a final gander at Wild Goose 2011.


When you get right down to it, there are more goose jokes than you might think.

I came into Wild Goose in a kind of hodge-podge, last-second decision kind of way and managed to experience it in a similar fashion. At the outset, I was alerted to its existence by a Twitter mention from Gavin: “@elvisfreakshow really wants to go to this, he just doesn’t know it yet.” It was the end of February, I think. So I headed over to the Wild Goose site, which at the time was less cool and more borrowed looking. I poked around a bit, but apart from a sense that Derek Webb was involved, there wasn’t much information. “Maybe he was kidding,” I concluded.

A few months months and a circus of communication later, I was asked (two weeks ahead of the festival) to lead the youth team. Which, as it turned out, was a bit of a blank page considering how close we were to the festival. My experience of the festival, then, was from the perspective of both insider and outsider. The most common sentiment I picked up throughout the festival from everyone I encountered was that we were all so glad it was happening. I don’t know if any two people came away with the same story; everyone seemed to be moving through in their own way. Two truths: I missed about half of the bands and speakers that I would like to have seen. And I would do it again the same way.

Because I approached the festival as an attendee, I came with my family. Because at the very last I became staff, my family and I had very different experiences of the festival and we were careful to evaluate our time together and apart as we went along, to avoid the former intention being ruined by the latter obligation. Late one evening we arrived at this conclusion that I think pretty fairly sums up the Wild Goose experience: in no other set of circumstances over any other 4 days would we ever have encountered such a powerful collection of moments. And all those moments added up to a sense of worthwhile that is difficult to express.

Ordinarily the event is about, well, the event. The right speakers, bands, whatever. At Wild Goose, it felt like the event was about those in attendance. Conversations you’d have nowhere else. People you’d meet nowhere else. Presenters and performers that were present for the duration of the event. When does that ever happen?

Sure, it wasn’t perfect. There’s probably a mighty check-list being nailed to the wall somewhere as you read this (“#16. Don’t attempt to transition from soul-warming Americana to intimate worship by putting a comic in the middle. #17. Especially if you’ve just passed out 1,000 marshmallows to the masses). But the spirit of the festival was picked up by the crowd entirely; walking the grounds the last day of the festival felt like the last day of a mission trip. Something special had happened. People weren’t streaming for the exits; they were lingering, savoring.

I’m all in for next year; I suspect I’m not the only one who has already Googled, “Wild Goose 2012” with unreasonable optimism. I’ll be making my case to head next year’s youth team later this week; people seemed to resonate with this year’s efforts–imagine what I could do with more than a week and a half of preparation!

Hope to see you there next time.