All Good Fest | 07.13 - 07.15 | West Virginia

Words & Images by: Jake Krolick & Robert Massie

All Good Festival :: 07.13.07 – 07.15.07 :: Marvin's Mountaintop :: Masontown, WV

Thursday: Cows, Cars, and Jam's Last Stand

All Good 2007 by Massie
For some, the annual pilgrimage to Masontown, WV isn't just inevitable it's absolutely necessary. This time-honored trip mends heads, saves souls and wipes out worries. Sometimes it seems as if Marvin's Mountaintop harbors a secret mojo that can't be found elsewhere. The All Good Festival returned in mid-July 2007 for it's 11th year, featuring a who's who of jam-based talent including Bob Weir and Ratdog, moe., Leftover Salmon, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Sound Tribe Sector 9, Perpetual Groove, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals and Dark Star Orchestra, amongst many others. The jam world has seemingly taken many a blow the past few years and the steam pushing the "festival express" down the track isn't what it used to be. If you told that to the 13,000-plus crowd that enjoyed this year's All Good festival, they would have laughed heartily in your face. The 11th annual gathering was one of the very few major summer festivals that stuck to its roots, mixing in only a few change-ups and popular indie rock bands. The resulting lineup arguably lacked the diversity shown by the likes of Bonnaroo and Coachella but it made up for that in consistency, choosing to stick with tried and true jam staples. To many of us, this was Jam's chance to make a last stand. The results were spectacular and reminded those of us with our heads in the indie universe to not forget what you once loved about jambands.

The cows were standing tall, sending a clear signal to happy festivalgoers that they were in store for some gorgeous weather. Hats off to Tim and Junipa of Walther Productions for constantly rethinking All Good as it grows. There was a gleeful exuberance as packed cars flowed in smooth and easy due to a new layout that included a staging area for late ticket buyers. With perhaps a new festival record, by midnight on Thursday evening 75-percent of the festival had already fully arrived and set-up camp.

From Splat! To Space (Carefree and Happy)

All Good 2007 by Krolick
Once your tent is staked, the air mattress inflated and the cooler successfully extracted from an overstocked trunk, an overwhelming sense of calm sets in. The first evening at All Good is electric and therapeutic at the same time. As many of us know, life is about the journey not the destination; and we were determined to not wait for our favorite artists to have fun, but to simply enjoy all the moments the weekend would offer. We become hunter-gatherers, seeking out familiar faces of friends we see every week and those we see only once a year in this burgeoning hotspot. We gather hugs and smiles, plus some odds and ends to enhance our weekend, all the while grinning from ear-to-ear. People walk a wonderful walk at this special time - it's somewhere between a lackadaisical trot, an idle stroll, and a slothful strut. One thing is constant - the conversations with voices filled with hope. You could start out at on one side of the festival and walk to the other in about 30 minutes, but on the first night it takes us three hours to make the hike. We stop every few yards to share a drink, a smoke, a story, an embrace, a laugh, a dance or just a tip of the hat. We collectively beam, knowing we are all there for the same reasons. We're drawn here to just enjoy the music, the adventure and the happiness of being in our element and seeing how our tribe has fared in the last year.

Ozric Tentacles - All Good 2007 by Massie
Those looking to kick-start their groove witnessed Sonic Bid winner American Dumpster swagger onstage with washboards, fire blowing and flaming hula hoops. The sultans of the strange kicked off the 2007 All Good Fest with a wild, unruly energy and impressed many, although their extended performance made some Ozric Tentacles fans a bit unruly. Highlights from Am Dump included a string of covers including Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" and Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone."

Space Rock innovator Ed Wynne (guitar) got his work visa to play in the States about a day before it would have been impossible to leave, so it truly was an All Good miracle Ozric Tentacles made it stateside (unlike the Wakarusa Festival). Their set was about half as long as normal, but they brought extra energy to make up for it. Brandi held down some amazing bass lines, as the new Ozric trio made do without a dedicated bassist. Some nasty synth lines swirled overhead as the crowd timed firework shots to crescendos and stanzas.

By the time Dark Star Orchestra did their own piece of musical reenactment, the crowd had surged to a frothing, firework-shooting beast. DSO recreated June 29, 1977, continuing to build on the soaring "happy-to-be-at-All-Good" feeling. For many, Thursday evening would end with the sounds of fireworks, while others chose to frolic until the sun peaked over the hills. For us, well, let's just say the ear plugs and air mattresses worked wonders, the spirit of All Good sneaking into our sleeping bags and dreams, making a few hours of sleep seem just perfect.

