LIBERTY Take winding Route 414 off Route 15, wind up hill and down dale, turn off onto a rural road at the lit-up steeple, then turn onto the dirt road at the faded orange tractor.
Here is "Liberty Fest," on top of the misty mountains that make up this corner of Tioga County.
Showing up at night reinforces how far from the hectic busyness of modern life this small, growing festival, in its third year, is removed. People pass by each other in the dark, walking between the main stage - a wooden bandshell with a front lip just the height of your average bar, perfect for setting down a drink and leaning on to watch the bands - their campsites, and the tent stage, to which they're directed through a gateway of lights past a flaming set of antlers put in place by Williamsport artist Matthew Dempsey.
Above, Sol Driven Train is seen performing at Liberty Fest, which was held July 5 and 6 at the Liberty Festival Grounds, 173 Taylor Run Road in Roaring Branch.
The only real distraction here from the music playing on the two stages is the number of stars you can look up and count.
Stand at a point where you can hear both stages playing at once, and it quickly becomes clear how far this music is from the mainstream, all the overprocessed dance-pop in vogue now that's dedicated to shutting out all nuances of feeling.
There are dubstep drops and long, repetitive jams here, too, but there is also conscious effort to corral all the expressive energy and heaviness released over the long 20th century through blues and jazz and rock and hip-hop, and make that exuberance into something that might evoke some new feeling in its listeners - rather than serving up an endless beat that says we've already declined and fallen, so let's forget it all and have a "good time."
Good musicians are needed to make unexpected, sometimes psychedelic sounds, and they are out in full force at Liberty Fest.
After Double Deuce, a supergroup of scene veterans playing its second show ever together, finishes its Friday night set on the main stage, a bearded man who's watched the whole two-plus hour show, enraptured, looks up and says "I just went to music school. I mean I feel like I did. These guys are all phenoms."
The Double Deuce guys are great musicians, and adept at making music: creating tension, mixing in harmonic complexity, and not being afraid to go from spaced-out minimalism into the blues into three minutes of superheavy headbanging groove.
Royal Benson, jamming on "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" late in the tent grove, puts out, for a minute, that sort of spinning, chiming sound that's familiar from build-ups on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. It's space you can immerse the listener in, tweaking as you go, or you can use that sound as just an underpinning of a jam.
And there's metal runs up and down the pentatonic scale, a DJ set, acoustic strumming, music till the morning.
Your average guitarist here blows the power chord savants of the '90s away, those who played for Linkin Park, Green Day, Blink 182, etc., and the vocalists here mostly have some tonal range. After years of classical rock training, there is a lot of talent out there, still searching for that happy medium between the excesses of the '80s shredders and the anti-skill reaction of the '90s grunge and punk rockers and bringing in all sorts of other myriad influences as well. "World" rhythms on the congas; guys and gals breaking out all sorts of horns and strange stringed and shaking instruments found online; all sorts of synths and effects mixed into otherwise "organic" instrumentation - the possibilities go on and on.