I think it's safe to say that I'm exhausted... the BEST kind of exhausted though!

In what has become somewhat of an annual tradition for me since I arrived in Canada, I just returned from a weekend across the US border in Washington where I experienced the magical combination of Of A Revolution (O.A.R.) and the incomparable Dave Matthews Band (DMB) play at the legendary Gorge Ampitheatre not once, but over three nights in a row!

Joining me for the epic road trip this year were my two good photographer mates Jen and Carlos. This year marked the third time that Jen had also made the trip down for the DMB weekend, and for Carlos it was his first taste of the truly bucket-list-worthy spectacle.

The trip south over the border

Unbelievably we managed to pile into Jen's small, and I'd love to say spacious Toyota Yaris (but that would be a lie), pretty early on Friday morning in Richmond in a bid to get across the border before the lineups got too bad. Turns out we got through the US border efficiently and without me even having to get out to process a Visa Waiver as per usual. I guess the fact that I now have a Canadian Resident card had something to do with the smooth entry...?

With the trusty Google Maps on my iPod Touch leading us the way, we made it down to Ellensburg for the customary booze and grocery shop before heading to the Gorge camp grounds. Oh boy... if the little ol' Yaris Hatchback wasn't full already, it sure was after the shop. With Carlos being a talented chef, we didn't by any means scrimp on the groceries this year, and believe you me, if there was a nook or cranny to be found anywhere inside the car, it was filled with a food product of some kind.

With the temperature soaring, we finally made it to George, to the Gorge campgrounds, and had our tents pitched and beer on ice, in no time. The only thing left to do in the afternoon before heading over to the stage for the first concert was cook up a bit of a meal and put away a few beers to keep our body temperatures down (any excuse is a good one right?).

Needless to say the Friday night concert was fabulous and only served to whet our appetite for the following couple of nights. The respective setlists went something like this:

The Gorge Amphitheatre, Washington (Friday, 29 August, 2008)

Day Two - the O.A.R. meet & greet

With a decent night's sleep under our belt, the only real items on Saturday's agenda were to feed ourselves, eat, throw around the football, attempt to stay cool, get to know our camping neighbours, and for me, prepare myself for a meet and greet backstage with O.A.R. a couple of hours before the night's performance. Excited? You betcha!

Add a wee bit of an early afternoon kip into the above mix and the time to head down to the backstage area with my laminated VIP pass had arrived. With about 15 other fellow O.A.R. fans, we were met at a ticketing gate my the band's management representative who briefly told us how the whole meet and greet was going to play out, and we were then led down to the band tour buses in the backstage area, amongst the vineyard grape vines.

From there, we each had 5-10 minutes with Marc, Chris, Richard, Benj and Jerry during which time we were able get some autographs, photos and generally just chew the fat. All the fellas were every bit as down to earth as I was led to believe over the past few years, and the fact that I was Australian and O.A.R. had just finished their first tour of Australia earlier in the year, was an obvious talking point.

They REALLY enjoyed their time at and Marc was pretty enthusiastic in letting me know that he wants the band to head down there again sooner rather than later. Good news for Aussie concert goers I say!

In case that wasn't enough celebrity shoulder rubbing for one day, on the way back to the ampitheatre beer garden to have a few pre-concert beverages with a few guys I met during the meet and greet, we ran into DMB's larger than life trumpeter Rashawn Ross. A quick chat there and a photo for proof of meeting, and we were all set for another great night's entertainment on the hill.

The huge crowd in attendance for the sold out performance were treated to the following lineup:

The Gorge Amphitheatre, Washington (Saturday, 30 August, 2008)

With the meet and greet being a little delayed on Saturday night, I didn't have the chance ot get back to the camp site to have dinner with Jen and Carlos. Instead, I was left to attack (as you can see above) a pretty non-spectacular foot-long hotdog. Lucky for me, however, the guys saved my portion of the previous night's steak and pasta meal and Carlos threw it together on the camp stove for me for breakfast! What a gourmet way to start the day!

Day Three - saving the best till last!

Rather than stick to the camp ground on the Sunday, we decided to make a bit of a trip further East on the I90 to Moses Lake where we just chilled out, swam in the somewhat clean looking water and played around with some local kids who were down at the Lake with their families. It really was just what we all needed to launch us into the final night's concert which we were hoping was going to be the best yet!

Heading back to the camp ground, we noticed that there were numerous storm cells off to the north that were looking somewhat threatening. It was an odd thing for me to see, as in my 5 trips to the Gorge I'd never seen more than a couple of clouds in the sky at any one time, let alone some wet stuff. As it happened, most of the cells passed by without producing any rain over the campgrounds. But just as we headed through the ticket gates up on the hill... well... the heavens opened up - BIG TIME!

Forunately for us, the downpour was heavy but short. All we really had to do was deal with an initially wet patch of grass for our viewing area, and we could then sit back and watch my two favourite bands put on what I can only describe as the best LIVE performance I've EVER seen in my life thus far.

O.A.R. pleased all in attendance by pulling out their undisputable #1 song Crazy Game of Poker for the final night, and DMB produced arguably their best setlist and indeed performance for the entire weekend. Just amazing!

The Gorge Amphitheatre, Washington (Sunday, 31 August, 2008)

And that brings us to this morning. There was no real sense of urgency on anyone's part to pack up and leave. We all (including those who camped around us) had such an amazing weekend that leaving just seemed like a bad idea. But, shortly before noon, we once again loaded up Jen's Yaris and headed for a lookout viewing area high atop the Gorge for a last look at the gorgeous landscape, take a few pictures and get set for the long drive back.

The only thing left to do before crossing the border and heading back into the cooler climate of BC, was to pull over at a roadside rest stop and polish off whatever food we had leftover. Pleasingly, there was plenty of good stuff amongst what was left, and we managed to scoff it all down with little trouble.

And that's about it really. Yet another 100% fun, exciting, memorable and exhausting DMB/Gorge weekend away. A HUGE thanks to Jen for doing all the driving and allowing us to stuff her Yaris like it had never been stuffed before, and of course to Carlos for all his expert cullinary preparations while on the road!

Cheers guys!

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