All Good | 07.11 - 07.13 | West Virginia

Words & Images by: Jake Krolick | Words by: Dave "Digger" Minnick | Images by: Robert Massie

All Good Festival :: 07.11.08 – 07.13.08 :: Marvin's Mountaintop :: Masontown, WV

Thursday

All Good 2008 by Krolick
Travel back in time to 1954. Up on a rolling hillside overlooking Masontown, a young Marvin Huggins lay looking out over the hills. As he pondered the vast world around him, he whistled a tune. The simple music made him smile, and from that moment on Marvin's Mountaintop became hungry for more music. It's now 2008, and at the 12th annual All Good Festival life on the mountain sure has come a long way. All Good has become an annual exploration of who we are and a much needed soul cleansing. Five years have passed since our first trek to Marvin's and on a day filled with wispy clouds, hawks soaring and music playing all around us, we could see the mountain smiling.

We sat back at our campsite, watching car after car roll into All Good. The trip into the venue made the wait worthwhile as we raced a solar circle rainbow that blazed overhead. The day departed into a deep, lavishly purple sunset. The anticipation that prodded our minds had fallen into oblivion and the process of shedding the world's cares kicked our feet up into a groovy saunter. Unlike hotels, walls don't block your neighbor's face here. The festival atmosphere makes for instant bonds from something as simple as a smile or sharing a laugh after sticking one's neighbor with a floppy tent pole. The place you camp is a human crapshoot with the wildest odds. This year we were surrounded by a crew of old Widespread Panic fans from Nashville who happened to know two close friends from our extended family. Festivals are the smallest of worlds. En route up the hill to see Perpetual Groove you could feel the heavy wetness in the air. The fog had fallen upon us before Masontown's infamous Hot Spots had received their first ten patrons.

Perpetual Groove's set sold the weekend in the first hour. You know it's on when Brock Butler tilts his head to the side and starts growling into the microphone. Two to three thousand early escape artists bounced to PGroove's new edition, John Hruby, whose fluid keyboard style and furious bouncing fingers stoked the embers of "Sundog" into "Teakwood Betz." The light show for Perpetual Groove would go down as the best that the Ropeadope Stage had seen yet, as spirals of color wrapped around each member. Outside of the Ropeadope arena, fireworks were landing their own explosive punches from all sides of the campground.

Joe Russo - The Join by Massie
Marvin's Mountain has its own network of streets and All Good Avenue jutted right through the center forming a half-mile shakedown street that rivaled any Turkish bazaar. Like other festivals, the energy on the first evening was splendid. All Good just happens to be small enough that anywhere you walk you're bound to recognize a face or a friend. It's hard to adapt fast enough to festival life. There's a layer or two you need to peel before your walk matches the music and your pace slows to festival time. The Brazilian Girls show sure helped as Sabina Sciubba sang "Losing Myself," swaying and kicking like some wild, curvy beast caught in a snare. Her short opaque Moomoo (think Bjork's swan digs) and electro-tango of seduction kept the crowd moving with barely a skip in the action. The show officially went nuts when she jumped into the pit to yank a horny Italian boy over the rail to snag a smooch. With the music cranked up, the lower equator dance party let loose.

Way up on the hill overlooking the main stage sat the new Skybar Lounge. Next to it, the All Good sign flashed its "All Good" message for everyone to see. Below it lay the latest incarnation of the main gate, a triple pagoda style entrance lit with colored lights. The first of several sound problems plagued The Join. After a half-hour of issues, dual drumming machines Darren Shearer and Joe Russo split the hill in two with their kung-fu punches of power. Throughout the performance, Shearer busted out on beatbox, linking up with Marco Benevento and Jamie Shields (The New Deal) for a run of golden sonic funk. Benevento worked the bounce as Shields banged out the chords. Around them drifted tubes of white, yellow and blue spiraling lights. From back in the crowd the first emergence of the green lasers blasted beams of light up to the stage. They would become commonplace for the rest of the weekend, finding their way onto the strangest of places and highlighting the best and worst antics. In typical West Virginia Mountainside form, heavy fog rolled in across the valleys to tuck the whole mountain in for several hours of dreamy sleep before the first full day's festivities. And the fireworks blasted on all around us well into the Friday's dawn.

