AmJam | 05.23 - 05.25 | North Carolina

Words by: Stephanie Jacoby | Images by: Ian Rawn

Asheville Music Jamboree :: 05.23.08 – 05.25.08 :: Deerfields, NC

AmJam 2008
There's no better way to celebrate a long weekend than with a sweet camping festival, and no better way to spend a sweet camping festival than in the lush green peaks and valleys of Asheville, N.C. The Asheville Music Jamboree, a homegrown bluegrass, funk and good ole' Southern rock fest featured the likes of New Orleans natives Dumpstaphunk, husband-and-wife team Larry and Jenny Keel, one man hit parade Keller Williams and a stellar performance by Gov't Mule, whose set on Saturday evening kicked off the band's "Mighty High Summer Tour."

As families and music fans of all ages set up camp around the glorious and very chilly ponds, the body painting and hula-hooping officially began. The beauty and benefits of attending such a small event is that AmJam guests were able to attend virtually every single set due to the fact that there were only two stages. The Main Stage was situated between the local food vendors and hiking trails, and the Pond Stage was literally a stone's throw away. The steep slope of the mountain in front of the small Pond Stage made standing and dancing relatively awkward, but when viewing the band from the back of the stage, across the pond, especially in the evening, it was a tranquil and stunning experience.

Friday

Bela Fleck with the Sparrow Quartet
AmJam 2008
Friday night's highlights commenced with a gritty performance by Bloodkin at the Pond Stage, complete with a slow rendition of the song Widespread Panic made famous, "Can't Get High." That set was quickly followed by Asheville locals Afromotive throwing down lyrical beats on the Main Stage. Saxophonist Jeff Coffin (Bela Fleck and the Flecktones) sat in and complimented the catchy Afrobeats. Ping-ponging back and forth, music fans flocked towards the pond to catch Bela Fleck play with Abigail Washburn's Sparrow Quartet featuring Casey Driessen on violin, Ben Sollee on cello and Washburn singing vocals and wailing on banjo alongside Fleck's picking.

"I like the vibe. I like the loose, relaxed quality of it; it makes you play good, it makes you feel good. I think sometimes the more uptight the gig is, the more uptight you play and I like it better when I'm relaxed. The best musical energy happens when you're feeling really relaxed and open, and [Asheville Music Jamboree] fosters that kind of feeling, so I'm all for it," Fleck said. "I like playing bluegrass festivals where there are lots of acoustic musicians, but I also like being one of the only acoustic musicians. There's a whole wide variety of music here and we're sort of representing that kind of music here in an unconventional way."

Burning Spear's original reggae rhythms summoned the crowd back to the Main Stage a little later in the evening, emitting gentle calypso sounds that tickled the eardrums while also accomplishing a sort of straightforwardness with their lyrics and overall melodies - fun for both parents and children, and boy were there children at AmJam.

The late night shows were comprised of three very high energy performances by Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk, Outformation and RAQ. Dumpstaphunk brought together keyboardist Ivan Neville, bassists Nick Daniels and Tony Hall, drummer Raymond Weber and Ivan's cousin Ian Neville (swoon... gush) on guitar. This funky set preceded Outformation's intense energy as Sam Holt channeled Mike Houser's natural guitar essence through his own solid skills.

Vermont quartet RAQ, known for their innovative blend of progressive rock and psychedelic interplay, was the final late night set on Friday. The band was introduced with an impressive story about one time when they delivered such a powerful set that the headliner they opened for refused to go on, claiming that they simply could not follow such a performance. The band lived up to its legend and brought an energy that riveted and stirred the small crowd of no more than 100 fans into a fist-pumping roar.

Saturday

Matt Abts - Gov't Mule :: AmJam 2008
The Sparrow Quartet held a repeat performance the following day on the Main Stage, sandwiched between gorgeous local bluegrass babes, the Barrel House Mamas, and the gospel and funk-influenced steel band, The Lee Boys from Miami.

Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band's guitarist-songwriter Josh Phillips took the Pond Stage at dusk with his Asheville-based band, The Folk Festival. Phillips' side project seemed to be more focused on simpler forms of folk and bluegrass tunes, which provided a nice segue way into the Keel and McMurry Farms set on the Main Stage. Keel, who is always a down-to-earth musician that straddles the line between traditional and contemporary bluegrass, delivered yet another impeccable show - the first of the two sets he played that weekend.

As Gov't Mule made its way to the Main Stage, a tangible sensation of excitement hung in the air. This set marked the first local (non-Christmas Jam) gig for frontman Warren Haynes since Bele Chere in 2006.

"Performing in the Asheville area is always special," Haynes told the Asheville Citizen-Times. "I'm definitely really happy that the scene has flourished like it has. There's always been a special vibe, musically speaking, in Asheville, and there's always been a scene, though it's much larger now."

