Strip Mines Music Festival | 08.29-31 | IL

Words by: Herschel Concepcion | Images by: Norman Sands

Strip Mines Music Festival :: 08.29.08 - 08.31.08 :: Shawnee Cave Amphitheater :: Murphysboro, IL

Backyard Tire Fire :: Strip Mines 2008
The Strip Mines Music Festival took place this year at the Shawnee Cave Amphitheater located in Murphysboro, IL. Originally mined for its rich deposits of saltpeter (also known as potassium nitrate, which is used to manufacture explosives and makes the cave an ideal setting for a rock and roll concert), the amphitheater sits in the middle of 50 acres of rock formations and hiking trails, and is slowly finding its niche as host to a variety of shows and festivals, as well as a good spot for a weekend camping trip.

The property itself is owned by Robert Goodale, who prefers the name Caveman Bob. He is also affectionately referred to as 'Santa' by festivalgoers due to his striking resemblance to the mythical gift giver, except Caveman Bob prefers shorts and an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt to expose his belly, as opposed to the traditional red coat and trousers. And instead of a sleigh he drives around wildly in a golf cart, slurring random words of wisdom at people.

"Caveman Bob has roots in Centralia, Illinois," says Zach Swinderman, one of the producers of the fest. "He was in the ice cream business, the coal business and currently sells firewood. I do know that he somehow saved the life of the previous owner of the cave and was able to purchase the property at a very reasonable price."

Swinderman got the idea for Strip Mines after doing a stint as backstage security for Summer Camp, as well as forays into stagehand and management work that gave him a better understanding of how festivals work. He eventually hooked up with Tim Roberts, the other producer of the fest, and the two began working out the logistics of the event. After negotiating for the use of the property with Caveman Bob, the boys were well on their way to having their party in a cave.

Friday, August 29

Caveman Bob :: Strip Mines 2008
My story begins with a drive down to Murphysboro from Chicago. I had been to the amphitheater once before, back in April for Cavefest. Cornmeal had headlined, and I remember being enamored at the experience of watching a show in such a natural setting, with the stage situated under the large shelving of rock that forms the cave. Chicago is a great city for catching live music, but an urban environment doesn't afford one the opportunity to see a concert in a place like this.

After hearing that the amphitheater would be the site of another music festival on Labor Day weekend, that it would be hosted by Family Groove Company and feature notable Midwestern artists such as Future Rock, Backyard Tire Fire, Chicago Farmer and Groovatron, and that tickets were only $30 and included camping, I had made my decision.

The drive took us five hours and we arrived at the festival gates at dusk. On the way down we spotted a good amount of police on the road and saw several people pulled over. An email from the Strip Mines website had warned us about an increased level of police activity, although I was unsure as to whether it was because of the festival or if it was just for Labor Day weekend in general. Either way, we were able to run the gauntlet without incident.

Strip Mines 2008
Once inside the gates and parked we began loading up our gear. Caveman Bob doesn't allow anyone aside from bands and vendors to bring vehicles inside the property, which is understandable considering the nature of the place and his desire to keep it looking as untouched by human presence as possible. So, we took as much of the essentials as we could carry - tent, sleeping bags, whiskey - and began our trek to find a suitable camping spot. We walked straight down a slightly descending trail from the main gate that led us to the vendors and first main camping area. This being a smaller festival (Swinderman estimates the number of attendees at around 550, plus 45 volunteers, 25 staff, 100 guests and one caveman) there were only a handful of vendors, consisting of a couple of merch tents, a food tent (the only one there but open late and serving great chili dogs and perhaps the best bratwurst I've ever eaten in my life), and, of course, the med tent for those who discover their limit the hard way.

After setting up we loaded the Jameson into a backpack and headed down towards the music. One of the great things about this fest is that it's BYOB, so instead of pre-gaming to save money you are allowed to bring whatever liquor you want down into the cave. You can even bring a cooler if you like, provided you have the strength for such a walk. Or if you're a big enough drunk, I guess.

As you begin to get closer to the music, you pass under a large wooden sign with the cave's greeting:


After passing the sign the trail continued to dip down until it reached a bowl area and the entrance of the cave, where we were just in time to catch Zmick.

Zmick – 8:00 - 9:00 P.M.

Garaj Mahal :: Strip Mines 2008
These guys were pretty solid. I would classify them as progressive jam rock with a taste of funk and a bit of psychedelia. Their bassist was laying it down pretty good, and had me groovin' from the start. I would definitely check Zmick again in the future.

