Zoos. After a while, the​ worst of these​ festival​s​ start to look and feel like zoos. The shape and colors of the cages may change ​from festival to festival; ​perks for some differ; and the festival themes vary; but after a while​,​ ​too many of these venues begin to feel claustrophobic.

Bands are trapped, for hours on end inside of buses and vans. They drive, are driven, from festival to festival only to be released, for a short period of time into half trailers​ with omnipresent bare walls, beer coolers and fruit plates​ where the​ bands ​bid there time waiting to play.

For brief periods of time, they wander the commissary tents. High fences, all too often separate them from their fans-Why? Who needs to be separated from whom and why? Other fences separate gen-pop from VIP.​ Precious few, bands and patrons alike, look happy, let alone inspired.​

Fans themselves-once they make the long trek from the parking lot-are free to wander the hot large sun-blasted fields that stretch out from high stages. They​’​re kept from the stages, and performers, of course, by barriers. In time​ ​the crowds grow, personal space recedes and no one wanders anywhere.

Strangers sit side by side, in time they stand shoulder to shoulder. Photographers are penned in the pit between the crowd and stage.

Fans are free, prior to becoming entrapped by the crowds, of course, to venture to expensive merch and food stands where they are free to purchase ten dollar hamburgers and forty-five dollar t-shirts. Which arguably, are a bargain compared to the price of admission tickets.

Loud guitars and the sun blast those penned in the fields. Few look happy. Is this some sort of punishment?

The Nowhere Else Festival is not a zoo. It’s the free range version of ​m​usic ​f​estivals. The audience wanders freely, as do the artists. The artists and guests-many of whom are artists, mingle, exchange greetings, chat and even brainstorm together in seminars.

Joe Henry speaks​, to small encircled group about song writing, while ​Michael Wilson gives a history lesson on photography and ​also ​demonstrates his method of shooting portraits. All are welcome.

Someone takes portraits of those standing on line for the port-o-lets.

The concert goers bring picnics and drinks. A massive pot luck ensues. Kind couples feed photographers expensive hors d’ouerves and beer. Everybody dines together, at tables, under the dining tent. A   breeze from the surrounding open farmlands passes freely through the tent. People laugh and smile.

There are art lessons for adults and children alike. There’s music under the big top. The sun does not pound like a sledge hammer for those seated under the big top.

Everyone comes and goes – freely – at will.

If your favorite grandparents threw a music festival, it would look like this. Everyone is a long lost-or not so long lost-cousin. There are either friends you know, or friends to be met. There are no ten dollar hamburgers, though there are two dollar espressos under shade the shade trees.
​Here, many are happy.​