Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Grey Fox Bluegrass 2010: Friday

Words & Photos By J-man
Interviews Filmed By Birchann

I awoke to a cool tent, feeling absolutely refreshed. It was late enough in the day that I should have been covered in sweat and cooked out of my tent. However we were nestled in the shade of the tree line. A cool breeze blew across the rolling hills of the Walsh Farm, and with it came the sound of a lone banjo...

My day began with a walk to the "media room" which doubled as a laundry room for washing the musicians towels and other various event related items. For me, the media room offered the opportunity to charge my camera battery, post live updates, and compose the day's interviews. As I passed through the camps and walked down the camp roads, one thing that stuck out to me was how clean the farm was. The staff was very visible; smiling as they kept the place clean and pleasant.

Wandering towards the stage we passed an older gentleman sitting under a shade tent just out side his tee pee. The gentleman wreaked of knowledge and dedication. I turned to Birchann and said "Holy shit! That's Bill Keith!" I smiled and nodded... He did the same.

The first musical act of the day that we attended was the banjo workshop featuring banjo legend/pioneer Bill Keith as well as a few other younger pickers from various bands. The workshop tent was crowded as the musicians wove banjo basics with talk of style, tone, and heavy humor (typical of banjo pickers). One of the main things that I noticed right away was that Grey Fox had removed the figurative and literal barrier between the musicians and the fans. Anyone was free to ask questions and approach the musicians as the workshops wrapped up. It was indeed a unique experience from the typical "protect the artist" style of a lot of festivals.

Following the Banjo Workshop we were forced under our canopy by the first of many rainy fronts of the weekend. By the end it would become one of the underlining themes; Rain.

As the small storm system came and went we made our way back over to the workshop tent to enjoy the teachings and thoughts of David Grisman, Ronnie McCoury, as well as a few others. Much like the banjo workshop, the mandolin workshop featured a collection of musicians sporting the same featured instrument. The uniqueness of this sort of collection cannot go unrecognized, for the sound collectively was full and complete, again with a side of humor.

Following the workshop folks flooded the stage to have a conversation or a picture with David "Dawg" Grisman and Ronnie McCoury. A woman approached Dawg with her child in hand; "Sign my kid!" she stated, drawing and odd sideways glance my way from Dawg. I reached out to and grabbed his mandolin/case as the autographing went into full swing. It was fairly hectic for about ten minutes as the fans were appeased. Following the madness I set up an interview for a later date with Mr. Grisman, handed back his mandolin, got a picture and moved on to finalize my interview plans with Ronnie.

After solidifying my plans with Ronnie, it was time to head back over to the media tent for a quick charge of the battery and a short interview composition session. As I wrote my questions for Rob and Ronnie McCoury, I envisioned myself interviewing my idol, their father; Del McCoury. I have interviewed a lot of musicians whom I have admired greatly, but how would I handle an interview with Del? Would I be able to handle an interview with Del?

We headed over to the mainstage to interview the McCourys and to catch David Grisman's set. Upon our arrival backstage, I was approached by Ronnie who was smiling and excited. As we walked to a quiet spot to conduct the interview, I spoke of how impressed I was with Delfest and how helpful the staff was. I could tell he was proud. Our spot was chosen, I glanced back over the questions and Birchann began filming.

Upon the conclusion of our interview, I casually mentioned how much it would mean to me to be able to interview his father; Del. As we approached the artist area Ronnie pointed out his brother Rob to me. I approached Rob, said hello and asked if it would be a good time to do the interview, and with that we were on our way back to our quiet interview spot.

I read over the questions that I had for Rob, and assisted Birchann with the camera. In the distance I could see my dream coming to fruition. Walking towards me was Ronnie with Del who was dressed in a light colored suit. He seemed to have a white glow as he walked towards us. Birchann was beside herself, and I did all that I could to fight back the tears and emotions that overtook me. I turned to Rob and said "Do you mind?" He smiled and said "Of course not, he's all ready to go!" then stepping aside.

To this point I can not think of a bigger interview that I have done, nor can I recall being this emotional or nervous about doing such an interview. I smiled, thanked him for his time and expressed how much it meant to me to be given this opportunity. With that, the camera was rolling.

Following the interview I had to pull myself together to conduct the previously scheduled interview with Rob. Rob smiled at me as I could see he realized how big of a deal it was to me. With that; I took a deep breath and began.

After it was all said and done, I needed a few minutes to myself to reflect on and fully appreciate what had just taken place. It took all that I had to not just cry. As I snapped out of it, I realized that it was my duty to capture Grisman's set, so I made my way to the front of the stage to catch the last couple of songs.

