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.
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
- 1⁄125th 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