Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Umphrey's McGee & Greensky Bluegrass 2.17.17

ExploreAsheville.com Arena
Asheville, NC

Words by Taylor Hall
Photos by J. Scott Shrader

For the past few years, Umphrey's McGee has played in Asheville on or around Valentine’s Day, and it’s become a tradition. Last year, Umphrey's sealed the tradition's fate by teaming up with the Exploreasheville.com Arena to host the first annual Blue Ridge Rockway. This year the band expanded on their ideas and added a third night at the Orange Peel. They also invited rising rock stars Greensky Bluegrass to share a double headliner bill with them.

Greensky opened the night with a song from their most recent effort titled "Windshield." This track sounds like The Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons got together to make a bluegrass love child. This band is as tight as they come, and they offer a high powered light show seldom seen on the bluegrass circuit. The band then dropped into a beautiful rendition of "Living Over," letting the subtle cries of the mandolin, dobro, and banjo drip into the atmosphere and peel away the pain from the audience’s consciousness.

The band followed up with their first traditional track of the night, "Letter to Seymour." This one is short and sweet, and is just a good ol' fashioned bluegrass jig. Next up was special guest Joel Cummins of Umphrey's McGee joining the band on piano. Paul Hoffman, the charismatic, defacto leader of Greensky was sure to let us know that Joel was of the very finest bluegrass piano players in the land, though it’s not a hard task to accomplish. The band would follow suit and jump into an original titled "In Control." This song is a beautiful melody paired with captivating lyrics that evoke feelings of inspiration and hope. Adding Joel to this song really gave it a Bruce Hornsby vibe that set the tone for the rest of the evening.

Working off the high note left on stage from Joel, the band busted into New Grass Revival's "Can't Stop Now." The band took this one all the way to the edge of psychedelia, with Paul Hoffman's voice and Anders Beck's dobro sharing licks until Paul sunk into The Isley Brothers "Shout," bringing the arena to their feet as they slowly slid back into "Can't Stop Now." The band would drop into "Wings for Wheels" and "Miss September," before going into a personal favorite of mine titled "Worried about the Weather." The sound of Anders' steel dobro is so magical and uplifting, almost transporting your mind back to a simpler time of hard work and honest values. This is some very powerful stuff, and the message the band is able to convey through their instrumentation is bar none. The boys wrapped up their evening with a stellar cover of "Atlantic City" by Bruce Springsteen. Greensky was magical and left the arena buzzing for what was to come next...two sets of Umphrey's McGee.

Umphrey's jumped in head first, treating the anxious crowd to one of their signature opening tracks, "Bathing Digits," before seamlessly bridging into a song first played during New Year's 2007, "Rocker Part 2." Bayliss' approach and tone on this track has Rush written all over it, perhaps a nod to what the band had in store for the next night. The perfect stew of progressive riffs and catchy melodies, the crowd immediately joined in for one of many sing-a-longs the band had planned for the night. The mold of "Rocker 2" morphed into a brutal head-nodding riff that instantly cleared the tension in the room and brought sweet release of smiles and raised beers as far as the eye could see.

Up next, Umphrey's delved deeper into their magical bag of prog tracks, pulling out a spacey "Nothing Too Fancy." The song began with Umphrey’s moving their sound from rock to a more ambient prog breakbeat, featuring an airy synthesizer and an almost industrial approach to guitar. Soon the band would begin to summon the opening licks to "Nothing Too Fancy," reminding the crowd it was time to dance their asses off. This version would feature a Zappaesque guitar attack, before falling back into the songs breakdown, which consists of playful prog guitar runs and 80's metal riffs. The band would soothe the crowd back into the airy synths and bubbly guitar tones, transforming the jam into the anthem of "Stranglehold" before taking the jam into dark prog heaven. The band kicked right into another sing-a-long classic from the album Mantis titled "Spires," which features the inspirational lyrics "If I Fall, I'll Land up."

Gapping the bridge of the set, the band started up my favorite new song, "Upward." This song is just beautiful; tears filled my eyes as I contemplated the things I should do differently in my life, and the direction I needed to head to ensure the quality of life I envision for myself and for everyone around me. This is some seriously magical songwriting. The guitar solo at the end is a barn burner, stirring up all the emotions of happiness and hope. Following order, "Atmosfarag" made an appearance in a setlist for the first time in 69 shows. Moods would shift as the band headed into weird prog industrial territory. Kris Meyers takes this one home with some beautiful fills. The jam for this version would be encapsulated by smooth breakbeat drumming and jazzy instrumentation, making music more akin to Hiromi Uehara'S "Kung Fu World Champion" than a jamband. To wrap up the set, the band fired off the classic "Der Bluten Kat," as the crowd belted out the lovable and playful lyrics. This song really shows the band’s mastery of their craft; spacing the version out to nineteen minutes filled with brutal drum fills and sick riffs. This song is a great example of the band’s slogan genre style, "improg." Nothing was off limits here as the band broke into some beautifully intricate guitar work reminiscent of Adrian Belew, which melded into some rockin' classical styled riffs before dropping the bus off into deep funk territory. This solo was wild, seeing the band break into a two guitar attack in unison and blowing the lid off their instruments.

For the second set, I decided to move a bit closer and set up camp about ten rows back Joel side. The set would start with an old Ali Baba's Tahini fan favorite "40's Theme," an onslaught of funk and hip hop. This one featured some beautiful Rhodes work from Joel, a mesmerizing bass line from Stasik, and truly uplifting guitar work from both Brendan and Jake. Yet again, the band went into another Ali Baba's Tahini classic "Resolution." Here we have the band soak into familiar territory, offering a very "Harry Hood" styled jam. All the beauty and technicality we have grown to love from jambands was on full display here. The second jam was comprised of a slinky bass line and high driving synth work that would make the late Keith Emerson and Greg Lake proud. This song is a great example of Umphrey's versatility and ability to master different variations of jams within the same song structure.

Riding off the energy in the room, the band showcased another classic, "Phil's Farm," which is some form of whacky bluegrass and prog combination. Jake put on a full spectacle of his ability to mimic Roy Buchanan's chickin pickin, or take you to a dim lit, smoky L. A. club seeing Randy Rhoads rip a solo. The music found itself taking a strange turn into the depths of space with eerie, scattered sounds of free jazz, before finding its groove and locking into a direction to finish on a high note. What the band had in place next I don't think anyone in the venue was ready for, as they dropped into the pits of hell by playing the opening notes of "Black Sabbath," signaling to us that Asheville was "the chosen one". Right into "War Pigs" they went, as they invited Anders Beck and Paul Hoffman on stage to join them in rocking the house down. Paul Hoffman did an absolute bang up job of bringing the prince of darkness to life for all of us to enjoy. Electricity was pummeling off the stage, riff after riff. Watching Anders and Jake have a guitar battle for the ages will be something I'll never forget. It truly was one of those "wow" moments that makes going to shows so special for all of us. Looking around as the lights hit all whites and yellows, the crowd was going into an absolute frenzy. You could feel the endorphins naturally pulsating through your body, taking you to a spiritual plane of reality and existence, right there before your eyes.

