Amberland IX | 05.23 - 05.25 | Georgia

Words by: Brian Bavosa | Images by: Brad Kuntz

Amberland IX :: 05.23.08 - 05.25.08 :: Cherokee Farms :: Lafayette, GA


Matt McDonald - PGroove :: Amberland 2008
Memorial Day Weekend is a time to reflect on and remember those that have served our country bravely. It has also become one hell of a great weekend to see some live music. This year found me back at Cherokee Farms in Lafayette, GA for the ninth installment of Perpetual Groove's Amberland. The second straight year at this locale, these performances were bittersweet as they represented the final gigs for keyboard player – and former U.S. Army veteran – Matt McDonald.

What started as a small gathering in a backyard has grown to a large production built on the impeccable sound of engineers Patrick Kinkade and Newton Carter and the retina-blinding, seizure-inducing lights of Jason Huffer. But, at the forefront lies the band themselves – Brock Butler (guitar, vocals), Adam Perry (bass), Albert Suttle (drums) and McDonald – who, with the exception of a few guests, owned the spotlight for twenty-plus hours of music over three days and very enjoyable nights.

They'll Take You There

The true beauty of this fest is in the casual atmosphere, from all angles, sides and perspectives. A loose schedule, a band that mingles openly every chance it gets and some straight up, Southern hospitality make this weekend exceedingly comfortable. Friday night was the perfect example. Opening on a side stage set under a round, white tent, Butler and company tore through some of their lesser-played tunes, but ones that McDonald helped define in their sound's evolution, adding to the catalog back in the early part of the decade when he and Suttle joined the band after the Army. Kicking off with "Perihelion" and "Andromeda," longtime fan favorites and tunes from the early bowels of the band's repertoire, the weekend gave early signs of showcasing the seven years McDonald poured into PGroove, including the first of many appearances over the weekend by Adam's brother, Damien Perry (Red Giant) on guitar. The band also welcomed Travis Cline (Captain Soularcat) on drums, and tore through choice covers of "I'll Take You There" and the first offering of Rage Against the Machine's "Bulls On Parade" in over a year, setting the bar high and welcoming all to "Amberland: Not just a place, but a state of mind."

Diamonds on the Soles of Their Souls

Brock Butler - PGroove :: Amberland 2008
One thing about PGroove that has drawn so many to them over the years is their unique sound. They don't try to emulate any other band, and have truly coined something uniquely their own. From Butler's honest vocals, to the knob twisting sonics of McDonald's rig, to Suttle's unrealized talent of making double and triple time seem easy, to Perry's rock steady, never flashy bass, this band has developed into a true force to be reckoned with – in any genre. Mix in the aforementioned sound and light crew, and the results are absolutely delicious, with Amberland being the annual pinnacle of it all.

The afternoon set saw PGroove focus on many lighter numbers, including an opening "For Now Forget" and a spot-on rendition Paul Simon's "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes," where Butler shined brighter than the heels Simon once sang of. After a few hour break, the band returned where it left off with a stirring rendition of the amazing composition "Decepticon Structure," and the poignant "So Much As Goodbye," which had Butler's pedal steel licks foreshadowing the tears that would be wept only a day later. The second set closed with the one-two punch of "Crapshoot" and "Occam's Blazer" which displayed the darkness this band is capable of conjuring, especially in the wooded area the stage was placed this year. Along with a more intimate feel and natural amphitheater look than in past years, it allowed Huffer a palette to paint his lights on that was nothing short of mind-blowing.

The third set featured Damien on the opening "Speed Queen" and "Echo," juxtaposing the darkest and friendliest sides of their catalog, and was preceded by Butler saying that this was the way the festival was supposed to end last year, before it was shut down by the police for a noise ordinance violation. After a freestyle "Macumba" and huge but slightly rushed "Teakwood Betz," the band took a breather before heading back over to the tent stage for an extremely intimate, "in-the-round," stripped-down setup.

