Greensky Bluegrass @ Bell’s Brewery – September 25
Even though it was Kol Nidre – the evening of the Jewish High Holiday of Yom Kippur and to many the holiest occasion on the Jewish calendar – I drove across Michigan to show support for a music community that has become another part of my huge extended music family. Less than two weeks prior, I had gotten word via Facebook that Greensky Bluegrass would be throwing a benefit show for their close friend Janice Farrell who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. No stranger to benefit shows, Greensky had just performed a few days earlier at the Bluegrass for Babies benefit in Cincinnati. But this night was clearly far more personal for the members of Camp Greensky. Holding a benefit concert with less than two weeks notice is no small feat, but the community that rallied (and continues to) around Janice and the Farrell family was impressive, to say the least.
[Photos by Andrew Bender of Greensky @ Bell's in February]
Normally, Greensky’s hometown shows at Bell’s Brewery are incredible parties of family, fans, friends and beer. In contrast, Tuesday night’s show at Bell’s Back Room was by far the most sober-toned Greensky show I’ve seen or heard. As Janice watched from home via webcast, the band played two sets of her favorite Greensky originals and covers. Mandolin player and vocalist Paul Hoffman noted in some amusement that Janice’s song list included mostly Greensky tunes penned or sung by guitarist Dave Bruzza.
Originals ranged the band’s own songbook from older songs like Roberta and Grow Bananas to newer favorites like Demons, Kerosene and the improv vehicle Don’t Lie. But truthfully, the show featured more covers than originals, including traditional bluegrass songs like Pig in a Pen, Shady Grove and Steam Powered Aeroplane as well as newgrass hits like show opener Climbing Up a Mountain by Tim O’Brien and Newgrass Revival’s Can’t Stop Now. And of course, true to Greensky there were plenty of psychedelic, folk, and pop covers like Pink Floyd’s Time, Springsteen’s Atlantic City, Talking Heads’ Road to Nowhere, Prince’s When Doves Cry, and an insane Grateful Deadwich that led from a Birdsong tease into Cassidy > Cryptical Envelopment > The Other One > Cassidy.
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.
All Good Music Festival – July 21
I awoke Saturday morning feeling like a piece of broccoli in a vegetable steamer, and quickly emerged from my tent to feel a gentle breeze and the warmth of morning sunlight. The intense blue of the mid-morning sky was broken by patches of clouds, akin to the opening credits of The Simpsons. After scarfing down a breakfast burrito courtesy of my campmates, I made my way to the concert field. At the gate I was thoroughly shaken down by security staff, who peered inside every crevice of my camera bag and gear – the only time over the weekend I received such close scrutiny. I managed to catch the second half of Saturday’s opening set by Larry Keel & Natural Bridge, whose down home tunes already had folks dancing and others just smiling in appreciation of the complex instrumentation courtesy of one of the finest guitar players around.
An odd daytime set by jamtronica supergroup Conspirator followed, about which I joked to some fellow photographers, “I just ate a ton of molly – this is my whole night.” Truly, although Conspirator had just played a late night set the previous night at the Gathering of the Vibes festival, and offered a solid performance, the time slot just made no sense at All Good. Next, Ohio indie rock band Red Wanting Blue fronted by vocalist Scott Terry played a half hour set. Their guitar-driven pop sound was reminiscent of ‘90s Counting Crows, and fit well in the more laid back vibe of the mid-day heat. Bay area jam band Tea Leaf Green followed, and played a number of newer tunes off of their last album Radio Tragedy, with guitarist Josh Clark trading licks with All Good artist at large Roosevelt Collier in multiple numbers.
Friday morning at the All Good Music Festival saw considerably cooler temperatures than anyone had anticipated, much to everyone’s relief. The lack of the being parboiled in one’s tent in the early morning sun seemed to help everyone’s mood, and a few hundred people gathered to see the first acts of Friday, cooled by the gentle breeze under a totally overcast sky. The earliest timeslot went to Colorado’s indie folk quintet Elephant Revival. A smaller crowd of diehards in attendance sang along with songs whose gentler tones were perfect for the mild morning air.