The Mule crew was riding high after its respite from the road, and seemed eager to integrate some old favorites with a few new jams that melted faces as the crowd cheered and danced for the entirety of the band's two-and-a-half hour set. The band teased Bob Marley's "Get Up Stand Up" during their mid-set performance of "Play With Fire," and threw in a few "Shakedown Street" chords during "Unring The Bell." As the show neared completion, Keller Williams joined the group to sit in on Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth," which was quickly followed by Haynes' gruff voice belting out Gov't Mule's staple encore, "Soulshine."

BoomBox (a.k.a. DJ Russ Randolph and Zion Godchaux, son of Keith Godchaux and Donna Jean) kicked out the intergalactic space jams as soon as the last Mule note was struck. Strapped with his funky bass and trusty mixer, Godchaux donned his trademark furry pink pimp hat and cranked out a disco-breakin' set. The Jeff Sipe Trio brought Coffin's incredible horn skills back to the stage with a free-flowing format, wiggling in and out of what could only be described as a blend of jazz, funk and techno.

Sunday

Keller Williams :: AmJam 2008
While the local Asheville bands were present throughout the entire weekend, the final day of the festival seemed somewhat reserved for lesser-known bluegrass and Southern rock artists that are native to the small mountain town.

It seemed as if nobody strayed too far from the Main Stage, as most Pond Stage acts were short and easily miss-able. The New Familiars? Not so familiar with them. Delicious? Mmm... perhaps.

Sipe played a full set with the beautiful and talented Shannon Whitworth and The Refugees on Sunday afternoon. Her incredible voice hit each note just right, and her genial attitude and overall gratitude for the audience was quite refreshing.

Former Drive-By Truckers guitarist Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit's sound felt vaguely redundant and was very difficult to get excited about. They kept at a slow but steady rock pace that didn't waver or exhilarate the crowd at any point throughout the set. The question of whether or not they are talented musicians was not the issue, the problem was that at 3 p.m. on Sunday, most folks had already headed home or they were just killing time until Keller Williams' set.

Williams finally took the stage with Larry and Jenny Keel, and blew everyone away with their intricate string fingering. Williams, the ham that he is, kept everyone laughing with humorous cover songs like "Stephen Lynch's Vanilla Ice Cream" and his newly adopted Frank Sinatra voice that he seems to slip into every other song.

When he returned to the Main Stage for his solo set, Williams effectively captured the crowd's attention as he danced and flailed about through songs like "Dear Emily," "Novelty Song," "Best Feeling" and "Cadillac." And, of course, no Williams performance would be complete without a cute sing-along ditty like the one he sang about the secret joint he held in the front pocket of his shirt while moving through airport security.

As the festival came to a close, families took down their tents, food and goods vendors took down their booths and everyone bid a fond farewell to one of the most peaceful, natural and overall inspiring music experiences of this young festival season.

The Afromotive
The Afromotive with Jeff Coffin
Ivan Neville - Dumpstaphunk
Dumpstaphunk
Burning Spear
Burning Spear
Gov't Mule
Keller & The Keels
Larry Keel
Keller Williams
Abigail Washburn
Jason Isbell
The New Familiars
Shane Pruitt Band
RAQ
RAQ
Acoustic Syndicate
Sam Holt - Outformation

JamBase | North Carolina
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[Published on: 5/29/08]

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Comments

stlawrence starstarstarstar Thu 5/29/2008 01:19PM
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Other highlights:

Sol Driven Train at 1 p.m. on the Pond Stage, Saturday, with around 150 people and a packed dance floor. They were absolutely loving it and put on a show that increasingly fed off the energy of the crowd. Probably the "most fun" band of the weekend.

Laura Reed and Deep Pocket at sunset on Saturday. Absolutely surreal - the streamers hanging through the crowd, the settling dusk and excitement, and Reed's indescribable energy made it a pivotal moment of the weekend. Ike Stubblefield on keys was amazing, and they fought through troubles with vocal mics to deliver the most memorable LR & Deep Pocket performance I've ever seen.

Gov't Mule: Didn't they tease "Blue Sky" out of "For What It's Worth?"

James McMurtry on Sunday afternoon: Along with Shannon Whitworth, the highlight of day 3. The man can tell one hell of a story, and his stage demeanor is hilarious. "You can't say F*** on stage man, there's C-H-I-L-D-R-E-N in the audience."

travisncs Thu 5/29/2008 01:58PM
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There was a good crowd for the New Familiars and they put on an amazing set for 2 in the afternoon decked out in their sunday best! They always put their heart into everything they do. Their music ain't half bad either =b

And i second the vote for Laura Reed. I feel bad for anybody that missed her. She owns the sunset timeslot at Deerfields. She makes me feel funny inside!

smokeythedog starstarstarstar Thu 5/29/2008 01:58PM
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Great Review, and a great time by all

Has to be best small venue in the East......First time visiting but definately wont be the last......

moejoerisin Thu 5/29/2008 02:48PM
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moejoerisin

anyone else like that first pic?

PooDolla Thu 5/29/2008 04:52PM
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PooDolla

I think a bird lives in Larry Keel's beard.

