The All Good Festival Travelblogue: Day Three & Four
Words By Andy “HumpDayFunk” DeVilbiss (www.facebook.com/HumpDayFunk)
Photos by Brian DeVilbiss
When I awoke sweaty and sticky from the sun on Saturday morning I resolved that next year, I'd add one of those nifty solar-powered magnetic tent fans to my must-have gear. I stumbled out of the tent and hobnobbed with my compatriots our neighbors. The girls to the right from Massachusetts were having a horrible run of luck. Their car had blown up, so they were scrambling to address towing, repairs and the money they'd need for both. Our other neighbors, virgin festivarians, were just raving about what a great time they were having and how great everyone was, especially me and my crew, their awesome experienced neighbors who seemed to have everything they forgot. Whenever they'd be amazed that we had something they needed, I'd simply reply “This ain't our first rodeo,” and adding items to their list for year became a running joke. Never underestimate the value of good camping neighbors. A lot of times it can make or break a festival weekend.
Lubriphonic Live at All Good Music Festival on July 16, 2011.
I fixed a ham sandwich for breakfast, deciding the eschew local West Virginia band Fletcher's Grove on the Grassroots stage. I wish I hadn't as the ensuing reports said they performed a great set, surprising a lot of folks with the level of talent from relative youngsters. At the time, I didn't care much. Lubriphonic at 11:20 AM was plenty early enough for me after a 20-hour Friday. I sucked down one of my giant cans of Arnold Palmer Half & Half (In terms of non-alcoholic beverages, this and Coke Zero are my two godly nectars. If you prefer to go adult, just add vodka to create the drunken version, affectionately known as the John Daly), and Brian, Ethan and I headed out to the Grassroots stage.
Lubriphonic is a band that I've heavily been into lately. I dig their story - guys who'd cut their teeth playing as sidemen in blues and jazz bands around Chicago before deciding to turn what they thought might be just a lark into a full time outfit because they were just having too much damn fun with it. Based on a great album in The Gig Is On and several high quality YouTube videos, I put Lube on a list of funk acts I wanted to see at All Good in one of my first articles in this here space, so I was very happy to see them added to the bill until I saw their unforgiving, early slot on Saturday. Sure enough, the crowd at Grassroots was somewhat sparse. I didn't care that it was early or that Lubriphonic was somewhat stripped down without the keys and percussion I'd seen in their videos. From the first note of their self-described Chicago funk and soul stew, my head was bobbing, my feet were moving, and my booty was thoroughly loosened.
As you'd expect from a Chicago crew, Lube brings that city's bluesy edge to their sound. It reminded me of how Johnny “Guitar” Watson always infused his funk with a healthy dose of the dirty blues. It's a raucous, rowdy, good time, led by the gritty charm, guitar-shredding and speedy vocals of co-founder Giles Corey (Think of a funkier version of the guy from the old Micro Machine commercials). Drummer Rick King is the other co-founder, and he proved adept shifting between jazzier rhythms and straight funk in your face. Bassist Pennal Johnson falls into the rambunctious and jumpy category of bassists I referenced earlier, engaging the crowd with his joyful smile and thumping thunder-thumbs. Trombonist Norman Palm and saxophonist Charles Prophet packed a big punch for a dual horn section and both were competent soloists.
Stew is indeed the right word, as the members of Lubriphonic came together to form a sizzling, saucy pot of awesome that did not go unnoticed as more people filed in to find out who was melting their faces as they passed by. It's always fun to watch a crowd grow like that, people walking in wide-eyed and amazed then sticking around. What followed the end of their set was Lubriphonic's first big PR coup for the weekend. They staged a second line parade from the Grassroots stage to the main concert bowl, stripping down and sticking amps on the back of a golf cart. Band, management, whoever came up with the idea... it was genius. It seemed they attracted even more people during the parade than were at the Grassroots stage by the time they closed out the march in front of the vendors as Zach Deputy kicked off the Dragon stage festivities. I second lined along the whole way, appreciating that this was a band maximizing their festival opportunity in such a smart and joyous way. It set a perfect tone for the day’s festivities, and, as it would turn out, it was just the first part of Lube's plan to make their name on the mountain.