Friday

Chris Wood by Massie
With the sun high overhead nestled in a blue sky, we made our way to the All Good Stage for Friday's opening set by the Wood Brothers. Oliver Wood's long, rubbery fingers transitioned effortlessly up and down the guitar neck. Chris Wood, on stand-up bass, stood to Oliver's right spiritedly thumping away. The brothers warmed up the crowd by suggesting that we all give it just "One More Day." This up-beat gospel number was followed by "Luckiest Man," both songs from their spectacular 2006 release, Ways Not To Lose. Climbing up into the pulpit, the brothers continued their sermon with "Pray Enough," as Oliver slung the vocals up to the heavens. Side-by-side and in total control of these songs, the Woods energized the ever-expanding crowd with their passion and keen musicianship. This was an almost too-perfect set to start the day.

Following the Wood Brothers, we trekked up to the Ropeadope Stage for a big spoonful of "Jersedelphia" funk compliments of The Blue Method. This five-piece powerhouse showed us their chops with an enthusiastic set. We were excited to see this band make their first, and hopefully not last, appearance at All Good. Lead singer Brian Williams led the band through a heart-racing set. Saxophone prodigy Tom Long was showcased throughout the set as the whole band played ambitiously with great reverence. Pink Floyd's "Have A Cigar" was their first cover, much to the delight of the few hundred attendees. The Blue Method closed with Van Morrison's "Caravan," highlighting a strong gig that left many winded and satisfied.

Back at the All Good Stage, The Avett Brothers were already into their set. Dazzling the crowd, this acoustic group played fast and hard, resurrecting the sounds of days gone by with a contemporary twist. There were moments where we felt as if we were sippin' whiskey at Al Swearengen's bar in Deadwood. We wondered what era we had slipped into when we spotted an Allen Ginsburg look-alike wearing an Obama t-shirt standing indiscreetly in the shadows of the soundboard tent. He sang along with the audience as they lifted their arms and raised their voices, culminating in one giant group mantra following the performance. Amidst rousing applause, the Avetts welcomed their friends Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band to the Magic Hat Stage. The Reverend and his washboard compatriot roughed us up and beat down our legs as they continued the raucous old-time sounds.

Grace Potter by Massie
For the third consecutive year, Grace Potter brought her dynamic voice, sex appeal and The Nocturnals to All Good. After a much talked about set on the Magic Hat Stage in 2006 and their follow-up performances on the main stage in 2007, we awaited this moment with great anticipation. Precisely honed, blues infused rock joined with Potter's powerful voice and delivery made it plain to see why these cats have risen up the ranks so quickly. Following the intro, Potter went into the kitchen, pulling out all of the parts to whip up a pinpoint "Mastermind." Guitarist Scott Tournet made sure all of the parts were evenly measured, and together with master chefs Bryan Dondero (bass) and Matt Burr (drums) they concocted one fine dish. The band followed up with "Ain't No Time" showcasing Potter's range. Answering the crowd's fervor, Potter paused to thank everyone and said, "I'm not shittin' ya, we're really happy to be here!" Wearing a short skirt, Potter slid over onto the bench parallel to the stage, thighs squeezed tightly together. Facing the sweaty, flushed-faced crowd, the band began "Stop The Bus." Leaping up from her piano, Potter grabbed her axe and took center stage. Side-by-side with Tournet, the two traded off licks, taking that bus down to those hot spots at the end of the road. "Ashes to Ashes" ensued followed by a heartfelt reading of "Apologies." At last, Potter cooled us all down, closing the set with "Nothing But The Water."

