All Good Festival | 07.09 - 07.12 | WV

Words by: Andrew Bruss | Images by: Kenny Pusey

All Good Festival :: 07.09.09 – 07.12.09 :: Marvin's Mountaintop :: Masontown, West Virginia

All Good 2009
While Ben Harper and Relentless7 drove through their headlining slot, Ivan Neville of Dumpstaphunk told JamBase, "All Good Festival is an absolutely wonderful festival. It's awesome. You've got a fuckin' mountainside and from what I've seen - we played All Good three years before - it's one of the better festivals." Dumpstaphunk played an appropriately scheduled slot right before Harper took the stage, and Neville couldn't have been happier with his audience. "It's a fucking sea of people, man, absolute music lovers and they love different genres of music. [You've got] bluegrass fans, electronica fans. It's sick that different kinds of shit all goes down."

Neville pinned the proverbial tail on the donkey when he called All Good one of the best festivals with a collection of devoted music fans from the greater mid-Atlantic and beyond. All Good took place on Marvin's Mountaintop, a location of panoramic beauty on the outskirts of Masontown, WV. Although greater Masontown seemed to have been carved out of the earth with TNT, the event's Masontown location provided nothing but ideal geography for a four-day music festival. The rolling hills gave ample room for camping and vending, with wooded areas offering more adventurous campers some extra legroom, but the icing on the cake was the stage-grounds. With no overlapping sets, two stages were set up side by side against a backdrop that Jake Cinninger (Umphrey's McGee) called "the concert bowl." From within the air-conditioned confines of their tour bus, he added, "I'm a huge fan of festivals that have some sort of geography. I like this, 'I can see your house from here,' mentality. Just sitting here on the bus, we can look 60 miles in one direction and see a bridge, and in the other direction, a city of tents."

For as much as the grounds proved to be a major player in the weekend's smooth production, the festival would have been nothing but a major campout without the lineup. Topping the bill, Bob Weir & RatDog shared headlining honors with Harper. Official late night sets were given to jam titan's moe. and Umphrey's McGee, with Bassnectar and SOJA playing abbreviated sets on the side stage while things on the main stage transitioned from headliner to late nighter.

Thursday, 07.09

All Good 2009
It seems as though every festival these days is stretching its length with an unofficial kick-off Thursday night, and All Good was no exception. While the main stage was still being erected, a smaller, more intimate performance area was set up deeper into the campgrounds. Keller Williams followed BoomBox, a DJ/guitar duo that raised the flow of blood in everybody's veins. Without his Keels or WMD's, Keller was left alone, performing his looped-out, one-man band shtick that won his audience over in the first place. Set highlights like "Freaker By The Speaker," and Nirvana's "All Apologies" demonstrated Keller's technical proficiency, in addition to his natural talent as a performer. Throughout the set, he did some vocal soloing through the buzzing of his lips that sounded like it came from Louis Armstrong's trumpet, and while playing an air-bass solo, he tossed his imaginary instrument into the air and caught it on the beat.

Lotus followed Keller with a set that raged well into the a.m., giving all those early birds something to keep their feet moving to. For as much fun as the glow stick wars may have been, their set left something to be desired. A great deal of All Good attendees seemed to have come from Rothbury (read our review here), where Lotus performed a "secret" late night set, and many-a-head agreed that they were having an off night.

Continue reading for Friday's coverage of All Good...

Friday, 07.10

Stanton Moore - Galactic :: All Good 2009
Fortunately, Friday showcased a whole array of talent who brought their A-game. Hill Country Revue started the day off on the main stage with overdriven blues that brought several of its member's fame in the North Mississippi Allstars. Jackie Greene followed with a somewhat generic set that left folks wondering where this kid would be if it weren't for Phil Lesh's interest in him.

Mike Silverman, aka That 1 Guy, played for twenty minutes before and after Galactic brought the Cajun funk on the main stage. Silverman may have been the second act of the weekend to work the one-man band angle, but this guy is on a different planet than Keller. He performs on his homemade "Magic Pipe," a two-stringed bass of sorts that features various effect buttons up and down the instrument's body, while a second pipe creates tones and various pitches based on the angle at which it's bent. Most of the folks who were familiar with That 1 Guy beforehand most likely knew him as a regular opener for Buckethead, but after serving as the bread of a crunchy Galactic sandwich odds are many in attendance grew to appreciate him in his own right.

