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Strange Creek 2011: Same Creek, Different Vibe

Buntology makes its first t-shirt sale of the festival season! What an awesome feeling. And how dapper does this guy look? I mean, really....

What happens when the very quality that makes something so unique is the same quality that seemingly exploits it? When the “special thing” that sets something apart is the very same thing that allows it to gain popularity?

I found myself pondering such quandaries during my time at Strange Creek Music Festival, held last weekend in Greenfield, Mass., as I frolicked among the hippies who also opted to spend their Memorial Day weekends dancing in a field eating grilled cheeses rather than sitting at a barbecue eating guacamole.

I’m sure there is some poetic expression for this type of thing- nothing gold can stay? All good things must come to an end? If a tree falls in the woods… nah, not that one.

Certainly the implication that Strange Creek is “coming to an end” is a false one, considering the festival sold out for the first time in its 9-year history last weekend. But, while the Western Mass festy- known for its intimate number of attendees and strong familial vibe- has gained major popularity over the years, it also may have lost something along the way.

Tent space this year was very limited. The result? A total shit-show of a campsite. I think that grill is still sitting there if anybody is interested.

The biggest problem with this year’s festival (which happened last year but wasn’t as noticeable with the smaller crowd) was the camping situation. Strange Creek attendees are used to sleeping in the cool shade of the Camp Keewanee woods, but apparently the town of Greenfield got pissed and rezoned the woods, which led to a huge chunk of the normal camping area being blocked off by yellow tape because it was now considered “private property.”

A third of the camping space being gone, plus the most ticket sales ever, equaled a bunch of crowded hippies. (And a bunch of pissed off Hells Angels. I swear we didn’t move that yellow tape…) Before the end of the day on Friday, festival workers were opening up the parking lot for camping because there was just. no. space.

LEFT: Force from The Alchemystics shows some loves to the Buntologists after finishing up an awesome Friday night set. / RIGHT: How does Ras Jahn always looks so cool?

Of course, due to the excess amount of people there was an excess amount of security- much more than I’ve seen at past Strange Creeks. But who can blame them? When you’re dealing that many bodies in that small of a space, maintaining everyone’s safety becomes harder and harder.

It also seems that every year a notable band is missing from the main stage line-up. Last year, Rubblebucket and Playin’ Dead (who thankfully returned this year for an awesome Saturday afternoon set), and this year Zach Deputy. It’s a real catch 22. Many of these bands get their start at Strange Creek, work their way through the time slots, and by the time they have enough of a following to get to the main stage they’re “too big” and want more money or else they won’t play.

This chick was badass-edly dancing on a speaker during The Alchemystics' set, until a security guard made her get down. But, looking at that muscle tone, she probably could've taken him.

One of my biggest selling points of this festival was the fact that you could get separated from your friends and literally bump into them while you walked around. This year was the first time that I A.) had to call or text friends to meet up with them, and B.) didn’t see friends that I knew were there (probably because I didn’t do A).

I chatted with a festy-goer who I’d met at Strange Creek the previous year and we discussed how much bigger it had gotten. Even the fire pit that we were sitting around was way more crowded than it should be at 7:30 on a Sunday morning. It wasn’t that there was a “bad” vibe- I still think that may be an impossibility at this festival- but it was almost a lack-of-a-vibe vibe. “It feels diluted,” he said to me.

The frontman for The Doors cover band, Riders on the Storm, sure sounded like Jim Morrison- but he definitely didn't look like him.

It’s similar to the whole Multiplicity theory (I’ve referenced this film way too many times on this website). You can liken Michael Keaton’s character cloning himself to what happens when a friend tells a friend about Strange Creek. After one or two times it’s still pretty sweet. But as the chain gets bigger, the sense of closeness and family that Strange Creekers have come to know and love gets lost in translation (like how the fourth Keaton clone is retarded). I can see it in my own group of friends- last year I camped with two other people. This year I camped with nine other people.

The Romano Project closed out the cabin set on Saturday night- err, Sunday morning- and frontman, Ed Romano, was even nice enough to chat with us after!

I’m sure to many the idea that letting more people in on the fun that is Strange Creek could be considered negative is crazy. And of course it’s crazy. It’s selfish to think that something so special could be claimed as your own, unchanged and untarnished by the masses.

But when a festival once cherished for its intimacy is suddenly exposed, you can’t help but wonder what its future holds.

It’s kind of like that expression, “they say if you love something let it go.” Actually.. ah, dammit, still not the right one.

A festival is only as fun as the posse you bring to it, and this year Buntology was in good company! We're actually lined up from cleanest to smelliest in this pic.
We met this half lion / half human during the Riders on the Storm set Saturday night. What a cutie, and so friendly! We hope he wasn't rabid...
Not everybody can pull of wearing glow-in-the-dark tenticles on their head, but we think this girl is cute enough to get the job done.
Turbine brought an awesome mix of funk and rock to the Riverworm Stage on Saturday.
Ah, greasey food- a staple at any good festival. But that spelling of hamburger is bringing tears to my eyes. Hamburg? HamBURG? Merriam-webster is rolling around in his grave.

