Wuhnurth Music Festival: Friday
Words By J-man
Photos By Greg Molitor
Friday, September 17th, 2010
When it comes to festivals, there are two ends of the spectrum; the powerhouses who's sole focus are ticket sales and income. Don't get me wrong, these festivals often also care about the music, community and event itself... But the focus is on quantity as opposed to quality. A lot of the vibes get lost in the sea of corporate sponsorship, massive crowd's and bands that seem better placed on a television show as opposed to the festival scene. Then there are are festivals like Wuhnurth, who focus solely on the music, the community and the environment. The vibes from many of these smaller festivals are unachievable by a lot of those previously mentioned "powerhouses".
Leading up to Wuhnurth my excitement was high. I had been talking to James Nimmer, the promoter of the festival on and off about different band options, time slots and the new venue. Needless to say I was excited to see it all come to fruition. Additionally, I had heard great things about the previous year's Wuhnurth and expected the following year to only improve.
The trip from Michigan began Friday around nine o'clock am, with a short drive from Ann Arbor across the state to a town just south of Grand Rapids to pick up a friend. Then a short five and a half hour drive south to Spencer, Indiana. Unfortunately for us our Global Positioning navigation system lead us to a location that was indeed not the festival. As we drove back and forth in the area, we met several other unhappy festival goers in the same position. It took us a solid hour plus of being lost in the area, before a nice older couple pulled onto the property where many of us were searching and informed us that "Folks have been coming here the past couple of days looking for a festival... it's actually up the road a couple of miles." With that we headed in the direction of Wuhnurth.
As we approached the road in, it's only marking was a white sheet with a red, yellow and green arrow pointing down the road. Not even a sign that said "Wuhnurth". Needless to say I was irritated that such a simple and important part of getting people to the grounds had been overlooked. Finally arriving at the festival, we were directed into the parking area by a very friendly staff member. As we pulled into the lot we noticed folks parking their cars and hauling their gear to random vehicles, from pick-up trucks to four wheelers; pulling flatbed trailers to be drivin' to the fest. At this point I was already on edge from driving around for an hour or two looking for the grounds. The thought of having to make three trips in and out of the fest to retrieve my gear on a trailer; had me borderline furious.
We grabbed our first round of gear and loaded onto an open shuttle/trailer. It was packed full of hippies by the time we pulled away. As we zipped towards the festival, I was surprised at how fast the shuttles were driving. It was actually a lot of fun, but also a potentially dangerous situation. There were folks standing up while the shuttle was in motion, folks stumbling around and some flatbeds with no railings. We flew down the hilly road towards the festival grounds, arriving in a matter of minutes.
Entering the festival grounds I glanced around and immediately forgot about my prior irritations. Wuhnurth was beautiful. We walked passed some vending and in the distance we could see the side stage located just outside of a covered, yet open-sided structure that housed the main stage. As we passed the structure, the park opened into area with a pond, tons of trees and additional structures and vending in the distance. I was impressed.
It was at this point that we were offered assistance shuttling in our gear to a camping location of our choosing. I was impressed how helpful the staff was. I realized then the location was worth the sacrifice of on-site parking, and that the organizers were doing what they could with what they had. We located some friends from our music community who had saved us some space, and set up camp. I loved the fact that the bulk of the camping was wooded, allowing us the opportunity to sleep in later due to the lack of direct sunlight/heat.
After getting set up and comfortable, we made our way over to check out some music...
The Ragbirds are a Michigan based band whom I have caught on several occasions. As some already know, I am not a fan. I won't say "It takes a lot to impress me." but simple melodies and rhythms aren't going to cut it. One of my biggest pet peeves about the Ragbirds is the lack of variation in their setlists, however; during the half hour that I dedicated to the Ragbirds at Wuhnurth, I was caught off guard with some of the improvements that they had made in regards to the complexity of their melodies as well as their incorporation of some new tones/sounds.
