The All Good Festival Travelblogue: Day Two
Words By Andy “HumpDayFunk” DeVilbiss (www.facebook.com/HumpDayFunk)
Photos By Brian DeVilbiss
Crap. I'd forgotten how hot a tent could get and that the sun usually wakes up a lot earlier than I do. Oh well. I knew going in that sleep was going to be one of my major challenges, and I think I managed a fairly healthy five hours. The music started at 10:30 with the Recipe. Meh. I could run some errands, get the lay of the land, and be done in time to hopefully catch Dangermuffin, an act playing on the Grassroots stage that I'd heard good scouting reports about. That stage was situated much closer to the camping area and hosted early acts before giving way to a great array of musical forums, interviews, etc. throughout the rest of the day, so I figured I could execute this plan flawlessly. First order of business was breakfast and ice.
The size of campground area that I passed through on the way to find the ice vendor had seemingly doubled, perhaps tripled overnight. It was a massive influx of people, and talk of setting a new attendance record was already afoot. Apparently there was whole separate camping area with people pouring in on the opposite side of where we were. As far as I was concerned it was just whispers about some foreign country that radiated unchecked from a core of monolithic vehicles and was too damn far away to visit.
Turns out, the ice vendor was practically down by the Concert Bowl. No worries. I waited in the long line for ice, perhaps the most precious of festival commodities ($4 for a 7 lb bag), and figured I'd grab one of those awesome taxis to get back to camp. Especially with two bags of ice. By the time I reached the ice truck, it was down to less than ten bags, which means I was getting some of the most melted ice available from that truck. This made speed even more paramount, but hey those taxis will save me!
In a transportation theme that would repeat the rest of the weekend and has probably echoed since taxis were invented, there's never a cab around when you need one. The overnight population explosion meant many taxis were already booked before you could get to them unless you wanted to stand and wait the time it would take to just go ahead and walk. Or they'd be heading the opposite way to that faraway foreign land I'd heard rumors about. Then there was the supremely cruel trick of the not-for-you taxi, when you'd see an empty taxi, idling or driving by, only to see it was labeled VIP for those lucky bastards who scored "Even Better" passes. Water was already dribbling from the ice onto my legs. I was going to have to hoof it.
When I woke up on Friday, it immediately felt more like "vacation" than Thursday had... until I had to carry those already melting bags of ice over the mile-long combination of crowds and hills. By the time I made it back, I had probably about one bag of ice remaining and two arms that were about to fall off. I missed Dangermuffin, but enjoyed what I heard as I passed by the back side of the Grassroots stage. I had to relax, rehydrate, and regain some semblance of feeling in my limbs. I quickly surmised that this would mean no Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. I wasn't too broken up about that, as I'm not a huge reggae kinda guy. Making it back down to the Concert Bowl for the Infamous Stringdusters, however, was imperative. I was determined to approach bluegrass acts with more of an open mind than I usually do, and, though I had never met the man, a fellow Marauder, Chris Pandolfi, just so happened to play banjo in that outfit. The least I could do was lend my own little dash of support.
Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad Live at All Good Music Festival on July 15, 2011.
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Random All Good Story #2 or The Festie Feastie Foodgasm
Brian and I had figured that we would not be spending a whole lot of time at the campsite as we were, y'know, "working" (Ok, Brian was REALLY working). We decided we not bring stuff to cook like we usually did. Just some stuff for sandwiches, and we'd live off the vendors. Before I got ice, I needed food, so I looked for something with a short line. Most people were looking for breakfast food, so a little stand called Flippin' Eggroll seemed line-free. They hail from Canton, Ohio, which is the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Man alive, this was some hall of fame festival food. They stuffed crazy things into eggrolls, cooked them to order, served them with homemade dipping sauces, and you could get two for $7. And when I say crazy, I mean crazy.
My first pair was essentially an eggroll meatball sub which was accompanied by marinara and the Bacon Cheeseburger Fry, which was stuffed with bacon, ground beef, cheese, AND french fries and served with a homemade ketchup and mustard dipper. Subsequently that weekend, I also sampled the Chicken Teriyaki, the bird sauced and rolled up with rice, and the Flippin' Hobo, ground beef with creamy rice, peas and corn. Fun folks to chat with while you're waiting and really the best stuff I've eaten at a festival since the Sugar Shack's french toast special. Give them your money. Also there were numerous fabulous stands that benefited local charities with decent-sized bottled water at a reasonable $2.
