There is a street in the middle of the Pecan Grove at the Walnut Valley Festival which splits the campground, and is the doorway to the spirit of American music.
After the concerts are done and very late at night the “real” musicians come out. These are not highly-paid professionals. These are people like me, with regular jobs from regular places. They are just people who love music and they play for the sheer enjoyment of it all.
While at the festival last week, I realized it was my 11th year to attend. Ive missed only one since moving to Kansas.
Of course the musicians are great. Some of the finest musicians there are play at this festival. There were some new ones this year as there always are, and some old standbys are always fun to see.
As good as the music is, that is not what keeps me going back. It is also not what makes me want to camp out for over a week in crowded conditions in all kinds of weather.
What keeps me going back is main street in the Pecan Grove.
Until Saturday I planned out who I wanted to see and I plotted to get a good seat for some. Saturday onward I just wandered around listening to different acts.
I did enjoy the concerts. They were smooth, professional and outstanding. The sound systems were also great. They really know how to put on a great show at the Walnut Valley Festival.
Even during the day while listening to people like Beppe Gambetta, arguably one of the finest flatpick guitar players in the world, my thoughts would wander to Main Street.
Conditions were not as ideal in the Pecan Grove on Main Street.
Thursday there was rain, Friday and Saturday evenings were on the chilly side, but i never hesitated to head for Main Sreet when the time was right - usually after midnight.
There were some great musicians on the street in the Pecan Grove. There was one woman who played guitar and fiddle, and sang with authority and emotion. Really she was as good as anyone on the main stage during the festival. She seemed to be the ring leader of this one gathering, and I listened to her for a couple hours at least.
I remember man who had a fiddle and seemed to want to play, but somehow never actually did, but he carried his fiddle around and had a good time.
Those were the extremes, and everyone else was somewhere between the two with all kinds of instruments.
All along this Main Street there are crowds wandering around. There are also small groups of musicians playing.
Musicians can wander from group to group and join in as they feel the muse.
While the professionals are top-notch and hardly ever miss a beat, the sound is very differeing on Main Street in the Pecan Grove.
There are missed beats a plenty. There are rough voices. People playing out of tune and some of them too drunk to care.
But there are also some really good ones, and some of them do eventually wind up on the main stage at the festival.
When the music flows like this, it doesn’t really even matter if you are good or not. That isn’t the point of music on Main Street. The point is to let the music that is inside you out so others may hear.
It is to communicate at a very basic level where even words do not exist.
There are no age differences, no male or female, no races on Main Street in the Pecan Grove.
There is just music in its purest form.
So that is why I’m already planning for next year.