Galactic's hour long set raged and boogied in all the right ways, getting bodies moving, but not too hard for a midday set under the scorching sun. Following their slot, while Robert Randolph & The Family Band performed "Billy Jean" on the main stage, Galactic's bassist Robert Mercurio told JamBase, "It's always tough in the middle of the day to get the same energy as a night concert, but it was great." As for the event itself, Mercurio said, "I was talking about it with [All Good Promoter] Tim [Walther] and I was saying what I really liked about this festival is you see the lineup and you get to see every band. You have two stages next to each other that don't overlap. It goes from one [performance] to the next. You don't have to go anywhere. It's just continual music. The crowd stays in one spot and instead of having to choose which band to see, they can sit and watch everything, which is unique at a festival." Ben Ellman, the group's sax player added, "It's a beautiful day in a beautiful place. We're here to have fun, so what more can you ask for?" As for his personal highlight, Ellman said without hesitation, "Getting to use the port-o-let right after they cleaned it. You have to hold it till you see them cleaning."

Bob Weir - RatDog :: All Good 2009
Although Les Claypool fans didn't really appreciate it, veteran singer-songwriter Todd Snider performed a brief set of his socially conscious tunes on the side stage before the bass virtuoso got freaky on the main stage. The highlight of Snider's set was a pseudo-spoken word song about Columbine and violence in America that brought to mind Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant" through the almost-goofy, drawn out method of storytelling.

As for Claypool, he fucking nailed it, plain and simple. As he stomped on his monitor to the rhythm, while making goofy faces at his stagehands, Claypool hammered out lick after lick of the funky, mind-altering bass that made this once-metal icon an adopted idol of the jamband community. Much like the attendees, plenty of the acts on the bill have found themselves returning to All Good year after year, effectively building on the communal vibe a festival already delivers. Hence, Claypool roared into his mic, "Here we go again, All Good!" and his packed audience roared right back.

Bob Weir's headline slot gave him a solid two hours of time to dish out old Dead tunes, as well as a few of the covers he's been known to perform over the years. Every armchair Deadhead in the house was able to sing along to "Truckin'," which made it an ideal set opener. Weir followed with the first half of "Tomorrow Never Knows," the last track on The Beatles' Revolver, which he finished up later in the evening. It's easy to hate on Bob Weir, Phil Lesh or any of the remaining members of the Dead for continuously touring the country behind songs they wrote damn near 40 years ago, but the triple threat closer of "Morning Dew" into "China Cat Sunflower" > "I Know You Rider" puts these arguments to rest. Truth be told, you're not likely to hear anything written within the past twenty years at a RatDog concert (outside of the originals on their sole studio release, 2000's Evening Moods), but when the back catalog is full of trans-generational material, judging Weir over the freshness of the songs is irrelevant.

Although moe.'s set felt stale and far from trans-generational, the Bassnectar set between Weir and moe. was a weekend highlight. Fans were packed in front of the side stage, cheering for Bassnectar before Weir even finished his set. Every time Bassnectar, born Lorin Ashton, poked his head out from the side of the stage, the crowd went nuts. His set packed the most energy and produced the craziest glow stick wars of the weekend, and when his time was up moe. failed to take the stage, so Bassnectar announced that he was just going to keep playing and until someone told him not to.

Continue reading for Saturday's coverage of All Good...

Saturday, 07.11

Big Nazo :: All Good 2009
Saturday, early sets by Fear Nuttin Band and Cornmeal were far from packed, and it seemed like lots of folks were counting on seeing The Bridge during their Sunday set rather than Saturday. However, while The Bridge was doing their thing, Big Nazo shocked and awed an audience in all the right ways on the early arrival stage Keller rocked previously in the weekend. To a relatively wholesome crowd with kids on their parent's shoulders, Big Nazo, hailing from Providence, Rhode Island, came out decked in giant costumes that were just one of the many factors that make their performance so much more than just a concert. Fusing theatrics, sketch comedy and killer tunes, Big Nazo turned a crowd onto a whole type of concert experience they'd never seen before. The folks behind Big Nazo have spent years making costumes for Gwar, but the stuff they make for Gwar is nothing by comparison. The group's frontman came out as a giant rat-man before stripping down to a mad professor outfit that made it easier for him to cover Gary Wright's "Dream Weaver." Later on in their half hour set, we were told that narcs were going to arrest us unless we took an experimental hallucinogen that was already in our system. After being told we'd been dosed, one of the more human looking characters took off his head to reveal an alien face that could have had the most sober of attendees tripping their balls off.

