The wonderful world of LEAF, found through the universality of music



It’s my first time, and I’m taking it all in with easy, wide-eyed wonder. It’s one of the most beloved local music festival traditions around, and I’m having a hard time offering a recap.

What exactly do I have to add? What is there for me to say that has not already been said by someone vastly more qualified than myself?

Should I tell you about The Screaming J’s setting up camp in front of their bus and playing for nearly 48 hours straight? About the children and parents boogying in the grass while the J’s family rocked the bus and some beautiful older woman, whose name I can no longer remember, passed out the most refreshing kombucha I’ve ever tasted?

Surely you’ve already seen that scene.

Or what of Lake Eden itself, full of humans in kayaks and canoes, or swimming and zip-lining to the music surrounding them? Should I tell you about the families bathing in the warmth of a rain-erasing Saturday sun? The carnival troop on stilts? The puppet show up on the bank?

What of the barn-dance that was Jon Stickley Trio on Saturday night? Should I tell you how lucky we were to arrive early with the others to see the single hottest band on the circuit in the most intimate of environments?

No, you’ve had a similar LEAF experience. Stickley Trio is not the first band to play such a show at this event, and they will not be the last. I could rave for days about the diversity of the acts, from the didgeridoo workshops to the giant chess game. I could talk about Shakedown Street by the main stage and the psychadelic swings and the way everything just so perfectly seemed to fit together, but you know all of this.

You probably know all about the soft-focus on world music, have likely experienced the world-class, world-wide musicians that have graced their stages. You have danced to rhythms with which you are wholly unfamiliar, felt a sense of community with a culture you have never experienced first hand, and enjoyed sounds and instruments you had never imagined possible.

Alas, there is nothing new I can tell you. The universality, the one-ness that pervades the entire atmosphere surrounding Lake Eden each spring and fall, has welcomed one more consciousness to it.

Caleb Calhoun studied writing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and music at a plethora of clubs and bars across the southeast. He is the host of Soundcheck Radio (Thursday’s 3-5 on 103.7 WPVM) and Soundcheck AVL and the publisher of Rosman City Blues. He currently lives in West Asheville with his woodland mermaid, Dr. Gonzo.

You can reach him at and/or