After a brief DJ set, California coastal jam band Animal Liberation Orchestra or ALO treated the crowd to a non-sweaty daytime festival set of favorites including Plastic Bubble that had guitarist Dan Lebowitz throwing out some hot licks. I was excited to hear crowd favorite Barbecue, into which was sandwiched Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger. However, the results were somewhat weaker in comparison to the same BBQ > EOT >BBQ sandwich at their Bonnaroo set five weeks prior. Still, it is always hilarious to hear ALO perform their song Jericho which vividly describes the outdoor camping and music festival experience, and it wasn’t lost on the All Good audience. A brief set followed by Minneapolis bass drum-heavy band 4onthefloor, whose Springsteenesque vocalist brought rocking earnestness to their early afternoon slot. The Wood Brothers entertained the crowd with their roots rock sound including a sit in by All Good Artist At Large Roosevelt Collier, who plays peal steel guitar with the Lee Boys.
All Good Music Festival 2012, Day One, Thursday
The multi-hour line of traffic to get into the festival belied promoters’ promises that the move from the hills of West Virginia to its new home in Thornville, Ohio would greatly improve the speed and ease of entry into festival gates. Although there was not a winding, one-lane mountain road and corresponding fear of burning out my clutch, traffic still crawled along the rural two-lane highway for miles. Traffic passed fields of soybeans and corn and wooks walking the shoulder, fingers in the air, selling glass or t-shirts, or just knocking on car windows to ask for spare change. A random farmer was selling water and meat sticks (really) from roadside stands,and ticket scalpers held signs expressing their particular jones for tickets. Occasional rain showers kept temperatures lower but magnified the humidity under a totally overcast sky.
I won’t bore anyone with the lengthy and (at least by now) hilarious tale of our misadventures that went on for almost four hours. I’ll simply say that I heard the term ‘clusterfuck’ bandied about freely by photographers and paying fans alike to describe similar experiences of getting into the camping grounds. The All Good Festival helped each of us contribute more than our share to air pollution, global warming and depletion of fossil fuels as thousands of cars sat idling or creeping along at a snail’s pace for hours, only to be repeatedly misdirected. I’m sure many had far more positive experiences, but such was mine. Some logistical SNAFUs are to be expected for a larger festival’s first time at a new site. However, when fans pay several hundred dollars for the chance to be stuck in their vehicles for hours due to lack of coordination, communication, and explicit signage – at least have a port-o-john to be found.
All that said, in my experience with music festivals, the craziness of boredom, hunger and frustration, quickly dissipates once you’re inside. The search of cars was variable from opening of suitcases and pill bottles to a brief glance inside the vehicle. I’m sure there was profiling going on, but the exact rules probably makes as much sense as those of TSA. Having secured a decent campsite with my crew, I found the concert field. When I saw the line at the entrance to the concert bowl, the same term reverberated in my mind – check back tomorrow for my rant on RFID tags in festival wristbands – and then I made my way into the festival field to catch a few numbers by Trampled by Turtles.
This year the 16th annual edition of the All Good Music Festival moves from its home of almost a decade in West Virginia to Legend Valley in Ohio. The 2012 All Good Music Festival features headliners Allman Brothers Band, The Flaming Lips, Bob Weir and Bruce Hornsby with Branford Marsalis, Phil Lesh and Friends, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Yonder Mountain String Band and Lotus.
[All Photos by Andrew Bender]
Andrew Bender has covered the All Good Music Festival for the past two years for Hidden Track. Earlier this month, Andrew spoke with All Good Music Festival founder and promoter Tim Walther about the festival’s move and what it takes to put on a festival for over 20,000 fans.
Andrew Bender: The idea of a larger outdoor camping and music festival with only one stage of music at a time is pretty unique – what was the inspiration for that, originally?