Old McDonald Had A Turntable

Matt McDonald - PGroove :: Amberland 2008
McDonald offered a potential look into his future endeavors by treating us to a debut set from his Mac computer. Speaking to McDonald afterwards, he informed me that his hard drive crashed the day before Amberland and he'd had to completely redo this on the fly. It can now be downloaded as a gift from him here. That being said, the dance beats and reworked Nine Inch Nails was twice as good, under the circumstances.

The band then joined their mate for what was probably my favorite portion of the weekend. Spanning STS9's "Breathe In," The Disco Biscuits' "Home Again," The Sopranos theme and closed out by one of the greatest anthem's ever written, The Talking Heads' "This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody)," PGroove again treated fans, while showing everyone that they were indeed multi-talented and extremely imaginative.

Brockfast In Bed

Arguably the most enjoyable part of any Amberland is the Sunday morning "Brockfast," which features superstar-to-be, Butler, offering his solo act. With vocals and songs that are as light as the air, sprinkled with a touch of comic relief and a few old friends, Butler makes it easy to climb out of your tent and ease your hangover. Opening with "Graceland," the tile cut from an album that Butler has previously told me changed his life, the 700 or so fans in attendance began making their way over to sprawl out in the grass, plop down in chairs or snuggle under the shade of a tree by the main stage. It is also such a friendly atmosphere because, besides the music, almost everyone at Amberland knows each other through the band's message board, Talking In Place.

The set featured friends Ayinde Bryant on bass for a few numbers, including "Under African Skies" and Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice," while Brian Rivercomb, a former bandmate of Butler's from his high school band, The Corporate Sugardaddies, also shared the stage for one of their old tunes, "Sometimes."

Around 4 p.m., PGroove reemerged with another mid-day set that offered tunes that again, seemed to fit the daytime perfectly. Numbers such as the rare "53 Things To Do in Zero Gravity" and the emotionally charged "Tu Seven" and "La Casa Bien" leaked the first hints that Sunday would not only be a celebration but also a farewell to a good friend.

I'll See You On The Dark Side of the Pig

Damien Perry with PGroove :: Amberland 2008
Just when this journalist thought he had seen everything, I am reminded that my home in NYC is a far cry from Georgia. A genuine pig roast by Mark "Uncledaddy" Day, the patron who held the first Amberland on his property, showed that Southerners do some good eating. All I can say is, it's a sight to behold, especially after Uncledaddy fired up the chainsaw to "prepare" the pig at 5 a.m. the night before, signaling my bedtime, more out of fear than weariness.

As darkness fell, and the moon rose, PGroove delivered another giant surprise with a complete set of Pink Floyd tunes, featuring the shredding madman, Damien. "Mother," "Obscured By Clouds," "Have A Cigar" and "Brain Damage/Eclipse" transported us to the Dark Side of the Moon in anticipation for the final taste of this year's fest. This set wins the award for biggest, darkest, loudest shred-fest of the weekend, hands down. It was nasty.

The Last Robot Waltz

As McDonald and company took the stage for their final set together, they ran through such new numbers as "Gorilla Monsoon" and "Wasted Endeavors," while showcasing some of the true jam-monsters that have come to define the band, "Playground" and "Aim." I must give credit to the band for keeping the vibe very loose and happy all weekend, even through this set.

Perpetual Groove :: Amberland 2008
The final set easily topped two hours, and concluded with a funky "TTFPJ," complete with a life-size cut out of Sarah Michelle Geller/Buffy the Vampire Slayer onstage for the line, "Banging Buffy's Muff," an original lyric often replaced nowadays. Even in the face of change, the band kept their sense of humor while nailing one of their hottest numbers.

