Words by Tara Kelly Kearns & photos by Morgen Schuler
Doe Bay, Doe Bay? Doe Bay, Doe Bay! First heard in 2011, when Champagne Champagne headlined the Doe Bay Fest, these words ring throughout the festival — start to finish — and are now seen on the trucker hats available to festival-goers, anxious to retrieve a piece of the weekend that will do down as one of the greatest in their concert-going lives.
My journey started early Friday morning and brought me to Anacortes just late enough to miss the 10:25 am ferry to Orcas Island. Fortunately, while I waited for the next ferry, I had the pleasure of running into Vikesh Kapoor, a folk singer, and recent PNW transplant, who impressed many-a-Timber! Music Festival (also brought to you by Artist Home) attendee (myself included) and informed me that he would be making unscheduled appearances during the coming few days. And with this great news, I loaded my friend’s old VW station wagon onto the ferry to continue my journey to the iconic Doe Bay.
Writing about DB requisitely includes acknowledging also that which is seen and not necessarily heard. However, in order to honor my generation’s short attention span, I will refrain from describing in great detail the bountiful, and undeniable, natural beauty that defines this weekend from start to finish. Let us take a moment to recognize the incredible views of Mt. Baker seen from the ferry; starry night light that makes the day jealous; wooded walking paths and picturesque campsites; a pristine Puget Sound; and the occasional light fog that keeps the Doe Bay a mystery.
Upon arrival, You Me & Apollo, a Colorado-based indie folk-rock group, was in the middle of the set on the Otter Cove stage. One of the most notable acts of the weekend, they had the entire audience up on their feet, dancing and cheering to their music. The band’s petite-framed lead vocalist wailed out over the crowd singing in a tone a la Motopony’s Daniel Blue, and drew everyone in, making them the most talked about act of the Fest.
Just a short walk from the Otter Cove stage along a wooded path, which passes the Doe Bay resort spa, a busking station, and pathways to the beach, campsites, and other settings for secret shows over the weekend, is the Mainstage. Complete with food carts, free filtered water, massage stations, a beer garden (with games including a jumbo-sized Connect Four), and a solar powered phone-charging station, Artist Home has turned this setting into an adult summer camp paradise.
The Grizzled Mighty, a blues-rock duo from Seattle, blasted the audience away with their inaugural set. With just the lead guitarist with his growly vocals and his counterpart’s heavy, explosive drums, they had no problem filling the space and entertaining the anxiously awaiting listeners.
Other notable acts of the day included Seattle’s own hip-hop duo Fly Moon Royalty who broke the indie folk-rock vibe with upbeat danceable tunes fronted by soulful Adra Boo, backed-up by bad-ass booty-shaking dancers (!!!); and also headliner Shabazz Palaces, the successful slo-rap experimental hip-hop duo from the Emerald City who put listeners into a deep trance with their atonal harmonies, polyrhythms, and vocal and looping effects.
Finally the icing on the cake was a secret midnight show “under the apple tree,” lit only by tiki torches. Is this a dream? Here, we waited for an hour for Built to Spill’s frontman Doug Martsch to finish his sound check and then perform a mostly solo set, partially accompanied by Andrew Joslyn’s Passenger String Quartet. Assured by Doe Bay owner Joe Brotherton that Martsch had indeed received enough loud clapping to last a lifetime, we were instructed to show appreciation by snapping in order to respect the 10:00 pm noise curfew. The audience respected the instruction, though everyone had a hard time containing their enthusiasm for the quiet, intimate, and beautiful set. Martsch let the music speak for itself, playing mostly original tunes from his band. For me, it was when he and the quartet covered The Beatles’ “Something” that Day One of Doe Bay Fest was perfectly complete.