Keeping with the spirit of the set, Umphrey's kept it old school, treating the crowd to another sing-a-long prog metal showdown, "2x2." This was the perfect "show stopper" song, taking the crowd on one last deep musical journey around the sun with crazy synths, punchy bass lines, monstrous drum fills, and strange yet beautiful guitar noodling. These things are the essence of Umphrey's. A smorgasbord of musical influences and abilities, cultivated in the minds of these Midwest cult icons. Fittingly so, the band encored with a song they debuted at New Year's 2013, "Bad Friday;" opening and closing the show with songs debuted on previous New Years Eve's, and adding in the double entendre that it was Friday night. The band left everyone on a high note with the catchy lyrics of "take what you need" and a nice little jam.

Umphrey's McGee heads west from here, before circling back around through the Midwest and down to Florida. Greensky is slated to stay in the South for a bit, before heading to the Midwest and Western regions.

Scott's Photo Gallery



Monday, February 27, 2017

Sam Bush 2.22.17 (Photos)

Jeff Austin Band & Ben Larsen 2.16.17

Mississippi Studios
Portland, OR

Words by Mitch Melheim
Photos by Coleman Schwartz Media

Every hippie’s favorite scatting mandolinist brought the newest configuration of his band to Portland, Oregon for an intimate show at the quaint Mississippi Studios. What has thus far been an ever-changing cast of musicians, I’ve gone into every Jeff Austin Band show that I’ve seen feeling a bit unsure of what to expect, but left all of them excited that the fiery and dark side of the old Yonder Mountain String Band still lives on.

A pretty and pleasant solo set by Ben Larsen of Crow & the Canyon opened the night before the thunderstorm that is Jeff Austin took the stage. New banjo player Kyle Tuttle immediately won me over with some truly impressive playing in the opening song. After the departures of Danny Barnes and Ryan Cavanaugh, two of the best banjo players I’ve ever seen live, I was admittedly pessimistic about the chances of Austin finding a replacement that could hold a candle to them, but he has.

“Half Moon Rising” came shortly after and brought the casual listeners into the fold with a nice sing along that was followed by a scorching “Red-Haired Boy” which kicked the hootenanny into high gear. The energy remained apparent for the rest of the set that included Austin’s “Underground” and a raucous “Raleigh & Spencer” that was the obvious highlight of the set.

The second set started with a fan-shouted request to play Mariah Carey, to which Austin responded by unbuttoning his shirt and beginning to sing “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” Another old Yonder tune “Dawn’s Early Light” kicked off the set and brought upon a grandiose exhibition of instrumental exploration that was only topped by the “Ragdoll” > “Boys On The Hill” > “Ragdoll” segment that appeared later in the set.

Austin’s biggest solo hit “15 Steps” provided us with it’s catchy presence before a dark and energetic set-closing “Death Trip” sealed the deal via Austin’s scatting and Tuttle’s wild banjo effects. New guitarist Mike Robinson also stuck out during this set-closing jam and seems to have the ability to add to the band’s sound as he settles into his role. Speaking of dark and energetic (as we always are when it comes to Jeff Austin) the band encored with a vicious “Reuben’s Train” that sent everybody away sweaty and scared, out of the Mississippi and back home to safety.

Coleman's Photo Gallery



Sunday, February 26, 2017

Umphrey's Mcgee 2.19.17 (Photos)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Lotus & Slow Magic 2.18.17 (Photos)

Umphrey's Mcgee & Greensky Bluegrass 2.18.17 (Photos)

ExploreAsheville.com Arena
Asheville, NC

Photos By J. Scott Shrader Photography

View Scott's Full Photo Gallery Here!



Friday, February 24, 2017

Praaang (Kimock, Janover, Hann, Travis) 2.17.17 (Photos)

ALBUM REVIEW: Garrett Sayers Trio 'Thinkbox'

Words By J. Picard

Years after its conception, Garrett Sayers Trio has grown in to its full potential with Thinkbox. An intellectual masterpiece through and through, the album features a massive sound from three premier players; Garrett Sayers, Patrick Lee and Jonny Jyemo! Combining aspects of Jazz, Fusion, Hip-Hop and organic Electronic Music, Thinkbox is a cornucopia of sounds layered thick like a musical onion, that when chopped up leaves the listener with an earful to digest.

What begins as just another day in the universe, "Beat Car" opens up into beauty at every turn as the trio tactfully assembles an other-worldly canvas. "Diatribe," a track that used to be called "Diatribe Girls," conjures up imagery of a boisterous conversation. The track is highlighted by Patrick's melody and Jonny's tonal work on layers of percussion and may be my favorite off of the album.

The title track, "Thinkbox," feels like a sort of transcendence through the stratosphere with electronic effects entering the picture as Earth disappears in the rear-view for seven plus minutes of auditory bliss. The exploratory "Counterclock" follows with menacing musical vibes as the vehicle dodges asteroids of predictability and instead opts for orbit on a trail yet blazed. Jyemo's machine-like consistency coupled with Sayers' deep pocket make for one of the most in-tune rhythm sections this side of Orion's belt. The listener is brought back to Earth with the J. Dilla classic "Go Hard," and a fan favorite of the GS3 covers. Lee's key strikes and embellishments coupled with the forward-moving bass progressions create a force to be reckoned with on the track.

"LuvRoot" boasts a World Music vibe and increased percussion courtesy of Jyemo along with a heavy collective output from the trio as it prepares for re-entry. The upbeat "Hankus" signals an orbital exit and furious and fiery notation as ground control goes dark under the intensity of Garrett's song ending solo. An electronic groove called "Jacked" drops a barrage of low end notes that is sure to scramble the brain for the duration of the short track. The album resolves with a spirited return to Earth in "Mrs. Lee," a feel good tune from the protagonists for the population as a whole.