Tim Walther: We’ve been doing that since the beginning when we had a split stage. It was maybe a 30-foot stage with 15 feet dedicated to 1 band, and when that band would finish and we’d turn it over to the next band. As we grew we realized that the number one complaint for fans at larger festivals was that they just could not see all the music that they paid to see. They would be chasing music. You have 30 minutes of this band at this stage and then you’re running over to this other stage to catch a piece of this other band, and it really takes away from the experience. We worked really hard to keep it all in one place, to bring everyone into one central location and have that energy build all day long. At the All Good Festival you see that energy grow from day to day. By Saturday afternoon everybody is completely moved in to their experience and their surroundings and they are just part of that overwhelming, thrilling energy in the space right in front of the stage. That’s what I really think is the magic of having non-overlapping sets.
Greensky Bluegrass @ Majestic Theater, December 30 & 31
On December 30 and 31, Michigan’s Greensky Bluegrass celebrated New Year’s at the Majestic Theater in Detroit. Although Greensky is still considered an up-and-coming act, this was no local party for friends and family. Rather, Greensky managed to turn Detroit into a destination for NYE 2011-2012 as fans had traveled from far and wide – even internationally – to ring in the New Year with a band whose gift for psychedelic improvisation and timeless originals is rivaled only by their reputation for throwing one helluva party.
[All Photos by Andrew Bender]
Opening both nights were The Macpodz out of neighboring Ann Arbor; and as in prior opening performances for Umphrey’s McGee and moe., they showed an amazing ability to kick off the party. Combining aspects of funk, jazz, rock, disco and various forms of infectious musical weirdness, the Macpodz eschew the usual guitar-driven jams for the danceable orchestration of keys and trumpet, percussion and bass.
Hoxeyville Music Festival: Aug. 19 – 21
Set on 80 acres of northern Michigan field and forest, the 9th Annual Hoxeyville Music Festival proved once again that a homegrown music fest can give fans an experience that corporate sponsorships and venture capital simply cannot touch. However, one must also take heed that if the biggest festivals can be rife with organizational SNAFUs, then smaller fests can be a veritable logistical clusterfuck. As with many small festivals, the emphasis tends to fall as much on the overall experience as the music itself. To that end, Hoxeyville featured its own disc golf course, surprisingly tasty food from local vendors and an incredible a host of the best roots music that Michigan has to offer as well as regional up-and-comers and national headlining acts.
This year’s Hoxeyville Festival kicked off with a special Thursday ‘Soundcheck’ performance by Kalamazoo, Michigan stringsters Greensky Bluegrass. Those who arrived in time to see the band were witness to the chaos of fences still being erected, volunteers giving conflicting info to festivalgoers and other issues that shouldn’t have been. A word to festival organizers everywhere – if you’re going to invite people to come a day early, please be prepared for their arrival. But despite the low-level chaos, confusion and clamoring sounds of fence posts being pounded into the ground, I’d still return again and again if invited back.
Slated to play a 90-minute set on Saturday, HT favorites Greensky Bluegrass treated a smaller group of pre-sale ticket buyers, VIPs, and media to a somewhat relaxed but ultimately killer set of originals and covers. Highlights from the set included Dry County > Time (Pink Floyd cover) > Dry County, Little Red Corvette, Help! and Beat It as well as apropos renditions of Hoxeyville, and Tied Down (to Michigan) in addition to tunes from their recently released Handguns EP including the title track and I’d Probably Kill You. Mandolin player Paul Hoffman commented that they knew the names all of the couple of hundred people in attendance for the soundcheck set – rather fitting given this year marked Greensky’s eighth consecutive appearance, truly making them the Hoxeyville house band.
READ ON for more on Hoxeyville 2011…
After a Saturday jam-packed with music at the 15th annual All Good Music Festival, I was looking forward to Sunday’s lighter lineup. One of the biggest challenges of open field tent camping at a music festival is partying into the wee hours and trying to get adequate sleep, without being cooked alive in your tent in the morning summer sun like broccoli in a bamboo steamer.
