Then Liza Garza took the stage, her voice, hands and feet making the music and poetry she calls prophetic narration. She'd escaped her hometown of Flint, Mich., but said she would not forget its hard times and lives, walking where it was "as if the concrete could reach up and grab us."
She described her liberation, when she took a buzz razor to her head and shaved away the dark hair that hung to her calves. Except for the birth of her two sons, she said, it was the "most spiritual transformation in my life."
Then she headed for Texas. "I'm not really talking about my hair," Garza said.
The festival is, after all, about enjoying "life, love and liberation." As the crowd grew, settling on blankets and lawn chairs, scores of women in couples and groups relaxed among a few men, one who danced with his daughters.
The theme continued with Jules Morrow, a singer and pianist who, when she's not performing, runs body-image workshops called "Beauty Redefined."
It's a way, Morrow said, to discard modern stereotypes of female beauty and understand and embrace who you are.
In "Uncharted," Morrow sang, "Now I have too much to hold, everybody has to get their hands on gold and I want uncharted."
Then came Toby, an Australian singer with an unfortunately dropped acoustic guitar held together with gaffer's tape and a story of driving nonstop from Calgary, Canada, only to have her van break down in Loa, about 20 miles up the road.
"It's been a bit of a s- of a day," she said, then launched into her strong, soaring vocals. My favorite was her cover of Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind":
"I'd rather go blind, baby, than to see you walking away from a child," Toby belted.
Toby earned a standing ovation and accolades from Sister Dottie: "Wasn't she magnificent?"
As the red rock cast its tint into the clouds, it was time for the noisemakers, Salt Lake City's Sister Wives decidedly not the ones in Texas or Short Creek.
Lead singer and rhythm guitarist Mona Stevens, sided by bassist Jani Gamble, lead guitarist Jesse Luckett (also a fabulous singer) and drummer Amy Boettger, kicked into blues and rock 'n' roll with precision and power.
They covered "I Ain't Right," the ominous "Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing" and "Angel from Montgomery," with Stevens adding her harmonica to the mix. At one point, Boettger pounded so hard she knocked her snare off the kit.
But it was "Gimme Shelter" that got pretty much everyone on their feet. Short of the Stones themselves, I've never heard it played better.
With a nearly full moon rising, the concert came to an end about 11. Scores of people left their blankets and chairs on the grass with plans to come back for Saturday's closing performances.
The festival, Stevens told me, offered two things that rarely come together in an outdoor venue: good management and a sound system for musicians and audiences alike.
It's also a place to drop all worries and, if only for a few hours, gather under the cottonwood and pines trees and dance.
Oh, and all that black lace and fringe? That became known as " 'The Outfit,' played by Jani," the bassist.
What a night.
Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at email@example.com and facebook/pegmcentee.
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