Strings & Sol 2017: Welcome Home, Sol-Mates!
Strings & Sol is not a music festival.
Strings & Sol is a state of mind.
We spend the year laboring at our jobs, our lives, our responsibilities, waiting to reap the rewards we so anxiously need and deserve. The memories of the last great moment, event or party all seem to fade when we don’t quickly replenish them, but for many of us there is the promise of the future – the future holding the elixir that will rejuvenate our fest selves for another year and then some.
Strings & Sol is what keeps us going.
Sure, many of us live blessedly incredible lives.
If you’re reading this, you most likely attend music festivals, and therefore are doing something right.
But if you are attending Strings & Sol, you may rest easily, knowing that you are doing everything right!
If this was your first year – congratulations, you are now part of a family that will remain with you forever. For those in their 6th year, wow! You are doing everything right and then some!
And for those reading this and wishing they could attend next year, bummed that they missed it in the past – fret not! The dream can easily be a reality, and you now have another full year to make it so.
What makes Strings & Sol so incredibly special? Where do we begin?
From the moment of arrival at Now Sapphire, as we exit our transport, we are greeted with an invitingly cool damp towel and a smiling face declaring “Welcome Home!”
No two words elicit such a strong emotional reaction in humans (along with “Free Beer”, but we’ll get to that!). Just turn on the radio and count the songs you hear about “home”. We are drawn to home in indescribable ways, the way moths are drawn to the light of the moon.
For many festival attendees – artists, crew and fans alike – a life on the road is our chosen path. Home can be an illusion – a fleeting dream of a sofa that seems so far away.
Or home can be an all-inclusive resort in Puerto Morelos, Mexico.
There is no better way to describe it than such.
Turn your thoughts to home, and chances are the memories may lead to images of your old room, where nothing feels as good as the bed you grew up in. The old neighborhood, filled with playgrounds and familiar surroundings, where everything seemed bigger and better.
The comfort and familiarity in every twist and turn – that is home.
This is Strings & Sol!
Upon an effortless check-in to Now Sapphire (made even more enjoyable with a tropical cocktail served to us while in line) we were pleased to be assigned our very same room from last year. Just like returning home for the holidays, we were greeted by familiar faces all along the way to our room – festivarians and staff alike! We couldn’t have been happier as we went through the customary first-day routine of unpacking our belongings and making ourselves at home- because we were there.
Staying in the room for more than a moment was not an option – we needed to go out and explore our old stomping grounds.
There was the old playground – the popular Swing Bar on the beach, where sunset cocktails and late-night shenanigans are guaranteed to ensue! Then on to the Pool-Bar, where old friends and new were already gathering in and out of the water to reunite and reminisce. The local Coati – harmless and adorable little critters- roam the streets as we move on to a Strings & Sol tradition for us – our first meal in the Blue Water Grille.
Year after year we have our very first lunch overlooking the ocean in one of the many restaurant options, the Blue Water Grille. A friendly server whom we recall from years past brings a hat-rack and champagne while we bask in the wonderful surroundings and enjoy the pescado entero -fried whole fish – that we have been craving like Mom’s casserole since last December!
We are definitely home!
Strings & Sol is home, and there is no match to the feeling of returning home and reuniting with your family.
And what a family reunion it is!
When we first attended Strings & Sol in 2012, we were flying solo (well, duo). Festy GoNuts had not yet been conceived, and we only knew two or three other people attending. This was to change very quickly – before we even made it to the resort, in fact.
Yes, our first and longest lasting Sol-mates are the ones we met on the shuttle from the airport.
This is not an isolated experience – it is the norm more often than not! That first crew, gathered around a happy local brandishing a “Strings & Sol” sign, shares a special bond. United by enthusiasm, anticipation, excitement and airport Coronas – this is the group coming in fresh with the knowledge that life is about to quickly change for a magical week!
From that point on, we made more friends than we could count, and that was year-one.
Friends like Strings & Sol veterans Craig and Rebecca Buford, who have been all 6 years, and “don’t plan on stopping any time soon!”
“I think what makes it so special and keeps us going,” Craig Buford says, “is that it’s a beautiful location, we’ve made friends from all over that we get to see every year, and most importantly, everyone is so relaxed including the artists and crew.”
The artists and crew are part of the family as well, enjoying every aspect of the experience as much as the fans.
First-time artist Jon Stickley said “I felt like I was walking into some kind of crazy tropical adult Disney World” when he first arrived at Now Sapphire Resort. “…I mean, I get excited when I roll into any cool festival, but when they hand you a drink around each corner and you start soaking in the beauty of the beach and the resort itself… man, it’s like the best summer camp of all time!”
Jon’s excitement was easily noted; it’s very possible that he may not have put his guitar down a single time in his first 36-hours at Strings & Sol!