Although it didn't receive top billing, one highly anticipated set was a half hour performance by Jeff Austin (mandolin, vocals) of Yonder Mountain String Band and Brendan Bayliss (guitar, vocals) of Umphrey's McGee. The two acts have crossed paths more times than can be counted, and Bayliss even commented that they've got an album coming out that's been nine and a half years in the making. The material leaned towards bluegrass, an obvious comfort zone for Austin, but Bayliss held his own and even fused in some metal riffage in between the Appalachian grooves.

Buckethead :: All Good 2009
After the bromance that was Austin/Bayliss came to a close, All Good was treated to a set by a cult of personality unlike any other on the bill. Buckethead took the stage amidst technical difficulties but after the sound decided to play nice he had the audience wrapped around his finger. As he nunchucked and breakdanced across the stage from behind his mask, the guitarist born Brian Carroll weaved between funk and speed metal in no time at all. With no back-up band, Buckethead opted to perform with a pre-recorded track. Although this makes you wonder how much a Buckethead setlist can truly vary from night to night, it demonstrated a remarkable sense of rhythm and near-perfect memory as he tapped and shredded his audience's faces off. His white Les Paul has two customized toggle buttons that seemed to have been taken right off an arcade consol, and in his gigantic hands, his guitar looked like a videogame controller to be manipulated for his own enjoyment.

Assembly of Dust and Yonder Mountain both kept things string-heavy before a sunset slot by Sound Tribe Sector 9 took things to another level. They took the stage with the sun at their backs, as the five-strong electronica act started things on a mellow note. As time went on and the sun slowly set, STS9 gradually began adding layers onto their existing jams, heightening the intensity while making the transitions barely noticeable to their audience. Although it seemed like most folks had used up their glow stick supply during the previous night's Bassnectar set, STS9's lowdown throwdown was by far one of the highest energy sets of the weekend.

Ben Harper and Relentless7 :: All Good 2009
Dumpstaphunk was nice and gritty from the first note, with dueling bassists Nick Daniels and Tony Hall bringing the low end to the forefront and Ivan Neville, a member of the first family of New Orleans funk, leading his band through a set of grooves that were tight musically while informal on stage.

Ben Harper and Relentless7 tore into a powerful set that packed a lot more punch than his work with the Innocent Criminals ever did. In addition to Harper and his slide licks, Relentless7 rolled with a guitarist, bassist and drummer, who all sounded heavily influenced by Led Zeppelin. "Shimmer and Shine," the first single off the group's studio debut, featured Bonham-esque drums and bass drops that landed someplace in between John Entwistle and John Paul Jones. And in case the Zeppelin in their sound wasn't clear enough, they sealed the deal with a cover of "Good Times, Bad Times."

Umphrey's McGee was another major festival highlight, and it would be hard to imagine things any other way. These guys know when to noodle, when to shred, and they always rise to the occasion. During a chat on their tour bus, keyboardist Joel Cummins commented, "For us, what's most important is if we start at one in the morning, we have to do something to keep peoples' attention after they've been on their feet for ten hours."

Umphrey's McGee :: All Good 2009 by Bruss
While multitasking between giving JamBase sound bytes and watching the Phillies/Pirates game (as the only vocal Pirates fan of all the Pittsburg attendees), bassist Ryan Stasik said, "This is our fourth time playing All Good, and the places we come to the most often we try not to repeat the same songs when people are likely to have been there. We want people to see us play as many tunes as possible."

They did, in fact, switch it up, and dished out a killer setlist that would make any Umphreak's mouth water. The group opened with "40's Theme," but it wasn't until the dueling lead guitar licks of "All In Time" (clocking in near the 25 minute mark) that the group really stretched their legs. On stage, Bayliss comes off as the sexy rock star, while the group's other technically-gifted guitarist, Jake Cinninger, has a bit of a schoolboy thing going on, backwards baseball cap and all. As tight as Bayliss is on a six-string, Cinninger shone the brightest. During the peak of "All In Time" he ran his fingers up and down the neck of the guitar with his eyes closed, head tilted back, with a look on his face that seemed like he'd just broken out of a deep meditative state. Another major set highlight was a hyper-accurate cover of Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond." They closed out the formal chunk of their set with "Bright Lights," their humorous ode to rock stardom, which Stasik teased with a closing bass lick from "Thriller."