John Scofield - MSMW by Massie
Festival MC Vince Herman bellowed his "fes-ti-vaaaal" cry as he introduced the All Mighty Senators. Clad in a pink suit, white rimmed bug shades and a brown bowler, frontman and drummer Landis Expandis dispatched his bleary-eyed clan of freaky, funked-up warriors. They owned the stage like it was the UFO they rode in on. Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, the All Mighty Senators threw down the thunderous funk rhythms that have made them an institution amongst fans. They took it all off with "Clothes On" and then did it "Funky Style." Deep into their set, the time came for crowd participation. Landis led everyone through a wacky "Hokey Pokey." Following this innovative set of music, we took the advice of lead guitarist Warren Boes, who said, "When it's hot outside and you drink a beer, make sure you drink another beer."

On the main stage legendary jazz guitarist John Scofield made final preparations to join Medeski Martin & Wood for their 7:45 set. Scofield entered the set as if it were a high wire act, rocking in every direction as he searched for balance between the notes. Bassist Chris Wood secured the wire with every pounding bass thump. Quickly extending the long pole, Billy Martin laid down a balancing beat. John Medeski acted as a butterfly fluttering around Scofield's head as he meticulously crept the keys forward. Highlighted by expert musicianship and noteworthy improvisation, Medeski Scofield Martin and Wood played a banner set, summoning the sun to rest.

As night fell, Lettuce took the Magic Hat stage. Led by guitarist Eric Krasno, this seven-piece unit of acclaimed musicians catered to the dancing crowd as they offered their own slice of funk. So proficient and powerful, Lettuce are true champions of the stage and should be considered for future late night sets.

Phil Lesh by Massie
Back at the All Good Stage, we marveled as Phil Lesh, under the guidance of John Scofield in the wings, made ready his new bass. Jackie Greene lit up one last smoke before the band went on. Under the bright lights Phil Lesh & Friends opened their set with "Feel Like A Stranger." Following a short segue jam, Teresa Williams joined the band as they played "Till the Morning Comes." The first set meandered on with sing-along ballad "Ripple," again with Williams on vocals. The first set wrapped up with "Gone Wanderin'" > "Jam" > "GDTRFB." Following the set break, the band came back on and opened Set Two with a little more hop in their step as they picked up the pace covering The Beatles' "Revolution." Keyboardist Steve Molitz got his turn to press the buttons, blasting off with Particle's "Launchpad," a highlight that delighted the masses. The set sputtered along and finished with "Brokedown Palace," which only left the hungry crowd wanting more.

Up the road a piece sat a tasty little joint that sold perhaps the best food going at All Good. This year's Anthony Bourdain award goes to (drum roll please) the pesto mozzadilla! I more affectionately refer to them as "The Clogger" for reasons best left unspoken. Thank you to all the fine vendors who braved the heat to cook so many fine things to eat!

After a brief delay to work out some technical difficulties, Warren Haynes was in a crooner's mood for Gov't Mule's late night set. After a rockin' "Thorazine Shuffle" and "No Quarter," Haynes wound us through a triple treat of U2's "One", The Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses" and Radiohead's "Creep." For the encore, Mr. Haynes threw us for a loop and gave us what we affectionately will refer to as a comfortable shine. He started the encore with "Comfortably Numb," which sneakily segued into a heart-warming version of "Soulshine."

Saturday

All Good 2008 by Krolick
Saturday morning hit like a Mack truck, especially after tipping back swigs from the XXX Mason jars becoming a fast favorite in the hill country. After stumbling into a port-a-potty and gagging before having to catch a breath outside, the day was ready to be seized. Besides the hangovers, Saturday really only had two downfalls: a sun that left many with a lobster face and not one decent cup of coffee on the festival grounds. Otherwise, Saturday was about as perfect a day of music as you could ever find.

Eric Lindell may have traveled from Northern California, but his music came from New Orleans. The roots rocker hit us fairly hard as he punished his morning wood out in the sun for all to see. His soul puffed version of Elliot Ingbar's "Don't Bogart that Joint" helped the crowd twist and shake as his combination of sweet, blue-eyed soul laced with foot-stomping swamp won over the groggy crowd.