Family Groove Company – 9:30 - 11:30 P.M.
The hosts of the fest. This was maybe the third or fourth time I'd seen Family Groove Company, and I'm beginning to get hooked. I like their style, which I would describe as rock fused with jazz and funk. Like their name suggests, these guys (and gal) definitely know how to groove. Janis Wallin got funky with her bass while lead guitarist Adam Lewis ripped it up on the six-string. With Mattias Blanck on drums and Jordan Wilkow tickling the keys, I definitely dug what I heard. Their setlist included "Little Walter Rides Again," "We Could" and an unexpected "Subterranean Homesick Blues" that was a nice little treat.

Chicago Farmer – 11:45 P.M. - 12:30 A.M.
I really like this guy. Born and raised in Delavan, IL, population 25, Chicago Farmer (aka Cody Diekhoff) is a small-town musician telling stories in the big city. His website describes him as a "folk-singer's folk-singer and a poet's poet." He reminds me of a younger Dylan but definitely has his own voice, and is passionate in his guitar playing and the delivery of his music. His songwriting is genuine and he can sing 'em, too.

Garaj Mahal – 12:30 - 2:30 A.M.
Playing what seemed like jazz fusion with funk undertones, Garaj Mahal closed out the first night with a two hour set. As a first time listener, my attention was focused on lead guitarist Fareed Haque, who kept me captivated as I watched his fingers dance across the fretboard, sending a flurry of notes out into the crowd while Alan Hertz kept time on drums, Eric Levy added color on keys and Kai Eckhardt laid it on thick with his bass. Good stuff.

Saturday, August 30

Creek Road Ramblers :: Strip Mines 2008
Raoul Duke – 12:00 - 1:00 P.M.
Raoul Duke was an unexpected treat. Their instrumental improvisation fuses funk, rock, jazz, hip-hop and electronica, which made for an interesting sound. Their song "Cuban B" was a rockin' jam with a heavy Latin flavor to it, while "The Crow" had more of a trance-y feeling to it with lead guitarist Ramsey Zabout taking a break from shredding so he could wow the crowd with his synth skills.

The They – 1:30 - 2:30 P.M.
The They explored the sounds of progressive rock and electronica (with a touch of psychedelia). Very experimental in their approach, it offered something different for my ears.

Creek Road Ramblers – 3:00 - 4:00 P.M.
From the small town of Peoria, Illinois, the Creek Road Ramblers gave me my first taste of bluegrass for the weekend. And I sure do love me some bluegrass. It was a nice break from electric instruments where we could dance to the rustic sounds.

The Station – 8:00 - 9:30 P.M.
The Station was pretty rockin'. Featuring dual lead guitar in their lineup, I enjoyed the soloing, which was melodic and not just a constant running up and down the pentatonic scale.

Groovatron – 10:15 P.M. - 12:30 A.M.

The Station :: Strip Mines 2008
I dug these guys, too. Definitely not your every day rock band, Groovatron has a more progressive feel to them. Their music touched on funk and psychedelia with the saxophone adding a nice touch. Definitely a band worth seeing again.

Jaik Willis – 12:45 - 1:30 A.M.
Jaik Willis was a solo acoustic act with an interesting sound, sort of like folk but different. He had a more aggressive style of playing and I enjoyed his songwriting, which had me chuckling at the witticisms in his lyrics several times.

Future Rock – 1:30 – 4:30 A.M.
One of the highlights of the weekend for me, Future Rock was the last set of the night. Their sound was intense and their light show overwhelming. They reminded me of STS9 a bit, though not a cheap imitation by any means. I was impressed at how powerful of a sound could be produced by only three guys. Perfect choice for a late night closer – they ended up playing until 4:30 and had me groovin' the entire time.

Sunday, August 31

The Giving Tree Band – 1:30 – 2:30 P.M.

The Giving Tree Band :: Strip Mines 2008
These guys were great. Playing a mixture of folk and Americana, The Giving Tree Band was a great way to start the day. Their harmonies were spot on and reminiscent of The Band or CSNY. Their singing, songwriting and delivery were genuine and uplifting. I was a little ashamed when I found out they were from Chicago because this was my first time seeing them – although it certainly won't be the last.

The Hue – 3:00 - 4:00 P.M.
The Hue is a four-piece instrumental progressive rock outfit from Chicago. They jammed it out pretty well, delivering some nice lead guitar work during their hour long set.

Hunab – 4:30 - 5:30 P.M.
A good mix of jam rock, funk and reggae, Hunab laid down some solid grooves that never got stale.

Jobu – 6:00 - 7:30 P.M.
Originally formed at Southern Illinois University, Jobu's guitar-driven sound and vocal harmonies kept the party goin' with their high energy music. Very nice jams from these guys.

Alabaster Brown – 8:00 - 9:30 P.M.