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My issues, and, if I can put it honestly, my lack of interest with bluegrass is mainly rhythmic. I'm a funkateer. I like syncopation, and, while I am often awed by the technical virtuosity and improvisational chops required to do it well, bluegrass always felt too straight ahead, too tight rhythmically to me (I have the same problem with techno. Probably even worse since you will rarely hear words like virtuosity or improvisational associated with that genre). So I talked to some people that seemed knowledgeable about the genre. They provided me with a few helpful insights that expanded my listening perspective. First, the rhythm is not necessarily like The Funk, but it is just as urgent, syncopated and propulsive in its own way. It has to be as there's usually no drummer. Second, listen to the different layers first. Give each individual instrument its own attention for a bit to start every song. Figure out the individual components, then deal with the sum of their parts, and that might engender more appreciation of how beautiful bluegrass is when it's structured and performed well. Third, never, EVER forget it's party music.
Thank the All Good gods the Infamous Stringdusters were my first foray into the blue blue mountain grass. My friend Jeff was already a fan. He'd talked them up a bit, and he was on the money. These cats were good fun! The first layer I concentrated on was MusicMarauders' undercover brother... Pandolfi, Chris Pandolfi. Our man is stoic. It kind of reminded me of an old theory I had about bass players. They're either rambunctious and jumpy or just stone-cold focused. Maybe it's the same with banjos, or maybe he just needed to concentrate to shred the stuff he was shredding. Could be wrong, but his banjo seemed to focus more towards the rhythmic component than melodic lines, providing a great counterpoint to the metronomanical bass of Travis Book (Yeah, I made up a word). Rhythmic base established, I then went down the line from Agent Double-0-Pandolfi... Andy Hall (dobro), Jeremy Garrett (fiddle), Jesse Cobb (mandolin), Andy Falco (guitar). Each one playing their ass off, and weaving effortlessly around each other, and throwing out killer vocal harmonies on top of it all with supreme gusto. By the time they hit the middle of their set (which I now know was a segued run of "Hitchhiker > Get It While You Can > Black Rock"), where I'd usually be getting bored, I was completely engrossed and getting a groove on. I wondered would the Stringdusters' awesome performance pave the way for more bluegrass appreciation this weekend.
On paper, what followed on the Crane stage couldn't have been more diametrically opposed to the Stringdusters. I'd just watched six guys combine together like Voltron to kick some musical ass, and now I was about to watch some weird act called That 1 Guy and The Magic Pipe. Based on the whole Magic Pipe thing, I sensed the guy was a bit whimsical, and I'd heard that he was a one man band deal like Keller Williams or Zach Deputy with the twist that he had built his own instrument. I wasn't sure what to expect. Out comes this dude who looked like the rock-n-roll cousin of an old school Hasidic Jew. He nonchalantly strolled up to this weird upside U-shaped metallic contraption and put out one of my favorite sets of the weekend. I always like to be surprised.
This Magic Pipe thing. It had a single bass string that could be played fretless style or smacked. The pipe itself had all kinds of remarkable percussion elements. There were strategic placements of buttons all over as well as an assortment of foot-operated buttons wired in that could produce every bell and whistle That 1 Guy needed (At one point he literally did produce a bell, adding to the illusion by striking the air in front him with a drumstick as if conjuring it out of the ether). It was immense fun to watch him operate his instrument, and it almost became a game to figure what sound was coming from where on the Magic Pipe. It was crazy funny stuff, and That 1 Guy proved to be a a unique and expressive performer who primed the pump for my first big must-see act of the day.
Infamous Stringdusters Live at 15th Annual All Good Festival on July 15, 2011.
That 1 Guy
That must-see act was Galactic. I love 'em tonight, today, or whenever. I've been a huge longtime fan. I've seen them numerous times, but hadn't caught their act in a couple years. They were amped up by a couple guests, which I referenced in my live-tweet from the mountain: "@GalacticFunk brought their own Two Coreys: Glover and Henry. Way funkier than Haim and Feldman. #itsallgood" (Galactic retweeted it after the set which may be the social media highlight of @HumpDayFunk's life to this point). Corey Henry is the badass trombonist from the Rebirth Brass Band, and Corey Glover? He was the lead singer for a little 90s rock-n-roll outfit called Living Colour. It was a scorching set: dirty swampy riffs from guitarist Jeff Raines and bassist Robert Mercurio; perfectly timed swirling rage from Rich Vogel on the organ; boiling hot horns licks from the aforementioned Henry and blazing saxophonist (and crowd emcee) Ben Ellman, and; as always, the thunderous and engrossing drum wizardry of Stanton Moore.