David Grisman, never disappoints. He is by far one of the best and most innovative mandolin players of all time. His open approach to string music is truly inspiring. His performance at Grey Fox was on par with what I have come to expect from "Dawg"; consistency and perfection.

The encore came and went leaving the crowd on their feet and wanting more. We headed towards the backstage exit, on the way running into Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth. That being said we made a b-line and found a good spot to sit down and have a conversation.

The interview in the bag we sat, listened to Del, and discussed some of our favorite festivals. The conversation led into Tim pulling out his phone to show us some crazy psychedelic footage of Vince Herman in a neon environment; raging. I mentioned that the video needed to be seen and Tim agreed. I glanced at my phone realizing that we had been sitting talking to Tim for almost two hours. It was time to make our way to the front of the stage for some Del McCoury Band photos.

When I think of the Del McCoury Band, three things come to mind; Tradition, Talent and Consistency. I have never heard a more consistent band than the Del McCoury Band, and have never seen such pure musicianship. Per usual, Del took requests from the crowd and smiled the whole way through. As I had anticipated they invited David Grisman to the stage for a song or two. What a pure musical delight.

Del McCoury Band Live at Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival on July 16, 2010.

A quick trip back to our campsite would yield a bottle of wine and some warmer clothes for our return to the stage for Railroad Earth. I have seen Railroad Earth several times and in my opinion, they seem to be developling at an exponential rate. As well as their playing and chemistry developing; their fan base has grown to an impressive amount. Folks are jumping on the Railroad Earth train.

The set was very rock/jam oriented with a solid base of string music. The band does a really good job of allowing space for one and other to mold the jam to their liking and stylistic vision. When the train leaves the station, it's hard to say when it will be returning, but in the end it will pull in right on time.

Railroad Earth Live at Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival on July 16, 2010.

The night ended with a comfortable stumble back to our site passing the Dance Tent, where Donna The Buffalo where playing to a packed tent of folks going absolutely crazy for zydeco music. In the camps several groups of pickers were tearing it up, with friends, relatives and new acquaintances alike.

Grey Fox truly set a beautiful environment for everyone to come together and play... and that's exactly what folks did; play until the late hours of the morning.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Preview: Dunegrass

Words By Brandon Picard

August 6-8
Empire, Michigan

Entering its 18th summer, The “Sleeping Bear Dunegrass and Blues Festival” has pleased festival goers with a conscious effort to showcase talented artists from Michigan. Only blocks from breathtaking Lake Michigan, the beauty of this place is undeniable. With on-site camping, and shuttles to and from the lake, your experience at Dunegrass will be nothing short of spectacular.

The eclectic catalog of artists include:

Greensky Bluegrass

Big Sam’s Funky Nation

Steppin’ in it

The Macpodz


Ticket Info:

Pre-sale tickets on sale now-$74.00 (Pre-sale tickets available online through August 4th)

Weekend pass at the gate-$90.00

Day passes-$40.00 per day

Prepare yourself for a weekend of bliss!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Jam of The Day: Henhouse Prowlers

Congratulations to The Henhouse Prowlers for winning the Rockygrass band competition!

Henhouse Prowlers Live at The Mill on April 21, 2010.

Turn Me Loose
Shadow Of A Man
Hope You Learn
Cumberland Blues
Take Me Back To You
Morning Dove
Uncle Bubba or 40 Acres and a Mule
Helter Skelter

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jam of The Day: String Cheese

String Cheese Incident Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on August 12, 2007.

Set 1

Lester Had a Coconut,
Long Journey Home,
I've Just Seen a Face,
Walls of Time,
Panama Red,
Hobo Song,

Set 2

One Step Closer >
Rhum n' Zouc,
Come as You Are,
Indian Creek,
Best Feeling >
Fuel for the Road,
Way Back Home

Set 3

Restless Wind,
Piece of Mine,
Looking Glass >
Rhythm of the Road >
Bumpin' Reel >

Encore 1:

Whiskey Before Breakfast,
Good Time Round the Bend

Encore 2:


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Grey Fox Bluegrass 2010: Thursday (Night)

Words & Photos By The J-man

Thursday July 15th, 2010

Cruising down back country roads with the glow of the GPS lighting our faces, my excitement began to build as I saw the first couple of signs directing us towards Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival. We were flagged onto the farm by a few smiling faces in the illumination of my headlights. We parked and wandered over to the media/volunteer/will call tent where we were again greeted by some kind folks. After sorting out the credentials, we were turned loose on the camps. To our surprise, in the dark of the night; the camps seemed packed. Especially for a Thursday. Our first impression was a good one.