Family Groove Company :: Strip Mines 2008
Alabaster Brown was tight. They had a unique sound, which was primarily rock and roll with a slight bluegrass influence. Their style reminded me of The Band mixed with a bit of Leftover Salmon. It was also nice to hear some electric slide guitar as well. Definitely check them out.

Backyard Tire Fire – 10:15 P.M. - 12:30 A.M.
Backyard Tire Fire is always a good show. Solid rock AND roll and a very tight sound – I enjoyed every minute. For just three guys they certainly know how to rock it and their songwriting is impeccable.

Family Groove Company – 1:30 - 3:00 A.M.
Taking the stage for the final set of the festival, Family Groove Company set out to close the event proper. They started things off with a first time cover of Stephen Stills' "Love the One You're With," followed by the second part of "The World Is Watching" (part one was played on the first night of the festival). The set continued to heat up with a "Guns of Ticonderoga" that they jammed into "Falling Off the Fence." The extended encore included a lovely rendition of Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock of The Bay" right into "Tutear," followed by "The Charmer." I was completely floored by the performance, and as I trudged back to the campsite my body was about ready to shut down, although my spirit had been recharged.

Last Thoughts

The Strip Mines Music Festival had given me what I get from any other good fest: a sense of having been a part of something special, something that you wish you could share with the rest of the world. I had witnessed a burgeoning festival, still in its infant stages, and saw bands that reinforced my belief that the jam scene is still going strong, that the music is evolving and progressing. Maybe that's the purpose of these things, to confirm that we are not alone in our struggles, that we are in it together on a mass scale, that people really do care about each other and, most importantly, that this is only the beginning of something that will continue to grow for generations to come. And if that's the case, Strip Mines did it right – and all it took was a cave and a little music.

Footage of the cave during the day

Family Groove Company – Strip Mines Fest – 8/31/08

Chicago Farmer – Strip Mines Fest – 8/29/08

Garaj Mahal – Strip Mines Fest – 8/29/08

Creek Road Ramblers – Strip Mines Fest – 8/30/08

The Station – Strip Mines Fest – 8/30/08

Groovatron – Strip Mines Fest – 8/30/08

Future Rock – Strip Mines Fest – 8/30/08

Backyard Tire Fire – Strip Mines Fest – 8/31/08

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canoftunapudding Wed 9/17/2008 06:37PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Garaj Mahal is indeed good stuff. That video is nasty, you can really tell what's going on.

FreshFlavor starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/17/2008 06:46PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Looks like a really tight weekend. Nice location, great price, and pretty solid lineup. 3 hours of future rock in a cave sounds like a pretty wild time to me. The video link has a tight groove to it. I hope tapers snagged up that one. I wonder if Fareed broke out his Moog guitar...really can't wait to hear him bust that out live.

crescentvale starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/17/2008 06:53PM
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The festival is a one in a lifetime kind of thing, or one in a 1,000,000 years. I have a review and more videos throughout some of my pages. Weather was nice all weekend, compared to the hurricane that hit Mulberry Mountain last weekend. Family Groove Company ended the Strip Mines Music Festival with an amazing late night performance. Great festival!

Chaloupka starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/17/2008 10:20PM
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Cool review, what with all the clips. Diggin those 3 tunes by BTF!

rainydaywomen420 starstarstarstarstar Wed 9/17/2008 10:22PM
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Caveman Bob sounds like some kind of storybook charachter, i know this had to be a grate festival simply by looking at the picture of him in the cart, that picture does the fest more justice than any of the band pics knowing thats whos running the gig. Seeing bands play in caves though is quite seriously something id like to see more often and garaj mahal is indeed good shit.

iwantstogetfunkedup Wed 9/17/2008 10:48PM
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Garaj Mahal on 9/26 in SF at the Connecticut Yankee!! Can't wait for that show.

schofizzl Thu 9/18/2008 12:21AM
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man it was definitely a good time, i'm so glad to see a review up on JB! as far as the price/experience goes, this festival was so very worth it.. the first night alone was worth the ticket price. can't wait to go back next year.

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Thu 9/18/2008 04:12AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

Garaj Mahal – 12:30 - 2:30 A.M.

Playing what seemed like jazz fusion with funk undertones, Garaj Mahal closed out the first night with a two hour set. As a first time listener, my attention was focused on lead guitarist Fareed Haque, who kept me captivated as I watched his fingers dance across the fretboard, sending a flurry of notes out into the crowd while Alan Hertz kept time on drums, Eric Levy added color on keys and Kai Eckhardt laid it on thick with his bass. Good stuff.


‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Thu 9/18/2008 04:18AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^›      {¬¿¬}

Future Rock, thats their BEST SONG on the album.

I love the squirrely synth!!!

