On our way back from All Good this year, we agreed it was – hands down – the best music festival we’ve been to. This is for a whole host of reasons, but must importantly, the music was outstanding. As I noted in our All Good preview, there were a number of bands we were excited to see. One of the great things about the All Good Music Festival is that they set up two stages right next to each other. While one band plays, they are setting up the next band on the adjacent stage. So there’s basically no gap to the music all day, once it starts, and you get to hang out in the same general area – not so much walking from stage to stage.
Add to that generally good weather, non-cramped camping accommodations, and extremely friendly staff, and you’ve got yourself a music festival to remember. Onto the musical highlights.
Thursday, July 19, 2012: The Music Never Stopped
The music didn’t start until 7 on Thursday, but I could have gone home happy after the first night alone. Bob Weir, Bruce Hornsby, and Branford Marsalis, followed by Phil Lesh and Friends. Both sets were outstanding. I had earlier speculated that we might just see Weir, Hornsby, and Marsalis, without accompaniment. Or maybe just the addition of a drummer and bass player. What we got was Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers, with special guests Bob Weir and Branford Marsalis, playing a whole lotta Grateful Dead tunes. Plus two Hornsby tracks. The set started a bit rough, but it only got better as they gelled on stage. You can give their set a listen over at the Live Music Archive.
I also speculated a bit about who was going to be playing with Phil Lesh and Friends. I wrote that I hoped he would have Jackie Greene with him, and he was. Plus Joe Russo on drums, two of Phil’s sons, Grahame and Brian, and – a very pleasant surprise – Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams from Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble. The set was like Phil Lesh meets the Midnight Ramble. Some Grateful Dead tunes were in the set and some songs that you might have heard at a Levon Helm show – “Chest Fever”, “Long Black Veil”, and “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning”, for example. It was my first time seeing Phil Lesh and Friends live, and this line up was a treat. You can listen to their set here.
Bob Weir, Bruce Hornsby, and Branford Marsalis (with Hornsby’s Noisemakers)
The Flaming Lips were amazing! The first track they played, “Race for the Prize”, ended up being a top 5 rock and roll moment for me. I was standing stage left, in the photo pit, tucked in a corner by a big ass speaker, trying to take decent pictures of the insanity. Confetti and smoke all over the stage… I could have died happily in that moment.
They also played Pink Floyd’s “On The Run” – the psychedelic electronic experimental freakout from Darkside of the Moon – while Coyne climbed into the bubble and walked out over the crowd. He didn’t stay out as long as I’d expected to but it was a thing to behold nonetheless. If you haven’t ever seen the Flaming Lips, you should really try to work them into your live music schedule sometime. They will not disappoint. Q Magazine was spot on when they put the Flaming Lips in their top 50 list of bands you must see before you die. In the meantime, check out the video below of their whole show.
Sunday was the hottest day of the festival, and I was feeling a bit physically run down by then. The good news was that the day’s lineup was a must see for me, the strongest afternoon of music the entire weekend. I think the organizers did a tremendous job lining up a solid block of great music to keep us going on Sunday afternoon.
Corey Harris and the Rasta Blues Experience
Corey Harris was the first artist of the day. He and his band, The Rasta Blues Experience, brought a rich mix of reggae, blues, rock, and funk to the stage. Harris plays guitar and lap steel. I really enjoyed his slide playing. Great songs that cut across genres, one to the next. Conscious music that’s only occasionally preachy. I would have liked to see him in an evening time slot, but I’m glad All Good introduced me to his music.
Devil Makes Three
Devil Makes Three was also new to me. They play folk music that bounces with a punk rock sensibility. There’s some rockabilly in their sound, too. They are a three piece – guitar, banjo, and bass. All acoustic. The guitar player seemed to be the “lead” singer, with the other two hopping in on harmony pretty frequently. A particular treat form their set was their cover of Blind Willie McTell’s Statesboro Blues. Definitely want to see these guys again.
