In today’s day and age, it’s virtually impossible to keep a secret. With social media chirping and tweeting away with constant alerts, and Facebook and the like wasting away our free time and clogging our inboxes, it’s amazing that Perpetual Groove is about to host their tenth annual Amberland festival this upcoming Memorial Day weekend – with most of you being none the wiser. As the saying goes, Amberland is not a place, but a state of mind. Please allow me to explain why.
Now, to fully understand and appreciate Amberland, one must understand the band that so graciously hosts it as well. PGroove guitarist/vocalist Brock Butler was gracious enough to chat with me about this year’s upcoming festivities. An event that initially started in a friend’s backyard, Perpetual Groove, which also includes bassist Adam Perry, drummer Albert Suttle and keyboardist John Hruby, returns to Cherokee Farms in Lafayette, GA for the group’s biggest shindig yet.
Historically easing into the weekend, the band performs in-the-round at a casual setting and treats the early arrivals to such rare treats as some side projects, special guests or cover tunes on Friday night. This serves as a warm up and whets the appetite for six, full sets of proper PGroove over Saturday and Sunday, which always serves as the meat to this overly stuffed musical sandwich. READ ON for more about Amberland X…
For the first time in the event’s history, PGroove will share this year’s Amberland bill with other acts including Zoogma, The Mantras, Noise[ORG], Under the Porch and Former Champions. Most of these groups have roots in Amberland’s history as part of the band’s extended family, including Perry’s brother, Damien, on a shredding guitar. “We’ve wanted to step from making a highly glorified barbeque where we are the house band, to then it’s the festival of Perpetual Groove. Each year we have taken steps in that direction, which brings us to the logical next steps of this year and bringing in additional bands,” Butler says.
Having attended several Amberland’s at Cherokee Farms myself, I still can’t believe that one of the best festivals around manages to keep such a chill, unique and everyone-knows-everyone vibe. Picture inviting a few hundred of your closest friends over to your house, camping out for three days and having one of the most talented bands in our scene play in your backyard and you have a sense of the event. Amberland keeps its unique character thanks to a dedicated fanbase that is as close knit as they come and the overwhelming nature of this being a grand scale barbecue for some close friends, new and old, as the band has maintained the same mentality towards the festival since it started. To further my point, there is a full pig roasted each year by “Uncle Daddy,” an old friend of the band involved since the beginning, which results in a pot-luck dinner of sorts.
Undoubtedly one of the other highlights of the weekend is the Sunday morning “Brockfast” set, which features the solo, acoustic sounds of Butler, perhaps with a friend or three joining in for a few tunes at some point. “It certainly is a part that I always look forward to,” Butler says with a grin I can hear over the phone. “It is a beautiful thing to be able to play some acoustic music, enjoy the lovely scenery and look out and know almost every face in the crowd by name. It very much has a family reunion quality to it.” Butler also shines in this stage: with his guitar, his sense of humor, and his often sunburned, loveable, teddy bear complexion and personality. “How it happened the first time was incidental. Having been up all night, and being the only band on the bill, we found ourselves with a lot of time between sets, which this year will be another advantage of having other bands playing. So, I was already playing acoustic around a campfire, the sun was coming up, so I got the system fired up, got on stage and played for, oh, about four or five hours. And I’m not a morning person, either.” Ah, the humor of Butler is unmatched, I tell you.
In looking forward to this year’s festivities, Butler entices those thinking about attending. “Traditionally, we have usually have one or two brand new songs ready to go that get unveiled at Amberland, so there will be some new bust outs on stage. With the band’s that we have playing, there is going to be some collaboration. Another benefit of having other bands play there is that for the first time we will be able to come out and hang out on the other side of the fence. [We'll] get to enjoy the lights and the stage as a viewer and get to have the pleasure of seeing the fruits of our labor and enjoy it with our audience.” Butler ends in his patented, never in a hurry way, by pausing and graciously summing up Amberland in a perfect synopsis. “The nature of it has always been to go out and get real, true quality time with our audience, our friends, our people.”
If you are in the area, I’d plan on checking out this special event over Memorial Day Weekend as I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the year the secret of Perpetual Groove and Amberland finally gets out.