After waking up in my own personal sauna and cooling off in the West Virginia mountain air I headed up to the stage area where Sunday openers All Mighty Senators were already on the main Dragon Stage. The Baltimore-based funk-soul quintet was working hard to bring their P-Funkesque sound to the noontime set; unfortunately, their set was one of the less well attended of the weekend, probably because so many folks had taken full advantage of Saturday’s final All Good late night sets – or they were still in their tents, being braised in their own juices.
Following the Senators on the Dragon Stage were Michigan-based stringsters Greensky Bluegrass whose Saturday Rock n’ Roll in Disguise playshop set at the Grassroots Stage showed one reason why they continue to garner attention. Unlike the previous day that featured covers of songs by Talking Heads, Prince and Traffic, Sunday’s set featured mostly originals and roots covers. A sizeable audience was on hand to see GB play mostly older tunes like All Four, the Reverend and No Idea which were supplemented by a strong cover of Townes Van Zandt’s White Freightliner Blues. Closing our their hour long set mandolin player Paul Hoffman took lead vocals on a newer original tune Don’t Lie (not to be confused with the Black Eyed Peas song of the same name) that demonstrated even greater maturity in their consistently skillful songwriting.
READ ON for more from Sunday at the All Good fest…
I made a point of getting up early on Saturday morning of the 15th Annual All Good Music Festival to catch some of the local talent at the Grassroots Stage. Having been told by numerous local media sources that they were a hot ticket, I made a point of seeing a bit of Fletcher’s Grove from nearby Morgantown. As usual, I was not as quick making the trek as I’d hoped and arrived about halfway through the fledgling jamband’s first set, just as they were finishing a very strong cover of Buddy Holly’s classic Not Fade Away.
The next few songs in the quintet’s inaugural All Good set proved once again that festivals are a great place to check out fresh talent. See more about Fletcher’s Grove in the All Good New Artist Spotlight below. As local favorites, Fletcher’s Grove brought a sizable audience to the campground stage that quckly cleared after their set. I waited around to see a bit of Chicago’s Lubriphonic whose funk and horns also proved danceable and fun, although it was a shame there wasn’t a larger audience.
Opening the main stage on Saturday was self-contained band Zach Deputy whose soulful vocals and looping guitar and beat lines made for a more relaxed set under the West Virginia hills’ intense mid-day sun. After Deputy, I caught only the first couple of songs by The Werks (which the audience seemed to enjoy) and headed back to the Grassroots Stage to see Michigan’s Greensky Bluegrass, where they performed only bluegrass covers of rock songs including Traffic’s Light Up or Leave Me Alone, Talking Heads’ Road to Nowhere, Arcade Fire’s City With No Children and Prince’s When Doves Cry.
READ ON for more thoughts and photos from Saturday at All Good…
Andrew Bender’s reports from the 15th Annual All Good Music Festival continue with his take and photos from Friday…
After waking up on Friday morning and scarfing down some food, I made my way up to the Grassroots Stage in the campground to see The Recipe, who provided a fun, early morning performance, though not anything that left me begging for more musically. Leading off music at the main stage, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad delivered their dub reggae hip-hop vibes, assaulting the crowd with some heavy beats. After a short set, Infamous Stringdusters brought their traditional bluegrass tunes to All Good which were perfect in the early afternoon heat.
One the defining features of the All Good festival has been the lack of competing stages. However, in recent years All Good promoters have added a campground or Grassroots Stage featuring lesser known or more local acts. Those generally start before music begins on the two main stages, and last year the Campground Stage featured Greensky Bluegrass and Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad both of whom were upgraded to early day, mainstage slots for this year’s festival.
However, this year the festival organizers teamed with some of the scene’s charitable organizations: HeadCount, the Rex Foundation and Rock the Earth. So, I hiked up to the Campground stage age where Head Count was hosting an interview with Furthur drummer Joe Russo.
READ ON for Andrew’s thoughts and photos from Umphrey’s, Furthur and Galactic at All Good plus much more…
The setting sun behind the rolling hills of West Virginia provided a fittingly bucolic backdrop for the opening performances of the 15th Annual All Good Music Festival. The mountaintop festival site was already well filled in when we rolled in just before noon, and by the time dusk approached, the party was in full swing.