Thinkbox is one of the most brilliantly executed albums that I have heard in some time. It's accessible, yet pushes the envelope on genre-bending compositions that are both imaginative and captivating. The trio avoids vocals and instead opts for the universal language of music. What these three humans manage to output on this Earth-made product may take an orchestra of robots in the future. Give this album a spin in its entirety and experience the tactical precision that makes Thinkbox the incredible masterpiece that it is. It's Radiohead. It's J. Dilla. It's Garrett Sayers Trio. It's music. It's beautiful.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mike Doughty 2.8.17

Doug Fir Lounge
Portland, OR

Words & Photos By Mitch Melheim

Former Soul Coughing front man, Mike Doughty, brought his new solo band to Portland, Oregon’s Doug Fir Lounge for a career-spanning set that satisfied fans of both Soul Coughing and his solo career. Once uninterested in playing songs from his old band, that changed after his 2013 release of Soul Coughing songs reimagined to fit his current style. The result has been a refreshing take on classic songs that merge perfectly with the direction his solo career has taken.

That direction has been decidedly electronic, but maintained his quirky and minimalist approach. Doughty spends the majority of the show bouncing between his sampler pad and a microphone, ripe with his trademark melancholy demeanor and sarcasm. Occasionally he will bring out his guitar, but he spends much of the time orchestrating his six-piece band.

Two guitarists, a drummer, a keyboardist, Doughty, and his long-time collaborator on the cello Andrew “Scrap” Livingston make up the band, a drastic improvement from the once stripped-down acoustic shows I remember from Doughty’s earlier solo career. The live drums and cello combine with Doughty’s beats to create a sound much closer to Soul Coughing than I thought I would ever hear again. It's important to note that these songs have all been taken in a unique direction from their original versions, but still retain that Soul Coughing sound that Doughty fans had thought was long gone.

Technically touring in support of his new album The Heart Watches While The Brain Burns, he touched on a few of it’s songs throughout the set while also mixing in solo classics such as “Light Will Keep Your Heart Beating in the Future.” That being said, the highlights for me were unapologetically the Soul Coughing songs.

Stellar versions of “Bus to Beezlebub” and “Circles” began the show before a unique, even more spoken word version of “Screenwriter’s Blues” featuring only Doughty and his samples led into the band rejoining him and playing some of his solo work. An intense “How Many Cans?” brought it back into more Soul Coughing with its dancey, but dark electronic sound.

Doughty did a great job of making sure folks left satisfied with a strong finish that included an abrasive set-closing segue of “So Far I Have Not Found the Science” > “St. Louise is Listening” and an encore of the Soul Coughing classic “True Dreams of Wichita” that was familiar enough for everybody to sing along to, but modified enough to keep everybody on their toes if they hadn't heard the newest incarnation of the song.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

MusicMarauders Spotify Playlist - Volume Seventeen (2.22.17)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Joe Marcinek Band 2.17.17 (Photos)

Kyle Hollingsworth Band & Evanoff 2.16.17 (Photos)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Lotus & El Ten Eleven 2.11.17

McDonald Theatre
Eugene, OR

Words By Mitch Melheim
Photos By Coleman Schwartz Media

After a nearly two year wait, Lotus finally brought their beloved post-rock electro-groove back to the Pacific Northwest. Beginning with an energetic dance party at Portland, Oregon’s Crystal Ballroom that kicked the weekend off with a bang, many of us chose to continue the journey southbound down I-5 towards the always wacky Eugene, Oregon.

The 750-person McDonald Theatre is what I would consider the premier music venue in the Pacific Northwest. Owned by the Kesey family and at nearly 100-years old, the influence of the venue’s past can’t be ignored but what sets the McDonald apart from other historic theaters is the venue’s willingness to create and be a part of new memories. The luxury of being surrounded by helpful and smiling staff will improve anybody’s concert experience, especially once already satisfied with the venue’s crisp sound and never-ending sight lines, two things that were lacking in Portland.

Opening with “Bubonic Tonic” from their 2006 album The Strength of Weak Ties, the band established an old-school feel that remained apparent throughout the show aside from a couple songs off of 2016’s Eat the Light (“I’ve Been A Fool” & “Suntan”) and a perfectly-placed second set “Massif.”

The contorted, yet distorted funky groove of “Blender” brought along one of the more fun jams of the first set, only to be topped by the set-closing segment of “Lead Pipe” > “Golden Ghost” > “Spiritualize” that showcased the band’s uncanny ability to create segues on the fly.

“Spiritualize” was the highlight of the entire weekend for me. The Lotus crowd just seems to get down harder than other fanbases and it’s one of my favorite things about seeing the band. They’re rarely ever chatty and always groovin’. This jam was no exception as we all took advantage of the extra floor space in the McDonald that night and created a swarm of bouncing bliss. It’s these experiences, like dancing with twenty of my best friends with our backs turned to the stage that sets these “Lotus Vibes” apart from other shows.

The second set gave old-school Lotus fans just what they were craving, opening with “L’immeuble” off of their debut album Vibes and segueing into “Tip Of The Tongue” from there. “Tip Of The Tongue” is a nice reminder that Lotus having lyrics in songs and playing along to vocal tracks is nothing new, something that I think a lot of people had confused when they released Eat the Light.

The undeniably funky and rare “Philly Hit” kicked off the next segment, transitioning seamlessly into the ever-swaying drum & bass groove of “Arupa.” The frantic and intense pace of the “Arupa” guitar riff eventually slowed down into a peaceful outro that brought upon an unexpected, but perfectly placed segue into the squeaky and sporadic “Massif.”

Back to the oldies for a fittingly relevant “Kesey Seed” before getting weird one last time with the smug, galactic-jazz get down known as “Wax.” One of my favorites, “Wax” is chock full of peaks and valleys all tied together by its quirky jazz-funk backbone.

They began the encore with “Colorado,” a song so made for the encore spot that it actually closed out their classic album Nomad. That was not the case this night as they stayed out for one more after “Colorado,” opting to let us end the night with the more dancey and upbeat “Gilded Age.”

Coleman's Photo Gallery


Set One: Bubonic Tonic > I've Been A Fool (Toy Guns), Blender, Suntan, Lead Pipe > Golden Ghost > Spiritualize

Set Two: L'immeuble > Tip Of The Tongue, Philly Hit > Arupa > Massif, Kesey Seed, Wax

Encore: Colorado, Gilded Age

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong 2.12.17 (Photos)

Foundation of Funk & Juno What 2.11.17 (Photos)

Cervantes Masterpiece Ballroom
Denver, CO

Photos By Doug Fondriest Photography

View Doug's Full Photo Gallery Here!