Comments

Rochelle
Reply

Ya know… I think it is simply the nature of things you love that after a while you need to leave it and live on the memory. Like a great vacation. You keep going back to the same place hoping to recapture that same great experience you had that has brought you back. It may work for a while but ultimately the agic is lost. You change a bit, the place changes, you just can’t keep maintaining the beauty and perfection of the original experience.

Ahhh..but there’s always the memories.

lauren
Reply

where the hell were the 3 dollah breakfast sandwiches at !!!!

big daddy
Reply

There’s always other uncharted festival territory to navigate in the future. Besides, a lot of festivals have ‘growing pains’ as try to expand without losing what makes them attractive in the first place. See how next year goes. As for me, I’m going to continue to peck away at the Alchemystics, song by song on iTunes!

pedant
Reply

Dude, if a city in Northern Germany were selling for $4, I’d totally buy it. Shit, I’d even pay 4 euros.

KEITH MARSHALL
Reply

jeez, was that me you talked to that sunday morning???!!! i said the same thing-and i was at the fire… about strange feeling diluted. i wandered all weekend trying to find the rite vibe and it was shut down b4 i could get to it never did get into a proper groove.. i expected a large crowd for sure, but it lacked its luster, there were a few missing elements. i dont know what exactly i mean or what was lacking…over all i enjoyed it, and look forward to the intimate fires at wormtown, and the lively tribal even spiritual drumming experience ive felt both visits in ’10. lets keep the spirit. remind each new comer what the creek is about, the family feel. i seen a lot of good. but i felt the different vibe as well. i look forward to the vibe re-nourishing itself to a larger crowd.
(yea, the breakfast sandwich and coffee… WHAT! BRING THAT BACK!-…so rite!.
be safe everyone so we can all return home.

buntology
Reply

keith- yes! that was totally you i was talking about in my article. ha! i totally agree with what you’re saying… see you at wormtown! thanks for reading 🙂

– angela

John
Reply

cool review… one thing missing… sunday night turtle soup absolutely DESTROYED vernville! amazing!

BRIANA
Reply

I’ve never been to Strangecreek but I kinda got a similiar vibes at regular shows last summer- not that shows are known for having a family vibe or anything to that effect, but I felt like alot of the concert goers were there for the party and drugs and had no interest in the music- i saw people throwing up all over themselves and being more concerned over where they could find more molly instead of just enjoying themselves- i duno, it really bothered me and I ended up leaving a show early after a bunch of young kids started asking me to buy them beer- i guess maybe im just an old hag now, but seriously i feel like a lot of the music is being lost to the drug scene and people are just attending “hippie festivals” to get so f”ed up that they don’t even remember who played… anyway, enough ranting… why can’t we return to the glory days when drugs were used to enhance the music, not black it out…. haha

Shmealy
Reply

heyyyy! i still gotta watch the video but your review made me sad a little!!! i thought the creek did an excellent job of holding the similar vibe we all live for very well. i thought despite the larger masses, i thought the overall weekend vibe was the same as its always been there, a little crowded but i felt that helped my friends and i let go of the more materialistic points of the weeekend like having the biggest best campsite….i thought the worm family did excellent keeping things going smoothly despite the massive crowd….this is what happens when everyone goes home every year and tells all their friends “you have to go nexxt year!” lol good review though, cool concept for a site!

buntology
Reply

john – missed turtle soup this year, but i saw them last year at a late-night cabin set and they were awesome!!!

briana – i def know what you mean in terms of the whole drug thing. i don’t think strangecreek is changing in that sense (thank god), i just think it’s getting bigger and bigger so the intimacy that makes it so great can’t help but get a little lost.

shmealy – they definitely did a great job of keeping the peace, not like anybody was trying to cause too much trouble. you’re totally right though- i’m constantly trying to recruit my friends to go each year!

thanks for reading 🙂
– ange

Britt
Reply

Hey, I just stumbled upon this looking for last year’s SC pictures. I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ll be running the food drive again this year, and I sure hope SC can regain a little bit of its peace and family feelings and lose the bisco crazy atmosphere that I felt trapped in. I really do miss the intimacy, the security that I could leave my campsite unattended (not anymore!) without worrying about my belongings… I think it’s up to the people who recognize the changes and fear for the future of the festival to try to preserve the good things about it, because it’s going to get bigger and bigger (let’s face it, it’s a really good time!)

Much love,
Brittnie

Buntology.com
Reply

hey britt-
thanks for the comment! will be interesting to see how this yea turns out. sadly i can’t make it, but will have friends there. do you ever go to wormtown? it’s my fav festy!

john doe
Reply

I think you people must of been camping/raging at the wrong spots. I think this whole review is almost completely wrong! Who are you to try to bash this festival, because you think its getting to big. Blame the towns for taking the land and blocking it off, but don’t blame people, because they bring there friends. Are you saying that in all the time that you have been coming to SC that you have never brought someone new with you? Have you never brought any kind of drug that you didn’t bring with you! I’ve been to every Strange Creek, Wormtown, and also Garden of Eden, and last year at Strange Creek is the only year i have ever been there where I had shady vibes! Those shady Vibes, came from ole school Worms, who like you think they are running the place, my friends included. The bottom line is get over yourself. I hope it sells out again this year, because I personally like the new generation of people that are coming, and the drugs were good. if you don’t like it fuck off and stay home!

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