Back for its eighth year last weekend, the Redwood Mountain Faire at Roaring Camp in Felton broke attendance records both Saturday and Sunday. The traditionally low-key festival, awash in tie-dye, bubbles and a genuine hill-tribe vibe, had some extra drawing power in the form of headlining acts Cracker (on Saturday) and Dave and Phil Alvin (on Sunday).
Cracker, for its part, straddled an interesting line between this new national-touring-act level and the festival’s traditional roots in homegrown local bands. “It’s good to be back in Santa Cruz County,” said lead singer David Lowery, making a point not to lump Felton in with Santa Cruz proper, as most big-name acts would do. He explained to those who weren’t familiar with his earlier Camper Van Beethoven days that he’d lived in the area for a decade way back when. He also scored some honorary-native points by asking the Roaring Camp railroad workers in the audience if they could tell when their riders were high on mushrooms (“oh, so we got away with it, then” he mused, when they replied that they couldn’t) and telling a possibly made-up, but in any case hilarious, story about how he had just discovered that keyboardist Matt “Pistol” Stoessel’s real name is Rainbow and that Stoessel grew up “in a school bus on Ice Cream Grade.” Even GT got a namecheck of sorts, as the band played—along with a string of hits like “Low,” “Eurotrash Girl,” “Get Off This” and “Teen Angst”—“Where Have Those Days Gone,” which features the lines “Thought I saw Thomas Pynchon at the end of the bar/No, that’s just Rob Brezsny writing his Real Astrology column.”
The festival, which is volunteer-run and raises money for the local nonprofits that share the staffing and production duties, had its growing pains this year, too. There were sound problems on both days; I didn’t see the Alvin brothers’ set, but Cracker at least weathered them admirably. One band, Sunday’s La Inedita from Peru, didn’t show up—no one quite seems to know where they disappeared to, but Jesse Daniel and the Slow Learners covered on the main stage, while the Coffis Brothers, who had done their official set on Saturday and just happened to be hanging out at the festival on Sunday as civilians, filled in with Taylor Rae on the Creekside Stage. Rolling with the punches is the nature of the all-volunteer festival that is essentially a massive benefit, says Faire Steering Committee Member Nancy Macy. “Every year there’s somebody learning a new job,” she says of the volunteer staff. “They all go above and beyond.”
While it may look from this year’s lineup like organizers are making a move to grow the Redwood Mountain Faire, Macy says that there’s no such master plan—in her experience, the festival kind of ebbs and flows organically over time. “It morphs and changes and grows,” she says.