Mickey Hart Band
Well, I am now a big fan of the Mickey Hart Band. They had an hour and fifteen minutes to impress the crowd, and they did. Mickey has been able to move the furthest out from the “standard” Grateful Dead sound with his new band. He and his band have created something part Dead, part world music, and part the collective identity of the band members themselves. The lead guitar player is able to play in a completely non Jerry Garcia style of guitar playing – more Santana-ish to me – but will also weave some Jerry-ness into his playing when appropriate. Their version of “Fire on the Moutain” was a case in point. He broke out the familiar MXR pedal, or at least a reproduction of its sound – what my buddies and I called a “fart pedal” when we were kids. I love that sound almost more than life itself. I was dancing around like an idiot for the whole song.
So there you have it. Lots of great music at All Good this year, and I’ve only covered some of it here. I’m already looking forward to next year’s All Good. Hope to see you there.
This will be our second time covering the All Good Music Festival (the first time was in 2010 – see our coverage here, here, and here). And it’s our second festival of the season (see our recent Summer Camp coverage). The festival is just a few short weeks away now – July 19 – 22. The lineup is really exciting this year, and we’re going to highlight some of the bands here. This year’s lineup is a bit Grateful Dead-centric, at least among the headliners. Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, and Mickey Hart are all appearing, each with their own band. If only Bill Kreutzmann‘s 7 Walkers was playing, all the remaining members of the Grateful Dead would be making an appearance (the good news is that we’ll be able to see them at Hoxeyville Music Festival this year). Plus, Dark Star Orchestra – one of my favorite bandsto see live – will be bringing their brand of Grateful Dead fun to the stage. Here’s a bit about each of the above bands, plus a few more (Hint: The Flaming Lips!!).
Phil Lesh & Friends get second billing for the festival, after The Allman Brothers Band, and they are the band I’m most excited to see. For me, the big question with Phil and Friends is… Who will the Friends be? Phil Lesh has been putting together bands under this moniker since 1999. Many famous and respected players have with Phil Lesh & Friends – Trey Anastasio, Steve Kimock, Warren Haynes, Ryan Adams, Chris Robinson, and more.
Lesh has played with two different lineups this year. In February, Phil Lesh & Friends played a three night run with a lineup I’d love to see at All Good: Warren Haynes (guitar, vocals), Jackie Greene (guitar, keyboards, vocals), John Scofield (guitar), Joe Russo (drums), and Jeff Chimenti (keyboards). All the shows are available on the Live Music Archive. Lesh also did some shows in April at his new venue Terrapin Crossroads with what he terms as the classic Phil Lesh Quintet: Lesh, Haynes (guitar), Rob Barraco (keyboardist), Jimmy Herring (guitar), and John Molo (drums). Haynes and Barraco will both be at All Good as it is – Haynes with The Allman Brothers Band and Barraco with Dark Star Orchestra. So I think there’s a good chance those two will be among the Friends. Maybe Jackie Greene, too? A man can hope…
Here’s the February 2012 incarnation of Phil and Friends playing “Passenger”, a tune Lesh wrote back in the late 70s when he thought the Grateful Dead needed a few more rockers in their repertoire. They retired the song in 1981, but Lesh has brought it back, and it’s getting a lot of play now. And, indeed, it does rock.
Bob Weir & Bruce Hornsby with special guest Branford Marsalis
Prepare to break out your jazz hands, people. Bob Weir and Bruce Hornsby have done a few shows together already this year (see the video above) This time, they’re bringing another heavy hitter with them: Branford Marsalis, the legendary jazz saxophonist and brother of famed trumpet player Wynton Marsalis. Both Marsalis and Hornsby have played with the Grateful Dead in the past (Marsalis as a featured guest, Hornsby as a temporary member of the band after Brent Mydland died), and both bring significant bodies of their own work to the table as well.
I imagine the show will be something like this video of “Hell In A Bucket”, but with Marsalis adding his voice to the mix. But who knows? It’s unclear from their listing what the band’s make up will be. But there could be a drummer and a bass player, too. Crosby, Stills, and Nash had a drummer and a bass player. They just didn’t get a name check. It could be the same with Weir, Hornsby, and Marsalis (which I believe I just coined, btw). In the meantime, check out the Weir & Hornsby video.
