strawberry Music Festival in California. However, we’re not as expensive as them. We don’t want to be. We want our community and our families to be able to afford this great music.”
As festival attendees might testify, there is nothing quite like an outdoor concert to create irresistible memories of summer. Wood River Valley residents, however, need not wait until the first week of August to dance under the stars. For, throughout the summer, Ketch’em Alive! has become a weekly staple.
Alive After 5
“I’ve always felt that every warm summer night in this Valley is a precious opportunity for intrigue and romance,” says Ketch’em Alive! committee chair, Will Caldwell. “Ketch’em Alive! has the sense of an all-community party, and now it’s even better because it is every week, it’s free and so accessible. Right in the heart of Ketchum, where the locals know their friends will all be there, and tourists will get a special experience of our small town and its fun-loving people.”
Walking downtown on a Tuesday night with my two- year-old goddaughter, Devon, I follow the strains of world beat to Forest Service Park on First and Washington. Cars line the streets and a colorful crowd spills onto the pavement. In the park, kids boogie to the opening band.
I scoop Dev into my arms and head, twirling, to the cobbled dance floor. She is delighted.
“Most fans of Ketch’em Alive!” says Caldwell, “will tell you that the most memorable thing for them is seeing the little kids dancing in front of the stage in total free spirit during the early part of the concert, before the adults get their mojo going.
“Visitors here comment on how liberated and uninhibited the locals are,” he continues.
I ask Caldwell what sort of music can we look forward to at Ketch’em Alive! this summer.
“African, bluegrass, reggae, world beat,” he says. “I select bands for the stage that can compete with the people moving through the crowd and especially bands that will get the people dancing. That is the true connection between the music and the audience.”