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Head For The Hills 2.11.17 (Photos)

Foundation of Funk 2.10.17 (Photos)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Col. Bruce Hampton & Madrid Express 2.10.17 (Photos)

Lotus & El Ten Eleven 2.9.17 (Photos)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Sierra Hull 2.9.17 (Photos)

Shook Twins 2.10.17 (Photos)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

MusicMarauders Spotify Playlist - Volume Sixteen (2.15.17)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Lotus & El Ten Eleven 2.7.17 (Photos)

Yonder Mountain String Band 2.4.17 (Photos)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Billy Strings 2.4.17 (Photos)

PREVIEW: Aiken Bluegrass Festival 5.12 - 5.13.17

Aiken Fairgrounds
Aiken, SC

Words & Photos By Bain Stewart Media

Mixed emotions have been plentiful in 2017. Be it unrest, relief, or all/none of the above, your eyes have found their way here. You share the common interest of enjoying yourself amidst others doing the same. With that being said, it’s time to enjoy yourself. The Aiken Bluegrass Festival has released their stacked, long-awaited 2017 lineup. This years headliners include the powerhouse quintet, The Infamous Stringdusters, and a returning Fruition for a second year in a row. These artists are accompanied by a plethora of Aiken Bluegrass veterans and other bluegrass staples such as Larry & Jenny Keel, Allie Kral (of Yonder Mountain String Band), Vince Herman (of Leftover Salmon), Billy Strings, and so many more.

This festival brings a plethora of performers, venders, and attendees from across the country. Music festivals always tend to give their attendees a surreal experience to escape the realities of the “real world.” ABF throws all these feelings at you and more. It’s all one big family. While there’s good music, food, craft beer, and various vendors to be enjoyed by the adults in attendance, there are also various activities and food catering devoted to the kids. At ABF, there is no age cap and there is no age too young to attend. There are outlets to give every single person a safe and enjoyable time. We all love good music; we all love a good time, and it’s safe to say that in majority, we all love dogs. This festival is dog friendly. So while the little ones are running around and the adults are enjoying their good beer and good music, anyone can take a break to say hi to the first dog in sight. In all honesty I’m curious of a better sounding occasion. All proceeds from The Aiken Bluegrass Festival benefit Great Oak Aiken Therapeutic Riding Center, a nonprofit organization that helps individuals with disabilities improve their quality of life through safe interaction with horses. Get your ticket. Support a great cause. Have a great time and enjoy yourself. The 2017 Aiken Bluegrass Festival is here for you and everyone else’s good time. See you out there!


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Yonder Mountain String Band 2.3.17 (Photos)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Atmosphere & Brother Ali 2.2.17 (Photos)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Eric Krasno & Marcus King Band 2.1.17 (Photos)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Brad Parsons & Sweet Lillies 1.31.17 (Photos)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Lotus 1.27 & 1.28.17 (Photos)

MusicMarauders Spotify Playlist - Volume 15 (2.8.17)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

DSO Jam In The Sand 1.19 - 1.23.17

Jewel Paradise Cove
Runaway Bay, Jamaica

Words By J. Picard
Photos By Carly Picard & J. Picard

*Note: In addition to musical content, a lot of non-musical content relating to the overall experience of the festival follows.

"You went to Jamaica to see a Grateful Dead cover band?" is the question that keeps coming up and the answer is complicated. The story starts few years back with my good friends, Matt and Teri, traveling to Jamaica for Dark Star Orchestra's festival, Jam In The Sand. Every year they would come back raving about how crazy the people were and how much fun they had, often ending by saying something along the lines of "the only thing that would make it better would be having our best friends there with us." Fast forward to about six months ago and Matt and Teri were given the opportunity to generously offer to cover the cost of the festival for six of their select friends. It was an easy decision for us to make as Jamaican culture had long since influenced me from a young age and I have never been to the island country. What follows is the adventure of a crazy and tight-knit group of friends, some exploring the world for the first time and others checking items off of the bucket list, but all chasing the same love of music!

Our adventure started as it often does at 3:00 AM in Denver, Colorado on a cold winter morning. We made haste to Denver International Airport where we caught the snow storm delayed red-eye to Houston, sprinted through the Texas airport and boarded our chariot to Montego Bay! We flew over Cuba, making it my first time laying eyes on the formerly embargoed nation and a short time later landed in Montego Bay. We passed through customs, grabbed our bags and hailed a cab, who from the get go provided us with a glimpse of the friendly people of Jamaica. A short fifteen minutes later our cab arrived at our resort and we were in the honeymoon portion of our trip! Carly and I spent the next three days drinking frozen drinks, swimming, dining and partying as we got acclimated to paradise prior to the arrival of our friends!

Thursday, January 19:

The sun shinned through the parted curtains. The room smelled of salt water and sunscreen as a slight breeze blew across the balcony to the bed. Sister Nancy's "Bam Bam" played throughout our room followed by some Eek-A-Mouse, Burning Spear, Culture, Israel Vibration and more. I was feeling euphoric over a cup of coffee and a joint of Jamaican Sativa that I had picked up from a cabbie. I talked him down from $120.00 to $25.00 on about a half ounce of herb on the branch. The buds were surprisingly decent and the buzz fantastic with a dash of kif. It's never a great feeling to know you're leaving a place as enjoyable as the vintage Holiday Inn Resort, but as we knew we were headed to unite with our friends at Runaway Bay for an even longer stay, nothing could have ruined my buzz!

One last dip in the pool and drinks at the swim up bar and we were packed and loaded into a cab headed east a mere forty five minutes to our next destination. "White or green?" the driver inquired, as was standard operating procedure for almost every working person we interacted with. We rapped with our driver about the island, his life and a bunch of items of interest along the way all while consuming a joint. As it had the previous days, Bob Marley came up a bunch in conversation. At one point he stopped at "Discovery Park" where Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas. A brief conversation followed about Columbus and how the Jamaican people thought he was a great man. I did my best to explain some of his crimes against humanity without wasting too much time on the horrible topic. Goats wandered the roadside as we passed little hut bar after jerked chicken stand left and right. School children in uniforms played games and danced in the courtyards of schools that we passed. Eventually we arrived at Jewel Runaway Bay, which turned out to be the wrong resort.

"It's where Hedonism used to be..." the bellhop said to our driver in a thick Jamaican accent.

As quickly as we arrived we were on our way and pulling into the Jewel Paradise Cove just up the road. The yellow resort walls and a guard greeted us and took our names prior to granting our cab access. Our driver, paid and tipped, rode off in the distance as the bellhop took our bags and got us drinks while they prepared us for check in, which was smooth and efficient. Folks were departing from the previous week's Gov't Mule festival and handing off weed, sunscreen and other various items as they did so. In the lobby we ran into the "Chets" (also know as Mike and Stephanie Spence), a couple that we spent some time with over the summer in Boulder for Dead & Company. Though happy to see us, they were dealing with some misplaced items and hotel security. Our bellhop grabbed our bags and took us on a brief tour of the property while taking us to our room. There were birds calling out loudly all around us and little lizards darting across the paths. I was most excited about the twenty four hour Irie Cafe that severed only Blue Mountain Coffee.

