Words by: Brian Bavosa :: Images by: James Harris
Perpetual Groove :: 05.25.07 – 05.27.07
Amberland VIII :: Cherokee Farms :: Lafayette, GA
Ah, Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of so many wonderful things - summertime, hot dogs, Bar-B-Q-ing, the universal acceptance of white pants (only until Labor Day, of course) and Perpetual Groove's annual festival, Amberland.
Named after the piece of property the festival originated on, this holiday weekend saw the locale change to Cherokee Farms but the spirit of the event held true to the original formula. Amberland VIII officially began Friday night in a tiny, open-faced barn with PGroove guitarist Brock Butler on stage. Opening with solo acoustic versions of The Secret Machines' "Alone, Jealous, and Stoned" and Paul Simon's "Graceland," everyone quickly realized it was not if you would hear your favorite song, but rather when. The next day, the barn would become the festival's general store, but for this opening night, it represented a comfortable, southern welcome to one of the most laidback festivals I have ever attended. The true spirit of Amberland lay in the fact that there was exactly one band on the bill - an ambitious task for any act in the gigantic, superstar cornucopia of festivals, where everyone seems to want to outdo one another.
Friday night slowly rolled along with Butler being joined by members of one of his side projects, The Ruins, for a four-song mini-set. That line-up is comprised of Butler (guitar, vocals), fellow PGroove bandmates Adam Perry (bass), John Hruby (keys, vocals) and drummer Travis Cline (Captain Soularcat).
PGroove with SuperDee :: Amberland
Later on, Albert Suttle and Matt McDonald of the host band took the stage for a very enjoyable, fluid, and inspired set which included the rare "Andromeda" and a guest appearance by JamBase's own Deanne "SuperDee" Herman on violin, Adam's brother, Damien Perry (Red Giant) and longtime friend Michael Blair on guitar. There were no breaks, but rather a constant coming-and-going of anyone who pleased, something that seemed not the least bit out of the ordinary. With on-site camping and a modest number of attendees, the overall vibe was very small and comfortable, and it was not uncommon to see the band or crew hanging out a one of the large, late night tents the extremely dedicated fans had set up, where seemingly everyone gathered once the music on the main stage concluded.
Saturday signaled the first official day, and Perpetual Groove opened with "53 Things to Do in Zero Gravity." To further the relaxed vibe, all we knew was there were approximate times when the band would hit the stage and there would be three full sets each day. Saturday's first set was about two hours, and filled with many of the band's lighter, fluffier tunes including "Sundog," "TSMM," "La Casa Bien" and "Sweet Oblivious Antidote."
After sunset my vote for MVP at Amberland got his chance to "shine," literally. Lighting designer Jason Huffer is integral to the band and their music, and he brings it every single time. On Saturday night he consistently added new dimensions to the music. His rich color schemes and textures are so original and inventive that I am absolutely shocked he had no prior experience before working with PGroove. To be completely honest, I feel he is the best lighting designer around right now. You can check out some of his videos on YouTube here).
Adam Perry - Amberland
Huffer's sensory overloading lights and the return of Damien Perry saw the night session open with the band's first run through "When You're Hear," and a third time ever version of Pink Floyd's "Have a Cigar," a song only previously played with Perry present. It was nothing short of monstrous, and saw Perry absolutely shred. His baldhead and beard were a perfect accompaniment to his head-banging, heavy metal flavor, the equivalent of adding hot sauce to PGroove's usually plain vanilla look. Set Two included "Occam's Blazer," a song not unlike an onion with many layers to peel, often leading to tears in its wake. McDonald later told me, "From 15 minutes out it's the sickest jamming we have probably ever done." The set was rounded out with a Carnegie Deli size sandwich of "Decepticon Structure" > "Breeze" > "Orange Wedge" > "Breeze" > "Decepticon Structure" and I could have gone to bed with a full belly.
However, this was Amberland, where no rules applied, and we still had another set ahead. Set Three offered no signs of letting up, which I thought impossible at the time. "Mr. Transistor" > "Space Paranoids" > "Mr. Transistor" was daring and explosive, while the hip-hop fueled "Macumba" featured a long freestyle of Kanye West's "We Don't Care" in the middle. "Mayday" with Damien Perry will be talked about as the version that changed the song forever - deep, dark, and razor sharp. "Walking in Place" usually features Butler serenading a lucky lady on a chair in the middle of stage. This particular version did in fact include that, but with a proposal by her boyfriend! Congratulations to Jen and Todd. The theme of the night was a pajama party, and watching Butler conduct the proposal in a giant hooded onesie was nothing short of hysterical.
Albert Suttle - Amberland
After the show, Butler remarked, "Tonight had a little bit of everything - a little comedy, a little fun and a whole lot of music." A scorching version of "Three Weeks" concluded the evening. That is if you don't count the all-night rendezvous at the disco tent, and Butler offering an impromptu acoustic performance at a fan's campsite that was still nowhere near completed when I decided to call it a "night" just after 6 a.m.
Brock Butler - Amberland
Whoever said sleep is for the weary must have been from Georgia or directly related to Butler. Sunday kicked off with his annual "Brockfest" set, starting at 10:30 a.m. For anyone not familiar with Butler, he is a musician's musician. Constantly with guitar in tow - as witnessed on this past year's Jam Cruise - he battled the likes of Steve Kimock and George Porter, Jr. for most time logged in the infamous Jam Room.
