Tales from the Road – Caldera Fest 2016

About a year ago I got a PM on Facebook from the podcaster David Banach who runs the Magick Jukebox podcast. He’d had an idea. To bring together as many of the Pagan musicians he features on his podcast to play at a music festival in the USA. Would I be interested? No brainer for me. I agreed straight away and marked off his proposed weekend immediately. As a musician you get a good number of these offers from people with good intentions, but for whatever reason they never come to fruition. Not so with David. He got it sorted.

Caldera Fest Pagan Music Festival happened the weekend before last in LaFayette, Georgia, USA. There are two reasons it’s taken me just over a week to write about it – jet lag, and going straight into the final organisation of the OBOD Summer Gathering in Glastonbury that happened this weekend. OBOD weekend done, time to write about Caldera Fest.

hand29 Pagan bands over the course of three days. Workshops, vendors, great Southern cooking, and wonderful company. But first, the journey to Heathrow airport. All three lanes of the M25 were closed due to an accident at junction 9 and my poor SATNAV went into overdrive trying to look for quicker routes, avoiding the jam. Unfortunately so was everyone else’s. When we turned off the M23 towards Croydon we stopped again. Stationary cars as far as I could see. The thought of missing the plane became a distinct reality. I didn’t want to imagine the trouble this would cause but needed to let David know so dropped him a line from the jam saying there was a possibility we wouldn’t make the flight. His response was cool and funny. “Flap your wings,” he said, with a smiley face. Well, the SATNAV prevailed and we made it to Heathrow 40 minutes before take off, which for an international flight is cutting it fine. Thank you TOMTOM!

We were due to land with 2 hours grace before our connecting flight to Chattanooga. No problem thinks I. What about the TSA border line?? We were in the queue for 90 minutes. At times there were only two guards checking passports. The chap behind me had half an hour less to catch his flight than us and was pretty concerned so he went to talk to a guard.

“Isn’t there more people to check us through? We’re going to miss our flight.”

“Well, looks like you’re going to miss your flight,” came the reply.

Oops.

Well once more we were just about ok, and arrived at the gate just as the flight was boarding. A little while later were we at the hotel and diving into bed to battle the jet lag. I was due to play the very next night at 7pm, which would be midnight at home so needed to get some rest.

Next morning I opened the curtains and saw SJ Tucker, Celia, members of Tuatha Dea and many more of the bands all smiling and hugging each other. I love these people so me and Cerri joined in the love fest.

We were picked up from the hotel by Harley and Shawna and arrived at the VIP area. What a venue. It was on a massive scale and David and his team must have worked themselves ragged to get the infrastructure up and ready. The VIP area had power, a huge marquee with food and drink laid out, showers, everything you’d need. We grabbed a coffee and hopped on a golf cart to be taken to the stage area. And what a stage! A full on sound stage with lights and everything. It seemed that no expense had been spared and the weekend was looking amazing.

Now I’m not going to go through every performance and moment of the event. There are simply too many and all of them were amazing. The buzz around the festival billed it as the Pagan Woodstock, and I really get that. It was a moment in time. There were some gaps – Spiral Dance from Australia and Kellianna were the obvious internationally-known musicians missing – but pretty much everyone else was there who could be there. If you can take the temperature of a movement by the art and music it creates, we are in damn good shape right now. One act after another took the stage and offered their art to an enthusiastic audience. Not only that but there were multiple guest appearances in each others sets.

The highlights for me?

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I didn’t spend any time at the VIP space. I saw and heard pretty much every performance, and was hypnotised by the talent there. But for me it was the performances from The Green Album that stole the show. The Green Album was put together by the huge energy of the band Tuatha Dea. 14 songs from artists on the theme of the environment, 25% of the profits going to the Rainforest Trust, with 12 of the bands present at Caldera Fest. So for about an hour each band played their song, pretty much in track order of the album itself. The set was opened by Ginger Doss. She has a new huge fan in me. I hadn’t heard her music before but it’s current, powerful and I’m pretty sure hers was the only set of the weekend that included a rap track. Having 12 bands on, one after the other, could have been a wreck of a show, but it wasn’t. Change overs were smooth, and each song took the audience on a journey, some low, some high, but always moving. I hadn’t played my song, How can we believe that we own it all? live before so I was pretty nervous how it would be received. But I needn’t have worried. I think the audience knew they were witnessing something very special during this hour and they were with all of us. At the end of the hour Tuatha Dea come on stage and all of the 12 acts joined them for their song Green. It was a Pagan We are the World moment that I will never, ever, forget.

lightsMy set? Man I loved it. I was supposed to be on stage at 7pm but ended up walking on to the stage at about 8.30 which was 1.20am on my clock but it mattered not. I played the opening bar of Song of Awen and heard the crowd singing straight away. When that happens you just know it’s going to be a great night. It creates a loop of energy – I hear the crowd so I play better, they respond, I respond, and off we go together to wherever that energy takes us. Talking of Awen, it was a little girl called Awen’s 10th birthday, so invited her to climb up on stage and the entire festival sang her happy birthday. Then during my song Time Machine I asked the audience to turn on their phone torches to send out light to the world when I said the word “illuminate”. I’ve done this a few times and you never know how many lights will go on. The response took my breath away. I literally couldn’t sing as I looked out at the hundreds of lights shining at me. Little Awen was in tears at the side of the stage – it was so beautiful. A moment to treasure.

outPagan musicians are a special bunch. On the whole there is no competition between us. We love each other’s work, and support each other like family. That’s something very special in any community. David Banach, his team, and his vision, brought us all together for one weekend. Will there be another? David believe’s there will and seeing the passion he has for music I believe him. But there will never be another first time. The first one is always special. I will remember Caldrea Fest 2016 with such fond and magical memories. I told David – if there was an award like a Pagan Knighthood, he should get it. He isn’t a professional festival organiser. He’s a Pagan who loves music. He had a dream and a vision, and he had the guts and determination to see it through. Hats off to you David, and your family, and crew. You did us all proud. And love to all of my musician friends around the world. Music is magic, and we all created a lot of magic that weekend.