We walked along the perimeter wall over which we could see a road that appeared to disappear into the surrounding jungle. We hopped up a flight of stairs and arrived at our room which had tile floors, a beautiful bathroom and a balcony overlooking a courtyard pool and bar! The legendary John T. could be seen yucking it up poolside in an incredible and colorful flower patterned two piece get up. The campaign appeared to be going strong. We tossed our suitcases aside threw on our bathing suits and flipflops and made our way back towards the lobby and main bar and pool to locate our friends. Once again we crossed paths with the Chets who were getting the runaround from security. We scooped up Chet to show us where Matt and Teri were, as Steph went back to dealing with the hotel staff.

We formally ran into John and Teri T. at a pool/restaurant/bar along the shore and met a bunch of folks. We excitedly headed to Matt and Teri's room, then to the main dinning buffet where we found our hosts as well as our friends, Jess and Andy! We all hugged and then I made a pass at the buffet to see what this fat guy was in for! The selection was fantastic! Matt and I hopped into the pool with Chet and began ordering drinks rapidly before making the climb past an elevated Jacuzzi to a set of rod iron spiral stairs that lead to the water slide. I watched everyone drop in at at staggered rate per the young Jamaican gentleman at the top. I saw Chet launch himself and followed suit. I flew down the slide into the darkness flying back and forth at the mercy of the turns. I plugged my nose in anticipation of hitting the water following one final big turn and splash. "That was terrifying," I said, to which everyone agreed. We climbed the stairs once again and one by one dropped into the slide, but not before I kicked an unmarked concrete step and broke my toe.

Down in the water below it was decided that we would head over to the courtyard pool. I began to drink rapidly, both out of excitement and pain. Soon to follow, Brian and Mina arrived and a shit eating grin took over my face. Matt kept looking around and smiling in pure bliss and saying "I am in heaven right now." It was a beautiful moment of pure happiness to kick off the extended weekend! So many strawberry daiquiris with rum floaters were ordered and downed before it was decided that we would shift focus towards dinner. Carly hung up a mandala tapestry on our balcony, we changed out of our wet clothes and met at Matt and Teri's room for a little pre-gaming and the official lighting of the Star Shower prior to heading to the buffet. We were informed that the electronic dab rig already crapped out and unless we could locate an atomizer, we were shit out of luck on the hash oil. Over at the buffet we grabbed heaping plates and returned to the table for some sustenance and photos.

"We wouldn't be hear without you," Matt tearfully said to me, giving me a big hug and triggering tears of my own. Ironic given the circumstances, but I kissed him on the cheek and gripped him up in a return of pure gratefulness. The food was delicious and the options plentiful and diverse. There was laughter in between bites and more and more drinks followed in preparation for four hours of Dark Star Orchestra! We hit the beach with intention and drinks in hand watching the sun set on day one! The 9:00 hour came and DSO hit the stage with the crowd growing in size. Our group was turned up and parked right next to the beach side bar. As the first set progressed a number of slower songs eased folks into the weekend, however at that point, I was ready to party!

Highlights of the first set were "Ramble On Rose," "Deal," Steph dancing her ass off and John T. getting way down low as he slinked through the crowd! I also really enjoyed the time spent playing in the sand and in the water. Our friends headed back to Matt and Teri's suite to party and gear up for set two. At one point a joke about coitus with mimes escalated quickly with the rumor of a mime on the property. We were on fire and hopeful that the second set would provide more energy. Unfortunately, the second set picked up where they first left off. Highlights of the second set came in the form of "Cumberland Blues" and "Sugar Magnolia!" Chet and I started bantering hard and the crew was all smiles dancing under the moonlight and illuminated palm trees!

That night was a great start to the weekend and I couldn't help but smile at the prospect of the next few days! Carly and I headed back to the room and upon our arrival kept getting the red light. I went up to the front desk where they re-did my key cards. I walked back to the room where Carly was no where to be seen and once again red light. I walked back over to the front desk, not super pumped about what was going on. This time they had someone meet us at our room to let us in and change the batteries in the keypad.

I headed off into the night and ended up back at the hot tub where I laid on the poolside looking up at the stars while folks came and went. I met a lot of people, had a lot of laughs, but don't remember most of it. A gentleman got out of the tub and picked up his acoustic guitar. After a couple of songs I stood up to head back to the room and said "good night," which triggered the man to play "We Bid You Good Night." I sang along with the group softly as I wandered towards a much needed bed. I located the mandala and I glanced down the dirt road over the wall dimly lit by street lights as dancehall music blasted from a club up the road. "Goodnight" a security guard said, looking up from his cell phone. I slid the key into the door and the green light signaled the end to my night. My head hit the pillow and it was over...

Set One: Willie And The Hand Jive, Ramble On Rose, Passenger, Loose Lucy, Pride Of Cucamonga, Black Throated Wind, Cats Under The Stars, Hard To Handle, It's All Over Now, From The Heart Of Me, Deal

Set Two: Corrina > Cumberland Blues, Easy Wind, Gomorrah, Lost Sailor > Saint Of Circumstance > drums > space > Why Don't We Do It In The Road > Uncle john's Band > China Doll > Sugar Magnolia

Encore: Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)

Friday January 20:

I came to in pain from my choices and with a great chance of repeat offending. Carly had already been up for a while and tie-dyed her Jam In The Sand shirt. We headed to the buffet and I drank several glasses of ice water and filled up a plate of food. I starred at the food with my hangover refusing to subside. I did my best to have a few bites, but following Carly's meal, we headed back and I returned to bed. I re-awoke early afternoon feeling epic and returned to the buffet to conquer where I had previously failed. We picked up some Bob Marley papers and a "one love" lighter at the gift shop and a few cups of Blue Mountain coffee from the cafe before we headed to the pool by Matt and Teri's. We came around the corner and the first two wooks we saw at the swim up bar were Matt and Chet. In the distance, Brian walked up in a woman's swimsuit cover-up that turned out to be Jess'. We swam and drank for a while, with Matt telling a couple of folks the story of how he and Teri met me seventeen years ago. The ladies laid in the sun for a while and then we headed back to Matt and Teri's to smoke a kif joint.

