Tuesday, June 29, 2010

NorCal Pirate Festival - Vallejo CA

I luv Pirates! And it’s another free event so it’s hard for me to not get excited. I’m a poor girl and it irks me no end that all the fun stuff costs what i pay for groceries for the week. So i can either have fun or i can eat. Life’s full of tough choices, isn’t it? ;-)

But not only is the NorCal Pirate Festival a free event, but a really well-organized, “fun-ly-run,” decadently decorated, fantastic weekend of pirating. You’d have to be one grumpy sour-puss to not enjoy yourself. There’s something about pirates that just brings out the silly, fun-loving kid in me. Joie de vivre. It’s like Halloween in summer. If you’re too uptight to enjoy maybe you should get a Doctor to prescribe a bit of medicinal marijuana. OK. Well, maybe not. But with so many great props and backdrops, and folk decked out in nautical garb, it’s hard to resist the levity and good-natured, slap-stick humor. Rum all 'round!

And the fooooooood! Tender lamb and beef gyros; roasted turkey legs; tri-tip; fried artichokes stuffed with goats cheese; cheese blintz with raspberry sauce; tasty, England-style meat pies (and if anyone’s been to England you know if i say “tasty,” it’s been Americanized); and all sorts of scrumptious treats like roasted almonds; yummy soft pretzels; and my favorite – gourmet chocolate fondue over fruit. There was more that i can’t recall at the moment – but it all looked – and smelled – so good! I wanted to go both days just so i could sample more of the food. Oh and rum cakes, i really wanted one of those! Ah well – next year. And yes – for the less gastronomically adventurous, there were hamburgers, sandwiches, fries, and chips. But for me, i can get that any day. The NorCal Pirate Festival is a time to explore!

And explore i did – through every tent-filled shop of treasures. Spun glass the color or the Ocean. Delicate, hand-crafted jewelry fit for a queen or king. Shops with nothing but beautifully designed leather apparel. Call me weird, but i love the smell of leather; i stood in the middle of the tent and just – breathed! Swords, clothing, beads and baubles, it was all here and wonderfully displayed. Sorta like a Ren Faire but better. Then there were the entertainers which reminded me of old vaudeville. As much acting as singing. As much playing as laughing. It’s sometimes hard to tell who’s having more fun – the audience or the performers. When the musicians played, i couldn’t help myself but to sing along and not care one whit what anyone thought of it.

However, the best part of this festival is the people – the organizers, laborers, vendors, and entertainers. Yes, their costumes and site designs were great, their food fantastic, their goods beautiful, their entertainment fun. But it was their love for what they were doing, their sincerity in sharing this gift with everyone, that stood out and made the day. Their happiness was in the air; you could feel it. Wow. Imagine if DMV was run by this group.

Of course, how can you not love having fun? It was a party atmosphere. Pirates passed out “doubloons,” “Capt Jack Sparrow” fought off opponents, and mermaids swam through crowds of onlookers (OK – that was corny). There were all kinds of things for the kids – making nautical knots, magic shows, and sing-a-long sea shanties. The finale for the day was the battle between the “Red Coats” on land who fired their cannons at the attacking pirate ship, the Aldebaran. She’s a schooner with lovely lines and beautiful rust-red sails. The pirates tacked the boat back and forth along the waterfront, returning fire at the British navy. Great ending to a great day.

This is such a fun event, i wish it was twice a year. Oooo – they could hold another on Sept. 19th – on International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Ah-ha! Landlubbers be warned!

Backyard BBQ

May 2010

It doesn’t happen very often; maybe this will set a trend. I hope so because this weekend was one of the best pick-me-ups i’ve had in a while. The Backyard BBQ hosted by Journey’s was just killer lovely. In this economic crush, it was so welcome to go to a completely FREE – and very cool – event. Those two don’t usually go hand-in-hand. Generally you get crap for free and pay through the nose for real talent. Not this weekend. Saturday rocked. Hello Sacramento and event organizers – T-H-A-N-K- Y-O-U!!!

Journey’s hosted a Backyard BBQ Tour with some great talent – BMXers, skaters, some rad FMX boys, and the sweet tunes of rockin’ bands – simply fantastic. To get the negative heads out of the way – yeah not everything was bliss. The parking was confusing. It took an hour to park and would have taken longer if i had not turned around and parked down the street in an undeveloped lot. There weren’t enough “blue rooms” – either that or they were darn well hidden. I ended up going into the mall and using the facilities there. Maybe that’s what the event organizers wanted – get people in to buy stuff. Then the title to the event was based on the laid-back, down-home goodness of the word BBQ. I didn’t see a food vendor unless you count Rock Star as a food group. But honestly, i wasn’t coming for food anyway. Food at events tends to become a smelly mess. I was fine without the food – i just thought it odd for an event named BBQ.

I’m not going to pretend i knew the BMX, skate, or FMXers. But talent is talent and damn hard to miss. And it was a fine display all around. Skaters – Rob Dyrdek (check out his “Journey Across the Internet” at robsjourney.dcshoes.com), and Chaz Ortiz. BMX talents like Dave Mirra and Chris Doyle. FMXers – i have no idea. I couldn’t find a listing of players on the official site. The sponsor, Metal Mulisha, has a great site but doesn’t list who’s doing what event. Maybe because they don’t know till the event. Whatever. I had a blast watching; i’m particularly attracted to “sports” that developed out of the primal need for fun. The guys turned, twisted, flipped, and levitated boards and bikes alike. Sweet.

Then there was the music. Awesomeness. The event organizers wisely kept the tunes coming – whether live or not – it was head-banging, heel-stomping, thrust-your-fist-in-the-air good times. If i had been driving a car i would have broken the law numerous times. High energy was flowing. I had arrived at the event later in the day and only saw two of the five bands that played. All are CA based, and FFG, A Lover’s Plea, and Hero’s Mission are local to the Sac Valley area. I was sorry to miss Hero as i really dig their sound. But i got the opportunity to hear the opener, Fight Fair, who made me smile with their head-banging rock. And it was obvious from the numerous young girls who thronged to the front, they felt equally pleased – though certainly for different reasons than mine!

But the real all-round treat for me – was Switchfoot. They were the main drive for me being here. Not to take away from any of the talent i had seen or heard, but i’ve followed Switchfoot off and on over the last 7 years and they’ve only gotten better. The kicker is that they are an awesome concert band too. Not all bands can pull that off. And they seem genuine. Real. Like family playing a reunion. I have family members who are in bands, so i know that feeling. Switchfoot is like that. To the heart. They smiled easy. Laughed. They were having fun and radiated energy – and the crowd felt it. When Jon Foreman, the lead singer, gave a little talk on Love – i mean really – there’s a subject that can turn cheesy in a blink. But the sincerity behind it hushed the crowd. Everyone listened. Almost gave me goose bumps from the positive energy that powered his words. It was a perfect moment in a perfect day.

So a shout out to Journey’s, sponsors, and event organizers – Thanks for taking a chance during strange times and bringing good times to Sacramento.