Thursday, October 7, 2010

Terrapin Hill Harvest Festival: Saturday

Words & photos By Rex Thomson

My professed love for the fest is deep and abiding, but seriously, I think the rain gods have it in for us! Somehow someway... it seems to rain. But if there’s a better way to sleep late than in a tent while it rains and you’re snug and dry…ahhhhh…life is good. It’s almost like the rain gods want to party too, and I don’t blame them. Waking up to hang out and munch a hearty breakfast thanks to my campmates Burk and Shellie (Who I call my adult supervision!) A break in the rain, and a very late start to the day had most of us heading in while Burk stayed behind to whip up a giant pot of some very wicked Kentucky Burgoo. For the rest of us, it was time to catch our first act of the day, The Other Brothers. Unabashedly old school Rock and Roll, with notes of Aerosmith, Zeppelin and the like fleshing out their sound, The Other Brothers play with a loose, yet spirited energy. It’s heartwarming to see that in the age of laptops jam sessions and racks of processors onstage, Rock Bands are still aborning, and roaming the land. These guys put on a straight forward High energy set, and the crowd responded in kind.

My friends Kat and Erin went back to the camp, to resupply and sample the stew while I explored the farm. There is a Roman labyrinth to walk, for those feeling contemplative, and I very much was. A pavilion provides some shelter from the elements, and shade for the gathering crowd. There was Pete, moving giant logs into place and making sure the damp wood did not get soaked, ensuring us all of the traditional bonfire. While Pete labored away, Dose Hermanos took the stage. A piano duo featuring former Dead Keyboadist Tom Constanten and Dead sonic trickster Bob Bralove, they dueled and dueted like the coolest piano lounge act ever. Ranging from the sublime intricacies of dense psychedelic tunes, to the story song territories trail blazed by Tom Waits, Dose Hermanos fit the afternoon perfectly, and provided a laid back vibe for a laid back, damp crowd. Joined onstage for their last few numbers by noted Dead afficiando and radio runner David Gans for their last few songs, they showed themselves an adept three piece, and informed me that they were booking gigs as a trio, name to be determined. Look for them soon! A down pour ensues, the last of the weekend, but a strong one none the less. I hid under the stage with the crew and the few who refused to leave the venue for the safety of their tents. Traction got bad near the stage, and one vehicle was trapped, blocking the load in area. But…never fear…Cornmeal is here! The boys and a handy stage hand or two pushed the trapped vehicle free, showing why they are indeed the classiest act out there!

It was at this point, while waiting for Cornmeal to start, that I met back up with Erin an Kat, and found out all the campside excitement I had missed. A random lunatic, who had enjoyed far too much of something had attacked and terrorized our camp! Dubbed the “Truck Douche” he had barged into our largish camp when only the two ladies were present, and promptly started a riot. He shouted at them and chased Erin into our shared tent, and proceeded to go apeshit in our campsite, turning over Burk’s Burgoo and holing up in the back of Burk’s truck, hurling tomatoes and various veggies out at the ladies and asserby in general. Finally coazed out and given a timeout (In handcuffs) he sobered up enough to be returned to festival society. Burk showed amazing restraint when he showed back up before the Cornmeal set, and tolerance ruled the day. That said, we watched the Truck Douche with a wary eye... any man who’ll attack as beautiful a pair as Kat and Erin is screwy, but to waste that Burgoo... well that’s a culinary crime that can’t be forgiven. We were all in need of a palette cleanser to get the bad taste out of our mouths and minds, and we were in luck…It was time for Cornmeal’s daytime set!