We hustled over to the mainstage to find that we had missed our good friends Greensky Bluegrass, though I did get a chance to poke fun at their autograph signing.

"Are you Anders Beck of The Greensky Bluegrass?" I questioned in an excited mocking fashion.

"Only on TV." He said back with a smile.

As my focus shifted to the stage itself, I realized that Donna The Buffalo was up next. This is a band that I have always been curious about, in regards to how they manage to get booked as headliners, or a main stage slot for that matter. It's not until I see their dedicated fans; "The Herd", that I understand the logistics behind the booking, but musically, in my opinion it's unexciting and undeveloped.

As we wandered away from the mainstage to roam the campgrounds, I was overwhelmed by the amount of picking. At one point as I walked down the road we were camped on, and to my delight there were bands picking with large crowds gathered around; every fifty feet or so. As the name of the camp promised, this sure was a "Pickers Paradise."

... I looked forward to what the weekend would bring. Little did I know how absolutely amazing this weekend would truly be...

Preview: Michigan Roots Jamboree

Aug. 6th & 7th, 2010
Riverside Park - Ypsilanti, MI

Preview By Greg Molitor

Looking for something to do August 6th or 7th? If so, join me at the 2010 Michigan Roots Jamboree at Riverside Park in Ypsilanti, MI! A non-profit event sponsored by the Depot Town Community Development Corporation, the Roots Jamboree features over 25 musical acts, two stages, a children’s activities tent, various food and drink vending options, and a few extras unique to the Roots Jamboree experience.

Urban Camping

A first for 2010, Roots Jamboree is proud to announce overnight tent camping on both Friday Aug. 6 and Saturday, Aug. 7 at Frog Island Park. After a fun day of great music, food, and activities, come sleep out under the stars and experience the first urban camping adventure in Ypsilanti history! Within the secure camping area, there will be music, food, and plenty of fun on Friday and Saturday night. Purchase your tickets early because space is limited!

Convenient Concierge Delivery

Do you ever find yourself hungry for quality food but don’t have the time or means to make it happen? If so, don’t worry... the 2010 Michigan Roots Jamboree has you covered! This year, attendees have access to the Michigan Roots Jamboree delivery tent where food can be ordered from some of the areas best takeout restaurants. What makes this services so valuable is that you don’t have to wait for your food to arrive... Roots Jamboree will send a text when your food arrives and you can come pick it up from the tent!


Pre-sale tickets are now available for the Michigan Roots Jamboree! Tickets purchased pre-sale through the website will be $15 per day and $20 per day if purchased at the gate. Get them now! There is limited space available for camping, so be sure to get your camping pass early as it is expected to sell out. Children ages 12 and under are free!

VIP Ticket Package Available...

There are a very limited number of VIP tickets available for purchase. The VIP Ticket package includes:

• Admission to the event both Friday and Saturday.
• Camping Pass for both Friday and Saturday night.
• Free Michigan Roots Jamboree T-Shirt.
• Free Poster signed by all the Michigan Roots Jamboree bands.
• Full access to the VIP tent and backstage area.


Riverside Park is located in Historic Depot Town between Cross Street and Michigan Avenue. Conveniently located off I-94, 10 miles west of I-275 or 5 miles east of US-23. Exit #183, head north and follow the signs. Please follow this link for directions from your home.

Artist Line-up

The Roots Jamboree features local and regional bands on two stages in Riverside Park. Here is the line-up for 2010 Michigan Roots Jamboree...

Tokyo Sexwhale
Dragon Wagon
ekoostik hookah
Community Records Performance
Black Jake & the Carnies
Theo Katzman
Wayward Roots
nervous but excited
Dick Siegel
October Babies
Jamie Register and the Glendales
Ben Miller Band
The Ragbirds
UV Hippo
Frog Island Stage Saturday
Abigail Stauffer
The Mayflys

Tour Preview: Garaj Mahal

Bay Area Scene:

Words By Alex Pryor

Don’t miss the premiere jam fusion group on the planet; kicking off on a run throughout the west coast, hitting a number of festivals, clubs, and concert halls before grooving on over to the east coast, there are many chances to see these masters express their craft. On Friday the 23rd Garaj Mahal will be making their way through the Bay area stretch of the tour, this is your chance to catch an all star lineup of storied and flexible musicians who eloquently weave composition and improvisation into Jazz, Blues, World, Classical, Psychedelic and Rock. Since stepping onto the scene in 2001 they have consistently proven an evolutionary and boundary smashing group.

