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Magic Mountain Music (June 2-4, 2000)
Four Quarters -- Artemis, Pennsylvania USA

A Review by by Christy Martin (Four Shillings Short)

Before I begin this review let me say that I am a professional musician and reviews of my music have appeared in a magazine before. And although Magic Mountain is a Music festival, a focus on the performers is not my purpose here. Simply put, this festival is unlike any that I've ever attended. Now in its 5th year, Magic Mountain is held in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania on the border, near Cumberland Maryland. It is hosted by the Four Quarters InterFaith Sanctuary of Earth Religion, who successfully bring together not only excellent folk and indigenous music, but invoke the Spirits and Powers of Muse and Magic that are often overlooked at festivals these days. I felt that I had stepped out of a time machine and into a new world village culture.

It is difficult to put ones finger on exactly how this was done, although the organizers tell me it is very much their goal. The site of Four Quarters certainly contributes to the other worldly feel, located inside a bend in a mountain river with beautiful swimming holes and framed on three sides by high cliffs. The single gravel lane follows a high ridge that gradually lowers until the camp spreads out before you, with the Main Stage, Camp Kitchen and Merchants Village placed on a low hilltop meadow in the center of camp. Just off to one side in a grove of oaks lies the heart of their Sanctuary; The Stone Circle. This setting has to be seen, with thirteen tall slabs of sandstone already placed and small posts with colored ribbon marking the circle's future outlines through the trees. These folks apparently plan on doing this for some time to come.

Much of the atmosphere comes from subtle changes in policy from the norm of music festivals. Cars are unwelcome in the heart of camp and are parked out of view. Alcohol is present, but the camps no-original-containers-in-public policy is enforced and successfully created a feeling of freedom without license. The camp is ecologically aware and they pointedly provide no trash service. The result is grounds that are spotless, in sharp contrast to most festival venues.

Four Quarters is a religious sanctuary, and they do a fine job creating the spiritual side of the event without pushing a belief system on anyone. Native American, West African, Wiccan and a bit of New Age all blended together in a very open way, especially with the evening Drum Circles; which are presented as ceremonies and participative performance.

The evening sets from the Main Stage were very professionally produced, with sound and lighting quality expected of from an event many times this small size. Among the performers were names that will be recognized by our regular readers. Dan Levenson's Old Time Banjo, Four Shillings Short Ethno-Celtic and Vyctoria Pratt Keeting. Mention must be made of NYC based David Brown and his eloquently political songwriting. David's guitar work is strong, his singing crystal clear and his punch lines delivered with grace and power. His non-formulaic songwriting style is truly a breath of fresh air in the singer/songwriter lineup of today's typical folk festival. From the emerging genre of EarthReligous music appeared the capably Celtic Rogues Cross, Four Winds Earth Chorus singing songs from the worlds indigenous peoples and the lively antics of Elven Drums. The seven members of Kiva raised the roof Friday night and got the crowd on their dancing feet before leading the festival goers to the evenings Drum and Fire circle. Each person was smudged and blessed with sage as they entered the candle lined circle; the drumming and dancing lasting well into the morning.

Saturday featured more informal music and workshops, leading to a free "Old Style Campout Cookout;" burgers, dawgs and balloons served up with a fiddle duel from the day stage. Young children were very much in evidence. And in keeping with the flavor of the weekend, Saturday evening began with a Ceremony in the Stone Circle; where the spirit of the universal listener, player, dancer and drummer were all invoked. The members of the Sanctuary provided real color and style as they brought all of the attendees into this ritual; which ended in a drum procession to the Main Stage and the opening set for the night. It was quite a show.

Magic Mountain is an unusual festival, flawlessly produced, with real heart. If you are ready for a change in approach to folk and indigenous music, perhaps a memory of an earlier time when festivals did feel like a family village, it may be your cup of tea. I think we will be hearing more from these folks in the years to come.

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