Valley Residents Create Community with Home Spun Music Festival
By Kristyan Kouri
In a world often fraught with indifference, it was refreshing to attend the twenty-third annual Maypole celebration in North Hollywood, California this past weekend. After taking an anthropology course in college, the Maypole’s founder, Josh Troy, learned that humans need rituals in their lives to feel psychologically healthy and whole. So he set about creating one, instituting a backyard festival where people could come together to eat, drink, and listen to the works of talented musicians who reside in the area. Each year, Josh and his wife Sarah erect a stage in their backyard, and Maypole co-founder and musical director Jeffrey Cleveland organizes the wide-ranging musical acts that perform from early afternoon until late in the evening.
This year, over one hundred people traveled to North Hollywood to take part in the festivities, and everyone, seemed to be having a wonderful time. “It’s like Woodstock for the local people” Mark Valle of Toluca Lake. “I’ve never been to a party with such a sense of community. Sara B. Ware of Mission Hills concurred. “ It’s fantastic to see people perform with wide ranging musical interests and abilities. You don’t have to be an amazing musician to be supported, and that’s something special here in LA.”
And wide ranging it is. There are individuals who perform only once a year, bands who are known throughout the local community, and even a famous artist or two. Echo Park resident, Dan Bern, is one such artist. After playing a number of songs on the Maypole stage, the indie legend, who’s songs are often played on public radio stations such as KCRW, told me that he enjoys singing at this venue because it’s “hippest little unknown sub-festival in town.”
The musical portion of the Maypole festivities culminated with two founding members of a local group called Catahoula – Bruce Bermudez (formerly of the New Christy Minstrels) and Pamela Clay performing several of their original songs. “We love to perform at the annual Maypole,” Clay said,” because it’s a way for us to show our love of life through music with like-minded spirits.”
These like-minded spirits can stay connected throughout the year by visiting the Maypole’s very own Facebook page where they can view photos, watch video clips, and listen to recordings of artists who sang at Maypole celebrations in the years gone past. To me, the Maypole Facebook page is another one of many examples that show just how dedicated the Troy’s are to their cause.
At the end of the day, I take great comfort in knowing that there are individuals in the vicinity who are engaging in practices that serve facilitate human connection and to foster social bonds between individuals living in our community as both sociologists and psychologists have demonstrated that psychological health is predicated on connection with others. With suicide rates at an all time high, and with feelings of isolation and lack of belongingness being one of suicide’s primary culprits, it is wonderful to see people like the Troy’s are doing all that they can to bring people together in an creative and winning manner.
Kristyan Kouri teaches sociology and gender & women’s studies at Cal State University, Northridge.