On guitar Fareed Haque a professor of Jazz and Classical guitar studies at Northern Illinois University and master of his craft; the formidable and musically traveled Kai Eckhart on Bass with new drummer Sean “The Rick” Rickman driving the beat and the always funky, always soulful Eric Levy on key’s tying it all together; they set you up for one wild ride down the rabbit hole. This group really enjoys what they do, this is no group of jaded old jazz virtuosos simply running through scales lazily, or even boastfully; if that is what you are looking for then please stay home on Friday night because this you will not see.

What you will see is an incredible group of friends that absolutely loves to jam together… Let’s meet the Garaj Mahal family shall we… Fareed Haque is one of the most respected and experienced guitar players and all around musicians on the world stage today, having being named “Best world guitarist” by guitar player magazine in 2009, winning an Independent Music Award for Garaj Mahals Blueberry Cave in 2007, and having had many pieces composed and performed in his tribute, he is as comprehensive in his career as he is in his many talents. He has worked with an impressive array of artists including Medeski, Martin and Wood, Sting, Arturo Sandoval, Edgar Meyer, Summit, Robert Walter, Dave Holland and many more.

Manning the bass is Kai Eckhardt, a legend in the world of jazz, having worked with John McLaughlin, Stanley Clarke, Zakir Hussain, Victor Wooten, Bela Fleck, Wayne Shorter, Robert Walter, Larry Coryell, Al Di Meola, and John Scofield, he brings all he has learned and created to the monster that is Garaj Mahal. Kai spends a large portion of his time composing and teaching as well, including a regular stint as a professor at the Jazz School Institute in Berkeley CA, clinics at the Berklee School of Music in Boston MA, and Victor Wooten’s Bass and Nature Camp. While touring and recording with Garaj Mahal Kai continues to play in many projects both of his own creation and others including Summit Feat. George Brooks and Zakir Hussain and RAD feat Rose Ann Dimalanta. The versatility, originality, passion and downright funkiness he brings to the table are truly unique.

On keys and synth is jazz prodigy Eric Levy; Eric has extensive classical, jazz and gospel training and performance experience. When choosing higher education Levy found himself at Northern Illinois University where he met his new professor, future friend and mentor Fareed Haque, after essentially mastering the keys Eric became active in the Chicago Jazz scene, and eventually The Fareed Haque Group, Galaxy, and Blue Tea Turtle Party, and of course Garaj Mahal. Eric and Fareed’s ability to feed off of each other after all those years of mentoring and learning from each other would make any musician flat out jealous.

Driving the band into new creative areas on drums and lead vocals is smooth as silk Sean “The Rick” Rickman. Bringing more rock and roll influence to songwriting and lyrical elements of the band’s live sound and their new album “More Mr. Nice Guy,” he exudes a take no prisoners attitude while on stage, there is an intensity and flare about Rickman that makes you want to hear and see more right away, especially while playing off Kai these two hit intricately sublime grooves that make it impossible to stand still; IMPOSSIBLE! Having toured and recorded extensively with such artists as Dapp Theory, Phil Upchurch, George Clinton, and Steve Coleman, Rickman is no “sit in” he is a serious replacement, Mahalic faithful’s you will not be disappointed, Rickman brings his own presence and expression to the stage and studio just as passionately and openly.

For this leg of the tour Garaj Mahal will be Playing at The HopMonk in Sebastopol owned by Gordon Biersch, this tavern is the perfect place to see such a group featuring a mindboggling beer and cuisine selection, incredible sound and an ambiance that just cannot be matched, it is the premiere small music venue in Wine Country and one of the most respected in the Bay Area. You can find more information about Garaj Mahal, the national tour and The Hopmonk at and

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Umphrey’s McGee: Red Rocks

July 3rd, 2010

Words By Greg Molitor
Photos By Jessica Pace

Red Rocks is Mecca for rock musicians. Artists that dedicate their lives to playing improvisational rock dream of the westward opportunity to stand where legends have stood, play where virtuosos have played, and experience the magic that radiates from the majestic surrounding mountains. Only the best of the best get a chance, and when it’s presented, they must take full advantage. July 3rd, 2010, marked Umphrey’s McGee’s first opportunity to headline the Colorado famous venue and make a bold statement to the improvisational world. When a band gets a chance to stand tall and proclaim, “We are here, we are now, and we are LOUD! “, it sure as hell better take it.