FGC, Music school good. they have potential to get much better.

uncljohnsband5 Thu 9/18/2008 07:31AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

I went to cavefest a couple years ago and wont go back...I thought it was a hillbilly rave loaded with K and ice. Its all private property so cops cant come in, meaning all the hard drugs can. some kid got stabbed 15ft from my campsite and later died...u wont see me there again..dont get me wrong, the cave is beautiful, just too many vet tranqs and meth

r0llingst0ned starstarstarstarstar Thu 9/18/2008 08:06AM
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uncljohnsband5, having a festival on private property is sort of like a double edged blade - it's what you make of it. Of course there were kids here and there just looking to get fucked up, but you'll find that at any festival. My neighbors were great and overall it was a good vibe. I tried to focus on the positives in the review, hopefully you won't allow an isolated incident from a few years back deter you from catching shows in what is most certainly one of the most beautiful venues in the Midwest.

pattyohallo Thu 9/18/2008 09:02AM
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the review kinda reminds me of the descriptions from a festival itinerary...still looks pretty neat diggin the video clips, especially garaj mahal!!!

Tehsay starstar Thu 9/18/2008 09:48AM
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Yeah, not so hot on the review. First off haha FGC can't hold a candle to the Station. Should have been a much more elaborate review for them. Well everyone I guess. These guys are on the up and up in a big way. Wish I could have made it down but I'll get my F.R. fill next weekend in chicago.

goldnugz Thu 9/18/2008 09:59AM
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"my attention was focused on lead guitarist Fareed Haque, who kept me captivated as I watched his fingers dance across the fretboard, sending a flurry of notes out into the crowd while Alan Hertz kept time on drums, Eric Levy added color on keys and Kai Eckhardt laid it on thick with his bass."

Eric Levy is no longer in the band....

goldnugz Thu 9/18/2008 10:00AM
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correction to above post.... Alan Hertz is no longer in the band, they have a pretty awesome new drummer though

Treetophigh Thu 9/18/2008 01:50PM
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way to go Zach!!

this fest is right on

and with an ORIGINAL style of band like garaj mahal

its already superior to the generic jam fest

good deal

OUCHO starstarstarstarstar Thu 9/18/2008 01:58PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Grate cave,weather,people,and of course The MUSIC

Hope to see ya next year

PickinKind Thu 9/18/2008 02:46PM
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i agree Tehsay, there needs to be a better review for the station, not that it was bad or anything but these guys are seriously talented in every aspect. ive been catchin their shows for a while and it just keeps gettin better and better. chicago farmer has an awesome voice too. in fact, the whole line-up kicks ass if your a fan of this midwest scene. im looking forward to more music in the cave. ps uncljohnsband5 is right though, ive been to the cave a number of times and it does seem to have a bunch of little gutterpunks with K startin shit (kinda like schwagstock) but it was more chill this year

schofizzl Thu 9/18/2008 11:58PM
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i've heard the same negativity about Cavefests, but i didn't experience any of that at Strip Mines.. i think the fact that there were bands jamming instead of DJs pressing buttons made the difference.

fishbone1 starstarstarstarstar Sun 9/21/2008 03:56PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Zmick played a killer set right when the sun went down. Great light shows all weekend long. Really dug Groovatron, The Station, Giving Tree Band, and Jaik Willis too. And, of course, Future Rock and Garaj Mahal. Great Festival, Great Weekend. If you're from Illinois, keep an eye out for a Zmick show coming up. It's definitely worth your while.

gdeadphishhead starstarstarstarstar Sun 9/21/2008 10:27PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I hear that fishbone1! Festival was awesome!

NershiSquirts Mon 9/22/2008 10:54AM
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Hersh McDersh....its your angel, Streets. Congrats on the article man, i feel like i was there passing the bottle with you. We gotta get together soon, my friend.

Alabaster_Brown starstarstarstar Thu 9/25/2008 11:18AM
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Thanks to Zach for putting on a nice fest, and likewise losing his ass! That happens, but ya gotta love it!

BYTF is not a three piece anymore... they have four now, a slight correction.

The last thing I remember is being held down by the Cave Man, as he rubbed his herniated phallic belly button on me... I woke up in a stupor in the morning... the place was deserted, except for a few wild dogs and some mosquitos setting up drilling rigs on my neck... good times!

brianeh Sat 9/27/2008 09:03AM
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This was a real fun time, friday night, well lets just say bad things happened, but some good folks took care of me. saturday was loads of fun, Ultraviolet Hippo was fucking raw sucks they didn't get mentioned. Had to leave sunday but oh well. There were some sketch balls at this fest but there are at every festi.

snausages Mon 9/29/2008 05:36AM
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Why didn't i know about this fest???? I'm so sad now. :(