It's rare that we're pulled to drinking before the sun is far overhead, but mid-way into Outformation set it was all we could do. We sat back and drank while reminiscing about '97 era Widespread Panic with longtime Panic lover, JamBase scribe and Honest Tune founder Tom Speed. Cheers to Sam Holt who put on a clinic of lingering lead guitar play. One could only hope that this special style is passed on to many more generations. Their set finished with the massive segue of "Faded Memory" > "Titles Of Movies Will Not Appear On Bill" > "Into My Arms." Fast on Holt's heals was CR Gruver whose keyboard work kept everything as hot as the sun. Each keystroke was beaten into the ivories and more than one Panic fan lamented about the John "JoJo" Herman of years past. Holding together the fold was Jeff "Birddog" Lane, whose percussion abilities dotted all the "i's" and crossed all the "t's." He beat out whatever cobwebs were left in our heads. The set ended with a cover of Charley Daniels' "Sweet Louisiana."

Sam Holt - Outformation by Krolick
Marvin's bowl was fast become a hard place to handle. As temps cranked up close to 90, it was a challenge to stand out in the sun as it baked the brain and boiled the eyes. But, hippies are some of the most creative engineers I've ever encountered. From utilizing the obvious chain link fence for makeshift lean-tos to using duct tape, tarps and sticks to make massive umbrellas, the charred masses managed to survive the hottest part of the afternoon. Laying down the jams for the human BBQ was Hot Buttered Rum. Nat Keefe and Bryan Horne smoothed out the sound with strong vocals and upright bass work. The California crew pulled out a drifting, lazy set that covered a lot of ground. It featured the Grateful Dead's "Cumberland Blues," "Dessert Rat" and a frothy "3.2 Beer."

Next door, the Magic Hat was abuzz with All Good's best sons, The Bridge, who were ready to jam it out for a great cause, the Rex Foundation. After a short speech about the Foundation and all the great work they do, The Bridge dove through two songs finishing with a Cris Jacob's led "Brotha Don't" that pulled the crowd from their shaded seats to the front of the stage.

Trevor Garrod - TLG by Massie
This was many folks first time seeing Reed Mathis play with Tea Leaf Green, myself included. Good Lord!!! Mathis continues on his path of godliness as he ascends the ranks on his way to the top of ballin' bass players. Beads of sweat rolled down Josh Clark's face as he dug in deep during "The Garden (Part I)." But, it was resident escaped lunatic Mathis who ripped a jam out mid-song that made the crowd scream. Mathis struck again as he tromped in wagging his shaggy head through "Georgie P." and into a cover of The Door's "Five to One." The sweat ran down many a female thigh as Clark pushed out a super raunchy, raw rendition of the famous song. He growled the line, "They got the guns but we got the numbers," and softly slid into "get together one more time," as Trevor Garrod hammered on the keys and steered them back into "Georgie P." This show sent a clear message that Mathis will only continue to make them better as the rest of the band rises up to his playing abilities.

Thankfully the Magic Hat folks were cool and we found refuge under their tent as the sun scorched us with no relief in sight. Enter Mike Gordon with one of many fitting intros from the unofficial mayor of the mountain, Vince Herman: "Do you know what time it is All Good? That's right, it's 4:20. Smoke 'em if you got 'em!" Gordon's new five-piece includes longtime collaborator Scott Murawski on guitar, Vermont's own Craig Myers on percussion, Tom Cleary on keyboards and Brooklyn drummer Todd Isler. The band was tight from the get- go with Murawski just destroying his guitar. Gordon debuted a new song called "Radar Blip" from his upcoming album, Green Sparrow, by trying a bit of an experiment. As he put it, he had a dream that he wanted to test out, so every time he signaled the crowd they would raise an arm, left for one instrument, right for another. The song started with potential and built to an interesting drum/bass jam, but many lost interest in doing anything under the hot sun. The set ended with a decent version of "Meat" that let Mike wander through the low end in an oddball romp before a wonderful, up-beat rendition of The Beatles' "She Said, She Said."

Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi by Krolick
There's an expression used in West Virginia about how the family trees there go straight up. Perhaps that's a bit of an overstatement, but Saturday's talent was as closely connected/related as it gets, and if any group was to be in the center of that family it would have to be the Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi Soul Stew Revival. Their hour-plus set was one of the weekend's best, and it sure didn't hurt to have the clouds move in to cool things off. The band that Trucks and Tedeschi put together is phenomenal, and to confirm that, the side stage was packed with almost every other artist in attendance. The chemistry between Trucks and Tedeschi was so much fun to watch. Each had a distinctly different stage personality yet the two complimented each other and the rest of the band, too. Tedeschi's guitar loved to run around the stage, outgoing and excited, while Trucks sat back and waited, finding opportune moments to cast in his line and yank out a smoldering wail. Things heated up during an extended intro to "Get Outta My Life - Glad 'Yer Gone," where Kofi Burbridge flexed his funky keystrokes. The double drums of Yonrico Scott and Apt Q258 pounded against the dragons that flanked either side of the main stage, making them appear to breathe. Just when we thought it couldn't get any better, out stepped Jimmy Herring, axe in hand, ready to chop wood. He walked around with a wide smile before settling in as if he'd just pulled up a seat at the family picnic table. The interplay between Herring and Trucks was the stuff of dreams. He stayed onstage for an icy "Don't Cry No More" and "Hey Jude" that gave us a glimpse of Tedeschi's vocal prowess as she unleashed her throaty Lovelace soul. The stew was at a full boil as they finished their set with a feisty version of The Band's "The Weight."

Pnuma by Massie
After a young Philly crew called The Hustle tossed out a little stylized Illadelph hip-hop flavor, the Pnuma Quartet turned out to be the mystery set. They did a little J Dilla tribute and eased the hilltop into the evening with impressive chops, especially when it came to the sheer force of Lane Shaw's drumming and Ben Hazelgrove's sound combinations. As far as electronic bands go, Pnuma has the closet thing going to pure hip-hop.

Back down on the Magic Hat Stage, Bassnectar warmed up the crowd with a soft start to the evening. The glowing crowd pulled some energy from him by creating a short-lived, but monstrous in volume, glow stick war. The hillside would glow for the rest of the evening as the masses descended from their outposts around the hills to see the six- headed Georgia-made monster known as Widespread Panic.

It was time for Panic fans to dust off their boots, bust out their old beat-up cowboy hats and party like there was no tomorrow. The mountainous setting was an ideal location for Widespread Panic and it was a wonder why they hadn't played here sooner. For waiting patiently over the years, we were paid back in full with smiles on Dave Schools' face, classic quotes rolling off John Bell's tongue and a three hour set with no breaks. Early highlights were purely guest related as Trucks, Tedeschi and Yonrico Scott joined the table for an extremely loose, flowing "Angels On High" that sent shudders through the crowd. Trucks stayed for a second helping as he branded "Ribs and Whiskey" with his signature slide licks. His electric blues would wail in our brains long after the marathon set had ended. John Bell added his "JBism" as he thanked Trucks, saying, "On the notes between the notes, Mr. Derek Trucks!" The jamming continued as JB did a little boot scoot towards Jimmy Herring before Herring bore down on his axe. His face was all business as his gray brows bit into the corners of his eyes.

Ortiz & Schools - WSP by Krolick
John "JoJo" Herman rode the wave of "Pilgrims" right into a fast, clean "Ride Me High." There in the middle, Schools and Herring locked up to battle through a mescaline fueled bounce. JoJo saved his keyboard karate for the intro of "Henry Parsons Died," as he lead the band in with a dark, dirty, tweaked version of the carousel music you'd likely hear at the county fair. The band bit on what Herman was fishing and killed "Henry Parsons" until he was dead and buried deep below the mountain. JB crooned to us once more before the hillside was blasted with the thundering waltz of "Going Out West." It had been a year since I'd last seen the band and for the first time in a long while I was glued to the stage and felt there was no other place I'd rather be.

