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Far West Fest 2014 an exceptional blend of music, food, and community

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West Marin's Annual Far West Fest

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Far West Fest (FWF) in Marin County’s picturesque Pt. Reyes Station is so much more than an amazing music festival, so much more than a delectable attraction for local-vores and foodies; it’s a celebration of community, a participation in the rejuvenation of social awareness in our respective ways of life, and a very real and active advocate for social service and at-risk youth. Working with over half dozen local charities, including West Marin Community Services and Food Bank, and the much loved and people-powered KWMR Community Radio, FWF has managed to raise more than $250,000 in her young life, making the title of “Best Marin County Music Festival” for six years running no mere accolade.
As the scene rolled out on that fine summer’s morning of July 26, 2014, early risers and busy vendors were treated to the Far West Sunrise sessions, which included an array of morning victuals accompanied by guided yoga and acoustic morning music while the sun rose over the Inverness Ridge.
Shortly after the morning preparations had been made, near Main Stage East at the North Bay Hootenanny Stage at the Willows, a beautiful scene began unfolding. Aptly named for the small cluster of trees that offered shade and comfort in the ever increasing heat, one could find a Burning Man inspired, woodworked Wheel of Fortune alongside a spacious and well pillowed gypsy tent, complete with a free Tarot reading and a view of the stage.
And what a stage it was. Built by a man from the town of Sonoma, Mr. Tobias Weinberger, the moveable structure was a true piece of architectural creativity and old school work ethic. Built on a truck trailer, the stage had the appearance of an actual gypsy wagon, with expert woodwork, curtained windows and doors and walls that opened on all sides, to create a very intimate and very functional traveling performance area.
This proved to be a true gem of the festival, as every single band and musician that graced her contours, came with an enigmatic draw that easily complimented the already inspired atmosphere. This perfect blend of scenery and music was due in large part to the tireless efforts of one of hardest working men in the Bay Area music scene, Mr. Josh Windmiller of the Crux and the North Bay Hootenanny.
“I just love putting music together, finding bands and acts that complement each other well… like pieces of a puzzle.” Indeed, the pieces of this puzzle came together like a living network of positive connectivity, growth, and harmony in the truest sense of the word.
The Caravan showcased acts like Cello Joe, the bicycling, beat-boxing badass cellist with his own cycle powered generator; the Danny Vitali, Jr. Band, featuring members of Hightide Collective, who brought a surprising amount of synergy and outright rock to the Caravan; and Frankie Boots & the County Line, toe-tappiin’, whiskey shootin’ excellence from Sonoma County’s own Sebastopol, Ca. Catch an entertaining video here, to see why this band was voted “Best Country/ Americana Band” in the North Bay Bohemian.
Definitely not least in this lineup was The Crux and its string savvy group of multi-faceted and fired up talent, rapidly becoming a Bay Area staple, branching out from the streets and hot spots of Santa Rosa and into the hearts of music lovers and festival goers from all around the county and beyond.
Meanwhile, just about the time that Cello Joe was getting his act together at the nearby Willows, the Marin County super group San Geronimo was busy pushing through setup and some technical difficulties as it prepared to open up Main Stage East with its exciting blend of homespun Americana and hard driving rock and roll.
Fronted by true ringleaders Jeremy D’Antonio on guitars, vocals and harmonica, and Darren Nelson of Honeydust on vocals, guitars, and relentless enthusiasm, San Geronimo is a collection of talented, well-seasoned players from well-known acts all over the Bay area. San Geronimo expertly started its set, and, essentially the entire day, with a perfectly chosen, slow, pulsing ballad. Anyone can play fast but it takes pro to play it slow, and these boys are nothing if not pros. The band moved effortlessly from the relentless and almost bitterly driven intro into some of their steadfast, harder rock favorites and again into newer music, maintaining a distinct crescendo throughout the set.
With the remarkable fingers of Dave Zirbel dancing on electric guitar and pedal steel, the barely contained, ferocious precision of Dan “You’ll Always Be A-“ Leuhring (say it out loud) on drums and the rhythmic backbone of bass created by Brian Rashap, San Geronimo is an absolute kick in the pants and nothing short of a fun time. As the sunlight glinted off of Nelson’s aviators, the breeze gently entwined in his locks, the band simply soared.
Sometime thereafter, on the same stage, an onslaught of total gator funk and absolute showmanship came in from the Big Easy in the guise of the Honey Island Swamp Band (HISB). Made up of New Orleans locals and born from the devastation and displacement of Katrina, the band’s founding members Aaron Wilkinson on mando, bass and vocals and New Orleans sessions mainstay Chris Mule’ on guitar and vocals, had such an immediate presence and chemistry on stage that the band fell into full swing from the moment they played their first notes. With a big, vibrant sound that carried dancers on it like surfers on a wave, HISB played with true heart and love for the craft.
With Garland Paul on percussion, Sam Price slapping the bass, and the downright technical brilliance of Trevor Brooks on fat keys and a couple of spinning Leslies, HISB brought the noise, with every kind of swamp boogie, down-on-the-bayou, in your face blues and Southern Fried rock and roll jam a show goer could want. These boys are not new on the scene but are new on THIS scene and with their first year at FWF, definitely rang well with the grooving audience.
Surprising to the point of astonishing, HISB played with all the weight of their deeply rooted history and have fused a common, recognizable but altogether original sound from the vast amounts of inspiration and styles that each musician brings to the table. Definitely go out of your way to see these guys. Tour dates can be found here or at their website, www.honeyislandswampband.com.
While HISB did their thing and the East stage was swinging, the West stage rocked its own set of remarkable musicians, including the eclectic, multi-rhythmic harmonies of Akasha Orr and Lalin St. Juste fronting the soulful, electropop sounds of The Seshen and the swinging strings of Marin County’s Grateful Bluegrass Boys, comprised of members of Hot Buttered Rum and Poor Man’s Whiskey doing bluegrass versions of old Dead tunes.
As the music volleyed back and forth over Pt. Reyes Station’s Love Field, the air filled with the deliciously aromatic efforts of hustling food vendors, smoked oysters and grass fed local burgers grilling on an open pit. The sounds and sights of all manner of craftspeople and traders hawking their wares accompanied the flowing beer and wine and this little festival on the edge of the world found itself in full tilt boogie. The scene was alive as people shared ideas and resources, exchanged laughter, and danced.
Powered by volunteers and 100% sustainable energy sources, the FWF is sincere in its dedication to the environment, as well as its obvious commitment to stewardship and community.
Brainchild of Adrienne Pfeiffer and emceed by the impeccably presentable Howard Dillon from KWMR and Miss Molly Maguire, 2014’s Far West Fest has again climbed above and beyond the standard call of duty for a small, unassuming, almost back yard festival. The FWF continues to evolve and grow with each passing year and will hopefully be a West County mainstay for many years to come.
Congratulations to the efforts and continued success of everyone involved.

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