Wednesday, December 27, 2006

"Weirdest solstice ever"

I'm back in central Wisconsin, having driven here with my sister and brother-in-law via Southern Ontario, listening to "classic rock" radio across Michigan, Indiana and Illinois.

Winter solstice this year was actually Thursday evening, but horrible rainy weather meant that I didn't even get out for a walk. Stef (of local 'slopgrass' merchants Sloppy Joe) had told me about a belated solsticial gathering out at her farmhouse near Iola on Friday, so I decided that gathering with like-minded locals and perhaps playing some music would be my solstice.

  • hours of frantic Slovakian confectionary production all afternoon (Stef at the controls)
  • spaced out conversation about the Mayan calendar and the distribution of prime numbers around the kitchen table with Chris from Washington state
  • John Denver and The Muppets' A Christmas Together album
  • a CD of carols sung in Czech
  • a totally unexpected snowstorm that covered the area in half a foot of wet, thick slushy snow (which meant only a fraction of the people expected made it)
  • 3/4 of the High Water Band (Art Stevenson, his wife Steph, Dale the banjo player plus another banjo player) playing blazin' bluegrass in the kitchen for most of the night, powered by a jug of moonshine from Kentucky
  • a brand new, fully functioning (and strangely mesmerising) stainless steel "chocolate fountain"
  • a powercut which lasted for a good part of the night, which resulted in the lighting of many candles and the congealing of the chocolate fountain - presumably caused by the weight of snow bringing tree branches down on powerlines

Quite late, after the bluegrass had subsided, my saz came out, Stef got her banjo, and we jammed on some traditional American "old time" tunes, with Art playing upright bass - this was very enjoyable, but I was fighting to stay awake, and kept nodding off in mid-riff.

After a few hours sleep and a couple of pints of green tea, I got into quietly playing Celtic ballads in the kitchen until people started to emerge. Stef put together a hearty breakfast in the style of her Slovakian grandmother, while everyone debated the state of the country, the war, organic farming, social fragmentation, etc. until mid-morning.

"I think that was the weirdest solstice ever!" said Stef, as I said my goodbyes and headed back to town.

[Nothing got recorded this time, but here's some stuff we recorded out at Stef's place on New Year's Day this year (i.e., just under a year ago). Also, she's keen to do some studio recording of saz-and-banjo stuff while I'm here, so hopefully we'll make that happen.]


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