Back in the day, when I used to rock a CD player, I’d take a twenty minute walk down Lake Street, right before sunset, to get an ice cream cone. As I admired the orange colors in the sky, I’d put on “Two Step” by Dave Matthews band. The movement of the song just seemed to fit the moment so perfectly.
Years later I met a man who had seen over 40 Dave Matthews Band concerts, and it was his dream to one day see them at The Gorge – a stunning outdoor amphitheater in George, Washington. Yes, I used to tease him about his genre of folk music, often impersonating a terrible banjo, but the first time I saw them live, I understood. The band’s phenomenal musicians had endless passion, and I too was swept away in their jam sessions. Each year we’d wonder if Dave was going to retire, if maybe one day we’d miss the opportunity. On my husband’s 35th birthday, I finally bought him a flight to Seattle. We weren’t going to miss the event on the top of his bucket list. We put our names in the raffle to watch two shows, but were only rewarded with Sunday night’s performance in the front center. We would make due.
I had been camping many times before but never had to pitch my own tent. What did we need to camp at the Gorge? Could we fit it all in our checked-luggage? I had no idea what to expect.
We brought one suitcase including sheets and a comforter (I deserve some sort of badge for that). I put our air mattress, battery operated pump, solar light and phone charger in a carry on. The air mattress was screened for a few minutes at the airport, but otherwise a success.
We rented a car but left Seattle later than expected, as we hadn’t planned on setting up a tent in the dark. During our two-hour drive we bought some snacks and drinks at the Safeway Grocery store. Most restaurants in the area closed at 9:00pm, but we were able to stop by the Cottage Cafe & Fireside Lounge for a piece of their yummy homemade meat loaf.
Upon arrival, a man showed us where to park and said we could put up our tent behind it. There didn’t seem to be much of a difference between the premier and standard camping and our spot to the left was soft and grassy while close enough to the restroom facilities.
We got out our humongous 8-person fast-pitch Coleman tent – with a closet – and attempted to put the same color poles together with our small light. The directions were worse than IKEA pictures. It might as well have said step 1 – take your tent out of the bag. Step 2 – put your tent up. Somehow, we succeeded in the noble quest and even got the air mattress inflated. The only thing I hadn’t anticipated was how cold it was going to feel when the temperature dropped to 50 and the wind could still make it’s way through. Despite my many layers, I was shivering so much I couldn’t fall asleep – and then I heard it.
At 2:00 AM a man with a trumpet went around from section to section playing his wake up call. After each song, the group would scream “charge!” and pick up a few more rascals. As I couldn’t sleep, I found it pretty amusing but one can only imagine how a few others with small children must have felt.
The morning warmed up nicely, hovering over the fresh coffee and breakfast food trucks. Nate and I tried some yummy bacon and egg breakfast dumplings at Dumpling Tzar and a 3 espresso shot coffee. So no, we did not really need to bring our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or Cheez-Its, but the water, beer, ice, and $5 cooler were well utilized.
Depending on your camping experience, you may choose to wait in a long line to pay to shower. I opted to be gross for two days, packing revitalizing face wipes, which worked out splendid. I didn’t even flat iron my bangs – yes, another medal may be deserved. You could always choose to go glamping. Although the set up looked gorgeous, you’d definitely be missing out on the crazy fan shenanigans, and that would truly be a great loss.
– Get overly wasted, unable to truly appreciate the experience
– Stress over the perfect camp site
– Forget face wipes, sun screen, or your sun glasses
– Expect for this to be a children-oriented setting
– Forget your ID to enter the stunning bar overlooking the Gorge
– Be shy. This is the time to put your phone away and connect
– Bring a tent and warm blankets
– Pack solar charged lights and phone chargers (shown above)
– Pack treats and drinks to share in a cheap ice-filled cooler
– Bring an acoustic guitar or speakers
– Display an artistic version of your favorite community game
– Bring lots of layers, warm socks and hoodies
Dave Matthews fans were without a doubt some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. A man once gave me a beer for singing a verse in my favorite song. We exchanged drinks for jello shots, over random conversation. I loved their tents, gigantic jenga displays, flags, hippie blankets, and fire dancers panted on cars and bean bag toss games. Being around them made me feel like what I imagine the 70s to have been like, where you can just walk up to a neighbors house and ask them for a cup of sugar. With that being said, while you can bring your kids here, the environment seemed more suitable for adults. Don’t forget marijuana is completely legal in the state of Washington.
Finally it was show time and we walked for what felt like a mile over to the Gorge. We walked past more food trucks and vendors to the top of the hill and it was really so much more beautiful than I ever anticipated or my camera could capture. We watched the sunset fall over the jagged cliffs at the bar to the left of the stage, which was the perfect spot to take it all in while listening to the ridiculous openers. Pure bliss.
The Lone Bellow and Lake Street Dive rocked the Gorge before DMB and the pipes on the ladies of both bands was mind-blowing. I developed a creepy psychotic crush on lead singer / angel from heaven Rachael Price. I still cannot get over her voice.
Dave Matthews Band, Tim Reynolds, and some special guests put on a fierce show until midnight. I had seen them a few times in Irvine but this performance was emotional. Maybe it was the lights in synchronization with the trumpet, maybe it was the dramatic flair or the most gorgeous theater I had ever seen, or maybe it was being around so many incredible loving people that deeply touched my heart. There are few moments in life that I’ve been able to appreciate in the moment as they were happening, and this was definitely one of them. Today I’m so full of gratitude and hoping you are planning your next check off your bucket list. Money is always going to be tight, I might continue throwing up every time I try to board a plane, but experiences like this will always be worth it.
© Faith’s True Tales 2016. All original words and images by Faith Brady.