(I posted the below at Gyspyjazzguitar.com and wanted to post it here too. Please pardon the redundancy.. A.E.)
Sunday morning. Tchavolo walks down the main street of Langley Washington, a guitar thrust over his shoulder, a cigarette in hand. The snappy ocean air and gorgeous morning view recharges the man who never sleeps. It's the beginning of another perfect Whidbey Island day.
Dorado comes next. He spies two women window shopping, greets them in his own special way: He spontaneously serenades them with a song. The women are amused but in the end part ways with Dorado having no idea what just graced their path. It was a moment of joy. It was a moment meant to come and go. It was all part of the world set to terms by two Gypsy cousins.
Sunday morning began sometime Thursday afternoon. The Schmitts arrived on the island and soon were toasting champagne (and cigarettes) with the ever-present omphallis Greg Gunter and Scott Bookman. From that point on, it was an endless life adventure of guitars, jams, jokes, cigarettes, wine, beer, champagne and vodka. Every stop by the two Schmitts was like a Monty Pythan-scripted Tony Gatlif movie. Through it all however, was a thread of beauty. Brotherly love and innocence in a strange land. We served as spectators to it all, and it touched our hearts.
The Schmitts showed affection to everyone -- grabbing all with kisses, hugs, and tightly felt buddy-grabs across the shoulder. It became contagious, everyone started doing the same. Somehow, those of us who've known each other throughout the years, through the festivals -- Samois, l'esprit manouche, and of course, Djangofest -- remembered what we knew all along. We are brothers, we play this music because we love it. We are miri familia.
Miri familia. It's not just the name of a Tchavolo song, it's Dorado and Tchavolo's life. In their world, that family includes all of us. There is no time for embarrassment, posturing and competition. There is only truth and passion.
Later that Sunday, the Schmitts are out for diner. The party continues at the restaurant as the table overflows with food, drink and laughter. Guitars are played and glasses of libation are clinked. Tchavolo and Dorado are still in good form as Samson and violinist Timbo sleep in the van. Even for the young, there is no keeping up with their antics.
Finally as the evening light set on Sunday night, a white 12-passenger pulls up to WICA. I quickly wish Dorado "Latcho drom," and his eyes light up. He speaks Romany and gives me another passionate Dorado-style hug. As the van leaves with the Schmitts on board, the ever-observant Scott Bookman says, "Now there goes a party in that van."
Never were truer words said.
Thank you Schmitts for letting us be a part of your world and letting me see my Djangofest friends and miri familia in a new light. The artists, the Django-heads, their wonderful support group of spouses and children, the volunteers at WICA, the guitar builders and vendors, the hosts at our motels and bed and breakfasts, the generous people of Langley, and of course...
Nick Lehr, without whom all the above memories would not exist. Thanks Nick to you and your staff for making this one of the best Djangofests ever.
Latcho drom all, until next year.