BlowsAgainsttheEmpire starstarstarstarstar Thu 5/29/2008 07:35PM
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BlowsAgainsttheEmpire

thanks ian and stephanie. what a great time, great music, great people!

pugs689 Thu 5/29/2008 11:25PM
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stlawrence you are exactly correct. my buddy and I drove from PA to Hilton Head SC on Thursday to see Sol Driven Train Thursday night, then drove up to AmJam solely inspired by Sol Driven Train to attend AmJam. Sol Driven Train is the new band to check out these days. http://www.soldriventrain.com/

peace -BK

jerryskid315 Fri 5/30/2008 02:03AM
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jerryskid315

Mule did tease "Blue Sky" out of "For What It's Worth". I remember turnng to my wife and asking if Warren had Dickey Betts back there too... What a set.

waz1 Fri 5/30/2008 05:49AM
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Laura Reed & Deep Pocket put on a great high energy set. Her last song before GMule came on they had to cut her off cuz set ran too long, so the whole band pretended to play and sing in silence while the crowd booed the dude who cut her off. She did such a good job was hoping gmule could find a song for her to sit in on.

Hope the best little fest can keep it goin next year...

Him starstarstarstarstar Fri 5/30/2008 06:24AM
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Him

Also Deerfields will be hosting TWO other fest this year....

Aug. 8~10 = TRINUMERAL FESTIVAL http://www.trinumeral.com

Oct. 10~12 = LOKI FESTIVAL (website will launch in a few weeks)

jackstraw1984 Fri 5/30/2008 06:54AM
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jackstraw1984

Deerfields is by far the greatest festival grounds in the country, with the exception of Horning's Hideout. I've never had more fun that I have had at AmJam/Smilefest. And now we get two more! That Trinumeral lineup looks ridiculous!

BlowsAgainsttheEmpire starstarstarstarstar Fri 5/30/2008 08:40AM
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BlowsAgainsttheEmpire

damn might have to check out the Loki fest too . . . looking forward to seeing what that lineup may bring.

biged Fri 5/30/2008 10:01AM
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biged

I really liked the first picture

thehurricane23 Fri 5/30/2008 11:40PM
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thehurricane23

Wow I'm stoked to see the AMJAM get some coverage. I was getting ready to post on here and see if anyone checked out Shane Pruitt on Sunday. I was even more surprised to see his pic on here, I know some people who'll be real excited, go Spartanburg!!

Kindskatz Sat 5/31/2008 12:18PM
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Kindskatz

i just want to know how the reviewer here reviewed Am Jam and didn't even mention Laura Reed & Deep Pocket?!?

They by far pulled the biggest crowd of SAT at the Pond Stage and stole the festival IMHO...

wake up JamBase!

bkone1 Sat 5/31/2008 06:46PM
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There is no mention of one of the best acts of the weekend....JAMIE MCLEAN!!! His set was awesome!

BooneRes Sun 6/1/2008 10:09AM
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BooneRes

Jackstraw- How would you know its "by far" the best festival venue in the country besides Hornings????? Have you ever been to Hornings? Nelson Ledges and Sunshine Daydream are just as cool, and sunshine daydreams has way better scenic views and such. The beach at the ledges and the 10-15ft cliffs u can jump off of are pretty cool as well, along with the weather in the summer which is great! Don't get me wrong Deerfields is great but you are wrong there buddy.

overall Mon 6/2/2008 02:12PM
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overall

James McMurtry killed on Sunday. His wry wit and brutal honesty dripped from his lips as thickly as the ugly, gritty Texas blues licks did from his guitar. I can only assume that fair Stephanie did little but pack her tent and eat a veggie burrito between Isbell's set and that of Keller & the Keels.

But that's what you get when your editorial content is left up to volunteer writers.

BooneRes Mon 6/2/2008 03:00PM
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BooneRes

I know one thing overall, she definately didn't pack her tent til monday! andddddd you have to take a break sometime man and when somebody you have never heard of is playing some people might just take the opportunity to do so. and i for one have never heard of him, ill have to check him out sometime. but complaining about a artist a lot of people haven't heard of not getting reviewed is kinda funny!

heatherclb1 starstarstarstarstar Mon 6/2/2008 07:05PM
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heatherclb1

Hey hurricane Amjam did wonders for Shane Pruitt & his band... We saw him out in Sparkle City on the Monday after Amjam... He said promoters have him booked up... and he's on the lineup for Loki... rumor has it, he may be sitting in w/ Porter... ;)

Everyone here's stoked!!!!

luvly life Tue 6/3/2008 10:08PM
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That 1st pic is so hot. BoomBox was so fun, and I think Zion in BoomBox plays a guitar....love the AMJAM love.

bcbishop2003 starstarstarstarstar Wed 6/4/2008 05:01AM
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Man, I would LOVE to get a copy of Mule's Saturday night show, can anyone help?????

Bishop

willysjeep Sun 6/15/2008 05:35PM
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I just saw the lineup for Loki Festival and it looks amazing. Huge superjam shows and lots of sit ins are planned with great names. they started selling tickets today and the first few are only $85!!!! i am getting mine now. lokifestival.com