Opening the weekend’s long roster of festival favorites was the West Coast’s Hot Buttered Rum. At most festivals I’ve been to, the audience attendance at opening act is somewhat lacking. Luckily, this was not the case at this year’s All Good, a festival that sold out their 4-day festival passes almost a week in advance of the event. Estimates of attendance at Thursday night are approximately 18,000. According to festival sources, last year’s festival was capped at an attendance of 25,000, and there’s some expectation that this year should approach or surpass last year’s total attendance.
This was only the second time I had seen HBR since their transition from Hot Buttered Rum String Band a few years, and I continue to be impressed with their direction from the straight-up bluegrass roots to a rhythm infused act more in line with Railroad Earth or String Cheese Incident of many years ago. Notable highlights from Hot Buttered Rum’s set included a hot cover of New Minglewood Blues, an enthusiastic and well received Limbs Akimbo, and Busted in Utah. In betweet sets, DJ Who laid down some beats and kept the party going while the main stage was cleared and set up for Beats Antique – a trio act merging members of Yard Dogs Road Show, Aphrodesia, with dance and drums for a mutli-instrumental, rhythm and heavy bass laden performance.
READ ON for more from Andrew about Day One of All Good…
The 15th Annual All Good Music Festival kicked off today on Marvin’s Mouuntaintop near Masontown, WV. The festival has won many fans over the years as it primarily features only one act at a time on alternating stages. This year’s headliners include Furthur, Primus, Pretty Lights, STS9 and more with each slated for multi-hour timeslots.
Check back with us over the course of the four-day festival as Hidden Track’s Andrew Bender will be submitting regular reports and photos with daily All Good highlights. All Good promoters announced earlier this week that four-day passes were sold out, but three-day passes for Friday through Sunday are still available at the gate. No word yet on what ticket sales or expected total attendance, but they may well surpass last year’s record setting attendance.
Here’s a brief pre-festival report from Andrew, who’s already encamped on the mountain…
Festivalgoers couldn’t have asked for better weather to make the hilly trek up to the site of this year’s All Good Music Festival as they get set up for what promises to be as big a party as they’ve ever seen on Marvin’s Mountaintop. The two side-by-side stages are pushed further back this year allowing for even more dancing on flat ground. All preparations seem to be coming together as water trucks spray the gravel roads in a constant battle to keep the dust at bay. Thursday night will feature sets from Hot Buttered Rum, Beats Antique and John Butler Trio as well as a late night performance by STS9. I’ll be writing more about the music, the scene and everything that makes this festival an annual visit for many in the coming days.
Phish @ Riverbend Music Center, June 5
Returning to Cincinnati’s Riverbend Music Center for the first time in over ten years, the band continued pushing limits, retesting recently played favorites and treating the crowd with tour debuts of rare fan favorites. Sunday’s Cincinnati show maintained the broader organizational theme of the recent tour with a more upbeat first set and more extended, darker psychedelic jamming in the second.
[All photos by Andrew Bender]
Phish opened with a solid AC/DC Bag that led straight into Punch You in the Eye, a song that Page always shines on in the song’s second half. As with the Hood > Have Mercy > Hood sandwich the night before, a number of fans were transported back in time the by the classic combo. Despite the sweltering June evening, the opening notes of Bathtub Gin was met with hoots and laughter as the invasive plinking of Page’s keys fueled the audience’s smiley, sweaty silliness. A somewhat short, albeit very tight, version of Bathtub was followed by Taste which brought out the best of everyone in its masterfully intense frenetic jam as extra flourishes of snare-cymbal and keys were answered by odd triplets from Trey while Gordon’s steadying yet mesmerizing bass lines walked the others around the jam. After Taste’s intense climax, the mellifluous sounds of a rare Lawn Boy gave the sweating crowd a welcome break. “Mike’s bass on Lawn Boy always gets me,” commented Biff the Whoopie Cushion and bass player for Florida’s New Gravity.
READ ON for more on Sunday night’s Phish show…