All Good Diary – FestivaLog Sunday: Mickey Hart Band, Greensky Bluegrass, Michael Franti & Spearhead
All Good Music Festival – July 22
The weather report indicated that Sunday would be the real scorcher of the weekend, and as promised, the few scattered clouds provided insufficient shade to keep the morning sun from turning my tent into a sauna. A number of folks had bugged out the previous night or early that morning to make an early start back to reality. The majority, however, stuck around for the final, bittersweet day of the 2012 All Good Music Festival that featured fewer acts than the previous days.
I caught the second half of the day’s opening act on the main stage Corey Harris & the Rasta Blues Experience. Although it couldn’t match the almost religious experience that The Lee Boys & Traveling McCourys brought to the Sunday slot two years prior, the band’s fairly traditional reggae sound made for a good vibe to kick things off right in the noontime heat. Santa Cruz, California acoustic trio Devil Makes Three were up next on the Dragon Stage, and turned some heads with both slower bluegrass ballads and faster numbers, alike. A quote written on one of the banjos played by Cooper McBean paraphrased Woody Guthrie, “This Machine Annoys Fascists.” McBean, along with guitarist Pete Bernhard and upright bass player Lucia Turino brought a sound that combined punk/rockabilly, folk, and bluegrass in a way that only seems to come from Northern California.
Following the Three on the Crane Stage was Cris Jacobs Band, led by the former front man for the Bridge. More guitar-driven than the tunes played by the Bridge the night before, CJB’s bluesy sound was ample to fill their 30 minute slot. Fans were next treated to an excellent set by the Mickey Hart Band on the main stage. His current lineup features Widespread Panic’s Dave Schools on bass, as well as singer and acoustic guitarist Crystal Monee Hall and multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Jon Bagale. In addition to tried and true favorites like Fire on the Mountain, mercifully sung by Bagale, the band also played several numbers off of the band’s recent release Mysterium Tremendum.
Hall provided an incredible vocal to the band’s down tempo version of Brokedown Palace, and a more traditional performance of the Dead tune Bertha was right on the money. Following the Mickey Hart Band was Greensky Bluegrass – the only band of the weekend playing on the Crane Stage to have a full hour set. A crowd of diehards gathered in front of the stage, while many kept to the shade further back. Tried and true Greensky tunes such as Old Barns and Paul Simon’s Gumboots kept the audience dancing. The band closed their set with Kerosene, a newer number by guitarist Dave Bruzza that kicked the crowd into overdrive. A few times throughout the set, Greensky singer and mandolin player Paul Hoffman would remind the audience of the final act, shouting out, “How you feelin’?” And then, Michael Franti and Spearhead took the Dragon Stage for the last performance of the weekend.
Known for his feel-good message, Franti ran and skipped across the stage, although I had to wonder how it feels to be so positive if you’re not having a great day. Which is not to say that I didn’t buy his positivity that Sunday, but that some performances may be a bit more forced than others in that regard. That said, the band’s combination of dub reggae, hip hop, and jam rock was a fitting end to All Good’s inaugural Legend Valley Performance.
A few final notes about this year’s All Good Festival and its new digs. Over the weekend, the larger space made for some bigger hassles as most fans were camped across the road from the main venue, and the trip from the main stage to the Grassroots Stage in the campgrounds was considerably longer than when the festival was in West Virginia. The security company hired by the festival was also far more aggressive than in prior years, to fans and media alike, particularly at the gates. Food vending also seemed a bit more limited than in years past, both in and out of the main concert field – with fewer vegetarian options than I remember in Masontown.
Once again, Chris Kuroda’s ambient lighting inside the concert field and in the campgrounds was phenomenal and enhanced the festival atmosphere considerably. The flatter terrain was a welcome change, as trekking from one’s campsite to the stage no longer required ropes and harnesses (okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration). Apart from the Thursday traffic and entrance clusterfuck – which was blamed on the weather, faulty RFID readers, servers being down and lack of coordination with police, most of the festival seemed to go off without a hitch. Only a couple of acts went over their allotted time, and the schedule was tightly maintained for most of the weekend. Hopefully those issues will be resolved for next year’s festival, which is sure to once again be All Good.