All Good 2007 by Krolick

Friday: Laying a Solid Foundation
(Or, in this Case, Building a Bridge)

The Bridge - All Good 2007 by Massie
If you've read the All Good reviews from the past few years, you've no doubt heard reference to a bad-ass band from Baltimore known as The Bridge. Many passionate fans have demanded to see these guys return to the main stage for years now, and this was the year for The Bridge to shine. They played to the occasion, and all the veterans noted that they had never seen such a large, spirited crowd for the kickoff set at All Good. Kenny Liner and Cris Jacobs absolutely capitalized on the situation, shredding a perfect 9-song early afternoon set and raising the bar for the groups that followed. Liner was an unstoppable beat-boxing force, as he swirled his mouth over the mic, teasing "Axel-F" before launching into the melodic pops and bass kicks of crowd favorite "Drop the Beat." Jacobs gave the crowd two words to walk away with: "Heavy Water" – a glorious guitar-driven romp placed The Bridge on a hard-to-top pedestal. Their heavy-hitting street team plastered the hillside with free Bridge CDs, further cementing them into the ears and minds of attendees. Many a campsite and car were heard pumping the promo CD throughout the weekend.

George Porter Jr., Russell Batiste and Brian Stoltz are pretty much a stripped down version of The Funky Meters minus Art Neville. However, even without Neville's signature key washes and churns, this is anything but Funky Meters Light. These guys exude funk from their pores and all they touch becomes smothered and chunked with bayou boom. The funk oozes from the slow slink of Stoltz's axe and Batiste's wild belly laughs behind his kit. However, the title of "funky witch doctor" goes to George Porter, Jr. this year. His bass notes are sticky sweet, as if his bass has been dipped in honey. Porter held down the heaviest pocket Masontown has witnessed to date. He dipped deep into the jar, pulling long strands of bass out during "I Get High" and "Grits & Hurricanes." Each punch hit hard enough to carve out a little hillside.

Porter & Stoltz - All Good 2007 by Massie
All Good's stage model of seamless performances can make or break the building groove of a festival day. One must admit that they were a little unsure of where the afternoon would go next as The Pietasters took the adjacent stage. The motto of their spirited frontman Stephan Jackson is: it's not a good show unless someone bleeds. The horns sprung to life, and their punchy blast grabbed on where Porter's bass left off. The Pietasters played a crucial role in the afternoon vibe and they did it in style. Jackson bounced and kicked as they upped the funk, turning the party into a skanky, ska-flavored affair. The Pietasters somehow fit perfectly in a natural progression of the music, and the crowd shuffled around as good rude boys and girls should.

Yonder Mountain String Band took off where the Pietasters stopped and managed to play with enough conviction that the music again transitioned well. Bluegrass goes so well with so many genres, and the Yonder boys are one of the best at taking their signature sound into realms it rarely touches. They tore through a fast set that started with the threat of rain and ended in a spirited downpour - one of only two that occurred all weekend. YMSB's audience waved decorated pool noodles at them and it seemed that this was the start of a new trend for the weekend. Kids on parent's shoulders delighted in this fact as they waved and whacked the noodles in time to the music. The "Angel" > "Follow Me Down To The Riverside" > "Angel" sequence was particularly delightful. A little while after YMSB finished, a massive rainbow emerged, stretching right across the top of the main stage.

Irie Vibes Rise, Mary Jane Dances
And the Lotus Flower Blooms

Rapdog - All Good 2007 by Massie
Steel Pulse definitely helped bring back the sun as David Hinds's powerful vocals lead the reggae classic through a politically charged set, singing about Earth's troubles and, more importantly, how to be the solution. Meanwhile, at the Ropeadope Stage buried in the hills, one of the more interesting weekend performances was taking place. Billed as the Jay Lane Experiment, a group of musicians and lyricists rocked some beats that one needed to see to believe. Ratdog's drummer, Jay Lane led a set that linked the worlds of funk, jazz and hip-hop with help from Ratdog members Bob Weir, Jeff Chimenti (keys), Kenny Brooks (sax) and Robin Sylvester (bass), plus PBS guitarist Brian Stoltz. This jam began during the storm, and a scarce-but-brave crowd of 20 or so were treated to Bobby and company doing about an hour of jazz improv, with several appearances by rappers Mighty FlipSide, Esq. and Jawnzap7. The set was eloquently billed by Tim Walther as "Rapdog". The only thing more interesting than the somewhat-odd combination was the way Weir made it up to the Ropeadope Stage. He rode in a van that got stuck in the mud from the storm on the way up. Weir was the first person out of the van, helping push it out while a few lucky onlookers stared in disbelief.

Keller Williams - All Good 2007 by Massie
Keller Williams and the Keels created a vibe that screamed "fun" as they ripped through versions of Tom Petty, Pink Floyd, Beck and Grateful Dead tunes with some wonderful guest spots from Jeff Austin on "New Horizons" and the All Good "Everywhere Man," Bob Weir, on the Dead's "Loser" and "Dupree's Diamond Blues." Both Larry and Jenny Keel were obviously having a blast. Their free-spirited playing and can-do attitudes served as amplifiers for Keller's performance. Keller is one of perhaps two or three artists who define All Good each time they play it, and this romp through the absurd, the standards, and the quintessential Keller catalog was a dose of the most pure entertainment the weekend delivered. As hoopers twirled, smokers puffed and dancers grooved, KW brought his unique vibe and grinned the whole time.