Mike and Marian Honig have also been to all 6 Strings & Sol, making a promise to each other on their return flight from the first Strings & Sol that “if they do this again, we’ll be there!”
Mike summed it up perfectly. “It’s the music, it’s the beach and the warm sunshine in winter, but it’s really all of you. How lucky are we that we’ve joined and created this community of like-minded souls. And we get to play in the sand together!”
And play in the sand we do!
Since starting Festy GoNuts two years ago, we have been lucky enough to attend many more festivals than perhaps the average festival attendee, but still not nearly as many as some of the seasoned veterans we have met along the way. At each festival we attend, no matter where in the country we may be, we inevitably run into someone brandishing a Strings & Sol hat, pin, shirt or coozie.
Thus the Strings & Sol family grows, ensuring even more Sol-mates at the next gathering of the tribe.
Which is why each year we say “this was the best year ever!” Because each year it is undoubtedly true! The family grows, the feeling grows, the love grows and Strings & Sol gets better and better.
And we long to return home again, year after year.
Of course, unlike a typical visit home for the holidays, this one comes with some of the best and most talented musicians in the world. For most of us, that just doesn’t happen at Mom’s house!
Before many of us had unpacked (some of us still haven’t!) there were setlists and recordings of performances being shared all over social media – evidence of the caliber of music the attendees were treated to, and that those who couldn’t attend were anxiously craving to devour.
One of those performances was by the Jon Stickley Trio, who completely blew away many unsuspecting fans who had yet to see the first-time Strings & Sol performers before their rocking late-night palapa set.
We asked Jon Stickley what his personal musical highlights of the weekend were:
“Man, there were SO many! Personally, I was really grateful and thrilled to sit in with Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, and Yonder. The collaboration in this scene is one of the coolest things about it. I also have to say that the Greensky set was straight up FIRE! Another highlight was Bont’s dance party.”
All of the acts delivered their A+ game, as they always do, but what makes Strings & Sol special is what happens off-the-record, when the tapers and cameras aren’t necessarily rolling, when the “official” schedule has wrapped up for the evening.
Michael Bont of Greensky Bluegrass hosted one of these “unofficial” magical moments by spinning an incredible set of 90’s era hip-hop that had those in attendance doing the running-man and the kick-step better than one would think possible at a “bluegrass” festival!
There are always moments like this that some of us are lucky enough to witness, like when Anders Beck (Greensky Bluegrass), Andy Thorn (Leftover Salmon), Jon Stickley and Lyndsay Pruett (Jon Stickley Trio) entertained a small crowd at the Swing Bar into the wee hours of the morning.
Another highlight for those lucky enough to catch it occurred at the “Adult Pool,” an after-hours hot spot year after year. The Adult Pool has played host to impromptu jams by official artists and fans alike, and the lines are often blurred.
Jon Stickley recalls “I have to say that my favorite moment was something I had been looking forward to for quite a while… singing Sublime songs with Jay Cobb [Anderson] and Kellen [Asebrook] from Fruition at the adult pool late night.”
These are the musical moments that you won’t find on eTree – you won’t see them in the official recap, and they won’t be announced in next-year’s lineup.
But they happen. And they are incredibly special.
These special moments are not difficult to find – in fact they are incredibly easy! Just venture outside your room after-hours and you are sure to stumble into something magical.
Just about everything that occurs at Strings & Sol is that easy.
Like most visits home, the familiarity of Now Sapphire Resort lends to the ease of the visit.
Sure, an all-inclusive resort hosting a music festival should make life easy, but Strings & Sol goes beyond ease, creating a world of effortlessness.
The abundance of food options, the many bars and cocktail servers everywhere you turn, staff members constantly checking in to see if there is anything you need – Strings & Sol gives Mom and her house a run for their money in making sure the guests are as comfortable as humanly possible!
Case in point: After an amazing Greensky Bluegrass poolside set – they play in the gazebo while most of us enjoy the music from the comfort of our pool floats (you know, typical music festival stuff!) – I left the pool shivering and cold. I ran to wrap myself in a towel as quickly as I could, and was given the best treat possible – a hot towel!
These little touches happen all the time!
Feeling hungry, but not wanting to dry off from the pool and head into the buffet? No worries, the resort has just finished roasting a few hundred whole chickens and is serving them poolside! A little hungover from too much tequila last night and not sure how to refresh? What’s that over there? Ahh, it’s a table filled with whole coconuts ready to drink! And possibly the best of all – Standing on the rail during an incredible set of music by your favorite band but needing a drink? Don’t move – here comes a server with a tray full of beer, water and tequila!
It’s just that easy.
Like waking up in the morning to Mom’s breakfast, Strings & Sol is the pampering we all still deserve once in a while.
And that’s why we continue to go home to Strings & Sol, year after year.
Check out our gallery below, and for even more shots visit our Facebook Strings and Sol Gallery.