Mammoth Blues Festival

I know that I said I wasn’t going to spend my time writing about every festival, every weekend, but this was special, mostly because of the drive. Highway 395 is a spectacular treat. The mountain scenery is stunning. You really should make plans to see it, especially in the fall when all the aspens are changing colors.

The highlight of the drive is, believe it or not, stopping at the Mobil gas station in Lee Vining. Unfathomable as it is, this place has been on the cover of Gourmet magazine. We stopped both ways and never bought gas. Brad had the lobster taquitos, Tim had an oyster poor boy, and I had an incredible chicken caeser salad wrap. They also have things like elk, salmon, gourmet pizza, etc. Food is served fresh, on real plates, with real silverware, within 5 minutes. If you dine at a table on the grass, you have views of Mono Lake on one side and Tioga Pass on the other side.

On the way there, we also stopped at the fish hatchery, which is more entertaining than you might think. And the Hot Creek geothermal area, which has recently sprouted its own geyser. Then on to Convict Lake, very relaxing, soaking my toes in the cool waters gazing at the dazzling mountains. While we didn’t do it this time, the June Lakes Loop is worth the drive. And don’t miss seeing the Minarets, breath-taking! It only takes about 10 minutes from the town of Mammoth.

So, anyway, about the festival….it’s billed at the Mammoth Beer and Bluesapoolza Festival, which tells you right away that it’s a dangerous combination. The young beer drinking crowd conflicts with the older music loving crowd. When the beer runs out and the Fabulous Thunderbirds hit the stage, it’s a combustible situation. Luckily, it wasn’t so bad, we just moved to the rear of the crowd and it was fine.

Friday night, it was good to hear Tommy Castro do some new stuff. I was frankly getting tired of hearing the same thing, over and over. The sad news is that Randy McDonald has left the band and that breaks my heart. Saturday’s line-up was outstanding. Shane Dwight got the crowd rocking—he’s a powerhouse, for sure. But we came to see James Harman, who is a party-maker, all by himself. Junior Watson was great as his side-kick too. Charlie Musselwhite was backed up by the wonderful Kid Andersen. You can see how much Charlie loves to watch him play. The T-birds are a great party band, that’s what they come for and they do it.

Now, I’ll tell you our secrets of making the festival enjoyable, but don’t tell anyone else. First, we ordered tickets online, so we didn’t have to wait to buy them there. You get a two-day wristband, with in and out privileges. This is critical. On Friday night, we scoped out where the shade will be the next day and set up our chairs there. We asked security and they said OK. We don’t have to carry out chairs out and back in again, and we have all day shade! And we don't have to stand in that cluster before the gate opens. But this is the best part: on Saturday, get there kind of early and park the RV near the gate, genius. We have our own refrigerator, change of clothes, bed, and bathroom (no messy, beer-used porta-potties for us) a few steps away!

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