My brother had two back surgeries before he turned 30, so he needed a break from the camera gear. As it's extremely hard to screw up daytime pictures, he handed off the photog duties to me for awhile so he could get some much-needed relief. I grabbed the bag and hustled down to the stage to get a few shots of one-man-band and disc golf enthusiast Zach Deputy.
I'm not sure I can give you a real reason as to why Keller Williams bored me, but Zach Deputy didn't. I mean, essentially, it's kind of the same act, but I found Zach immediately more intriguing and interesting than Keller. Maybe it was due to the fact that he was another new-to-me act, but it just seemed that Mr. Deputy had a higher degree of funky soul that I found more personally appealing. His vocals soared as the beats built and bubbled underneath him. I was engaged and grooving throughout, though, if I had to pick a one-man-band champ for the weekend, I'd go with That 1 Guy simply based on his utter, unique weirdness. All in all, though I can see why Zach's legions of fans are growing, and, by the time he wrapped up, I found myself curious to see what he could do with a longer set.
* * * *
Random All Good Story #4 or Reporting For The Daily Prophet
Costumes are nothing new at All Good. There's always plenty of fairies roaming around. This year I saw a guy dressed up as the hypno-toad. But sometimes, their placement can be a little jarring. I don't know if this guy was media. I didn't see him around the media tent, so maybe he was one of those “Even Better” VIP folks who were also allowed in the photo-pit. He was about 6'4”, bald, with a long groomed pointy beard and a crazy technicolor wizard's cape. He had accessorized properly with all sorts of weird earrings, bracelets and bangles. As someone who assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that there was a certain degree of professionalism in both dress and decorum to be expected in the photo-pit, again, the sight was a bit jarring.
I could tell another one of the photogs was eying Merlin up, too. I nudged him and said “Who knew Hogwart's had a journalism school, right?” and we cracked about another two minutes worth of Harry Potter jokes. His best was, “You think he trades in chocolate shrooms for chocolate frogs?” Good times.
* * * *
I caught a bit of the Werks' set, but I didn't give it my full attention. It sounded like decent stuff but pretty standard and didn't really wow me. I also had no interest in Donna the Buffalo, so I took some time to go through notes, charge my phone, and track down some of my other peoples, including my buddy Matt, a fellow funkateer who had journeyed from Long Island. I needed to make sure he in particular knew to be present and accounted for when Orgone hit the stage that evening.
Marco Benevento Live at All Good Festival on July 16, 2011.
Roaming took longer than anticipated, so I didn't make it back in time to get photos of Marco Benevento, but I caught the tail end of his crunchy trio set. The man's a keyboard wizard, but his set didn't engender a huge crowd response. I didn't think it was nearly as outre as Benevento is capable of but perhaps it was still a little too challenging for some listeners.
JJ Grey and MOFRO Live at All Good Festival on July 16, 2011.
It didn't take long for the party to get jumping again when JJ Grey & Mofro took the stage. Esoteric jazz was replaced by Florida jookhouse funk and soul. Mofro was another act I hadn't seen in awhile, possibly since before they officially decided to stick with billing themselves as JJ Grey & Mofro. Make no mistake about it, this is JJ Grey's show, complete with soul review entrance and exit themes and ample time for story-telling. Just fine by me because it was immediately apparent that JJ had grown immensely as a frontman since I'd last seen him. The look and moves were more polished. He didn't seem a single bit sheepish like sometimes seemed in the past. No sir, he was in full command of the stage, infusing it with his country ghetto charm, and the crowd was hanging on his every note, every word, every move. Always blessed with a great voice (which has also gotten better if such a thing is possible), Grey has finally blossomed as an overall performer.
