Thousands flock to farm for Starry Nights

Security pulls singer Matt Shultz out of the crowd for the second time in a row during Cage the Elephant’s set at Starry Nights on Saturday.

The crowd arrived in droves on Friday to Ballance Farms. Tires slashed through the mud and gravel crunched underfoot. Tents were assembled in what seemed like a choreographed style as people settled into their campsite for the weekend.

Some wandered among the food and art vendors, chain smoking and chatting with new people.  

As the sky began to dim, a cool fog rolled in. At 9:30 p.m. Buffalo Rodeo kicked off the weekend. A plume of smoke —   cigarette and maybe some pot   — hovered over the crowd. The Starry Nights Festival had begun.

The fourth year of the festival, which skipped last year, was in full force.

“This year, it’s a lot bigger,” WKU alum Allison Paul said.

The 21-year-old Bowling Green resident has attended every Starry Nights since the first festival in 2008. Paul said she keeps coming back to have a good time with her friends.

This year, 23 bands were featured on two stages, the “Big Dipper” and the “Little Dipper.” The music started on Friday at 9:30 p.m. and lasted until 2 a.m., picking back up at 11 a.m. on Saturday and going until 2 a.m. Sunday morning.

Nashville’s The Kingston Springs played at the Little Dipper on Saturday afternoon. The band has been a part of Starry Nights for two years. Ian Ferguson, one of the band’s singers/guitarists was surprised by turnout of the crowd.

“This is unreal compared to two years ago,” Ferguson said.

The Kingston Springs woke the audience up with bluesy Southern rock. The band has also played at Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits and South by Southwest.

When asked about what type of venue they like, the group said they enjoy playing house shows the most. The band related Starry Nights’ small crowd and relaxed atmosphere to the “soul of a house show.”

“People go crazy,” drummer, Matt DeMaio, said.

Today, The Kingston Springs’ second album, self-titled and self-produced, will be released.

While many were returning to Starry Nights, there were new faces as well. It was Savannah Wolfgram’s first music festival. The 18-year-old Nashville freshman came to see her favorite artist, Justin Townes Earle, for the eleventh time.

“It’s more exciting every time I see him,” Wolfgram said.

At one point, she wanted to see Justin Townes Earle but had to have jaw surgery. Her mother emailed him, and Townes invited Wolfgram to a private show.

“He even called me,” she said. “But I couldn’t talk because my jaw was wired shut.”

Also new to Starry Nights were brothers Cary and Michael Thorup of Hippy Trippy Brothers Tie-Dye. The brothers set up a colorful tent where they sold their hand-dyed shirts, tapestries and bed linens.

Based out of Lebanon, Tenn., the Thorups were busy this summer making merchandise and traveling to festivals such as Gnarnia and Summer Solstice. Cary and Michael took time off from their full-time jobs to pursue tie-dye over the summer.

The brothers personalize their tie-dye by using up to 36 vibrant colors and designs such as mushrooms, guitars and stars.

“So many people have done this,” Cary said. “But this is our own twist on it.”

After working this summer at music fests, they’ve acquired new dye and chemicals, found a local store that manufactures T-shirts and made more connections. Cary and Michael said they feel like they have a solid base to continue tie-dying.

They hope to get a website started soon and would eventually like to expand their business even more.

“A shop would be cool as shit,” Michael said.

As for the food vendors, supplies ran short. There were five, and the long lines clogged the main thoroughfare by the stages.

Of the few vendors, only three offered full meals and continued to run out of ingredients. Despite a few hiccups, a lot of people said they enjoyed themselves.

“We had a really good vibe on stage,” Ben Stix, the drummer for Space Capone, said. “I like how it’s more of a local vibe.”

Space Capone, a funky R&B band from Nashville, has been around its fair share of music festivals. Mikie Martel, the trumpet player for the band, worked at Bonnaroo for nine years.

Martel said Starry Nights was less corporate.

This year was Starry Nights’ most popular year to date. By Saturday night, everyone was soaking in the atmosphere.

Despite the damp, cold fall air, thousands were present, adorned with glow sticks, face paint and costumes. Some danced, some swayed, moshed and sang, but all enjoyed the live music.

Band members and audience members alike seemed to enjoy the colorful community. Some people, like Stix, would like to see Starry Nights reach its full potential.

I see room to grow,” he said.