It was a hot, sweaty throwdown, a masterful demonstration of the band's supreme ability to fuse their brand of NOLA-influenced sensibilities to any genre they decide to play. Plus, there were a couple of new tunes, or, at least, new to me, which I always enjoy. Glover raised the party to another level and demonstrated how powerful a frontman can be when he knows what the hell he's doing. Glover's vocals were insanely great (Did you know he played Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar in addition to his awesome work with Living Colour?), and worked the crowd like Pavlov ringing a bell. The highlight proved to be their dirty, heavy, set-closing cover of Led Zeppelin's "How Many More Times. It was performed with high, high, "Stanton Moore is jumping off his stool!" energy and ended with Corey Glover practically in the crowd, fulfilling traditional frontman duties with an epic, guttural, "Ladies and gentlemen... GALACTIIIIIIIIIIIIIIC!!!!" This would be tough to follow.
Up next was Matt Butler and the Everyone Orchestra. Butler goes to various festivals and recruits performers from the rest of the bill for an all-star jam session, which he conducts. One member of the media joked, "Butler's has the sweetest gig. All he needs for a weekend is a couple pairs of pants, a jacket, and a dry-erase board." He left out the sparkly top hat. Butler would write a basic idea on the board to get things going then poked and prodded individual or collective sections of musicians for what he wanted. The line-up consisted of the majority (if not all) of Hot Buttered Rum, That 1 Guy and his Magic Pipe, Drew Heller from Toubab Krewe on guitar and soku, and trumpeter/singer Jennifer Hartswick, best known for her work with Trey Anastasio. Hartswick seemed to be the focus of the set, and she delivered, especially with some moments of soulful "Great Gig In The Sky"-style vocal bombast. Any act would have struggled to reach Galactic's heights, but the Everyone Orchestra's on-stage creative process was quite fun to watch.
Everyone Orchestra Live at All Good Music Festival on July 15, 2011.
Keller Williams Live at 15th Annual All Good Festival on July 15, 2011.
I suddenly felt a disturbance in the force... Keller Williams. A hater's get ready to hate. I've peeped his game many, and it's not for me. I appreciate his talent, especially when he's with a band. Solo, however, 20 minutes in? As per usual for me, it was meh. I tried. I did. I didn't detect anything fresh. In fact, he could've been playing the same set he played the last time I was at All Good five years ago. I saw he's going to be playing a show specifically for kids in DC soon. Honestly, that's probably a PERFECT gig for him. Just. Not. My. Thing. Time to recharge the phone and chill in the media tent.
I emerged from the media tent towards the end of Keller in advance of the Dana Fuchs Band's set on the Crane stage. Fuchs is probably best know for her performance as Sexy Sadie in the recent Beatles-themed musical Across The Universe. She also played Janis Joplin on Broadway. So, yeah, girl can sing a bit. It was straight-ahead blues/rock fare, with Fuchs gyrating around and posing suggestively. At points, it was a little too screamy for me. While it was a nice set, I didn't have the impact on me like some of the "virgin" sets I've seen at All Good. The crowd ate it up, though, and was steadily growing in advance of Warren Haynes and Furthur.
Haynes promoted his new album, Man In Motion, as a soul record. It is, and it's great. I was interested in seeing how the material translated live. It translated very well, and the rest of the band was killer. Like every time I see him, DC-area saxophone god Ron Holloway proved a dexterous and creative soloist, capable of keeping up with Haynes' licks. So did vocalist Ruthie Foster, who provided her own vocal jams with serious oomph. The highly talented and highly underrated Ron Johnson on the bass, who I last saw with Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, combined with funky drummer Terrence Higgins from the legendary Dirty Dozen Brass Band to provide a soulful, thumping anchor. Then, peeking over the keys with his askew ballcap, glasses and infectious smile was Nigel Hall. I thought for a moment about where this guy was two or three years ago and what strides he'd made in this scene to now be playing in the Warren Haynes Band. I was truly happy for him because it's nice to occasionally see talent be rewarded in music.
Of course, then there was Warren. What can you say at this point except how awesome must it be to be that amazingly good at something? "Guitar God" is not even enough anymore. I found it funny and a bit endearing that he almost apologized for playing stuff from the new album. Dude, you're Warren F'N Hayes. Play what you want. I continue to be amazed by his incredible talent each time I see him, no matter what he's playing or who he's playing it with, and I'm always appreciative of his humble nature. Haynes and the band closed out their blazing set with his signature tune, "Soulshine," to a screaming crowd, and, while Toubab Krewe plied their West African based grooves on the Crane stage, we went to go grab some food before returning to figure out the photo situation for Furthur, which was rumored to be a little restrictive.
The Dana Fuchs Band
The Warren Haynes Band
Toubab Krewe Live at All Good Music Festival on July 11, 2011.
