For several years now I have seen Baltimore’s Artscape come and go, never being able to make it. This year I was determined as ever to catch “the largest free outdoor art festival” in the country. Every year they get hundreds of artists together and close several city blocks for all the booths and stages. Not only do they have traditional artists, but dance troops and what I was mostly interested in the local and national musicians together as well for free concerts on several different stages. This years artists included Cake and Robert Randolph. With Cake making an appearance it didn’t take any arm twisting to get Jeremy to come with me. For the first time in years I was finally getting to Artscape.
Jeremy and I got together in the early afternoon to start our trek to Baltimore. I had never been to Artscape nor the part of town it was located in. Needless to say we were going to be winging it, just like so many adventures from our youth. When we got close to the festival we found a garage that was only a couple blocks from the festival and followed the throngs of people towards the festival grounds. When we arrived it was a giant mass of people walking down the closed streets. I just couldn’t get over how many people were there. But I guess being right in the middle of a large city and a free event, brings out the people.
Our first priority was bathroom, drink, and food, in that order. We hit one of the “food courts” to grab some grub and found huge lines of people waiting. It was nice to have all the food in one spot, lots to choose from, but everyone had to go to the same spot to eat. Instead of picking what we wanted, we settled for the shortest line, a Greek place. After waiting only 15 minutes or so we placed our order with the lady and promptly got our food. For some reason she couldn’t take our money and told us to see the guy next to her. So we cut in line and paid. He told us $23 for the food and drinks for which we quickly gathered our money and got $2 change. While looking for some napkins the lady start yelling at us to pay, saying we owed her $20 for the food. The guy starts yelling at us asking for more money, so we just walked away. We paid in full and apparently got ripped off for doing so. Food vendors can be some shady people. With food and drink secured we found a nice shady spot under a tree and joined the hundreds of other festival goers in eating some food. For being over charged it was rather good too.
After lunch Jeremy and I parted company. Jeremy took the recording gear and headed to the pit to secure a spot. I headed to one of the other stages to catch Higher Hands for a few songs before meeting back up with Jeremy. On the way to and from the Festival Stage I stopped by many of the booths to check out the art work. I was very impressed by what I saw from most of the vendors. I would have actually bought some of the pieces but the prices were to steep for my pockets, so instead I just marveled at what I saw. I have always been impressed with artists, of all kinds. I have always been a little jealous of artists actually. The fact that these people create something and display it for the world to see has been something I wish I could do. I wish I could create something beautiful the way these people do. The closes I come right now is with my photography. What I do might be called creative, but I think of it mostly as being at the right place at the right time. Nature has done all the work by creating the world around me, I just take the pictures.
Higher Hands was not finished with their set before I needed to head over to the main stage for Cake. When I arrived the tiny amphitheatre was packed with people. Jeremy said he was down in the pit near the stage right corner, now I just needed to find one man in a crowd of thousands. When I got to the pit I quickly ran into a wall of people that made it near impossible to get to him. He was about 20′ from me but because he was taping I was unable to get his attention, yelling would have been a bad idea. And besides even if he knew I was there I couldn’t get any closer. So I took up my spot and just enjoyed the show, only missing two songs of the set. From my vantage point I could barely see the stage, but I certainly could hear them play. The photo to the right is a good approximation of my limited view of the stage.
As the set progressed Cake played many of their hit songs, which I recognized, and even a song from their as yet unreleased album. John McCrea said there is no official release date and they would release it when they wanted. They currently don’t have a major record label and are taking their new found freedom from “the man” to its fullest, which seems to suit them very well. Every now and then I would see John poke his head out. With my limited view of the stage it allowed me to do a lot of people watching which I love to do. Quite a diverse group of fans made it to see them play.
Once the set was over the crowd quickly dissipated which allowed Jeremy and I to take up a much better position on the hill. We managed to snag a spot about half way up the hill just left of center, right next to the tapers. Up next was Robert Randolph and the Family Band. A rockin’ soul/funk/fusion band that is hard to describe, you just have to see them. The band does a good job of getting the crowd into the music and their shows are always a party.
They came out and rocked the house with their brand of funk and the audience ate it up. They played a ton of covers, two from Michael Jackson who recently passed away, Man in the Mirror and Billie Jean. For Billie Jean a young kid, maybe 10 or 11, came on stage and stole the show with his break dancing skills. The whole show was like this……good. By the time the band walked off stage at the end of the set it was almost 10pm. But you see the guys milling around next to the FOH board deciding what they are going to play and a few minutes later come out for an encore. With the clock marching towards 10pm there was not much time to squeeze in the two song encore. As they played on I saw coming up the stage stairs a police or fire chief and he looked pissed. The sound guy and he talk real quick and the sound man gets a panic look on his face. The city takes their curfew very seriously but Robert didn’t care about any curfew, he just wanted to play. The crowd was digging the music and he wanted to give them everything he had. Eventually the band members slowly walk off stage leaving Robert playing a melody on his guitar. Slowly he walks off stage, still playing, and has a pow wow with the chief. Then just stops playing, there was no more show. I definitely thought the power would have been cut mid-song or the chief walking on stage and pulling the cord from Robert’s guitar, something like that. But I was glad to see them playing as long as they did.
After the show we filtered out with the rest of the crowd. It was great seeing variety of people that attended the festival as we walked back to the car. When we got back it was off to Sabatino’s for some midnight grub. I for one was hungry and thirsty. I had visions of tiramisu and cappuccino dancing in my head. When ever I am in Baltimore I stop by Sabatino’s for some late night eats, usually to sober up too. When we arrived I was hungrier than I thought and ordered a bowl of mussels along with my usual. Everything was so good, what a way to cap off the night. After food and a little time to rest we headed back home to Virginia.
1. Stickshift and Safetybelts
2. War Pigs
3. Ruby Sees All
4. Love You Madly
5. Frank Sinatra
7. Rock ‘n’ Roll Lifestyle
8. Sheep Go to Heaven
10. Short Skirt/Long Jacket
11. Comfort Eagle
14. Never There
* – John McCrea said Cake may or may not release a new album with this song on it.
Robert Randolph & the Family Band
Start time 8:32pm
1. Sunshine Of Your Love jam
2. Deliver Me
3. I Need More Love >
4. Wanna Be Starting Something jam >
5. I Need More Love
6. The March
7. jam >
8. Man In The Mirror
9. Shake Your Hips
10. Jesus Is Just Alright
12. Billie Jean
13. I Don’t Know What You Come To Do
14. Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That
15. Thrill Of It
walked off stage 10:02pm