It was a hot set, riddled with great tracks like “Lochloosa,” “Hide and Seek,” and “Brighter Days.” I even heard one of my favorites, “On Fire,” for the first time live. That one includes the line “an ass like an army mule” and that formed the basis for a long intro as JJ told the story of the first time (and perhaps only time) he heard his father swear, using that particular phrase in the car to describe a woman crossing the street while our young hero, assuming his dad must be talking about some strange circus freak, tried to sneak a peek from the backseat. Soon Grey was reassuring the women in the crowd that the phrase was really a compliment, but jokingly wrapped things up “before getting in more trouble here.” Didn't matter – LL Cool JJ. Actually, everyone loved cool JJ.
I checked out a little of These United States, who had seemingly swapped slots with Baltimore-based rockers J Roddy Walston & The Business. Talented, and I would probably enjoy kicking back with some of their albums, but, that moment in a live setting, it was a tad too alt-country-indie for me. I'd recommend them if you dig bands akin to the Drive-By Truckers, Son Volt or Whiskeytown.
Meanwhile, on the Grassroots stage, moe. was doing a stripped down semi-acoustic performance as part of promotion to that successfully prodded 1,000 downloads for charity. I'm not enough of a moe. fan to want to see them twice in one day or really appreciate this different approach. I knew it would be packed. I wanted to see Mofro, so I bagged the moe. set. My friend Jeff from Cosmic Vibes Live went and said it was a really fun and special set.
Video of moe. by MM’s Jon Irvin…
Rebelution kicked off their reggae-rock on the Dragon stage. Here's the reason the program gave to see them: “You want to feel good, starting with your ears and moving through your hands and feet down to the earth beneath you and all the dancing people around you.”
Are you kidding me? This was a soulless approximation of reggae that made acts like Sublime and 311 seem awesome in comparison, and I don't really like them either. Everything sounded the same. All the tempo was the same. Same. Same. Same. My ears felt bad. My hands kinda clenched, and my feet said to the earth beneath, “Screw this dancing thing. We're leaving.”
I calculated that I'd have enough time to get back to camp and then return by Yonder Mountain String Band. I could skip the REX Benefit jam as it was kind of an Everything Orchestra rehash with different artists. I just needed to get away right then and there before Rebelution really soured my mood, but I didn't make it to camp. I was waylaid by perhaps the All Goodest moment in my All Good weekend.
I came up the hill out of the concert gates to what I can only describe as... soul salvation. Lubriphonic was set up on the side of the road playing a guerilla set. Are you kidding me? These guys had already played a scorching early set and led an amazing second line parade. Here they were with a tip case and decked out in Lubriphonic t-shirts which could be purchased along with CDs right behind drummer Rick King (I already picked mine up during the Grassroots set). Again, they were making the most of their festival opportunity, getting out there to give the folks who missed them in the morning a chance to taste the Lube.
They reprised a few songs from the earlier set, but threw in additional smoking material, finishing up with a cover of “I Know You Rider” specifically aimed at some of the older heads. The whole thing was not just more PR genius but beautiful, magical and exactly the kind of thing you wish would happen to you at a music festival. They're coming to Baltimore real soon, and I can't wait to see a long headlining set (8/6 at the 8x10, so let's welcome them warmly, Charm City). If they come your way, grab a dish and get some of Lubriphonic's Chicago funk and soul stew. They cook it up righteous, and, as I found, they may save your night.
Yonder Mountain String Band Live at All Good Music Festival on July 16, 2011.
I made it back down in time for Yonder Mountain String Band (YMSB). The Infamous Stringdusters had had played a hootenanny of a set on Friday, and I was feeling a little bit better about my relationship with bluegrass. The crowd was growing with each act, and YMSB would be playing to a large, hyper crowd. It was good stuff. Solid and rhythmically locked foundation from bassist Ben Kaufmann. Plenty of maniacal mandolin work to go with maniacal faces from Jeff Austin. And Dave Johnston on banjo and Adam Aijala pickin' until their fingers seemed blurry.