Saturday night was fast becoming a wet dream in the making as late night heroes The Bridge took the Magic Hat Stage for their fourth time in five years. This year they had brought their families along for the ride. What perfect timing that was because on the fifth song Mike Gordon stepped out and snagged Dave Markowitz's Fender bass to sit in on the last two-thirds of "Bad Locomotive." His guest spot was amazing not just because he's "Mike" but because the band was clicking and Gordon was feeling it. Behind him was an orange jumpsuit clad painter deep into a dark political piece that said "v$te r$publican." Gordo whacked away at the bass, carrying on musical conversations with both Kenny Liner and Cris Jacobs. He stepped off as Jacobs sat down for a funky "Death Letter Blues" featuring Liner's bust-out beatbox style. Before it was over the Baltimore crew raged through the darkness and shined some light on a cover of "Guilded Splinters." The band had played for a straight 45 minutes, the longest set of the weekend on the Magic Hat Stage. Mike Gordon even took the time to tell Liner that The Bridge's set was his favorite of the weekend.

After a long day, we opted to duck out of the Dark Star Orchestra right after they played "Good Lovin'." "The Music Never Stopped" opener was a great choice and the original set sounded amazing from our camp. We sat back, enjoying the "Truckin'" thru "Fire On The Mountain," and by the time they blasted All Good with the sonic transducer of bass in "One More Saturday" night we felt like we were transported back to the 1970s. It was a wonderful feeling to go sleep with. Fan or not, Dark Star Orchestra's Saturday night All Good show was a hit.

Sunday

Mark Mullins - Bonerama by Massie
It's hard to pull yourself together after two full days and three nights of music. Just after you begin to feel settled in, it's time to breakdown camp and pack up the car. But there was still a solid afternoon of music awaiting the weary. Many music fans often equate Sunday's set to a church service, looking to each band as one might look to the preacher for encouragement and enlightenment.

Bonerama answered our prayers, summoning spirits to come down off of the hill to take part in the worship. Mark Mullins (trombone) pumped out the Hendrix version of the "Star Spangled Banner" to open their set before being joined by the rest of the band. Stepping it up a notch, the band proceeded with a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Moby Dick."

JJ Grey and MOFRO kept the good vibes flowing, opening their set with "Dirtfloorcracker" and Grey rapping "Jimmy crack corn and I don't care" between the verses. Smiling all the while, Grey paused to say how great it was for he and the band to be back at this natural amphitheater. Following the announcement of their upcoming new album, Orange Blossom, due out later this year, the band played a cut from this album, "Everything Good Is Bad." It featured the two-piece horn section, which was a welcome addition, accenting the band's laid-back temperament. Even Michael Franti entered the pit to take in the remainder of MOFRO's set. As Grey put down his guitar and seated himself at the piano, a light rain began to fall as the band performed a heart-wrenching "Lochloosa." All were impressed with JJ Grey's musical talent and distinctively homespun songwriting.

Aaron Redner - Hot Buttered Rum by Massie
Taking us away from the Florida swamps to the urban section of every big city, deSol took to the Magic Hat with undying passion. Led by lead singer-guitarist Albie Monterrosa and percussionist James Guerrero, deSol fired on all cylinders, playing a crossover style of Latino and American rock. Following a raucous version of "On My Way To The Promised Land," Monterrosa addressed the crowd as he explained that the band's sound comes from what's in their hearts. What big hearts indeed!

We continued on down the track with Railroad Earth, who converged harmoniously on the All Good Stage. Todd Sheaffer led the bluegrass choir in "Good Life" followed by a track off of their latest release, Amen Corner. With the audience brimming and at full attention, John Skehan picked up the Bouzouki and led the band through a prancing instrumental. Tim Carbone followed, plucking his fiddle while Andy Goessling played flute. The sound from the stage fell like a waterfall over the crowd as Sheaffer sang "Smiling Like A Buddha," gloriously nailing every high note.

These notes carried us away from the stage and all of its conviviality. As quickly as All Good had arrived, we joked about how quickly it also passed; a familiar dialogue as we headed for the already packed car. Over 40 bands played for us during the course of 72 hours. Thank you! Props to everyone at Walther Productions, who did another tremendous job assuring the festival ran as smoothly as possible. A huge shout out to the Clean Vibes staff, all of the festival sponsors and Head Count volunteers, too. With the mountain smiling a wide, toothy grin, we swore we could hear young Marvin's whistle as we drove back down the dusty road. See you next year, All Good!

All Good 2008 by Jake Krolick

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