Ron Landis, Justin Easter, Becky Gragg, Opal Agafia, & Gary Hart in the Green Room — Backstage at the 21st Annual Woody Guthrie Festival, 2018

Woodyfest 2018: Thursday Backstage

Backstage at the Pastures of Plenty

Mez Perks Up Pasture’s Previous Primitive Provisions

As most Woodyfest sup­port­ers know, [Sidenote: The sev­enth item in our 21st Annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival series fea­tures can­did por­traits from the back­stage area shot on the clas­sic jour­nal­ists’ film, Kodak Tri-X.] fes­ti­val favorite Audrey Auld-Mezera died of com­pli­ca­tions from can­cer three years ago. The Tasmanian native was known for her flam­ing red hair, her wry humor, and her kind and bois­ter­ous per­son­al­ity. She hosted a series of song­writ­ing work­shops for inmates at San Quentin prison from 2007 – 2013.

Auld-Mezera left behind her griev­ing hus­band and friend of the fes­ti­val “Mez” Mezera. Weighted under his late wife’s med­ical expenses, Mez was briefly home­less in the after­math. But when the fes­ti­val held a fundraiser to get him back on his feet, Mez donated all of the money to improve the out­door stage and atten­dant facil­i­ties for the ben­e­fit of audi­ence and per­form­ers, because that’s what Audrey would have wanted.

When the fes­ti­val coali­tion decided to erect a per­ma­nent stage, they agreed it would be best to locate it at the pasture’s north end, because, unlike the pre­vi­ous south­ern loca­tion, they had title to the land. Thus in 2015 began con­struc­tion of a new, state-of-the-art stage. The con­crete struc­ture sports 50-foot tall gird­ers hoist­ing per­ma­nent shade and light­ing well above the per­form­ers. It’s lower than the orig­i­nal stage, so the audi­ence gets a bet­ter view. Unfortunately, as I dis­cov­ered in 2017 after snaking across the stage on my belly like some kind of Green Beret com­mando to pho­to­graph Arlo Guthrie from behind, there’s no place for a pho­tog­ra­pher to hide once the drumk­its and ampli­fiers are cleared away.

Nellie Marie Clay, Jason Scott, & Ken Pomeroy Rehearsing (II) — Backstage at the 21st Annual Woody Guthrie Festival, 2018
Nellie Marie Clay, Jason Scott, & Ken Pomeroy Rehearsing (II) — Backstage at the 21st Annual Woody Guthrie Festival, 2018

The move also meant los­ing the trees that shaded the orig­i­nal back­stage area, but as you’ll see, Mez is tak­ing care of that. In any case, the acoustics are much bet­ter. The build­ings that used to reflect the music with a less-than-ideal back­slap effect are now behind the stage. The new acoustics are the best I’ve ever heard at an out­door fes­ti­val; even at the pasture’s south end by the portable toi­lets, the sound is great.

As soon as the coali­tion announced the fes­ti­val would be get­ting a new stage, Mez was on the case. He’s returned to Okemah numer­ous times to help build the stage, erect fences, and put together the new green rooms — a pair of con­verted cargo con­tain­ers. The first of the rooms, a cedar-pan­eled beauty, was ready to use for the first time this year, com­plete with elec­tric­ity, kitch­enette, lava­tory, and air-con­di­tion­ing — a must-have for sum­mer­time in Oklahoma.

As if that isn’t enough, Mez and a posse of vol­un­teers planted trees at the pas­ture this autumn, accord­ing to this Facebook post

Gallery: Backstage, Thursday


I brought my Hasselblad 500C/​M loaded with Tri-X and shot three rolls back­stage, one each night. I didn’t real­ize until much later that I was using an incor­rect lens hood, [Sidenote: I had deployed a lens shade meant for a 60 – 80mm lens on a 50mm lens.] which accounts for the vignetting.

Here are the first night’s pictures:


Hasselblad 500C/​M with A12 back
Gepe Pro Release 20″ cable with Zeiss Disc-Lock
Carl Zeiss Distagon CF T* 50mm ƒ/4,0
1125th second
Kodak Tri-X 400 Professional 120
Sunpak 622 Pro
Adox Adonal (Rodinal) 1:100
~60 min­utes semi-stand in Paterson Super System 4 day­light tank
Epson Perfection v850
Adobe Lightroom 6

About Chris J. Zähller

International Man of Mystery. Cocktail Nerd. Occasionally designs websites. Sometimes snaps a picture or two.

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