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Timberfest 2023: Grandpa’s First Trip to Carnation

Posted by May 15th, 2024 No Comments »

Timber! Outdoor Music Festival
July 27-29, 2023
Carnation, Washington
By Andy Bookwalter

Jess and Todd were right, as usual. For years, my sister and brother-in-law (fellow NadaMucho.com contributor Todd Terry) have been praising this festival/anti-festival located in the wildlands of Carnation, Washington, despite the fact that we’re all too old and crotchety for such shenanigans. The Timber! Outdoor Music Festival’s selling points, however, seemed quite out of character for my sister: campfire singalongs, camping right next to strangers, and, most suspiciously, the presence of children everywhere! Naturally, I was suspicious, but hey, life is short.

My first attempt to buy tickets for the Timber! Outdoor Music Festival was unsuccessful—the early bird deal sold out in about 15 minutes (and me, actually pay for tickets?). Luckily, a press pass I had forgotten I applied for showed up, and suddenly, I was committed. After my camping gear recently melted (long story), I cobbled together the bare minimum of borrowed equipment and headed northeast. Guided by spookily friendly volunteers to a camping area reserved for old people and children (bless all festivals that provide such areas), I promptly set out in the wrong direction, failing to find the festival that was clearly right over there. Eventually, I made it over the river and through the woods to the Campfire Stage, just in time for Black Belt Eagle Scout. Yes, this music festival has bands too!

I’ve made a couple of attempts to get into Black Belt Eagle Scout, but somehow, they just didn’t resonate with me. It’s my fault, not theirs; they’re a great band. It turns out that the ideal setting for their music is outdoors, beneath ancient trees, on a small stage, with me situated in a comfy chair at just the right distance—not too close, but close enough. In this setting, the quiet moments of their music reverberated perfectly off the trees, while the more intense, crashy parts seemed to ascend endlessly.

TK & The Holy Know-Nothings

TK and the Holy Know Nothings were labeled as “psychedelic doom boogie,” a descriptor that seemed nonsensical, yet intrigued me enough to give them a listen. The band members all sported snappy hats, except for the keyboardist, whom we quickly nicknamed “Hat,” setting a humorous tone from the start. Despite the initial label, I found their music to be more accurately described as honky-tonk, southern-fried hat pop, a genre I enjoyed. My experience was undoubtedly enhanced by indulging in a pile of brisket mac and cheese from Wood Shop BBQ, which, I must admit, has the power to make any music sound delightful.

The thing about camping with old people and kids, as opposed to the typical festival camping scene, is that you’re never the first one awake. Timber Festival is free for kids, and there were thousands in attendance. In search of the delicious breakfast sandwiches I’d read about online, I ventured into Carnation and was immediately taken with the place. The first business I encountered specialized in vintage scooters and motorcycles, and intriguingly, there was a beat-up Ferrari covered with a tarp in the backyard. I mused that if I ever own a Ferrari, it would likely share the same fate—becoming a rat car beneath a tarp.

I didn’t pay close attention to the details, so the fancy breakfast sandwiches I was looking forward to were not available (I had the wrong day). However, the wonderful barista at Sandy’s Espresso took pity on me and made me one anyway. As I mentioned, Carnation is a very nice town.

Reposado

The rest of the morning was spent with my feet in the river, wandering aimlessly, and drinking endless cold brew (Buy an expensive commuter mug, get free Cafe Vita refills all weekend long. Genius!) I resurfaced in time for Terror/Cactus, described as “digital folklore and psychedelic electro-cumbia”, which is about right. They played a whole set wearing white plastic gorilla masks, which probably seemed like a better idea before the hot sun came out. I know zilch about cumbia, but I do like it very much. I will say that it’s a very specific form, so over the course of a full set the songs do kind of blend together into one very long song, or maybe cumbia songs actually are just very long.

As I often do, I followed the horns towards Reposado, a Latin funk band that, in my opinion, stole the show on Friday. There’s something about Latin funk accompanied by horns that just feels right on an outdoor stage under the sun.

During Sons of Rainier’s performance, I found myself mostly eating and napping. Despite my divided attention, their minimalist country music served as the perfect background for both my napping and enjoying corn dogs.

Jeff Tweedy

I’ve seen Jeff Tweedy perform before, but I don’t recall him being as humorous as he was this time around. He appeared relaxed, frequently making jokes, discussing his new book, and performing a mix of solo and Wilco songs. Although I’d love to see Uncle Tupelo reunite for a few shows, it seems unlikely that will ever happen. Fortunately, we can still enjoy performances by Jeff Tweedy, Wilco, or Son Volt, and in a way, mash them together in our minds and pretend.

A surprising moment of feeling like the old guy at the festival came when crossing from the Main Stage to the much cooler Campfire Stage. This journey involves navigating a VERY shaky and wobbly suspension bridge. It’s quite a stagger, even for this long sober guy, so I have no idea how you drunkards manage it. Some mischievous n’er do wells were making the crossing even more difficult by bouncing back and forth as they walked, reminiscent of an A-Ha music video, which made it nearly impossible to walk in a straight line. I was surprised to find that I had opinions about such shenanigans, although I did keep them to myself. That time.

So far, the lineup had been missing some loud, fast rock, which was starting to stand out. My hopes were pinned on Itchy Kitty from Spokane, a band I believed could fill that gap. Spokane seems like it should be a breeding ground for gritty punk rock. It’s rural and has a slightly oppressive atmosphere, reminiscent of the town in “Footloose.” Although it’s somewhat isolated, being near cities with established music scenes but not too close, Spokane is still large enough that you’d expect to find at least a punk bar or two. I can’t confirm their current status, but they did exist the last time I visited about 25 years ago for my grandmother’s funeral.

Itchy Kitty was fantastic! They not only took the top spot at Timber overall, but their album dedicated to cats, titled “Careless Whiskers” (I’m serious), has been on repeat ever since—and I’m not even a cat person. Their music isn’t solely cat-focused; they also have songs about unconventional topics like drinking gravy and rodeo clowns. Honestly, they’re the best band I’ve encountered in a long while.

My children, who are far more up-to-date on music than I am—as they should be—introduced me to Lemon Boy. Lemon Boy offers a less scruffy, more polished rock sound compared to Itchy Kitty, but is still fantastic. Their music reminded me of a less heavy L7 with a funnier hint of Bikini Kill or Le Tigre. For the record, all these comparisons are meant as high praise.

By the time Lemon Boy finsihed, I had reached my limit with crowds. I had heard great things about Nick Shoulders, but attending his 11 p.m. set would have risked my drive home—possibly ending up in a ravine. Opting for safety, I left early and managed to get home in time for dinner. This is one of the perks of festivals close to home. Kevin Sur and Artist Home have created a truly special gathering in the woods, and it’s generous of them to extend the invitation for all of us to join in on the fun.

Editor’s note: That’s Andy (Bookwalter) and Todd (Terry) skipping along the path at Timberfest! 2023 in the lead photo of this article. Here are some additional iphone pics from their adventures.


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