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Tutlie, TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb, Lost in Company and More @ The Caravan Music Festival Belgrade, Maine.

August 13, 2014

Caravan_080214_Photo by Jason Melcher_IMG_1829Text and images by Jason Melcher.

After a long journey, I finally stepped out of my car to stretch. It was almost 4 o’clock in the morning and the caffeine was beginning to wear off. Exhausted, I leaned back, taking in a deep breathe of fresh air, and my attention was immediately drawn to the sky. The Milky Way burned brilliantly above. The familiar and pleasant scent of a campfire wafted toward me and I could just make out the sound of laughter and the strumming of an acoustic guitar.

After driving nearly 500 miles, I had finally arrived at the Caravan Music Festival.

The festival was born six years ago in a quarry surrounded by lush forest, on the edge of the Great Pond, a massive lake in Belgrade, Maine. What started as a camping trip with some close friends eventually turned into a gathering of around two dozen bands and a few hundred people, almost all locals from Philadelphia.

This year featured live performances by S.T.O.P., Community Service, Static Mountain, Dead Tenors, Tall and Flightless, Hollander Crouse Duo, The Great Vibration, Tutlie, TJ Kong and the Atomic Bomb, Driftwood Soldier, Lightninging, Lost in Company, The Radicans, Manterial Girl, Doubting Thomas Cruise Control, Out of the Beardspace, Penrose, Jesus Christ Goddamnit (JCGD), The Pat Friend Five, Souldiers of Soul, and Sinking Ocean Gods.

Matt Manser, a Philadelphia DJ and musician, is the mastermind behind it all. His family owns the quarry where the festival takes place. Along with his father, Clark Manser, Matt and a handful of vital crew members work tirelessly to set the stage for the annual gathering of friends.

The incredible weekend of music took place from August 1st through 3rd this year.  A lot of love and dedication goes into preparation to make the fest run smoothly. In addition to the entertainment, food is also generously provided for all of the attendants. The Eclectik Domestic cooking crew, lead by Katie Briggs, dished out delicious meals all weekend in addition to a pig roast on the opening day. Ellie Tremble also provided all sorts of muffins and baked goods. In combination with fantastic live performances, the incredible smell of grilled food created an altogether intoxicating experience and a treat for all of the senses.

While it seemed like the majority of attendants were already friends or had played together in Philly, everyone who made the trip was welcomed with open arms. Each band brought passion and intensity to their performances. They took turns on the stage like a group of friends passing around a handle of bourbon. In some cases, instruments were shared interchangeably and other musicians would be called up to join in on a set. It was an incredibly communal experience in which everyone was just as excited to be a part of the audience as they were to play. On Sunday, the music continued even after the final set as the remaining musicians, from all different bands, took to the stage to play alongside one another in a spontaneous super jam.

The nights at Caravan were wild. Building off of the high-energy performances throughout the day, the crowd never stopped moving and shaking, even after the bands finished playing. The dancing and partying only intensified as Boomers ‘n’ Blotters took over the stage, a monthly party at the Barbary lead by Matt Manser. Projected above on a 20-foot screen, psychedelic visuals complimented many of the evening shows. Making good use of the screen, a triple feature presentation, consisting of The Jungle Book, Fantasia, and 2001: A Space Odyssey, created a surreal experience under the stars on the final night of the fest.

With three solid days of good music, food, and friends, the experience of Caravan was unforgettable. I left with a refreshed sense of community. The festival proved to be a catalyst for reconnecting with friends and also making new ones. Most importantly, Caravan was an exercise in local bands uniting to support one another.

Even though it was 500 miles away from Philadelphia, it felt like home.

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