Blessed be.

15 Comments

  1. The History Anorak June 7, 2016 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    Why do all the UK festivals seem to feature ‘rock’ bands? Or do I just live too close to Donington?

  2. Sheila June 7, 2016 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    Awesome article. So glad I was able to experience this. Magically magnificent!

  3. Char Lewis June 7, 2016 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    That sounds like a truly magical event. I wonder if one day there could be a “Caldera Fest” in Canada! O, the response would be amazing!
    I’m so glad you have those precious memories to cherish for the rest of your days.
    Blessed be
    /|\

  4. Kathy Zimmerman June 7, 2016 at 2:26 pm - Reply

    Ok, Damh, I’m in tears now with goosebumps down my arms. I just knew from the first announcement of this festival it was going to be a lifetime event. I was the one that coined it the Pagan Woodstock months ago. You can’t imagine my sadness when I had to sell our tickets. I am so thankful that David pulled this together for the Pagan community and grateful for the musicians that have carried me along on my journey, one album at a time. I only hope that it will not be the last Caldera and that you and Cerri return again.

  5. Seana Carey June 7, 2016 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    My wife and I came specifically to see you, Damh, and we were not disappointed. You are as genuine, warm and magickal as you are in your podcasts. It was a moment to treasure meeting you and your lovely wife.

    We also fell in love with every single one of the musicans we saw and met there that weekend. We feel so blessed to be a part of such a thriving worldwide community, and eagerly await the next one! David and his crew all deserve knighthoods!!!

  6. Nivasi June 7, 2016 at 2:43 pm - Reply

    Damh the Bard conveniently left out the heat!!
    Gods above and below it was so stinking hot by 10am every morning!
    But the music played on.. I totally was in awe of all of the entertainers, literally brought tears of joy each time a new set began. What amazed me even more.. a band would sit in the audience and support the next act, or they would get called up on stage to play .. watching each of them interact with one another with such love exuded into the crowd of Happy campers. Once the sun went down, the light show began super high energy in every performance. I for one am still vibrating! Truly was an energetic magical weekend.

  7. Ada June 7, 2016 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    It is a weekend I will remember for life! I am so blessed to have been able to dance and sing and talk with so many of our Bards !!!!! Thank you for making the trip it was an honor to meet you and your wife !

  8. Amy June 7, 2016 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    It was an amazing experience to witness all of these musicians that I love coming together to share a stage and a weekend of magic and music. When the festival was first announced I thought it was too good to be true, it would never come together. I have never been so happy to be wrong.

    For those who would like to experience a taste of the weekend I highly recommend checking out The Green Album. Physical copies are only available from the artists on the album but you can get a digital copy here: http://www.thegreenalbum.net

    The album is fantastic from start to finish. Songs to make you dance, song to make you cry, songs to make you sing along at top volume. Every one a gem. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve listened to it.

    Thanks, Dave for making the trek to be there. It was an experience I’ll never forget.
    Next year I’ll bring more cookies. 😉

  9. Mish Daya Lee-Price June 7, 2016 at 4:57 pm - Reply

    What a great event. I tried with the Druids Dreaming but had so much against me. After a breakdown and finally finding myself again, I ran out if steam with the Pagans For Peace project. I recall a young man approaching me many years ago asking me to put him in contact with some of my musician friends and musicians I have gather for my Pagans For Peace. I wish I could of been there for thus great historical achuevement. Well done All involved.. I take my hat off to you David

  10. Brian Henke June 7, 2016 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    Hey Damh,
    I loved your music from the first time I heard it online and I knew that hearing you live would be magical….I was right!
    I had hoped that there would be lots of time time around the fires at night to jam and share songs with each other, but for me, there just wasn’t. Spending time learning new songs and trying to remember words just written,teaching new music to friends who would later join me on stage, learning other peoples songs that I would be playing during their sets and just listening to the amazing musicians sets on stage for 3 days…oh…and trying to get a little sleep too….
    I shared so many beautiful hugs with friends I almost never get to see, unless we have the good luck to be booked at the same fest somewhere at the same time and hugs from new friends I can hardly wait to see again.
    May our paths bring us together soon!!!

  11. Natalie June 8, 2016 at 12:52 am - Reply

    Now we need to get you here at the Scarborough Faire, in Waxahachie, TX!!!! Then maybe I could come and see you.

  12. Tina Larkin June 8, 2016 at 1:46 am - Reply

    Damh-so glad it was an extra special event. I am frankly shocked that any pagan event was held anywhere in the South, as certain part of America are so unprogressive. Perhaps things are changing for the better, more than I realize…yay, and Blessed Be!

  13. Celia Farran June 9, 2016 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    Well Recapped my friend! You are the “Bardic Bomb”!
    So much love. Let’s do it again:)

  14. Melody Tipton June 12, 2016 at 12:34 am - Reply

    I’m so happy I got to met you and so many other performers there! This was just an amazing weekend, one that I will never forget! I hope to met you there again next year!

  15. Debbie from Michigan March 23, 2017 at 7:32 pm - Reply

    I am also a pagan who loves music and you are one of my favorites Dave. So enjoy you and Cerri Lee ; )

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