The first thing that floored me was the vocal jam in “Don't You Lean on Me.” Then I got a feel for the band's approach to their fans, when Jeff Austin told a story about driving up to the mountain and seeing a girl holding a sign for their song “Rag Mama” which they then dedicated to her. That great interplay between band and audience just made the energy infectious. The audience also deserves kudos as they proved to be prepared for instant weather changes when clouds rolled in for “2 Hits & the Joint Turned Brown.” I'd gone 2-2 at the plate with bluegrass this weekend, and I considered that a vast improvement compared to my lifetime festival average. But now it was back to my wheelhouse, the sweet funky nectar I craved.
Orgone's Set From All Good
I talked Orgone up to a lot of people before this set. I corrected the pronunciation (The second O is long- Orgoooone) a lot, but said it was going to be a funky, funky get down on the get down. I was like a pusher. All your friends are doin' it, man. You're comin' down for moe. anyway right? Just come a little earlier, baby. First one's free, y'all.
A lot of people got hooked this night. If All Good Presents hadn't expanded the Concert Bowl beforehand, Orgone would've cratered it for them with their megaton funk bombs. I don't know if they've ever played to a crowd that large, but they burst out the gate with their SICK cover of Syrup's “Sweat Shop,” a great disco-tinted that featured tension-building pregnant pauses before guitarist Sergio Rios led the groove back like a rushing torrent. I was also a perfect song for percussionist Stewart Killen to show his ridiculous skills. New singer Niki J. Crawford emerged for a smoking hot version of “(I Got A Whole Lot Of Reasons)” and Orgone flowed right into their original “Give It Up.” She remained onstage for the remainder of their too-short set, which culminated in an epic version of Funkadelic's “Cosmic Slop.”
* * * *
Random All Good Story #5 or The Polish Fredo
I mentioned my friend from Long Island, Matt. Big funkateer. He came down mainly for Galactic. He was one person in particular I talked Orgone up to, and he'd heard them but never seen them. I found him in the crowd midway through their set. I tapped him on the shoulder and asked, “Did I steer you wrong?” He immediately turned and gave me a Michael Corleone kiss and screamed “FUCK NO THESE GUYS ARE AWESOME!! I LOVE YOU!!” It seemed genuine, but I won't be taking any fishing trips around him soon.
* * * *
moe. Live at All Good Music Festival on July 16, 2011.
The crowd was raring to go for moe. And frankly, so was I. I was looking at this All Good set as perfect storm of setting, crowd and vibe. I figured if moe. could still throw down like they did at some past All Goods, this might turn around my recent run with them. The last few shows I'd attended had left me less than impressed. I was thinking perhaps moe. had plateaued a little bit, and I kind of fell off.
They started out with a great “Buster” building and bursting into a track I wasn't familiar with, “Skrunk.” My unfamiliarity continued with “Billy Goat,” so I just let the jams carry me. I was pumping my fist when they dropped the all-time classic “Don't Fuck With Flo.” The perfect storm was coming together, and lightning struck when closed their set with “Recreational Chemistry” rolling like thunder into “Akimbo,” that first track from Headseed with the ridiculous dueling guitar solos that made me a moe. fan 15 years ago. It was a joyous moment for me, capping off an impressive set. I think I may be familiarizing myself with their newer material.
Papadosio was little like all the other livetronica acts simply in that everyone seemed to rave about them. I don't know that any of the acts representing that genre caused me to think I need to go see these guys again soon. I think I need to go see Papadosio again soon. The grooves featured great beats and layers, popping bass, swirling guitars, and more singing than I expected. I was particularly impressed with the compositional sense of guys that appeared pretty young.
Papadosio Live at All Good Music Festival on July 16, 2011.
It was now Primus time. Les Claypool is a longtime All Good staple. In fact, he played the first festival ever held at Marvin's Mountaintop, co-headlining two nights with moe. for the appropriately named “moe. or Les Festival.” This was the first time he'd been at All Good with Primus, and it was one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend. The crowd was frothing before a note was even played as the gigantic spacemen on stage lit up and faces flashed on the helmets.
Les, Larry LaLonde, and Jay Lane unleashed straight crazy fire upon the mountaintop. They hit old favorites. They faked the audience out into thinking they were playing new tunes. You had your ample does of story-time with Uncle Les. Everyone swallowed their prescribed spoonfuls of weirdness to crashing drums, searing and soaring guitar, and that ridiculous bass thumping and throbbing that set the pulse for thousands of freaks.
