Balkan Camp, Mendocino, CA, 2001.
Another one from the archives. I spent a glorious week at Balkan Camp in Mendocino, up on the green green coast of Northern California during the summer of 2001, where my two best friends were my minidisc recorder and my gaida (Bulgarian bagpipe). I had joined the dishwashing crew in order to attend at a discounted price, and found it to be like a very strange picture of heaven that week, doing nothing but playing, dancing, singing, drinking ouzo, meeting folks, and washing dishes. I was introduced firsthand to the wide world of American aficionados of Balkan music and dance, and was surprised to meet so many people my age there. This continues to give me hope for my generation, that we’d all find something to get into passionately and call it our own. Weird instruments, handmade dresses, singing in foreign tongues, using our two feet to dance to a beat of seven. That’s good livin’ right there. I’d really like to get back to Balkan Camp one of these days.
This was one of many performances in the kafana that week. It was a lodge-type room with tables and benches, as I recall, and bands or ensemble classes would book themselves for an hour or so, do a little show for whomever was sitting around drinking at the time. The brass band left a permanent impression in my ear (almost literally) for its volume, but also for its spunk. Gotta have that spunk.
This photo is actually from the Lark Camp website, but it gets the idea across. Brass bands are big, loud, and really fun.