There are many opinions on the best setting for live music, inside versus outside, day versus night, sober versus inebriated…okay…I don’t hear that last one argued too much now that I think about it, and opinions vary. These factors affect the bands themselves as well. At festivals, some bands thrive on the night, and some musicians seem to truly love the sun on their faces as they sing away! For me, the settings are dependent on the band, and Cornmeal is one of the rare bands that work for me in a variety of places. While I love them at night, as they are generally a little spacier and psychedelic, Cornmeal is not one of those bands that needs all sorts of lights and visual distractions to keep you from noticing their musical short falls. Not so with the ‘Meal, as they thrive in any environment. The sun had come out as they took the stage and they were in prime form, playing to a crowd that, for the most part had sen them before and knew what was in store for them, a jam session of epic proportions. They charged into the set with a full head of steam, picking up right where they had left off the night before. The crowd went wild for them, and the dancers and twirlers came out in force. Young faces smiled with delight, and there was much rejoicing. That’s not a euphemism by the way, there was literally much rejoicing! The more dedicated Cornmeal fans, the Cornstalkers were present in force, and the love they feel for the band is returned in kind, as it quickly turned into a complete hoedown. I always urge people to se this band, but now I am going to go a stepo further... See Cornmeal at the Terrapin Hill Harvest Festival. Akin to seeing them in their home of Chicago, you’ll never see the band looser or more in the groove. Simply put, the finest of the fifteen sets I have seen thus far this year!

Their fan base grows by the show, and this day they gained an extra legged one, as their set saw an unexpected sit in by Arlo the dog! Beloved farm pet of the residents of Terrapin Hill Rob and Jana Page, themselves Cornstalkers, Arlo strolled out on stage like it wa his home... which... technically it was. He walked right over and looked up at Allie Kral as she sawed away on her violin, amazed as the humans at the display she was putting on. After the show, he showed his cuddle-ability and charmed his way into the arms of Ms.Kral. Sneaky lil pimp pup that he is, he was the darling of every woman in the place.

After sampling some of the remaining Burgoo (Delicious!) I made my way over to the main stage to see the evening’s headliner, the Dark Star Orchestra do their thing, or more appropriately, to do the Grateful Dead’s thing. This comment is not meant to be an insult, as they are in fact a tribute band to the most influential Jam band ever, the Dead. But not one of those lazy “Here are the ten Dead songs we know” outfits, their attention to detail and love of the source material is legendary. They recreate dead shows so accurately, song for song, that I worry they force themselves to go back stage and ingest all kinds of weirdness at the proscribed points in the shows, to keep themselves in character. Inset picture 18 above

“Hey... Didn’t Jerry cough on mike about four minutes and twenty seconds into this “Franklin’s Tower””?

Anyway, the Dead had their long reaching influence all over this festival, from the name of the Farm itself being inspired by the title to one of their tunes, to former members and an entire act dedicated to keeping their spirit alive. Taking the usual set break, the organizers scheduled a stellar Fire show, with dancers Jorden Dundich and AJ Palumbo leading the way and providing a scintillating show of red hot sexiness and danger. After the last flame was extinguished, the DSO launched into a second set, taking the drums to space and back out again on the other side. A dance weary crown wandered away from the main set to a joyous surprise at the Chapel stage…Pete Had indeed got the fire lit, and the flames licked the logs high into the sky, filling the night with warmth and light in a manner that would make our ancestors proud!

Mixing the ancient rituals of fire and communal song with their technological bent, the band Goldenrod took the chapel stage and gave the showiest set of the entire weekend. With a keyboardist decked out in a way shiny golden robe, and the rest of the band donning various sheikery, they showed that it isn’t only left coast and European acts that can make music that is a coalescent whole from bleeps and blips and live music. Their sound reminds me of a down home Radiohead, with a fuller sound and less jumping around. This was my second time seeing them this year, and the leap they made in both playing skill and stage presentation was very impressive. For certain, they are a band to watch. Next up, it was time for what has become an annual tradition on the farm…The Rumpke Mountain Boys All night pick-A-Thon! Their sets are always enjoyable, and their mix of good natured, borderline silly songs and heartfelt originals, mixed with a rare depth of knowledge of the Bluegrass standards make a Rumpke show a good chance to dance. But their nigh suicide pact level of marathon playing at the farm is what is the most impressive. After playing til 8 am, or so I’m told, I had long since given up and gone to sleep, shows their passion and their energy as well as any other indicator.



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