Jansport Packs Magic into Cave Singers Bonfire Session
Published 09-02-2010 (originally on The SunBreak).

There are one hundred or so lucky people in this city wandering around right now smiling. They are thinking back to their Saturday night and recalling things like s’mores, hot dogs, PBR, a bonfire, music, and a fantastic show. These smiling people were part of the first annual Jansport Bonfire Session.

The line began on the south side of Pike between 10th and 11th early in the morning. I spoke with the group that was first in line and they told me they had been waiting since 9:15 a.m. for their chance to get on a bus and ride to a secret location to enjoy more free stuff than you can shake a sharpened marshmallow roasting stick at. When they arrived, they told me that it was completely worth it.

The buses pulled in to Bear Creek Studio out in Woodinville at about 7:00 p.m. and offloaded the lucky hundred into the woods behind the studio. Bear Creek is a special place for me, since it’s where my band put down our only studio recording. More generally, you might recognize former visitors like Soundgarden, Built to Spill, Lionel Richie, Foo Fighters, Harvey Danger and a ridiculous list of amazing bands who all recorded there. Visiting the studio before the crowd got there was an awesome treat.

It wouldn’t be the only treat of the evening, as Jansport provided a wide array of food and drink for the lucky showgoers. I had a wonderful falafel sandwich from Hallava Falafel and cooked myself a s’more for dessert. Others washed down free hot dogs with free PBR and followed it up with watermelon slices. The crowd wandered between the two bonfires eating, drinking, and playing beanbag horseshoes to DJ Case0ne performing impeccable mashups of ’80s and ’90s hits. My guide for the evening remarked that each song was “exactly what I want to hear at that moment.”

Through some hidden signal the mass of people around the bonfire near the food started to drift up to the bonfire near the stage. In other words, just like any good party, it began in the kitchen. A cool early fall evening had started to set in and the anticipation was building like the ashes drifting down from the fires. The owner of Bear Creek set some more logs on the fire, a group of enthusiastic folks attempted to form a human pyramid, and all of the sudden local indie/folk group The Cave Singers were on stage and ready.

As the audience moved closer to the band, soft brushes on a snare drum started what would prove to be a magical night of music. For example, I have never been to a show that smelled so good. With wood smoke and damp grass perfume mixing in the less polluted air, the crowd clapped along and cheered for harmonicas while the band played.

A few songs into the set, after battling a wicked ground loop buzz, Pete Quirk, the singer, quipped, “I can assuredly say that I will remember this forever.” The sound out in the woods was perfect (after the buzz was solved) and the songs fit the feeling of the evening so genuinely that it felt like the night had been created just for the hundred of us lucky enough to be first in line. The Cave Singers craft deceptively simple songs and Quirk’s bluegrass-tinged vocals call out for the forest and a fire. They pull at some deep, shared memory and make us overjoyed that we are all alive.

After their set, the crowd moved to the big bonfire and danced around to more DJ work while the band rested for the second set of the evening. An impromptu conga line circled the fire and people roasted a few more marshmallows until the band joined the audience near the fire.

Without the amplification of electric instruments and without the light of LED’s or incandescents, they played a couple songs for us. The crowd was as quiet as the trees while the band crafted magic in those moments. It’s impossible to describe without sounding more melodramatic than I already have, but that fireside set might be the highlight of my 2010. Sitting there with a stomach full of delicious falafel and s’mores, next to a warm fire, listening to heartfelt and honest music as someone blew bubbles that carried into the night, I felt more content than I have in a long time. As I’m still wandering around and smiling, I can assuredly say that I will remember that forever.

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Keywords: cave singers, jansport, bonfire, review, show, secret

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