The group slowly switched gears towards pizza, disassembling and reassembling at the resort's pizza restaurant. Chet and I held hands and shared laughs as we walked along the water and headed to dinner. Terrible service translated to a laugh and the group to gear up for music. In the distance we could hear Los Lobos so I made my way to the stage to catch the tail end of their set. I enjoyed the sunset from the beach with the Chets and though the band sounded decent, the small crowd deflated any chance of lift off.

"I got so drunk the other night that I propped Matt up against a tree and kept yelling 'La Bamba' at Los Lobos," Chet said laughing.

"I'm pretty sure that was a Ritchie Valens song," I said to his surprise.

"No Way," he returned. "Fuck."

I pulled out my phone and Googled it. To our dismay, we were both correct.

"So, do I make fun of you or do you talk shit? I'm not sure how to handle both being right..." Chet said.

"Yeah, this is weird," I said back.

I grabbed a coffee from the cafe and back to Matt and Teri's we went where our group started to get loud, laughing, telling stories and priming repeatedly. Matt and Teri's butler made frequent appearances, which featured Matt turning it up and trying to get him to party. The butler always came with beers and whatever other odd shit Matt or someone from our group requested and the butler was always taken care of. I reflected on how crazy it must have been to be in a working environment and wondering in and out of our patio party. I am not sure where it came from, but there was a glass bong on the table, which took kif smoking to the next level.

We floated to the main pool bar for a bunch of frozen drinks and banter. Chet kept ordering vodka diets and kept getting something he didn't order, like a vodka tonic, or a sideways look. Every time I would pill on him. Then it would repeat. Eventually, Chet became paranoid that I was colluding with the staff, instead of accepting that a vodka diet is universally disgusting. We headed over to the beach where Donna The Buffalo played to a small group of hardcore fans, also know as "The Heard." I swayed and bobbed along through song after similar sounding song as my friends came and went, wandering off to shop and stare at ceilings when they grew tired of the four chord jams.

Shit started to get weird as the substances took hold. I am a big guy, but I consumed enough alcohol, cannabis and others to take down a hippo (which seemed like a cool animal as a child, but turned out to be a real cantankerous creature). The laughter, story telling and nonsense that followed had me in an extreme state of euphoria. Where better to be than on a beach, in the Caribbean, with some of my favorite folks, getting ready to hear some Grateful Dead music? The trees were up-lit with colorful lighting and the vibe was fantastic!

Dark Star Orchestra hit the stage as the remaining stragglers from our group showed up to party! Once again we parked right by the bar, though on that night I alternated between alcohol and water. To my delight the first set opened with "Help" into "Slipknot" into "Franklin's!" They slowed it down with "Masterpiece" and "Loser" before picking back up with "Mr. Charlie," a song that sent our group into a frenzy. I was snapping my fingers and spinning in circles and glanced back to see Teri with a huge smile on her face singing along! "Me And My Uncle" followed and reminded me of our friend Murray who was on Jam Cruise and would be docking in Ochos Rios on Sunday, a short twenty five minute drive from our resort. I glanced over at Jess who started to dance frantically, like the wind-driven character set up at car washes and grand openings. I cracked up before participating as the group roared. We got low, we got high, but always swayed our arms in the wind!

"Me And My Uncle" went into "Big River" with DSO firing on all cylinders. The band sounded great and seemed to be having a lot of fun! "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues," "Russian Lullaby" and "Man Smart (Women Smarter)" closed out set one. It was inauguration day in America and it was clear at that juncture that the band had output a pretty clear message on their stance. We were ready to do a little protesting of our own back at Matt and Teri's! Our friends were perched on chairs, pacing around and spread out as Chet launched into a story about flying to the Philippians for his job to recruit nurses. He said that on the flight he was passed out and a flight attendant woke him up abruptly and in confusion telling him to move his fingers back and forth and something about "Brud Crot." He then attempted to get a drink and was informed him that the band Kansas was up in first class and that they had drank all of the alcohol. He asked if he could go drink with Kansas and was told "no."

I was loosing my mind laughing and in the distance I could hear DSO had returned to the stage with "China Cat!" I herded cats and made haste back top the beach just in time to catch the transition into "Rider," which was clean and smooth. Reality began to fade, though through the fogginess, I recall running into Chet outside of his room smoking with who I assumed was a friend of his. We talked for a short time and said goodbye, headed up to Chet's room to grab something and turned around as the door closed behind us and there she was. Chet jumped startled and I laughed. "Are you a cop?" Chet asked with a straight face. "No, no, no..." the woman expressed. Though it wouldn't really have mattered at that juncture. We awkwardly turned towards Chet's door and to our relief the woman followed.

We returned to the beach for "Drums" into "Space" and grabbed a drink at the bar. "Death Don't Have No Mercy" into "Going Down The Road" into "Not Fade Away" welcomed David Hidalgo to the stage, who ripped on guitar and created a possible festival highlight! The band exited the stage to loud applause and one of the crew members returned to the mic to let everyone know that "the band had blown their wad." "Ewww..." someone in our group replied. A fire on the beach drew us in and a Jamaican band set up to play some tunes. At some point I blacked out. Not in a bad way, just in a way where this is about where the story of Friday ends and the story of Saturday begins...

Set One: Help On The Way > Slipknot > Franklin's Tower, When I Paint My Masterpiece, Loser, Mister Charlie, Me And My Uncle > Big River, Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues, Russian Lullaby, Man Smart (Woman Smarter)

Set Two: China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Sunrise, Estimated Prophet > #drums > space > *Death Don't Have No Mercy > *Going Down The Road Feeling Bad > *Not Fade Away


#Tara Nevins - washboard percussion.
*David Hidalgo - guitar.

Saturday January 21:

I awoke to sunshine and thoughts of Blue Mountain coffee! I had always wondered how these all-inclusive music experiences worked and as things were unfolding, I found myself enjoying it quite extensively. I pulled back the curtains and folks were already swimming in the pool. "Two more days of this!" I exclaimed to Carly with a big smile! I felt worlds better than I had the previous day! Hell yeah, water! We walked with a hop in our step over to the cafe and then over to the buffet. I snapped my fingers, which were sore from all of the night prior's snapping. "What kind of a snapping fool am I?" I thought to myself as we wandered. Three ham, mushroom and cheese omelettes later and I was floating in the pool staring up at the blue skies above.