Although July 3rd was to be an Umphrey’s night, it brought some friends to join-in on the festivities. The Wailers, who carry on the loving tradition of Bob Marley’s reggae, and Galactic, the New Orleans-based funk rock outfit, warmed the stage for Umphrey’s McGee on this beautiful summer evening. The Wailers set, though predictable and a bit watered down, set the mood well for the rest of the night. It wasn’t the sharpest performance, but Bob Marley’s music is so strong and emotionally charged, one couldn’t help but feel the power and history behind the tunes. The set from Galactic, however, was huge. It was disappointing to see an almost identical set as the previous night’s, but they played it phenomenally. Galactic played Red Rocks how it should be played…with loads of conviction, character, and undeniable grit. Aided by Cyril Neville (Neville Brothers) for the majority of their set, the band left the audience’s souls blazing song after song, never letting the momentum stop until they crushed their short but fiery encore much to the crowd’s delight.

After a brief but spacious set break, Umphrey’s took the stage to a huge ovation from Red Rocks. The band had arrived, and it was a long time coming. “Mantis” > “Mantis Ghetts” > “Mantis (unfinished)” was its first offering to the crowd which did not disappoint. In fact, the second half of “Mantis” contained the most energy of the night and featured one of the largest musical peaks in the band’s history. No exaggeration! Midway through the song, the band took a sharp turn by segueing into “Ocean Billy”.

“Ocean Billy” is heavy and forceful, and at times, downright frightening. The guitar wizardry displayed by guitarists Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger is matched by few on the scene as mind-blowing technical prowess flowed freely through their lightning-fast finger taps during “OB”. A fusion-influenced “Jimmy Stewart” sandwiched in the “OB” and proved to the most concise “Stew” jam of the night.

After finishing “Ocean Billy”, the band lost some momentum, unfortunately. “Wappy Sprayberry” was the next selection, and although it is one of Umphrey’s most reliable jam vehicles, the version at Red Rocks went nowhere. During the improvised section, shred master Jake Cinninger inexplicably set down his guitar and joined keyboardist Joel Cummins on keys. This was a surprising move because Umphrey’s has always stuck to its guns while accepting its limitations. Certainly the band did not rise to Red Rocks status with Cinninger playing keys. The unnecessary move felt like a slap on the face to those who love the band for not only their accomplishments, but also for their avoidance of this type of lofty pretentiousness.

After the “Wappy Sprayberry” fiasco, the band attempted but could not reach the dizzying heights found in the first twenty minutes of their set. The only bright spots during the remainder of the set were an always solid “Hajimemashite” and a rockin’ “Mulche’s Odyssey”. Beyond the first attempt, the “Jimmy Stewart” jams that followed lacked direction and musical communication as the melodic leaders of the band were clearly not in-sync on this evening. As the show neared to its close, the band had one last surprise for the audience, a “Mulche’s Odyssey” > “Mantis” segue that floored the entire audience. No one stops on a dime quite like Umphrey’s McGee, and this moment exemplified their ability to completely captivate a crowd when motivated.

For an encore, Umphrey’s opened with “The Triple Wide”. Always a dance party, “The Triple Wide” was fun but again contained moments that seemed lost. The show concluded with the members of Galactic joining Umphrey’s for a mash-up of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic”. There were too many people on stage trying to do too much during the encore, and it came off as messy and unrehearsed. It’s difficult enough to play a mash-up of two songs if unrehearsed, so it was odd to see a mash-up as an encore selection for two bands that haven’t had an opportunity to practice the tune together.

The 4th of July show in Denver (review coming soon) was a much better performance than this evening’s as the band played to its potential the following day. However, Umphrey’s McGee’s set was undeniably a disappointment that left many wondering what had happened to their favorite band. For band that is known for its consistency as much as Umphrey’s, a down show leaves many questions to be answered. Luckily, if one stuck around to see their next night’s show, those questions were answered…plus much more!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Jam of The Night: Garage A Trois

Garage A Trois Live at All Good Festival on July 10, 2010.

01. Track One
02. Fragile
03. Track Three
04. Dory's Day Out
05. Track Five
06. Rescue Spreaders
07. The Real Morning Party
08. No Quarter
09. Punk Rock Guilt
10. Computer Crimes

Preview: The Big Up

August 5th-7th, 2010

The Big Up Festival brings three days of music, art and vibes to the fifteen hundred acre Sunnyview Farm in Ghent, NY. In addition to Four stages, The Big Up offers both wooded and field camping. The Big up is dedicated to providing "Music from across the country and around the world with visionary multimedia and visual artists collaborating to create a living landscape of musical entertainment, interactive art and sustainable initiatives in an intimate setting."

This year's line-up includes:

RAQ (2 sets), Pnuma Trio, Headtronics, OTT, Telepath, Big Gigantic, Eskmo, Emancipator, the Breakfast, Sub Swara, Kung Fu, Higher Organix and over 40 other groups will perform alongside innovative multimedia and performance artists in the “living landscape” of the Big UP.

