Words by: Mike Bookey
4 Peaks Music Festival :: 07.25.08 – 07.26.08 :: Rockin' A Ranch :: Bend, OR
Matt Butler has led his share of orchestras - Everyone Orchestras, to be exact. Anyone who's powered through a weekend festival that's heavy on the jam band enrollment knows of Butler's orchestra – a zany and beautifully chaotic mishmash of musicians from bands on the festival roster, all up onstage at once, plugging away while Butler waves his arms and the dry-erase board he uses to instruct his impromptu ensembles.
| Matt Butler - "Everyone Else Orchestra"|
4 Peaks 2008 by Michael Weintrob
But at the 4 Peaks Music Festival, Butler found himself atop a specially built pickup truck rooftop platform conducting not one but two orchestras on two separate stages – the second of which he affectionately dubbed the "Everyone Else Orchestra." He simultaneously directed both stages (which were separated by a good 100-odd feet) of 4 Peaks players from bands such as Tea Leaf Green, Poor Man's Whiskey, Izabella, Flowmotion, Blue Turtle Seduction and more. All in all, it was a who's who of the West Coast improvisational music scene, which was indicative of 4 Peaks as a whole.
In it's second year, the 4 Peaks Music Festival shook off some first year jitters and came out with a polished product this year, doubling attendance, quadrupling acreage and infinitely increasing the overall quality of the two-day gathering. Set on 80 acres of farmland, the event played host to a powerful lineup of diverse, solid bands from the reviving West Coast jam and roots scenes. Only a week before the gig, 4 Peaks organizers announced that the festival would be moving from its current location to a yet-to-be-decided location in 2009. This uncertainty, however, didn't seem to dampen the mood of the weekend.
Friday afternoon started heating up as South Lake Tahoe's road warriors Blue Turtle Seduction took the main stage for a set that brought out some older stalwarts from their catalogue, coupled with a few tracks off their new record, 13 Floors. Blue Turtle shined in cranking up the energy to a crowd that was still getting settled into festival mode with the band's hip-hop-meets-bluegrass jams. Near the end of the set, harmonica player/co-vocalist Glenn Stewart broke news that Southern California funksters Delta Nove couldn't make it and that Blue Turtle would stay an extra day to fill the Saturday night slot. There may have been some disappointment in the crowd, but by the sound of the howl following the announcement it seemed 4 Peakers welcomed the extra dose of Blue Turtle Seduction.
| Reverend Cleopheas :: 4 Peaks 2008 by Mike Bookey|
Next came the first of three sets spanning the weekend from Poor Man's Whiskey, who for the second year served as the gracious host band for the festival, with guitarist/dobroist/thereminist/comedian Eli Jebidiah donning a white late '70s style suit, a faux beard and Elvis shades to serve as the festival's emcee under the guise of a Southern preacher known affectionately by 4 Peakers as the Reverend Cleopheas. Poor Man's Whiskey, playing on the second stage for two sets wrapping around Hot Buttered Rum's main stage appearance, used the first set to groove some roots-influenced acoustic numbers highlighted by a cover of Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child of Mine." The second set showed off PMW's spacey funk rock abilities, which they've been cultivating over the past year, with an instrumental jam that touched on Phish's "First Tube." Sadly, over the course of the festival PMW didn't give the crowd a taste of their "Darkside of the Moonshine" project (a bluegrass-tinged take on Pink Floyd's Darkside of the Moon) but Eli Jebidiah, err... the Reverend Cleopheas did hint during a pre-show interview that the band is planning on taking the project on the road in the coming months.
Hot Buttered Rum, an increasingly popular act in the Pacific Northwest, anchored Friday night with their high-quality, high-energy bluegrass, busting out of the gates with "Desert Rat" and used their nearly two-hour set to touch on other quick-picking numbers like "Honkeytonk Tequila" as well as a "Summertime Gal" > "Walls of Time" > "Summertime Gal" mid-set jam that eased the sun down over the Cascade Mountains that towered over the festival site.
| Trevor Garrod - Tea Leaf Green :: 4 Peaks 2008 by M. Bookey|
String Cheese alumnus Michael Travis brought his electro/techno act Zilla to the stage with collaborators Jamie Janover and Aaron Holstein to add a little Burning Man element to the otherwise rootsy fest. The trio thundered into their patented dance jams for a good fifteen minutes before slowly winding to a close, leaving the stage and then returning a few minutes later after a second introduction. The crowd was more than a little confused, with some seemingly first time Zilla witnesses taking an early exit to the campgrounds, and at least two less-than cerebral "you guys suck" shouts emanating from somewhere near the beer garden. The boys of Zilla, however, soon erased any befuddlement as they drilled through 90-plus minutes of trance and breakbeat jams to a hula-hooping (this activity was omnipresent at 4 Peaks), glow-in-the-dark dance party.
Saturday started off at a casual pace with Oregon-based bluegrass acts like Moon Mountain Ramblers and Blackstrap, urging festivalgoers over the hill from the ranch-style campgrounds. With passing clouds offering occasional respite from the high-altitude sunshine, Flowmotion, the Seattle based emerging funk-collides-head-on-with-guitar-rock quintet took the stage. The band played funk numbers like "People Get Ready" that not only showcased Josh Clauson's pristine vocals (arguably the best at 4 Peaks alongside Tea Leaf Green's Trevor Garrod) but also the band's larger than life sound (complete with a drums interlude from percussionists Bob Rees and Scott Goodwin) that sometimes bursts the boundaries of its club shows but worked well outdoors. Clauson didn't waste time in promoting the band's own 8th annual Summer Meltdown Festival (August 8-10), a 4-5,000 person gathering in rural western Washington that has become a premier Northwest festival in recent years.
Northern California up-and-comers Izabella rocked the second stage with their melodic and poppy numbers, breaking into percussion-heavy jams from time to time to which an inexplicably large amount of stilt-walkers in gypsy garb seemed to enjoy from 12-feet off the ground.
| 4 Peaks Music Festival 2008 by Mike Bookey|
Tea Leaf Green, fresh off the plane from a performance at Floyd Fest in Virginia some 2,500 miles away the previous night, arrived at 4 Peaks with ALO's Steve Adams (and his sweet mustache) in tow to fill in on bass duties for Reed Mathis. Only a few days after the release of its new record, Raise Up The Tent, San Francisco's piano-driven rockers showed why they very well might be one of the best touring acts on the West Coast (and perhaps soon the country) with a quintessentially tight set of pop-laced rock numbers. Playing a few cuts from the new album, while also showing off well-known numbers from Taught To Be Proud, Garrod and company proved their crossover appeal and why it's a shame that the band is sometimes lost and perhaps mislabeled in the crowded jam band arena.
Now, we're back to Matt Butler atop his mid-crowd podium as his Everyone Orchestra and Everyone Else Orchestra send vibrations through the gully that has housed this intimate two-day gathering, which seems to have come out of nowhere as one of Oregon's more quality outdoor music festivals. The only problem is that Butler's double orchestra attack is going to be tough to top in 2009, wherever the festival is held.
4 Peaks Finale '08 -The Everyone / Everyone Else Orchestra
JamBase | Northwest
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