I hit the bowl and exhaled the sweet taste of greens as Reggae played in the background. Matt and Teri came by and we all walked over to the other pool passing an incredibly long line to have the bands autograph their posters. We indulged in frozen drinks and cheese covered fries while soaking up the sun. Once again Brian appeared in a woman's shirt and it didn't look half bad on him. I took stock of our remaining herb and kif and concluded that it was essential that we not stop smoking until we departed Monday morning. The result was eating copious amounts of food. I personally had multiple hamburgers and still hit the buffet both in the afternoon and then again for dinner. It was on!

I don't think a single person from our group made it over for Donna the Buffalo's 4:30 PM set. For dinner, the team once again met for some communal dinning and hilarity ensued with general non-sense and banter. My stomach hurt from laughing though I managed to power through my three plates and return for bread pudding! While enjoying my dessert, I had the first thought of having to pack and return home. I quickly changed focus with a handful of drinks. Back at Matt and Teri's patio bong loads of kif were being crushed and joint after joint smoked! At one point Chet told a story of how he went into Blockbuster one time in khaki shorts and a visor and the young man behind the counter, confusing Chet with a lesbian, called him "ma'am." I lost it. I absolutely melted down.

The group as a whole seemed worn out, yet nothing could have slowed me down! We headed over upon hearing DSO fire up with "Greatest Story Ever Told." We made it just in time for "Althea," which was sweet and well-executed. Following "Lazy Lightning," "Jack-A-Row" and "Box Of Rain" I immediately divested from the set. During "It Hurts Me To" and "Weather Report Suite" I dug my feet into the sand and wandered around in the water with Brian, Mina and Carly. I recalled that I had a Cuban cigar that I had purchased in Montego Bay and pulled it out. It tasted bold and robust and I enjoyed it quite a bit!

Once again at setbreak we wandered over to the patio to smoke from a pile of cannabis and kif that never seem to reduce in size. If I recall correctly a few folks cashed out at that point and a few headed back to the beach where we were welcomed with "Scarlet Begonias!" I waited in anticipation for a "Fire On The Mountain" that never came, but instead was "Playing In The Band," which was fine. "Shakedown Street" was much welcomed and may have been one of the other clear weekend highlights based purely on the energy of the Saturday night crowd! "Shakedown Street" transitioned into "Shining Star" which went into "Think" and then into "Lovelight" for the relatively light crowd that remained.

Los Lobos closed the evening with most of our group coming and going for the duration of the set. The band sounded good and I enjoyed their output. I lost track of some of the group and swung by the Chets' room, or what I thought was the Chets' room. A random guy opened the door and I informed him that I must have the wrong room. "No problem, I'm Chris! Do you want to come in and party?" the gentleman asked. I thanked him and declined, hopping a building over and locating the Chets. We wandered around for a bit as a fire was lit on the beach and the Reggae band set up with some special guests. With a snorkeling trip scheduled for the early afternoon, Carly and I decided to head back to the room and lay our heads on the pillow. We turned on the TV for the first time in a few days to find some extremely discouraging news stories regarding our country's new president and the massive marches taking place. We turned the TV off quickly and returned to what felt like a dream inside of a dream...

Set One: Greatest Story Ever Told, Althea, Lazy Lighning Supplication, *Jack-A-Row, Box Of Rain, It Hurts Me Too, Weather Report Suite

Set Two: #Scarlet Begonias > #Playing In The Band > #Shakedown Street > Shining Star > @Think > @ Turn On Your Lovelight


*Tara Nevins - Violin
#David McCracken - Organ
@Steve Berlin - Sax

Sunday January 22:

It was the last day of the festival and it felt like it. My legs and feet were sore and my mind spent, but we did as we had done the previous days and hit the cafe for a cup of coffee and then headed to the buffet. The meal assisted greatly in our recovery and we hit the bar for a handful of frozen drinks and took a dip in every pool. We intended to head to Ochos Rios that day to see our friends from Jam Cruise, which was docked for the afternoon, but ran out of steam. I swam up to the main bar and looked up to see a pleasant surprise in the form of Tommy C, out of Colorado, who dropped in from Jam Cruise. We shared a laugh at the randomness and a hug for good measure, then Carly and I headed over to the boat docks where we would be meeting our party of ten for a snorkeling trip. I had very low hopes for even half of the group making it. To my absolute shock, two by two everyone appeared. I grabbed several more drinks, my flippers and jumped into a boat full of some of my best friends plus a couple of grateful stragglers. I pounded drink after drink, popped a cap of psilocybin (which is legal in Jamaica) and took the plunge into one of my life long fears/discomforts, open water. The colors were beautiful and I swam through schools of brightly colored fish as I struggled with the shitty mask that was provided to me. I came up and a handful of others were struggling with their masks as well. "This doesn't work," I said with a smile. Chet began cracking up.

The Jamaican gentleman laughed as well and fixed it for me, tossing it back to me in the water. I laid floating calmly in the ocean feeling blissful and fear free. Floating above the coral provided a perspective that I had never seen of a world that is super foreign to me. I returned to the boat for my last frozen drink and a joint before returning to the water. I glanced over and Matt was holding a beer as he snorkeled. The experience was special and as the group climbed out of the water one by one, you could see the excitement and space in our faces. I turned to Jess, who drank a solid amount of salt water and looked like she was going to die. We returned to shore and off everyone went in different directions.

We reconvened at the courtyard pool to find that they were closing the bar, even though it was football Sunday. They pointed us to the main bar/pool so we headed over to find a packed bar with no place to sit or great vantage point. I smoked bong and packed kif bowls for interested parties as we tried to figure out our next move. It was decided that we would hop in the pool and watch the game from the swim up bar. We got in and swam over only to find that the TV wasn't working. I decided that we would head back to the courtyard pool and we would either request a bartender to be staffed or call Matt and Teri's butler. We arrived to find that it had already been negotiated to turn the TVs back on. We scooped drinks from near by bars, grabbed the bong, herb and kif and parked at the swim up bar in the courtyard.

People came and went, hitting the bong while we watched the game. The courtyard came to life, as much as it had that weekend and people were partying. A couple of older ladies hit the bong and wandered off to get drinks for the group. A short time later Matt's butler showed up with beers and Chet showed up with a woman holding a tray full of drinks! If that wasn't enough, a bartender came over and switched on the Red Stripe taps. A while later the ladies came back with their hands full of drinks to find us with a bar full! It was a humorous moment reflecting how great life was. A safety meeting took place in a ground level room and people poured back out into the pool charged!