However, anyone who attended or will hear this Amberland will forever remember the encore. A powerful "Mr. Transistor" was followed by the debut of Modest Mouse's "Float On," where McDonald's vocals seemed to ring through my brain as he hollered the lines:

And we'll all float on alright
Already we'll all float on
Alright, don't worry even if things end up a bit too heavy
We'll all float on alright

"Sweet Oblivious Antidote" - arguably the most emotional, heartfelt and meaningful song in the band's catalog, and the first album with McDonald - gave the departing keyboardist center stage. During an extended piano solo in the middle section, McDonald was visibly moved, and when the song was over he simply reached out and held the hand of his brother for the past seven years. The final song was "Robot Waltz," which has been – and always will always be – characterized by McDonald's karate chop keys. It was one of the craziest, most-inspired versions I've ever heard, complete with the band offering their patented rock horns/hands in the air climax. It was a fitting way for McDonald to waltz away from Perpetual Groove, having left it all on the stage.

Brock Butler
Albert Suttle
Damien Perry with PGroove
Damien Perry
Adam Perry
Brock Butler
Brock Butler
Brock Butler
Matt McDonald
Adam Perry Adam Perry & Matt McDonald Brockfast Brockfast Brock Butler Damien Perry Matt McDonald Matt McDonald Matt McDonald Perpetual Groove Matt McDonald

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[Published on: 6/2/08]

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Comments

RothburyWithCheese starstarstarstarstar Mon 6/2/2008 03:12PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

RothburyWithCheese

PGroove is great. Good luck Matt. See the rest of you at rothbury.

toestothenose starstarstarstar Mon 6/2/2008 03:15PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

toestothenose

Brain and Matt - very nice send off for Matt McDonald!

id rather be phishing Mon 6/2/2008 03:33PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

id rather be phishing

what are they going to do about the line of festies they have coming up? any word on new keys or they just going to rock out with the trio?

id rather be phishing Mon 6/2/2008 03:34PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

id rather be phishing

....wasnt he basically their sound? cant imagine no keys.

tourfan starstarstarstarstar Mon 6/2/2008 03:37PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I've personally made it to 5 Amberland fests, haveing spent some formative years in GA with PG. While I was unable to attend this year due to financial reasons, ss a festi veteran, I can tell you this; Amberland is one of the finest, most well produced events in the country. Pgroove is indeed one of the best acts out there. I am sorry I couldn't make it this year, matt has my blessings for his families future. Double B's words and BK's images never fail to bring out the best of Amberland.

redredwine starstarstarstarstar Mon 6/2/2008 04:13PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

PGroove is a great band. there are probably so many people who are going to

chime in here with 'hate' for these guys (a reason why I rarely post on

here anymore....TOO MUCH NEGATIVITY IN GENERAL). I've been a jamband fan

for nearly 20 years, and the hatred that goes on here disgusts me. They

obviously have a fanbase for a reason. This my band is better than your

band crap is so weak.

I didn't get to go to Amberland, but

have seen the band before and had a great time. Good luck to Matt and the

rest of the band.

CHEERS

SOAM84 Mon 6/2/2008 04:22PM
Show -11 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
Grateful Dread Mon 6/2/2008 05:29PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Grateful Dread

Nice pics....Hot frisbee throwing chick and Hal the Broken Clown!! This looks like it must have been a great time.

FreshFlavor starstarstarstarstar Mon 6/2/2008 08:07PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

FreshFlavor

Excellent article. Also really enjoyed those pictures. Brock Star is a bad ass on guitar for sure...but yeah keys is gonna hurt them. I hope they have a solid player to slide in...great to hear Amberland was such a great time.

thadbosetti Mon 6/2/2008 09:00PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

thadbosetti

Definitely a cool band to see once or twice a year. The word on the street in Columbus is that John Hruby from The Ruins and formerly of GUEST may take the reins. THAT WOULD BE AMAZING! Hruby is so damn talented. Not that McDonald wasn't but can anyone say Ying Yang Twinz USA (United States of Atlanta)? Yeah ..................That would be a great addition to what is already a decent band. I like to fluff GUEST so.......... (When is the Next GUESTivus?)

theragman Tue 6/3/2008 03:09AM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

there's been a fair amount of T&A on Jambase recently

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Tue 6/3/2008 03:44AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

it was fantastic. they twisted some of their tunes up so much I thought my head would explode. at times I said out loud to myself, I hope this song never ends..........

occams blazer was one of those, it was only 22 minutes long :P

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Tue 6/3/2008 03:45AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

sickness. real and total sickness. best I have ever heard them play.

