There's something about a large group of good people gathered on a mountaintop celebrating the life, love, and music of one of the world's brightest enigmatic heroes that can make a person schmaltzy. Such an event occurred at Sunshine Daydream Campground in Terra Alta, WV the weekend of July 18 – 20, 2002. The Venue was in perfect shape, the stage aptly decorated with a huge backdrop of Jerry smiling face. Happiness was omnipresent and smiling faces were everywhere as we all paid homage to "The man who put a crack in the wall, so the light could shine through", Jerome John Garcia.
The festivities began on Thursday night as the barn rocked with the music Mr.Nimbus from Pittsburgh, PA, a great group of young individuals with awesome potential. The Plaid Iguana Project closed out the night with some feel good tunes including the Dead’s "Mr. Charlie" and The Black Crowe's "Remedy." It was a good start and a pre-cursor to a great weekend.
Friday began with a little rainfall to mellow the mood and our emcee for the weekend, Leftover Salmon's Vince Herman, introduced the sounds of Nexus from the local area of Morgantown and a band that Vince used to play with fifteen years ago. Nexus gave a truly indomitable performance with the rain pouring in buckets and thunder and lighting filled the sky as they covered "The Wheel" and sang out, "If the thunder don't get you than the lightning will!" Next was a great up-and-coming band from my local area, The Ordinary Way, delivering a polished set that included a dynamite "Darkstar>Wharf Rat> Darkstar." The beautiful voice of Fabienne Gustave made if difficult to not have watery eyes.
Then our special friends from Vermont paid us a visit as Jazz Mandolin Project brought "Volcanus," better known as Jon Fishman, all the way from the Polynesian Islands.
Playing a very fluid set that had great textures, I could relate the band to a good Neapolitan ice cream, where each flavor is distinct and tasty. Fishman joined us at the front for some antics as the crowd really got into this band and they were only one of many surprises to come. Between sets Vince Herman entertained the crowd acoustically and would be joined by various friends such a Toni Brown and Cliff Starbucks, this really kept the changeability of the festival in check.
It was then time for Ohio based ekoostik hookah, a band that loves to play this beautiful venue every year and has a truly great relationship with the founders of this natural amphitheatre. They began their set with "Utopia" and made the whole place seem as such. Hookah delivered a super set with new material such as "Masquerade" and "Thief." Vince Herman joined the band for a rocking "Blues in a Bottle" and brought some "Leftover Hookah" to the stage. The powerful performance was topped off with the encore of The Beatles’ "I am the Walrus," and the crowd responded and joined in the chorus. It was an outstanding performance from my personal favorite group of individuals.
The late night barn session was laid down by the omnipotent Juggling Suns, their originals and many Grateful Dead covers played on until the wee hours of the morning.
I arose to an extremely sweet sounding band that I had never heard before. ‘Twas The Shantee, from Columbus Ohio. I really dug the groove of this band; very melodic with heartfelt original lyrical content and a smooth cover of Jimi's "Castles." A nice surprise on a perfect morning for music. