It took me a year, but I finally got to meet him.
Last year was the first time I went to the Kerrville Folk Festival. It’s an 18 day singer/songwriter festival where almost every Texas artist ( as well as many others) have performed or become famous there: Jimmy LaFave, Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle, Ruthie Foster, Robert Earl Keen, Slaid Cleaves, Mary Gauthier, Hal Ketchum, and on and on. Its held on a rambling, improved campground. It’s got 2 main stages, an area for a food court as well as vendors of art, tie-dyed shirts, ice cream, woodworking and cd’s from the artists who perform. There’s hardly a spot that doesn’t have an RV, a tent or a makeshift outdoor living room with an overhead canopy to protect from the sun or rain and which serves as an area for song circles all day and all night. There’s music everywhere with people carrying guitars, mandolins, harmonicas, a cajón for percussion or even keyboards – just searching for the next group to sing or play along with.
At 7:00PM, the main stage gets going with 5-6 groups scheduled to play. Concerts often go well past midnight. Like the rest of the festival, its all outside, so if it rains, the concert is cancelled or delayed. Usually though, weather is not a problem and evenings are very enjoyable under the Texas star-filled sky and a cool breeze blowing by.
It was during the evening concerts that I first sp0tted him. Off to the side of the main seating area, a sandy dance area has been designated for those who get the urge. As most people there, Patty and I were soaking up the fabulous talent of the performers on stage. At one point, I looked around at the crowd and happened to spot this older man with long, gray hair, in a gold sequenced shirt, doing his own dance – making gestures that he thought expressed the words of the song that the singer was singing. I had never seen anyone dance quite like this before, and to be honest, I thought it was a bit weird. I nudged Patty and we both got a good chuckle out of him.
But the thing is, he danced to every song all night long. And the next night too. Every night that we were there – he was dancing! He’d change tops from gold, to red, to green, to turquoise…he had all kinds of colors. I found him fascinating to watch. He wasn’t actually trying to get anybody’s attention I don’t think. I mean, he had to know he was standing out and that people did watch him, but he really just danced his dance and did his thing all for himself. He was very entertaining. Patty and I even did some pretty good impersonations of him, waving our arms, shaking out heads, covering our hearts or brushing away the sad emotions heard in the song’s lyrics.
This year, I hoped that he returned and if he did, I was determined to get a memorable shot of him. Sure enough, he was there on the opening night of the festival. I made my way over to the dance area where he was preparing his crate full of colorful, flowing tops. When I take street pictures or pictures at a festival, I sometimes just snap pictures and move on, but I really wanted to meet this guy so I introduced myself and asked if he minded if I snap some shots of him while he danced. He was quite happy to oblige.
His name is Joe. He said he’d been coming to Kerrville for 6 years now. He said that’s when he got divorced and decided that he was not going to let life get him down and this folk festival was something that he always wanted to do. So he keeps coming back. He said he’d retired from his profession and had the time now to do as he pleased. Dancing to music that he loves was how he wants to spend his time.
Here’s a few more shots of the man I love to watch – Dancin’ Joe