Triggin starstarstarstarstar Tue 6/3/2008 05:21AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

its hard to put into words the true experience of this festi. so laid back and fun, with alot of entertainment. the carni tent was setup very nice and super cool vibe there, in the middle of a huge field and the main stage was even better. huffers lights WOW. the band put it all on the table for this one, i have never seen them play better. truely at the top of their game.

blackheel Tue 6/3/2008 06:33AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Brock, Albert, Adam, Matt, anyone...if you can hear me, please post soundboard of this show. Or release it for purchase. Couldn't make it this year because of stuff but I need this. Also, timmmmaahhhh.

jamtort starstarstarstarstar Tue 6/3/2008 07:16AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Once again great Article B and also great pictures Brad... This was such an incredible weekend, just like it is every year. But, this year was extra special. The total layout was dead on with a whole different feel then any other festival I been too.

I want to thank the guys in Band, the staff and volunteers for everything and knowing them and how much they bust their ass to make sure things like this go over as best as possible...

As for their music from Amberland you can find it all on Archive.org and just search Perpetual Groove or find the links on the Bands Message board. I am sure you’ll love the sound of these Recordings thanks to Joel and his excellent mixing on the fly while using a patch and Aud. mics... great job as always....

It’s really hard to see Matt leaving, but I know his futures endeavors will be full of greatness and the Band will push on... I am sure the band will find the right fit to take Matt’s place; But Matt will always be in soul of these fans...

I saw them play as a trio the night after Matt made his decision and they really did a great job... I am sure the band is working hard figuring everything out... In-between some of their Southern side project gigs...

Thanks again Matt for everything....

BillyJack Tue 6/3/2008 09:29AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

BillyJack

I'm always pleasantly surprised by this band. Looking forward to seeing them @ Trinumeral. SO stoked for Trinumeral this year.

"there's been a fair amount of T&A on Jambase recently"

Cheers to that.

akeay starstarstarstarstar Tue 6/3/2008 12:56PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

akeay

Check out the Sweet Oblivious Antidote

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOAsoGPCrew&feature=related

robbot Tue 6/3/2008 01:44PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

WAR EAGLE

Muffinman1 Tue 6/3/2008 02:20PM
+5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Muffinman1

How could you concentrate on any music with a babe like that throwing frisbees around. I vote for at least 3 pics of nice looking girls for every festie review. I love hot chicks!

headySetList starstarstar Tue 6/3/2008 02:41PM
Show -3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
boxofrain Tue 6/3/2008 02:47PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Tell em Muffinman1!! more hott chicks

chuckg Wed 6/4/2008 07:14AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Great review as usual Brian, makes it feel like we were there for those of use that couldn't make it...thanks.

twain starstarstarstarstar Wed 6/4/2008 12:35PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

LONGLIVEP-GROOVE!

tay1222 Fri 6/6/2008 02:02AM
-1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Great Pics! i heard it was an awesome time. but on a side note i cant believe that jamebase didnt do a show review over STS9s 2 night run in Holllywood. Shit was Epic and jambase is weak as hell for not covering that throw down. Pgroove good luck w/ the trio but sector9 is melting faces right now...

Lord_Nikon starstarstarstarstar Fri 6/6/2008 03:55AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Lord_Nikon

Great write up and great photos of a great band on the cusp of a transition. Cheers.

kider54 starstarstarstarstar Sat 6/7/2008 03:22AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I agree with you guys no doubt, Brad, great shots. Billy Jack, Tri-numeral is gonna be siiick. The amberland that was at deerfields was some oof the best p-groove I've ever seen, and Nikon, nice shameless promo on your boy(J/K). Hope you all are well. BTW, this is Kenny, peace.