Continue reading for Sunday's coverage of All Good...

Sunday, 07.12

All Good 2009
Sunday's schedule was by far the mellowest of the weekend, and as disappointing as it looked on paper, the crowd needed it. Donna The Buffalo rang out Johnny Cash's "Ring Of Fire" on the main stage while many All Good attendees simply packed up and left early. The last two acts on the schedule were BK3, the latest project from Bill Kreutzmann of the Grateful Dead, and the Grateful Dead Tribute act Dark Star Orchestra. Kreutzmann told JamBase before his set that unlike Bobby and Phil, he tries to take a more creative approach to doing Dead tunes, and with Tara Nevins of Donna The Buffalo on vocals, he gave the old tunes a more modern voice.

With all the neo-hippies long gone, the half sized crowd left to witness Dark Star was more Deadhead than Bisco Kid. It was fun getting to hear Dark Star Orchestra play Dead tunes as accurately as they do, and to be honest, Dark Star's "Bobby" sounded more like Weir on the studio tracks than Weir did himself on Friday night. But there was something off about Dark Star that felt stuck in nostalgia. Even with their own solos, one couldn't help but feel as though there wasn't anything remotely spontaneous about the performance, which, as any Deadhead knows, is the at the core of "Dead Music." That said, if it floats your boat then get after it. While it might not be the most adventurous take on the Grateful Dead, it is certainly a very accurate account, and for anyone who has yet to learn the power of "Dead Music" or just simply wants to relive the glory of days gone by, well, DSO certainly fills that void.

All Good 2009
Dark Star provided a mellow end to a sunny weekend that was expected to yield thunderstorms galore. Good weather, great production, and heaps of talented artists made All Good another big success. Unfortunately, certain ghosts of the event's past continued to haunt in 2009. Drug arrests and overdoses have led to a more active role of drug enforcement agents on site, and while varying accounts may differ, it seemed as though 2009 was a cleaner, more peaceful event with less of the dirty-nasty, but it was not void of this element.

Regardless of the activity on Shakedown, the amount of unsupervised children wandering the lot (including a prepubescent doing nitrous and one "mother" leading her son around on a leash made of caution tape) was negligent at best and criminal at worst. Plenty of parents opted for the family camping and had their kids in the tent by sundown and there were clearly plenty of families that had a wonderful weekend, but not everyone was so responsible. Too many children under the age of ten were left entirely unattended in an environment riddled with very adult activities, and in a crowd of over 15,000 you're more than likely to have at least one unsavory individual looking to cause harm. This type of commentary is rare in the recap of a musical event - especially one that was overwhelming positive like All Good - but some things need to be noted. A Jersey based bouncer named Cornelius "Corney" Ealman said that he wasn't opposed to festival drug use as long as you weren't "pushing kilos," but when asked what he would want people to know about the event, he said plain and simple, "Don't bring your little kids. It's just not a good environment for little kids to be in."

Although the weekend did have its shadier moments, they were easy to avoid and anyone looking to take care of themselves and have a good time likely did just that and then some. Whenever you get a big crowd of party people together there will always be a few bad apples, but at the 2009 event, from logistics to weather to crowd to a familiar-yet-eclectic lineup, All Good once again does the name justice.

Continue reading for more pics of All Good 2009...

Images by: Kenny Pusey

Brendan Bayliss & Jeff Austin
Brendan Bayliss
Jeff Austin
Assembly Of Dust
Buckethead
Buckethead
Buckethead fans
Buckethead fans
That 1 Guy
Jackie Greene
Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk
Tony Hall - Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk
Nick Daniels & Ian Neville - Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk
Allie Kral - Cornmeal
Fear Nuttin Band
Ben Ellman & Corey Henry
Ben Ellman - Galactic
Steve Kimock
Lake Trout
Les Claypool
Les Claypool
Sam Bass - Les Claypool
Mike Dillon - Les Claypool
Mike Dillon
Ben Harper
Big Nazo
Big Nazo
Big Nazo
Yonder Mountain String Band
Robert Randolph
Bob Weir
Dave Murphy - STS9
Hunter Brown & Jeffree Lerner - STS9
STS9
STS9 fans

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