“So we’re going to go out there… enjoy the ride.” That’s how Mickey Hart starts off this video highlighting his band’s Winter 2011/2012 tour. And it looks like they do a good amount of space exploration, but in a way the kids can keep bouncing to (different, in my opinion, than the Drums/Space sequence Deadheads came to know and love/hate). They are also doing some of their own songs, plus a half dozen or so Grateful Dead tunes every show. Here’s hoping we get a “Fire On The Mountain” (Hart co-wrote it) and a “Not Fade Away” at All Good…
My personal obsession with all things Grateful Dead aside, The Flaming Lips alone are reason enough to go to All Good this year. What if they play Dark Side of the Moon? Do you want to risk missing it? Then there’s the giant ball Wayne Coyne rolls around in, walking/crawling on top of the audience. Do you want to miss that? Because that’s what they did at Hangout Music Festival, which you can see for yourself above. They did Dark Side, and Coyne rolled across the audience in his giant transparent bubble boy ball (be sure to watch them inflate the ball, too).
The video above captures their entire Hangout Music Festival set. They do a few great Flaming Lips songs before they get to the Pink Floyd record. First was a joyous “Race for the Prize”, the first track off Soft Bulletin. They also did “She Don’t Use Jelly”, “The Yeah Yeah Song”, and “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots”.
Fair warning: There’s a lot of swearing in the banter with the audience. Which I enjoyed, and you probably will, too, but I just wanted you to know in advance.
While we’re off the Grateful Dead path for a moment, I thought I’d also mention The Pimps of Joytime. The first time I saw them was at All Good in 2010, and I’ve managed to catch them at a few other festivals as well. They are an engaging live funk band, and just plain fun. Truth be told, many Deadheads have an affinity for classic 70s funk, so I’m not really treading too far off the Grateful Dead path here. The Pimps have sprung from that fertile 70s ground. You can hear George Clinton and James Brown in what they do. Above is the video for the title track off their 2011 album, Janxta Funk!.
Dark Star Orchestra is an All Good regular, and are always a crowd favorite at the festival. The video above is from Gratefulfest 12 (in 2011 – it’s a little bit confusing. All because they started that particular festival in 2000).
So that’s only a small sampling of the artists that will be playing at All Good this year. Michael Franti, Greensky Bluegrass, and Galactic, for example, are also playing. The festival is also at a new site this year – Legend Valley in Thornville, OH – which makes it a bit more of an adventure this, since it will completely new to us. And it’s a much shorter drive for us now. Hopefully we’ll see you there. Tickets are still available. Get one while you still can!
This was our first year at Summer Camp, and there were a bunch of bands I was excited to see. So my expectations were high. I got to see most of the bands on my list, and all that I did see were as good or better than I was expecting. But, Christ… the heat? Almost unbearable. It practically drained the life from me. But, once again, I was saved by rock n roll… plus some new strategies for staying cool when you’re spending entire days out in unshaded, 90+ degree heat. Here are some of the bands and artists that made Summer Camp a special musical experience for me.
Keller Williams is a one man show, like no other. He plays guitar, bass, and brings digital programming and loops into the mix, including layers of harmony vocals he’s built in advance. I’ve enjoyed every show I’ve seen him play. He’s incredibly interesting to watch – especially considering it’s just one dude, and he doesn’t even bite a bat’s head off or anything to keep the crowd entertained.
You can listen to the whole set over at the Live Music Archive by clicking the link above. My two personal favorites were “Freaker By The Speaker” and “Doobie In My Pocket”, both of which I’ve seen him play before. They both brought smiles to my face.
It was during Keller’s set that our strategy for staying cool and properly enjoying the festival came together. Which is odd, because we’ve done this before. My theory is that the sheer number of stages threw us off. There were just so many fuckin’ stages at this festival. In fact, it’s one of the things Summer Camp promotes – how many bands and how many stages they have. It was a little overwhelming, to be honest. Way too much movement required.