The next act of the evening that I caught was the Ohio based band Papadosio. My first experience with this band came early this year at All Good Festival in West Virginia. I was impressed and in turn looking forward to their set at Wuhnurth. They did not disappoint. They sounded great. Their music made me want to dance, space out and want more. I like how they explore, not only in their jamming; but in their tones and approach. The production was great, levels almost perfect, as well the lights had my attention. I will be watching this band as the progress.
Sometime during the Papadosio set, I had the privilege of meeting Chicago musician Jaik Willis. We had some good conversation and planned for an interview (That in the end never came to be).
Following Papadosio's main stage set we wandered back in the direction of camp towards a sizable "circus" tent. The Malah had already taken the stage and was playing to a crowd of about seven people. I was drawn in immediately. After just a couple of songs the tent was crawling with people. It was simple music, but smooth and pleasing. The drumming was tight and the bass player brought some pretty impressive lines. The guitar player kept it really simple. There were points where I wanted more than he was willing (or able) to offer the crowd. But at the same time, he fit well with the mellow simplicity of what they played. Regardless, I enjoyed their set a lot; even missing out on Family Groove Company's set which I had forgotten about entirely. Touche' Malah... Touche'.
Sometime during the Malah's set, I recieved a text message from my co-editor Greg Molitor informing me that he was near and should be arriving shortly. I made my way to the front entrance to assist him with his gear and I noticed that my phone was dead. I headed over to where the shuttles had been picking up and dropping folks off earlier, and saw nothing. I looked down the long dark road to see nothing but darkness. Not even a headlight. A moment of contemplation set in: How would I get in touch with Greg to help him? And how was he going to haul all of his gear from the parking lot, down the road to the festival?
I quickly made my way over to what appeared to be the main gate and saw a couple of workers assisting incoming vehicles and manning the entrance. As I approached I recognized one of the gentleman, James the festival promoter/organizer.
"Hell of a party you kids got here." I said.
James turned and smiled "Hey J-man." Reaching out for a hand and a hug.
"Have you seen Greg?" I asked.
"Yeah. He just pulled up here with some others and was directed to the parking lot." James said.
"I see... Are the shuttles still operational?" I asked.
"No. They stopped at midnight" He said with a sorry look on his face.
"Hop into the car and I'll drive you down there to pick them up." He said with a smile.
I was thrilled! I couldn't imagine Greg and the cats he was with, wandering down the road in the dark, while we were partying at the festival. I was blown away that James would take time out of what he had going on at the festival to accommodate myself and my staff. This situation also allowed me some time with James to gain his perspective on how he thought the event was going. We arrived at the parking area approximately a mile up the road, and I thought to myself; "Now what?" My phone was still dead. Was I going to have to walk through the parking area looking for Greg? A second later, up he walked with his hands full of gear, glancing down the road.
"Molitor" I yelled.
Greg looked over at the vehicle confused, as it was dark and he was not expecting a ride.
"Load up." I said smiling.
They did just that and we headed back to the festival grounds. We pulled in just as Digital Tape Machine was getting ready to take the stage. James told everyone to leave their gear in his car and that we would worry about it later, in order to catch DTM. We thanked him again and made our way to the main stage.
Digital Tape Machine
DTM is the side project of Umphrey's McGee drummer Kris Meyers. I was looking forward to this set, based on my knowledge of Kris' skills. Initially, I was intrigued. But as the set went on, I lost interest quickly. The drumming was solid, but not even Kris' drumming drew me to the music. It was dance-able, at times it was heavy, but it felt chaotic and sloppy. I'd like to give them another listen, but I had to move on.
The time came when everything started to blend together, the lights had that little extra sparkle, and my mind began to wander. We passed by Zmick at one point on the tent stage and I remember enjoying it, but I remember little else.
We wandered back over to James' car to retrieve the remaining gear. On our way to do so, we ran into some of our Michigan friends talking to Kris Meyers by his tour van. He seemed excited and extremely engaged in conversation.
At some point in the wee hours of the night, maybe five am; I committed myself to sleep. I crawled into my tent, and stared at the ceiling as the non-sense around me seemed to increase. I remember nothing more of that day...