The 5th Annual All Good Music Festival was held last weekend at Oakley Farms in Spotsylvania, VA, bringing together an eclectic mix of music aimed at fans of all genres. Over 7000 people converged on the farm for a weekend of rock, jazz, bluegrass, reggae, electronica, funk and more. Camping was also available on the 4000-acre farm, and there was no shortage of room for fans to dance, play frisbee, juggle fire, or simply pull up a blanket next to their cooler and enjoy the music.

The festival opened on Friday afternoon with local band McClaw's Drive, reggae throwbacks John Brown's Body, and the ferocious bluegrass/swing/rock energy of Blueground Undergrass. By the time the funky sounds of Karl Denson's Tiny Universe hit the stage, the crowd was being steadily pummeled by an unrelenting downpour. Covering themselves with anything they could find (one fan made an umbrella from three sticks and a garbage bag), they refused to let the rain drench their spirits.

Friday’s headliner was the Dark Star Orchestra, a Grateful Dead cover band that covers Dead shows in their entirety, announcing the date of the original show at the end of the night (in this case 7/13/81 Denver). However, the rain increased to the point where they had to cancel the 2nd set, and head for the shelter of the tour bus.

Saturday began with the bluegrass sounds of Railroad Earth and the New Orleans soul funk of Swampadelica. The rain finally lifted and the sun came out as New York-based band ulu was next to hit the stage, blending funky, hypnotic grooves with intense saxophone & keyboard solos. Jazzy rockers The Slip were the next band up, followed by the acoustic onslaught of Keller Williams, a native Virginian whose intense guitar work and stream-of-consciousness lyrics brought the crowd to an uproar.

Next up was roots-rock festival stalwarts Donna the Buffalo, and they had a surprise in store. Legendary vocalist and guitarist Peter Rowan had been performing with them for a few weeks, and decided to tag along to the All Good Festival as well. Lending his trademark yodeling vocals to such classics as "Land of the Navajo" and "Midnight Moonlight," Rowan and Donna turned in the most raucous, energetic performance of the festival so far.

Dr. Didg was originally scheduled to perform in Keller Williams’ spot, but a bus breakdown had them stranded in Ohio for a few hours. Their intense, psychedelic jamming entranced the crowd, and made many new converts to the strange sounds of the Australian bamboo instrument called the didgeridoo. Made from a long piece of bamboo, Dr. Didg was able to coax strange and exotic sounds that perfectly complemented the spacey, textural jamming of the rest of the band. They brought Keller Williams out to jam with them to say thanks for offering to switch slots with them. His acoustic ferocity meshed perfectly with their outerspace leanings.

Baltimore’s Lake Trout was next up, assaulting the crowd with their unique brand of "hippie hardcore." Mixing club beats with distorted guitars, they left many in the audience with their jaws dropped, wondering how the scene had changed from happy melodies to screaming energetic mayhem. One of the strengths of the All Good Festival is the diversity of the bands on the bill, and Lake Trout was without a doubt the heaviest.

West Virginia’s The Recipe provided a return to gentler sounds, as they brought their earthy, farmland jamming to the All Good Festival for the 5th year in a row, and enjoyed a toast as the only band to play all five festivals. Dr. Didg himself came out to jam with them, jamming along with 2 drummers for a powerhouse percussion solo.

There was only one band left to play, and the organizers had obviously saved the most intense, energetic band of all for last. Leftover Salmon hit the stage and within 10 seconds had reached an absolute fever pitch. By the middle of the first song, I thought they were going to explode. Two hours of self-proclaimed "polyethnic Cajun slamgrass" followed, with the band exploring everything from bluegrass to jazz to screaming rock. Keller Williams even came out to jam with them for a while, adding beatbox vocals and his trademark guitar stylings. Their instrumental prowess and showmanship were on full display, and provided an excellent finish to an amazing weekend of music.

Did the rain dampen anyone's spirits? Was anyone not captivated by the bands that played? Should I have told the guy who ate a slice of pizza off my blanket that it had fallen on the ground 4 hours earlier? Nope. It's all good.

Paul Kerr
JamBase Festival Correspondent
Go See Live Music!

[Published on: 5/23/01]

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