His set featured old friend Tye Munn on "Boston Rag," as well as loopy renditions of "The Super Mario Bros." and "Sopranos" themes. The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun" and Kristofferson's "Sunday Morning Coming Down" could not have captured the lazy morning vibe any better. He concluded the set on a comedic note with Dennis Leary's "Asshole," complete with vocals by McDonald, who kept pestering Butler to play it from backstage, much to the amusement of fans. If PGroove's career ever ended, McDonald need not worry. He could make a successful go of it as a comedian.
Sunday's afternoon set had a loose, soaring vibe featuring perfect "daytime" songs like "Tu Seven" and "Left To Drifting." Closing the set with the Talking Heads' "This Must Be The Place (Naïve Melody)," Perpetual Groove had solidified in my mind that the long, hot trip to an unknown farm in Georgia most certainly was the best kept secret on earth at that moment.
Between the day and evening sets, it was interesting to take a load off and watch the grounds constantly evolve, mostly due to the devoutly loyal, fun loving PGroove fans that changed into costumes for the final blowout. So, on top of everything else, I was now enjoying the final night session of the weekend with the Senior girls from Dazed and Confused, "Alice in Amberland," two American Gladiators and the Beatles in their finest Sgt. Pepper attire.
Set Two was mostly a jam-filled blur due to my lack of sleep and Huffer's retina blinding, mind expanding visual art. The final set included my personal highlight of "Green Tea" > "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues" > "Green Tea." During the first jam, our crew danced harder than I thought humanly possible, especially at this point. It was truly an inspired, funkified dance party led by four guys who'd kicked the Energizer Bunny's ass over the course of the past few days.
The only blemish on the weekend was local law enforcement forcing than band to stop playing at midnight, a full hour or so before their setlist dictated. To be honest, I think that may have been the only way Butler and company would have gotten off the stage. In the end, the band obliged, much to the dismay of the fans who began chanting The Who's "We're Not Gonna Take It."
Still, Amberland was the purest sense of everything Perpetual Groove represents: friends, family, a blazing light show, a top-notch crew and an absolute onslaught of seemingly non-stop music. In a span of just over 48 hours, one band managed to play almost half of that time - an absolutely unheard of feat (except perhaps for that little band from Vermont). Add to that a near flawless performances, surprises, an engagement, being serenaded for Sunday morning brunch, a pajama party, sit-ins galore and Amberland proved that Perpetual Groove are the real deal. Amberland showed they have the potential and personnel to make the leap into a larger rock or jam band world. In a time when one-band festivals are all but extinct, PGroove is the exception to the rule.
5/25/07: Amberland VIII, Cherokee Farms, Lafayette, GA
Alone Jealous and Stoned, Graceland, Lovin' in My Baby's Eyes, Jesus, etc.*, I Go Home**
Standing Outside a Broken Telephone Booth with Money in my Hand***, Drink then Fill***, Eminence Front***, Cold Beaches***
Girl on LSD
Perpetual Groove and Friends
Bobblehead Funk^, Can You Get to That%, Level^#, To Shed Light or Cast Shadows/Dust, Andromeda, For Now Forget$
* w/ Deanne "SuperDee" Herman-Violin
** w/ Matt McDonald (Perpetual Groove)-Rhodes
*** The Ruins (See Line-up Below)
^ w/ John Hruby (The Ruins, Guest)-Keys
% w/ John Post-Rhodes
# w/ Damien Perry-Guitar
$ w/ Michael F. Blair-Guitar
The Ruins Line-up: Brock Butler (Perpetual Groove, The Ruins, etc)-Guitar and Vocals
Adam Perry (Perpetual Groove, The Ruins)-Bass
John Hruby (The Ruins, Guest)-Keys and Vocals
Travis Cline-(Captain Soularcat, The Ruins)-Drums
05/26/2007, Amberland-Cherokee Farms: Lafayette, GA
Set I: 53 More Things to do in Zero Gravity, Crowded Tub, Long Past Settled In, Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, Free Ride to the Show, Beyond The Veil, Sundog, TSMM, La Casa Bien, Sweet Oblivious Antidote
Set II: Obscured by Clouds*> When You're In*> Have a Cigar**, Suburban Speedball, Save For One, Occam's Blazer, Too Close to the Sun*, Glock Jam, Decepticon Structure> Breeze> Orange Wedge> Breeze> Decepticon Structure
Set III: Mr. Transistor> Space Paranoids> Mr. Transistor, Two Shores, A Day the Way, Out Here^, Mayday, Macumba> We Don't Care*> Macumba, Walking in Place, Three Weeks
*First time played
**With Damien Perry on guitar
^With Deanne "Super Dee" Herman on violin
5/27/2007, Amberland-Cherokee Farms: Lafayette, GA
Set I: Astromonkey, The Golden Path, Scooter, Left to Drifting, Echo, Tu Sevun, Playground, Cabulo Monstosity, Naive Melody
Set II: All This Everything, pt. 1*, Crockett & Tubbs> Robot Waltz> Crockett & Tubbs, Crapshoot, Drums> Stealy Man> MOTA> Gratitude**, It Starts Where It Ends> All This Everything, pt. II
Set III: No Decorations, The March of Gibbles Army, Green Tea> Hard Time Killing Floor Blues> Green Tea, AIM, Under Lock & Key^
*With Deanne "Super Dee" Herman on violin
**With Damien Perry on guitar
^First time played
JamBase | Georgia
Go See Live Music!