Lotus stole the show from the rest of the Magic Hat stage artists on Friday evening. Getting right into things with "Jump Off", the boys kicked out crisp, full and clean house music that had their fans getting down. This band has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years, going from a buzz band to a beat-fueled institution. "Hammerstrike" and "Wax" were also great, and showed depth, diversity and dedication to groove. Synthesizer showdowns, high-flying guitar and the tight shuffling beats never wavered. Lotus left many saying that they had pulled off the set of the day.

While Lotus worked their Philadelphia Magic, the Ropeadope Stage had rumors of Marco Benevento and The Slip playing a stealth set together. Alas, no dice for the 100 or so of us gathered. We got Benevento and Bodega, which turned out to be a Benevento keyfest over subpar electro-funk laid down by Bodega.

The Rat, The Dog
And the Battle of the Bands

Marco Benevento of The Duo - All Good 2007 by Massie
No disrespect, but many felt that Ratdog may have punched the proverbial timecard during their headlining spot. Perhaps that was because Weir had used up his allotment of musical magic during the day. We are certainly happy that the band continues to keep the Grateful Dead spirit going, but on this night they just weren't playing up to the level many have come to expect. The first half of the set, minus the lyric butchering on "Casey Jones," was fairly loose, more like rambling clatter than tight jamming. Keller Williams joined them for "Uncle John's Band" and a jam without Weir, but, again, things just fell flat. The crowd grew restless as the set flowed over its time slot by close to 45 minutes. The band finally left the stage and everyone expected The Duo to pick up the pace, but, as they started their set, Weir and company came back out for an encore. Well, Weir was a little on edge as he grabbed the mic and screamed over to Joe Russo and Benevento, "Whoa! Easy fella. Hold on there, brother." When Russo, who was wailing on his drums to start The Duo's set didn't get the message, Bobby exclaimed, "Alright, fuck it. This is the battle of the bands." Those up on the hill fully expecting some magic turned their attention to wishing the Rat and The Duo would actually do battle, but The Duo backed off for Ratdog to revisit "Touch of Grey."

When The Duo was finally able to start for real all our musical troubles disappeared. The crowd lost their minds as they witnessed Russo do lightning quick last minute setting changes for his pads. He slammed into "Becky" and watched Benevento mouth, "Okkkkaaayyy" as he smiled and threw on a heap of distortion and filters. It was some seriously powerful rock & roll! The unscheduled change threw off most of their songs, and each was played completely different, either with missing or repeated parts. Let's just say the vibe was loose and fun.

We are the Fog People, We are the Sound Tribe

STS9 - All Good 2007 by Massie
Two years ago All Good was treated to a wonderful Friday late night in the fog. While Ozric Tentacles laid down one of the best sets the festival has ever seen, the air thickened and hid everything but blasts of light. Because of this experience, the crowd knew this year's dense pea soup that settled into the valley was something to embrace. Making the trek between the Ropeadope and main stages with a walking soundtrack of Sound Tribe Sector 9 made the swim in the fog one of those memories many will soon not forget. The spirit off All Good had wrapped itself around a group of creative engineers situated above the All Good mud pond. These structural sultans had taken the rocks laying in the culvert for water runoff and stacked them all the way up the path in a series of stone castles. Another of those spirited creative types had placed candles in the castles and the effect was breathtaking. All weekend festivalgoers stopped to take pictures and marvel at the Jenga-style stacks.

All Good 2007 by Krolick
The major lights at the intersection of All Good and Main Ave. played with the vapors in the air, and it appeared as if people were walking right out of a brilliant fallen star. For those who couldn't get enough during the day, The Bridge dropped a secret late night show at the Ropeadope Stage while STS9 worked their vibe down the hill. The Bridge killed a dark and dirty version of Dr. John's "I Walk On Guilded Splinters" and a stifling "Use Me" with Eva Castillo. We made our way back to the end of STS9 to relax, lie on the hillside and watch the lights dance in the fog. STS9 is the perfect soundtrack to play on Marvin's Mountain with a thick fog. The glowing toys that have become commonplace at most festivals have really taken on new life. This year a young man brought a serious piece of equipment - a remote controlled flying saucer. The bottom had blinking lights so the crowd would see it in all its flying glory. He would send it a few hundred feet into the heavens at opportune moments. His remote flying saucer was talked about in a hush at first, people not wanting to be accused of really hallucinating. As the evening wore on, we cheered the craft as it made acrobatic passes overhead. Sound Tribe played a great set, and their outstanding performance of "We'll Meet in Our Dreams" was simply an anthem.

Continue reading for Saturday and Sunday at All Good...

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