If you're looking for a festival that brings a solid line-up to the table without the heavy cost of most summer fests, or a festival without a long walk from your tent to the stage through an overwhelming amount of people; The Big Up is the festival for you. This may be the most resonably priced festival of the year in regards to bang for your buck!

Forecastle Festival 2010: Sunday

Words and photos by Rex Thomson

The third day of the Forecastle Festival kicked off a little more lethargically than the rest. Louisville itself seemed to not want to be bothered before noon. Still reveling in the novelty of covering a big show in my home town I was refreshed and a bit early on Sunday, greeting the slow to build early Sunday morning crowd with enthusiastic boy howdies and big ‘ole grins! I had slept perfectly and walked my dog before going to hear one of my absolute favorite bands close out my home town festival. That’ll put a smile on any music fans face. As I had for the previous couple of days, I started my rounds at the Hidden Relic booth, ran by Joey and his fiancĂ© Amanda, with his street team of party people! They amiably agreed to pose for a group portrait, and in the spirit of the moment I talked them into kneeling on the concrete walkway so I could get a better picture of their booth. Mischievousness or artistic vision, you decide! They were great hosts all weekend, and I used their booth as a staging area! And not down the row of vendors there was the glassblowing artistry of the fine artisans Maiya and Miranda of Natural Mystic, a local glass emporium. The booths were located between the Kentucky themed River side stage, and the Electronica/DJ stage referred tp as the Ocean Stage. The Ocean Stage was being tended to by friend of the site John Grisanti, and he ran it admirably. Local hero Herm did his trademark pulsating lightshow, showing why he’s the cat to beat on lights. And, waiting in the wings were promoters Pete and Brenda Cashel , taking in the festival and talking to bands and local fans about plans for their upcoming Terrapin Hill Festival.

I mention all these people at the risk of offending many more, and I do it to make a point. These festivals, these joyous gatherings of love and learning, do not happen in a vacuum. Planning and preparation go into them and these people I have mentioned and scores I have not worked Long before; tirelessly during, and late after so we could rock. There is a community of weirdos and music junkies; a family of traveling freaks that come together as a sort of crew to man the ship that is a festival. The Forecastle is the nautical term for the forward part of the ship. As the forecastle in essence leads the ship, the Forecastle Festival attempts to lead the music scene towards doing anything they can to improve our health as a society. Healing the world through song, and teaching the people how to treat the earth with a gentler eye towards her bounty, a noble enterprise was started here by Mr.McKnight.

Culmination, harvesting, these were the themes of the day for me as I walked the grounds. The last day of a festival is always bittersweet for me, as I am sad to return to reality. A good friend recently noted that she thinks she may be becoming allergic to reality, and I feel her pain. There was a peace garden was being tended by Roadshow staff, and as the weekend progressed, flags were made and hung bearing simple sentiments of peace and unity, while, along the circle of grass and dirt patches laid out by the Sustainable Living Roadshow, patterns were being laid out and constructed by the attendees. These kinds of interactive art installations are wonderful tool for the mind and the soul. The smiles on the faces of all who worked there were evidence of that. I spoke to one woman, Julia, who was laying out intricate patterns with sunflower leaves. She was at it over twenty minutes. When she finished and was admiring her handiwork, I asked her if she had enjoyed her creation. She beamed at me and said

“Most fun I’ve had all year!”

The time came to be at the main stage and get some humanity and honesty from Dar Williams. A songstress of the rawest variety, her simple tempos belie her subject matter, and the plain openness of the music can be inspiring. A simple stage presence many would seem dwarfed by the slot on the main stage, just her and her few accompanists. Not Ms.Williams, however. She simply lifted her voice high, and did what she did best, share herself thru song. She used her words and her guitar as a way of bearing her mind and soul to the crowd. Powerful stuff.As the day before had had a strong vein of nostalgia at its core, Sunday’ line up had at its center woman. Sara Watkins, of Fiddler from Nickel Creek, and She and Him, featuring a rather famous she, were the leading ladies of the day on the main stage, and the day’s closer, were known for their video and on stage tributes to the fairer sex. With the theme of sustainability and reuse and rebirth, the cycle of life was clearly invoked. Watkins is a double threat musically, aiding and abetting her winsome singing voice with a lonesome fiddler’s bow, capable of drawing a tear to an unsuspecting eye. Again, I was struck by the visual of simplicity, as Watkins and her guitarist stood alone and unadorned on a wide stage. As the years pass I found myself falling more and more in love with the Appalachian music, the music of the mountains and fields across the world seem to speak to me as flavors of integrity and culture not my own. The music of regions speaks truest, and hearing a bluegrass artist on the main stage, music pumped proudly thru the Sky high speaker stacks did me proud. All types of music were represented this weekend, the Untz!Untz!ing folks going open to close and Indy stalwarts like We Were promised Jetpacks and Minus the Bear were tipping the hipness-o-meter to the far end. Yet, still, here on the main stage in a prime spot was a fiddle player, singing songs of the rivers and the woods, in a high calling voice, letting out mournful bows of her violin as a ghostly counterpoint to her vocalizations. Could not break my smile! I got a third smoothie of the day, mango orange, devastatingly good, and decided to go watch some bicycle crashes.