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Random All Good Story #3 or Shameless Self Promotion
While searching for dinner, I paused at the HeadCount tent This is a fabulous organization that strives to get people, especially young people, to register to vote. Personally, I take the right to vote pretty seriously, so I think they do great work. They are running a contest at all the festivals this summer called Sign of the Times. Attendees pick a dry erase sign with things like "Green Is" or "I Vote Because" printed on them and then finish the statement. You then pose for a photo, which is posted on Facebook for people to LIKE. For All Good, the most LIKES gets VIP passes to All Good 2012. Yours truly has been bouncing between second and third and actually has a healthy shot to win. I would be REALLY grateful if you voted for me. Follow these steps:
1. LIKE HeadCount on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HeadCountOrg
2. Then LIKE my photo, which features me in a big dopey white hat, holding a sign reading "End... Auto-tuned Music!!!" by clicking here.
3. Prepare for a rocking and super benevolent reign by your funky new All Good Prom King.
I feel I picked an idea we can all unite behind. Please vote. Help a Marauder out. You don't want me to lose to that deep-thinking "Moll Dog Is No Bueno" guy, do you?
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Furthur's photo policy was indeed restrictive. They were only giving 20 passes for the first three songs (A little inside baseball- that three song rule is pretty standard), and MM did not get one. It was the band's policy, not All Good's, and I'm not going to say anything more than that. Furthur then started an hour later than their scheduled time. Unconfirmed rumors said Phil Lesh got stuck on the highway. Yeah they're the big headliner, but they're really not my thing. I know some would argue it's about paying tribute or recreating a particular magic, but I suppose I'm just a Jerry guy to my core when it comes to things Grateful Dead-related.
Furthur Live at All Good Music Festival on July 15, 2011.
Having known he had to learn the majority of the material upon joining the band, I was very impressed with drummer Joe Russo's command of all the necessary styles to pull off a set of varied material. He was the main focus of my attention during a rather sedate first set with the exception of the closer. Given his past association with the Dead, it was no surprise that Warren Haynes once again upheld his reputation as the hardest working festival guitarist in the world, joining Furthur for a rousing version of "Turn On Your Lovelight" to close out the first set. According to many, it would turn out to be the highlight of both sets, and I was once again awed by how Haynes can dominate a stage and transform a show. Still, it all just seemed old and in the way (*rimshot*) to me. Bobby and Phil especially. I sensed that it wasn't going to get any better than Warren's appearance, as everything before felt a little out of sync. I heard people echo that sentiment, and I heard others that felt Furthur played well. Certainly nothing resembling a consensus opinion other than the second set that I bagged was better than the first and that the start delay and setbreak were WAY too long. It was going to be a little later of a night than I anticipated.
Big Gigantic Live at All Good Music Festival on July 15, 2011.
I made my way back for Big Gigantic, the electro-jazz-hip-hop collaboration between, saxophonist Dominic Lalli and drummer Jeremy Salken. They've garnered a reputation as a can't miss festival act. Despite several technical glitches – sound was lost twice – they kept everyone moving with propulsive beats and Lalli's swirling licks. A few times it did get a little too “WHOMP-WHOMP” for my tastes, but, overall, I was impressed with the Big Gigantic skillz.
Then it was serious GO TIME. Umphrey's McGee playing a late-night set. I thought I had reached a point in my life where a jam band could really take over my life, but, after putting out Mantis, UM has really captured my attention on a consistent basis. I think this is because their jams always seem to be a little more focused than some other bands. Even if I don't know where they're going, even if they don't know where they're going, it always FEELS like they're going somewhere, and I want to be on that ride.
As per usual, they crushed it, unleashing a face-melting flamethrower on the huge crowd. While everyone in the band is incredibly talented, I'm always drawn to the otherworldly skill of guitarist Jake Cinninger and the awesome jazz-metal drumming of Kris Myers. UM threw out great versions of numbers from their own catalog like “The Triple Wide” and “Hurt Bird Bath.” Things really took off when Brendan Bayliss removed his guitar and preened and pranced around the stage, hair band frontman style, for a cover of Rush's “Tom Sawyer.” His vocals were spot on, too. The covers continued with Jennifer Hartswick and Dom Lalli lending horns to Michael Jackson's “Don't Stop Til You Get Enough,” which harkened back to UM's Michael Jackson-tinged jams at the All Good Festival held shortly after the King of Pop's death.
After a ripping “JaJunk” to close out the set, I trudged back to camp, burnt out and blissful, to try and catch those elusive but necessary Z's. I had a relatively early morning date tomorrow with Lubriphonic, and I wanted to replenish my get down reserves.
Umphreys McGee Live at 15th Annual All Good Festival on July 15, 2011.