In any event, our strategy became: Whenever we decamped and headed for a stage, we brought our lawn chairs, a small cooler, our camera gear, and set up camp at every stage, before the show we were there to see. Then I would head up to the photo pit, take a few shots, while Sab kept the new base camp under control. So we didn’t exactly do this for Keller, but we found the shadiest spot to kick it, far back from the stage, but still with good sight lines and audio coverage. [More photos of Keller Williams at Summer Camp]
Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead. Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes. And the should-be-more-famous Jackie Greene. Now touring together as an acoustic trio. I hadn’t seen them together before, so they were high on my list of bands to see. They started things off with “Truckin'”, a common and loved show starter for the Grateful Dead and the bands that have come after – Furthur, RatDog, Phil and Friends, etc.
The rest of the set – all hour and a half – was a mix of songs that I would have killed to see at a Ratdog or Furthur. “West LA Fadeaway” was one of the highlights for me. They creep into the song. On “When I Paint My Masterpiece”, Greene plays mandolin. Outstanding.
The idea for the trio likely grew out of the Furthur and Friends show for Phil’s 70th birthday, which saw Greene and Robinson joining Furthur to amp up the celebration. In fact, I saw them do New Speedway Boogie at both shows. An acoustic Boogie was a treat. Jackie Greene is the multi instrumentalist in the band. In addition to rhythm and lead guitar, he plays mandolin and the occasional harmonica. Weir and Robinson stick to acoustic guitar. And, obviously, they all do vocals – harmonies on the choruses, and they mostly take turns on singing the verses. This one is also available on the Live Music Archive (link above). [More photos of Weir, Robinson, Greene Acoustic Trio at Summer Camp]
MathGames, Saturday, May 26, Starshine Stage, 12:00 – 1:00
I’d seen MathGames once before. The first time was at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. They had Ray White with them then, and they covered Frank Zappa’s “City of Tiny Lights”. They had the same uniforms on – some sort of white coveralls that couldn’t have been comfortable to be playing in the Chillicothe heat. My son had his tonsils out the other day, and now I’m pretty sure they’re wearing the same thing my son’s mom wore to observe the beginning of the surgery – at least until the boy was sedated. Anyway, maybe one of them is a surgeon in his day job?
I don’t know quite how to classify MathGames’ music. There’s jazz in there, a hefty dose of progressive rock, minus the choruses and verses. Space age jazz rock? No, four words is too many… Space jazz? Not quite right, either. I give up. For now, I’ll just describe the band. Fareed Haque is the driving force behind the band. He’s a unique and respected jazz guitar player, steeped in the 80s jazz fusion, and now a music professor in Illinois. Two younger Chicago musicians making up the rhythm section – Alex Austin on bass, and Greg Fundis on drums. And a new, permanent (?) addition to the band, Jesse Clayton on keyboards, coming to the band from Ann Arbor’s own Macpodz.
The good news is that I found a video of MathGames at Summer Camp. Prepare yourself for some, um, space prog…? Yeah, that doesn’t work either. Just watch the video!
JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound, Saturday, May 26, Starshine Stage, 1:30 – 2:30
For both MathGames and JC Brooks, we managed to score the best seats in the house. A gracious beer vendor had set up a sun shelter, and since no one was using it, we set up camp there for a couple of hours. The chairs, the beer cooler, etc. Plus shade in the noonday sun. Which was brutal! Brutal, I say!
But it was all worth it. Brooks is a charismatic frontman, and The Uptown Sound is a tight, accomplished band. Brooks has some stories to tell, and he weaves them through the songs in their set list. “I Got High”, for example.
Their Wilco cover – “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” is outstanding. They turn the song in a completely different direction. And it was the song I was really looking forward to hearing (we highlighted a version in our Summer Camp Music Sampler, you might recall). JC and the band funk it up a bit, and JC pulls the heartache in the song fully to the surface (the Wilco version hides it behind a lot of thrashing guitar riffs and noise).
