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.
|Big Nazo :: All Good 2009|
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.
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.
|Buckethead :: All Good 2009|
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.
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 :: All Good 2009|
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."
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."
|Umphrey's McGee :: All Good 2009 by Bruss|
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...