Weekend before last, we spent an ungodly amount of money on the Outsidelands festival (three days of music in Golden Gate Park) and managed to have an okay time despite the odds. It was crowded to the point of ridiculousness. Wine was nine dollars a glass. People stepped on our toes and didn't apologize.
This was the crowd for Alabama Shakes. We were front of middle. I never even saw the band, not even when I jumped.
Last weekend, in contrast, I went to the Cotati Accordion Festival for the first time ever. (Kids, don't be like me. I'd imagined every accordion-player-wanna-be wandering the streets of Cotati, forming pick-up bands and taking on the scourge of small town blight with a one-two oompah beat. I left my accordion in the car when I learned that only the performers bring their instruments. And cars, even parked in shade, are dangerously melty to accordions.)
IT BLEW MY MIND. For $17, I got all-day access to as many accordions as I'd ever wanted to see (which, for the record, is a crap-load). There was festival food (Spiro's Gyros! My favorite! Spiro always calls me "lovely" and makes me blush). There was plenty of lawn space for me and my friends to loll around on. Five dollar glasses of wine, and free tastes! There was music, on three stages, all the time. Polkacide killed it, as they do, bringing the crowds to their feet in a polka-fied frenzy.
But the very, very, very best part of the whole thing? The part that made me feel better about being a member of the human race again? There's this tent, see, a big one, and under the tent was a band. Five men played the accordion along with a piano player and a trumpet player. They played a little of everything, from Lawrence Welk-type tunes to cumbia to Stevie Wonder, under the tent, and what was magical was the dancing. EVERYONE danced. As a friend put it, it felt like we were crashing someone else's wedding. Fathers danced with daughters, friends with friends. I saw a very old man dancing with his ancient mother (seriously, when they spun off the dance floor, he gently placed her in her wheelchair at the side of the tent). A young, tall dark-haired dark-eyed boy waltzed with every female member of his extended family and looked as if he'd been born to do it. A sixty-plus year old couple danced and swayed, crooning the words to each other, and at the end, he dipped and kissed her.
Here's just a sample of what I watched for perhaps an hour:
A young blond cowboy asked me to dance, and I did, and only THEN did I remember that I've never been able to two-step, but he was all smiles anyway. Everyone was grinning, as a matter of fact. Turns out it's impossible to dance at the Cotati Accordion Festival without smiling.
You can keep your Outsidelands. Next year I'm going to Cotati.
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