That may sound mean spirited, but at least throw me points for honesty. Why do people go to car races, skate parks and the winter X games? Sure, they wanna see some gnarly tricks, but people like to see crashes. Remember that horrible ski thing at the start if the Wide World of Sports intro for years featured that guy pin wheeling down the slopes for like an hour and a half? I always thought someone shoulda been able to stop him somehow, he was rolling forever. But, anyway, don’t tell me you don’t look at the highlights of bad wrecks and crashes on highlights and the news, ‘Cause ya do. Let’s all just admit this and move on.


They had set up a BMX ramp and stunt course, and had some of those diehard daredevils doing jumps, flips and twirls, catching mad air in the process. No one was injured in the exhibition, and no, I was not disappointed. One guy even jumped right out of the roped off area, zipping through low hanging tree branches and on out into the festival proper. Way cool!

Speaking of way cool, I am pretty good with meeting famous people. I end up in some weird places doing what I do, meeting some people you would never expect. Arriving in the pit for She and Him, I was not prepared to see every photographer who was at the festival all shoved into the same place. A semi circle phalanx had formed around the center of the stage, all of those camera persons focused on the lonely microphone at the center. Racking my brain for the reason why, I remembered that legendary guitarist M.Ward was part of the band, which still did not explain the attraction of all these shutterbugs t the set! Then, actor and singer Zooey Deschanel exited the wings and walked to the mike at center stage, and all the photographers sprung to life, snapping her every move! It struck me at once, I had become paparazzi! Loved her in the hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy film, and so I was interested to see how she fared in a more live setting. As she fiddled with the small keyboard she played, the photographers had grown silent, still watching her like an army of hunters, waiting for their prey to make a move. Being plugged directly into the cosmic consciousness at that moment, I turned on my telepathy and was amazed to hear the completely unified thought emanating from the assembled reporters as they stared down the barrels of their cameras…

”Do something cute” they thought as one.

She smiled and gave a small laugh as she adjusted her mic stand, and you could hear the shutters go click around the circle, as if one entity, the great media beast hungrily snapped up shots of her. No mere vanity project, the band, led by Ward, turned out to be quite good, and Deschanel had a more than serviceable voice, quirky and ironic one moment, heartfelt and lonely the next. After the show, I ran into her for a moment, and shared a laugh at how her fame affected her daily life. She was far friendlier than I would have been to one of my media stalkers, if I had any.

Another band I was unfamiliar with, Spoon from Austin Texas has been a rising star in the Indy scene for years. Much to my shame, I must admit my tastes in music are not as perfectly wide as it should be. Spoon’s set of rock and roll tunes was a clear reminder that there are so many bands out there making great music it’s nearly impossible to listen to them all. A friend reacted in horror when I asked him if Spoon was good, and threatened me physically if I missed their set. Though not impressed to the point of understanding my death threat, I will say this, good on Spoon for their set. Rocking the crowd, they made my list of must see gains. But the time I had been waiting for since the line-ups announcement was drawing near, and all of my training and energy was coalescing into a razor sharp focus. I made one last round around the grounds of the festival, bidding adieu to all the friends I had had before and the new ones made during. Though I love them all, my tunnel vision had set in, and the reason I do all this, the music photojournalism bit, was soon to take the stage. It was at last time for the Flaming Lips.