In short... Primus SUCKED!
Primus' Set From All Good
Karl Denson's Tiny Universe faced the tough act of following Primus, but, despite a short set, they proved equal to the task. The crowd kept rocking to Karl's brand of souled-out jazz funk. Personally, I thought the set lacked, well, Karl. I don't know if it was the short set, but there just wasn't a lot of the great soloing I've come to expect and love to hear at a Diesel show. The set still had its moments, the old classic “Groove On” and Zach Deputy sitting in for the set-closing cover of “Hang Me Up To Dry” by the Cold War Kids. Semi-whiny indie rock has never been made so funky.
Derek Vincent Smith, the man known as Pretty Lights closed out the evening, holding court from behind a gigantic light-up DJ booth the likes of which I had never seen. It was a decent dance party, but something was missing... drummer Adam Deitch, the main reason I wanted to see Pretty Lights live. Unless he was hiding inside the DJ booth – and it was big enough that might have been possible – he wasn't there. I didn't seem to hear anything in the mix that sounded like live drumming.
This was now just a glorified DJ set, and I wasn't really into that. I was in the minority however, as the hillside was absolutely losing their minds over this guy, particularly during a locally themed West Virginia mash-up. Signs and lights and mayhem everywhere. I'll say this. Mr. Pretty Lights can pack ‘em in and knock ‘em down. Still, after stellar performances for the last five or so hours, I felt a little gypped, and gypped + tired = bedtime.
I began the long walk back to my campsite. I took it slow. Things were a little less crowded with everyone flipping out in the Concert Bowl. I took the opportunity on the last night of All Good to once again marvel at the Buddha statue and the former “WELCOME TO ALL GOOD” sign which now just read “MELT.” I thought there's a sign that knows what's up. I made my second stop at Flippin' Eggroll because I didn't want to fix a sandwich in the dark. I munched away as I walked, dodging human debris and chatting with random strangers about a truly epic day of music. Sleep came quickly when I lied down, and, like most of my day, it was blissful.
We awoke Sunday morning with the full intention of sticking around at least until Toots & the Maytals. We had no intention of sticking for Dark Star Orchestra. As far as I was concerned, they'd already played Friday night under a different name. I've got to be honest though. There are some things that are pretty All Good about home. This was the first time Brian had been away from his son for this long, and he missed him terribly. I missed my girlfriend, flush-able toilets, a real bed, and showers. We were also worn out, having logged 18-20 hour days Thursday through Saturday. Though I wanted to check out the highly-touted Greensky Bluegrass and keep the good vibes I'd gotten from that genre rolling, we made the command decision to just pack up and hit the road and bag Sunday, which also featured two Baltimore acts in the All Mighty Senators and the Bridge that we could see again soon.
Miraculously, given the fact that our car was away from our site and fairly unattended, everything was in tact and Brian was able to get it out and over to our site to pack up gear. We incurred some minor delays on our way out, stopped at Sheetz for more two for $2 hotdogs, and shuffled back towards Maryland with my brain already eagerly plotting 2012 and awaiting the line-up announcement.
When I arrived home, I took a shower and hit the interwebz for some All Good figures – attendance, arrests, economic impact, etc. I could find none of that. All I found was news of a tragic accident. Around 8:45 AM Sunday morning, a truck somehow rolled down a hill and into a tent, killing 20-year-old South Carolinian Nicole Paris Miller It also severely injured two other women, Elizabeth Doran and Yen Ton who were flown via helicopter from the mountain. Sometimes in the midst of the most glorious backdrops and atmospheres, tragedy strikes. And it’s doubly tragic when you could argue that separating cars and camping would have perhaps prevented the accident.
Good thoughts to Elizabeth and Yen and their families as they recover. Deepest sympathies and condolences to the Miller family. And, Nicole, wherever you are, we hope it's All Good.
Brian DeVilbiss’ Photo Gallery
Andy DeVilbiss’ Photo Gallery