The game was a blowout and the party shrunk in size. We headed back to our rooms to change and meet at Matt and Teri's to head over for the final dinner of the festival, which would be held outside on the patio near the main pool. We hurried over as there was concern among the group of getting a table, as well as the table size based on our large ten person party. We arrived to a beautiful setting and were accommodated without issue. There were ice carvings, fruit sculptures, beautifully decorated food and a bunch of individual chef stations. Chet, who sat at the head of the table, ordered a vodka diet and was given a weird look by the waitress. She returned and gave everyone their drinks except for Chet. Apparently she either thought he was joking or just didn't bring his drink because she didn't understand the order. Chet started cracking up and accused me of getting involved somehow.

Several of cups of coffee were needed just to sustain. Los Lobos kicked off the evening for their final set of the weekend. We fucked around in the sand while I tried to convince Chet to head up front to yell "La Bamba." He wasn't biting. We hit Matt and Teri's patio which was sparse. Those who were present were pretty beat, though there Chet and I were squawking and yapping. We headed back to our room to pack and took inventory of what remained and what would need to be consumed prior to the next morning. We set aside enough herb for the AM, grabbed the rest of our stuff and headed over to the main thoroughfare to trade and dole out fun! We met a handful of folks under wild circumstances and got situated for DSO's closing sets of the weekend.

Back at the main bar a bartender seemed less than thrilled to see Chet and I.

"What do you two want?" she asked with a straight face.

"I'll take a daiquiri with a rum floater and he'll have a shitty vodka diet," I exclaimed.

"Hmmm..." The woman said glancing at Chet and back at me.

"I want to buy a drink for my kid, please..." I said.

"She looked back at him and said "That's your kid?"

"Yup." I said without thought.

"Great job" she said with a straight face.

We cracked up as she got our drinks. Carly walked up and the bartender asked which one of us two belonged to Carly?

She pointed at me. "So that's your kid?" she said pointing to Chet, who looked retarded.

Both Carly and the woman couldn't keep a straight face!

We ran into John T., who was dressed up in costume as what appeared to be a normal person. He dawned a baseball cap and a polo shirt tucked into khaki shorts. For the last night the half of us that made it down to the show danced in the open space behind the soundboard. The band started with "New Minglewood Blues" followed by "Dire Wolf." I was already not pumped on the setlist until "Cassidy" popped up. We headed back to the bar.

"We're back!" I said.

"Yay. Girlie drink for you and cup of piss for him?" she said to which Chet and I laughed and she got our actual drinks.

A beautiful "Peggy-O" came next with the crowd singing along. DSO picked it back up with "El Paso!" Circles were spun and smiles were shared with folks from all over the world that we had met that week. I felt reflective and grateful for the experiences and memories that we made. "Tennessee Jed" sounded fantastic, "Row Jimmy" was sweet and "The Music Never Stopped" was the ironic conclusion to the first set. Towards the end of the first set, I saw Matt and lost him. We decided to head back to Matt and Teri's to give them a humble gift from the group as a thank you. We arrived to find Teri and the group gathered as Matt wandered up. We presented them with a wooden Jamaica plaque and thanked them profusely for the experience.

A few of us shuffled back over to the beach. Chet called a "Bertha" second set opener and sure enough, that's what we were treated to! "Bertha" transitioned into "Good Lovin'" and "Ship of Fools" came next followed by "Samson And Delilah." A powerful "Terrapin Station" went into "Drums" and "Space" into "The Other One!" The jam was deep and went into "Close Encounters" which was wild before going into "Saint Stephen" into "Not Fade Away" into "Around And Around." I suggested to Carly that we sneak off, as I am never one for a goodbye. I took a deep breath walking back to the room through the loud bird calls from the trees, past the pools and coffee house, nodding at the security guard along the wall and headed back to our room with a plate of cheese fries for one final sleep on the island. Unfortunately, we were at the wrong room in the wrong building. We laughed, located the mandala and headed to our actual room for the night...

Set One: New Minglewood Blues, Dire Wolf, Cassidy, Peggy-O, El Paso, Tennessee Jed, Jack Straw, Row Jimmy, The Music Never Stopped

Set Two: Bertha > Good Lovin', Ship Of Fools, Samson And Delilah, Terrapin Station > Drums > The Other One > Close Encounters Mattson Jam > Saint Stephen > Not Fade Away > Around And Around

Encore: U.S. Blues


1.22.78 McArthur Court - University of Oregon

Monday January 23:

"The ceiling is really white" I thought, coming to in a daze. Of course, the sun was shining and the air smelled sweet. I opened the balcony door one final morning, took a deep breath and smiled. The final phases of packing lead to our heading over to the coffee shop and then the buffet as we had done almost every day prior. We enjoyed one last large meal and we used the last couple of hours to wander around to take pictures and tip some of the employees that went above and beyond for us throughout our stay. I found myself apologizing for my friends and getting laughter in response, which was a sign that we did it right. I wasn't going to drink, but next thing I knew I was four or five deep. We saw our friends off and I attempted to smoke as much as I could before our inevitable departure.

We checked out of our room, said goodbye to a few new friends and hung out with Matt and Teri at the main pool bar until our shuttle came. A gentleman played Dead tunes on his acoustic in the lobby as our shuttle pulled up. We hugged Matt and Teri and once again tried to vocalize what the experience meant to us and how grateful we were. I popped a Xanax and our bus pulled away for the hour drive to the airport. I took comfort in the fact that the Chets were still sleeping and would enjoy another full day at the resort,and that Matt and Teri would be there for another two nights. We pulled into the Montego Bay Airport, tipped our driver, checked our bags and headed through minimal security to our gate. In the airport we ran into Brian, Mina, Jess and Andy and sat with them until their flight took off.

Our flight was scheduled to fly out of the next gate and around the time we were supposed to board, I noticed that they changed our gate to the other side of the airport. Chaos ensued, our gate was located and we boarded our flight back to the States. I awoke in Houston where we would float through US customs like zombies before getting some chicken and boarding our flight back to Denver. Back in Colorado it was dark and cold. It was a very direct welcome home from the frozen tundra. We caught the shuttle to our car and arrived home a short time later. It was hard not to smile as we unpacked our bags.

To get back to the original question "You went to Jamaica to see a Grateful Dead cover band?" I guess the answer is more simple than I had initially thought, however that provided me with a great opportunity to share my experience at an all inclusive music festival! It was great to see music and have access to unlimited food, drinks and comfortable beds, though I felt that three days of Donna The Buffalo and Los Lobos were a little much. I was surprised how little music many folks actually saw. With a different line-up, that may not have been the case. The saving grace was the amount of time that it allowed for me to spend with my friends and experience Jamaica. Matt and Teri were right, it was a wild time with wild people! We fell in love with Jamaica, an island of vibrant colors and incredible people and look forward to our return to the beautiful island nation!

"Fare thee well, fare thee well, I love you more than words can tell..."