My love of the Flaming Lips is far beyond any ration thing. Their blending of pop sensibilities, psychedelic tendencies and hyper mega powerful love vibe is a perfect melding of fan and band. This could easily turn into a 10,000 word essay on why you should see every Flaming Lips show (Here forth referred to as the Flips) anywhere near you, and across the country, so I will try and be careful in my expressions’ of admiration. Singing songs of hope and truth, and doing so from a place not just knee deep in whimsy, but daring innovation and an idiosyncratic style that make them wholly their own, the Flips are as perfect a band as can be for me. As a listener I am moved by these small snapshots f a better world they offer, a world where love and caring rule the day. From full out psychedelic cacophonous thunderclaps of sound and fury, there are lush quiet eyes to their musical storms. And, in the finest tradition of community, there are the sing a longs, where Front man and oddball supreme Wayne Coyne urges the crowd to lift their collective voices to the sky, and sing the words that we have had ingrained on our souls thru repeated listening. One of the great things about the modern music scene, festivals in particular is the bands in general being okay with having their music recorded live and freely shared amongst the music fans. The Flips have for more than a decade been allowing their fans to trade shows on their own website. But to just listen to the Flips shows is a hollow experience to me, though it is something I do regularly. As I have often explained to friends and Non fans of the bad alike, the Flips must be seen to be understood. Seriously, ask and I will find a way to buy your ticket if it’s your first show!

The Flaming lips bring the spectacle. All weekend the undercurrent had been building, and everyone I spoke with had an element of anticipation jacked way high for the closing set by the Lips. Festival founder JK McKnight came out for his closing thank you’s, and after being moved visibly thanking his staff and sponsors for their help in the giant affair we had all just been astonished by, he seemed to light from the inside as he realized again why he was there. With a grin that looked like it may just hurt, he introduced The Flaming Lips. And the madness began. A nude woman’s dancing form settled into a birth position on the LED video screen used as a back drop, and through a pulsating projection of a birth canal the screen was parted, and, one by one the band emerged.

The rituals that have grown up around the bands performances are storied and wide varied. Coyne’s trip around the crowd in his plastic bubble, waling the crown as it floating on a sea of hands. The giant confetti canons that flank the stages pumping multi-colored madness into the sky. The twin sets of stage side dance troops, picked from area fanclubs and handpicked crowd standouts. The single shot streamer cannons Coyne uses to cover the lighting arrays with adornment. They long interludes where Wayne speaks of love and unity and peace. A flaming Lips show is, as I said, at its heart a ritual, a holy communion of fan, band and message. Upon my arrival on Friday, I was greeted by one of those ever so fun proselytizers with a mega phone, admonishing me not to enter this place of sin, this Forecastle festival. He was berating the entrants in line to turn back, to save their souls. On Sunday I stopped him from his rant, if only for a moment, and tried to get him to understand how wrong he was. In fact, I suggest, the surest way to save them was to get inside, and here what the Flaming Lips had to say. Sadly, this message did not reach through to my close minded friend. You have to be willing to listen to truly hear.

It has been put forth to me that this procession of mandated occurrences, and their similar shows is a weakness on the part of the Flips. I say again, NO. It is the strength. There are plenty of bands that I love that have catalogs of songs interchanged nightly, with mind blowing jams of indeterminate length every night. But that is not why I see the Flaming Lips, and I don’t expect that from them. I go to plug into the universal love current and to surf it along with my fellow fans. For have no doubt, as I sing along at the top of my lungs To “Yoshimi”, and any other song they played. Simply put, I love this band, start to finish. Personally, besides getting the biggest feeling of pure energy from seeing Flaming Lips show, it’s one of the things that renewed my passion for what I know do, the article you are reading and the pictures you are seeing.

A while back I did some reviews for some local papers and a website or two, and enjoyed it. But it was generally a royal hassle, and eventually I moved on. After purchasing a high end camera a few years back, I decided I would take it to a festival, and…guess who was there? That’s right…the cool and the fabulous…The Flaming Lips. I was front row rail for that show, and got some decent shots. I started taking my camera to all the shows I could, and have since merged my love of writing with my new found love of photography. And now, in the time since I start doing this seriously I had not, until now, been in front of a stage on which stood the band I owed my indspirado, til now. Joy. The only word is JOY! Exiting the pit I roamed the crowd, singing along, high fiving friends and strangers and reveling in the moment as a child in a bubble pit! Finally, I snuck up close to shoot and see the boys as close as possible. Through the telephoto lens I saw everything in a whole new way, and learned a new dimension to the band I so love! I waited for Coyne to do something I have seen him do time and again during one of his extortive speeches, to clasp his heart. When he did, and the picture snapped I felt a moment of perfection, oneness with place and purpose. All I really wanted was that shot, for if I had to sum the band up in one mage it would be that. Coyne funneling love to us all through us all in both directions. Thanks to all who made that moment of bliss possible for me.

Oh, and I forgot to mention…If there is ever a debate as to which concert you should see, always chose the one where the lead singer does a son on the shoulders of a bear. Just saying!