The Maldives. Photo by Lil' Scoop.
DB Fest: Left Hand Smoke, The Maldives, Tim Seely, 17th Chapter & others, Doe Bay (Orcas Island), Saturday, July>"/>
The Maldives. Photo by Lil' Scoop.
DB Fest: Left Hand Smoke, The Maldives, Tim Seely, 17th Chapter & others, Doe Bay (Orcas Island), Saturday, July 19, all day.
This weekend marked the debut of DB Fest on Orcas Island, a daylong concert organized by Chad Clibborn, the son of State Rep. Judy Clibborn of Mercer Island. In an attempt to catch all the proceedings -- and they began at high noon -- photog 'Lil Scoop and I rose before 7 in the morning (on a Saturday!) and made the hour-and-a-half drive to the Anacortes ferry dock, only to miss the 10 o'clock ferry to Orcas despite arriving a half-hour early. Regular travelers to the island would have laughed at my presumption; when venturing to the San Juans in the summer, waiting three hours to board a ferry is part of the experience. And it is just this experience that left me wondering whether DB Fest was worth the trip (confidential to Charlie's in Anacortes: if you were open for breakfast, even just on weekends, you'd rake in the dough).
Orcas Island is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and Doe Bay is one of the most beautiful places on Orcas Island. A spacious, hippie-ish campground with a clothing optional, co-ed sauna and hot tub area that was purchased by the well-heeled Brotherton clan in 2002, it is a spectacular setting for an outdoor summer concert. Score one for Clibborn & Co. here: they've got a winner of a location in that sense. What's more, the sound quality was fairly good, acts were shuttled to and from the stage pretty much on schedule, and the beer and wine lines were short and reasonably priced. Then again, supply and demand likely played a factor there; BYOB wasn't prohibited, and it often seemed as though there were as many participating musicians as paying concertgoers in the crowd. In a field that could have accommodated a thousand fans, there were typically about 100 paying attention to the stage at any given time.
The Maldives, Tim Seely (yes, I'm biased here; this is my baby brother), and Left Hand Smoke are all well-established, talented acts with strong Seattle followings. Each are capable of selling out the Tractor on any given Friday. But as with many local acts, there's too much crossover among loyalists of the three, and expecting each and every one of said loyalists to pay $56 for a ferry ride, that again in gas, and $30 cover to spend a weekend in Orcas watching three-plus bands they can see a couple blocks from their house (and in Seely and the Maldives' case, possibly even sharing a bill) is expecting a bit much. Furthermore, in light of the time it takes to get up there, anything less than a two-night trip to Orcas feels a little hurried, and in order for most people to achieve that level of satisfaction around DB Fest, they'd have had to take Friday or Monday off from work. I know it's summer and all, but a lot of people simply can't afford to do that, for a variety of reasons.
That said, a lot of debut festivals are a disaster, and DB Fest was far from a disaster. A couple suggestions for improvement: (1) Clibborn needs to make it a free concert. Even with the required ferry, gas, and food/booze outlay to get up there, that could be a huge psychological calling card. This seems like it'd be easily accomplished by adding a few for-profit underwriters/sponsors to the mix. (2) No disrespect to the fine musicians involved in the inaugural bill, but it'd be ideal to book a Band of Horses-level headliner to generate a little more buzz. Fuck, even the Presidents could serve as a proper magnet, and I'm not a Presidents fan. (3) I realize the name DB Fest is derived from the initials of the event's venue, but if I earned a dollar for every snicker had at the expense of of what those two letters are short for, I'd have left Orcas a lot less bummed about my bottom line.