Unfortunately, I can’t find a recording of their set, which is very frustrating. They have a liberal taping policy, so I kind of expected it out there. No YouTube videos, either! They are a band you’ll want to see if they come to your neck of the woods. [More photos of JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound at Summer Camp]
Common, Saturday, May 26, Sunshine Stage, 4:15 – 5:15
Common was at the top of my list of bands to see. I don’t get to see enough live hip hop, and I thought a festival would be the perfect environment for it. And I’ve been a huge fan of Common’s since I saw him with Kanye West on the Dave Chappelle show. His new record, The Believer/The Dreamer, is great. He played a few songs from that, but otherwise wove through catalogue highlights from the last 10 years or so of his work. He had a drummer, a keyboard player, and a DJ on stage with him.
Common used the length of the stage to engage the audience and drive his verses home. And the crowd loved him! There were enough hardcore Common fans to pack the stage area, from the soundboard forward. I was amazed at all the people spitting out the verses with Common, too. I mean, I know parts of verses from the Common records I have. But even if I knew them by heart, I don’t think I could get my mouth to move that fast, and if I did, I’d run out of breath before I got through a single verse. But it was really cool to see the crowd rocking with Common like that. I vote for more hip hop artists at festivals.
PS: Towards the end of the set, he said “lookout for the new album, coming soon” and he rattles off some of the people involved, starting off with Kanye West. Which could be good.
Another bonus from the YouTubes. Here’s Common doing a freestyle over a slice of the beat for “Otis” from Watch The Throne.
Anders Osborne, Saturday, May 26, Campfire Stage, 5:00 – 6:00
I’d only heard of Anders Osborne recently, via Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and their work together recreating The Rolling Stones‘ Sticky Fingers. So I didn’t know any of his solo work going in, but the Sticky Fingers work impressed me enough that I circled him on my festival schedule. I’m glad I did, because he was the best discovery of the festival for me.
Osborne played right after Common over at the Campfire Stage, so we had to decamp and move quickly to catch his set. What we heard was just great rock n roll. Well crafted songs writ large by a three piece band, with extended soloing over a rugged rock n roll terrain. Neil Young through the filter of New Orleans. Sort of. What was interesting is that he just released a new album at the beginning of May – Black Eye Galaxy – and he didn’t play a single song from it. Just one song from his album before that, American Patchwork. The song was “I Got Your Heart”, my personal favorite from that album (which I bought, along with the new one, when I got back from Summer Camp). He introduced it this way:
“Alright. Here’s a little song I wrote for my wife when I was in rehab last.”
Lucky for us, someone captured a few songs from their set on video, and posted it to YouTube. Here’s one, for the song “Burning On The Inside”. About 4:20 into the clip, Osborne starts playing this riff that builds into a nice solo, with good support from Eric Bolivar (drums) and Carl Dufrene (bass).
A couple of weeks ago, a buddy of mine emailed me: “This is it. This is the one.” The subject line was “Furthur.” He had just seen them play. Like me, he’s a little obsessed with this stuff. He goes to see the post Grateful Dead bands when he can, like I do, and goes to see the new kids on the block, too – Umphrey’s McGee, moe., etc. Since that email I’ve read similar comments in forums where like minded people congregate. On Tuesday, March 2, 2010, I got to see Furthur for the first of a two night run at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago – a theater steeped in Grateful Dead history. It was everything that I’d hoped it would be. Just a tremendous show. If you get the opportunity, go see a Furthur show this year. You won’t be disappointed.
Bob Dylan is arguably the greatest modern songwriter, and certainly the most influential. People all over the musical spectrum cover his songs. But there a special few who specialize in covering Dylan. For me, Jerry Garcia has always been the premiere Dylan interpreter. If you don’t believe me – or if you do – you should check out the Garcia Plays Dylan collection. Particularly the “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.”
But now I have to say that Jerry’s old partner in crime, Bob Weir, is giving Jerry a run for his money these days. Bobby has always been adept with the occasional Dylan cover, but he and RatDog have really embraced it. They play a Dylan cover at well over half their shows.