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Death of the Gypsy Camp at Djangofest Northwest

jmmeehanjmmeehan Bellingham, WANew
I had to play with Skagit Swings big band at the Bellingham Seafeast from 11-12 Saturday 9/23 so I didn’t get to the campground at Langley till around 3 or so. As soon as I stepped out of my RV there was some “campground host” guy in my face hovering over me telling me my dog had to be on a leash and pretty much hovering around until he saw me put my $25 in the slot. Then he shows me a map and says here are the places you can go to play music. What? There is a new young woman named Roxanne running the campground. She won’t let us play our music the way we have for the last 16 years anymore.

Apparently Friday night she had a cop come and shut down the jam around the fire grate. At about four Saturday she showed up with a cop and took the fire grate and all the chairs away and stuck it in one of the buildings and decreed that we had to go there to play. She had no clue what that involved. I’m not going to carry a music stand, a chair, two guitars, several music books, some form of lighting and my dog a half mile on the chance there might be someone else down there to play with.

I had a ticket for the 8 p.m. show so I went to that. When I got back to the campground after to show there was dead silence. There was no music going anywhere at the campground. I just packed up the RV and went home to Bellingham.

So much for the Djangofest. It was nice having that week to meet up will old friends each year to play but that is no more.

I won’t be back.
Michael Meehan
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Wim GlennKyle_M_Imlah


  • MorrisonHotelMorrisonHotel Long Island, NY
    Posts: 4
    That sounds horrible, have there been messes made or disturbances of any kind in recent years leading up to this? Even though I don't attend these events I hate hearing about them being shut down.

    Guess you gotta find a new safe spot to play...
  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,098
    Never been there and don't know much about Djamming at the camp but regarding the dog off leash I believe Wash state has leash law and for good reason.
  • jmmeehanjmmeehan Bellingham, WANew
    Posts: 2
    The point was, he wasn't even out of the RV yet and he was haranguing me about putting the dog on a leash. The dog was sitting in the front seat. He is always on a leash at the camp. I have one of those stakes with a cable I use that he is attached to. I was addressing the smothering oversight and really bad vibes right off the bat upon arrival. So different from all years past.
    Michael Meehan
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  • richter4208richter4208 ✭✭✭
    edited September 2017 Posts: 416
    Wow! Thats sad. I've attended the last few years and decided not to go this year. It's fun festival but I'm ready to change it up. Gonna save up for Django in June. The campground is a nice spot, but they have this festival so late in the season that sometimes it's freezing cold and my fingers find it a little difficult to play! It must be Langley's last chance to make some bucks before the end of the season. Can be hit or miss for the warm though!
  • cbwimcbwim ✭✭✭
    Posts: 140
    I was there when one of the DjangoFest local hosts was informing Nick about this last night. He was outraged. Hopefully WICA will get on it and Djamming will be allowed there next year.

    On the other hand it has been 2 years since the bad accident I had in the parking lot during the lunar eclipse and WICA still has yet to do anything about the dangerous angled parking curbs that caused it and are their responsibility, according to both the town and the school district. I found this out in a runaround. I told them that all it will take will be one serious injury and they could be sued out of existence - especially since they knew previously that its a problem. After yesterday afternoon's concert and during the evening concert break I noticed that people use the west side of that parking lot as a walkway, stepping over the curbs. Lots of them walking there - I counted probably over 40 or 50 people most of them in their 60s and older. This probably happens at all of their events - not just DjangoFest.

    My guess is that unless I start calling them every day and maybe even threaten them with my own lawsuit (I still have some lingering back and rib issues from the hard fall I took) that they'll ignore the problem. So don't hold your breath in terms of them working something out with the Fairgrounds. Given what hotel rates are in Langley and the lack of housing there perhaps its time to consider moving it to a friendlier venue. Fort Warden in Port Townsend would be perfect. There is plenty of room for staff, for participants, workshop space, a commissary for meals, the old balloon barn used for larger concerts and a few smaller concert halls, lots of jamming spaces, and a State Campground. The highly successful Festival of American Fiddle Tunes happens there every 4th of July week and is lots of fun and very well attended. Centrum which hosts this festival hosts several others.

    For myself Port Townsend would be more convenient since I live on the west side of Puget Sound. To get to Langley I have to take 2 ferries. Ferries or going via the Tacoma Narrows Bridge from the airport is relatively easy and painless.
  • klaatuklaatu Nova ScotiaProdigy Rodrigo Shopis D'Artagnan, 1950s Jacques Castelluccia
    Posts: 1,664
    Gonna save up for Django in June.

    I've never been to DFNW, but I have looked over the program and found it to be wanting, as far as my interests are concerned. DFNW brings in more of the A list players from Europe, but it appears that the workshop structure is far different from DiJ. At the latter, organizer Andrew Lawrence has created a four-level framework from novice (to GJ, not guitar) to expert, with classes in rhythm and improv pitched to each, plus special workshops and facilitated jams. We don't stay in a campground, we get dorm rooms on the beautiful Smith College campus, with all activities in close proximity. And there is no issue at all about jamming, anytime day or night. I've been ten times, and the jamming and getting together with old and new friends is getting to be the best part. Come join us!

    "It's a great feeling to be dealing with material which is better than yourself, that you know you can never live up to."
    -- Orson Welles
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,932
    I heard about this during the festival and was shocked. The campground has always been "jam central," making it an essential part of the event. I'll bring this up with the people at Djangofest/WICA. They have a vested interest in people being allowed to jam freely during the festival so I'm sure they'll try and improve the situation at the campground.
  • Two comments. (1) I had a fantastic time last Saturday afternoon (for Christine Tassan with her bubbly band and for Joscho Stephan who was insane and showy at the best sense). It's wonderful to have DFNW in the U.S. (and near Seattle. Lucky me). (2) It's nice to have Michael's booth (and a couple of others) at the venue and I bought a few things. But the air circulation seemed a bit... well, there was none. My more sensitive friends couldn't linger in that area for long. Perhaps the show was just let out and too many people arrived at the same time...

    One question. Are we (jazz manouche lovers) a dying breed? I thought I was at the opera; a sea of blue hairs. I saw more young folks at Seattle Symphony events (they were able to capture young audience members the past few years) than at DFNW...
  • cbwimcbwim ✭✭✭
    Posts: 140
    Lewis I think that blue-hairedness is more a reflection of the demographic that WICA attracts for the concerts they host - mostly from the retirees who live locally on Whidbey and who can afford the rather pricey tickets. The workshops seemed to have a younger and more geographically diverse attendance.
  • What about us no hairs
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
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