Commentary: The hidden treasures of music right in our backyard

FI-Robert-WalshI recently discovered geocaching, an international treasure hunt that combines clues and global positioning information to reveal small boxes people have hidden in public places. It’s wildly addictive and the perfect summer activity for those lazy days when going to the beach just isn’t enough. There’s something magic about stumbling upon something hidden in plain sight.

I feel the same way about finding that perfect night out with friends. It’s so much more fun to discover something off the beaten path, even if it’s out of my comfort zone. One night last summer we enjoyed a note-for-note bluegrass tribute to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of The Moon” with the band dressed as characters from the “Wizard of Oz.” I hate bluegrass, but this kind of real-life treasure hunting turned out to be a blast and one of my fondest memories.

Gathering of The Vibes

This weekend, my treasure hunt continues. The Gathering of The Vibes music festival (which takes place this weekend in Bridgeport) would seem to be an obvious choice. It gets a lot of press and deservedly so — it’s a fantastic show and a truly unique experience. However, I’m old and cranky and not quite as willing to fight my way through Hula Hoops and hacky sacks to stand through an entire concert.

I’ve been to a number of Grateful Dead shows in my youth, but now that I’m closer to death myself I’m less tolerant of drunken (?) crowds and the lingering bouquet of porta-potties. Ideally, I’d catch Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros (their misspelling, not mine) in a tie dye-free bubble from my lawn chair, then magically transport home without fighting through the hordes wandering the parking lots like lost circus performers.

So, how do I enjoy several days of entertainment out in this beautiful summer weather without all the attendant craziness of the Woodstock in my back yard?

Festival Stratford

The hidden treasure I seek takes place this weekend on the grounds of the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre in Stratford. “Festival Stratford” runs July 30 through Aug. 3 and features five packed days of free entertainment for the whole family. Each morning begins with yoga classes at 8:30, so bring that yoga mat and a non-perishable food or cash contribution for the Sterling House Food Pantry. Check out the historic theater’s museum exhibits during an afternoon visit to the lobby and see never-before displayed photos from an era when Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was on the fundraising committee for the theater. Take advantage of the opportunity for a quick tour through this landmark while you’re at it — you’ll be surprised at its beauty!

Enjoy the jazz performances as you set up and mingle each night at 6. Pack a picnic dinner and a blanket or chair to enjoy the Connecticut Free Shakespeare’s company production of As You Like It that highlights each night at 8 on the lawn. Saturday and Sunday will feature additional performances by the Stratford SquareWrights and the kids from the Shakespeare Academy @ Stratford. Food trucks will be available as well.

I’ve attended the last five years and there’s nothing like Shakespeare on the lawn as the sun sets and the Housatonic River flows by. Pick a night (or two) and make plans for an unforgettable evening that will remind you why you chose to live in Connecticut in the first place.

You can read more at RobertFWalsh.net and contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @RobertFWalsh.

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