FRIDAY AUGUST 15
Morning comes well into the afternoon for the Hawks at the Grand Hotel. Where are we? We’re in Norway. Halden. South of Oslo. On a fjord that empties out into the sea somewhere many miles away beyond the low forested hills. Shockingly, the only Hawk to make it down for breakfast (which ends at 10 am) is RW, the least likely Hawk to ever make it to free breakfast. But the breakfast is wonderful. Eggs, potatoes, and sausage, of course. But there’s fresh breads, yogurt, muesli, fruits, cheeses, coffee & tea, & juices, and the widest assortment of canned fish and fish products ever. What a spread. The day passes by quickly. Shawn assaults the hill looming over the town and visits the ancient fort. Paul and Victoria walk along the canal, watch an old house boat fire up its engine, the middle age couple gunning the boat towards the fjord entrance. Then it is time to get picked up and driven out to the festival. Our quiet, dutiful driver Andreas returns with the van outside the hotel just a little late. We have to wait a little longer for the equipment van. Some of the other bands are getting edgy. They want to get out to the fest to catch a friend’s set. Or are they just squeaking the wheel a little for some later advantage in festival negotiations? Perhaps there is something to be learned here.
The drive out to the location is beautiful. The road runs south along the fjord, overlooking majesty in the long long evening light. More pine trees and golden fields and big barns. We arrive finally at the Farm and all is revealed. There’s the Main Stage, the Barn, and a muddy walk through the woods to the Campfire stage, at the edge of a wide dry oat field, a soft white glow glows in the still stalks. But we want the Back Stage and we want to eat. The food turns out to be fantastic. More grilled local salmon cooked perfectly. We have our own tent stocked with all kinds of goodies. Angelic Heidi, a tall dark Nordic goddess, mothers us. We check out the other bands, hang out and chat. Pretty fun.
But it’s starting to get cold. The sun is finally below the wooded horizon and a chill is really coming on. Heidi comes by our tents with blankets. We’ve got several hours to kill until our late night acoustic set on the campfire stage. PM isn’t taking any chances, he covers himself with two blankets and nestles into the tent couch. Other Hawks wander the grounds checking out other bands, hanging with the locals, and trying out the beer.
We finally take the Camp Fire stage in the not so wee hours of the morning. These Norwegians can drink. Or maybe they can’t. There’s lots of falling over going on. Big burly Norwegian men going over. Tall thin Scandinavian girls speaking incoherently then slumping over. This is a hard partying crowd. And it’s cold. Really cold. We can see our breath. But somehow it’s pretty great. The fire is burning big and bright and everybody who is conscious is in good spirits. We play a lullabye-like acoustic set, last music of the night, and it seems to fit the mood just right. A good set up for our Main Stage set tomorrow at prime time. Good night, Down on the Farmers. You are a hardy northern stock.We pack up our guitars with stiffening fingers, lurch up the muddy path and past the main stage to the muddy vehicle yard. Trusty Andreas is ready at the wheel and as we drive back to Halden the sun is coming up. Quite a night. A few musicians head to the hotel pub for an early morning beer, others hang around for a while to catch the first part of breakfast. Then it’s off to bed in full sunlight.
SATURDAY AUGUST 16Day Two (or is it Three?) at the Fest begins in the late afternoon at our Grand Hotel on the banks of the Halden canal. We rise late, groggy. We are on absolutely no sleep schedule, unless no sleep counts as a category. Suddenly it’s already time to gather our wits and guitars and climb into the van waiting on cobblestone, go back out to the Farm. We ride out with Justin Townes Earl and his mandolin player. Justin entertains us the whole way out with stories of life growing up on the road. The hard and wild life since age 15, I think Hank would’ve done it this way. JTE tells one after the other and we’re hanging on every word. He’s making it on his own terms, for sure.
Our Main Stage set is in glorious late afternoon sunshine, much warmer than the late night scene. The crowd is all shorts and tank tops, bikinis and shirtless gents. They love the sun. It will be gone soon in the long dark winter. We take full advantage of the powerful sound system and rock. The Norwegian crew seems to enjoy all the equipment at their disposal as well. Everything is on, lights, smoke machines, everything. Low tech indulgence. Lots of fun. European hippies on the Nordic tip, a counterculture confidently entering the years of wisdom. Thank you, Farm and Farmers. Are we really done? No more shows? Seems like we could stay on this continent for a while. The rest of the night is relaxation and fun. Wandering the fields and deep into the woods around the festival, taking photos, listening to the rock and roll, CC Adcock kicking ass Louisiana style, Coal Porters doing old timey, the Tindersticks with violins and cello. Just as the chill sets in our bus arrives and we once again dash through the mud to the sound of madly sawing strings. It’s easy sailing from here and the smooth ride lasts all the way back to Los Angeles. No trouble with flights going home. Our luck indeed changed. Thanks for praying for us, friends.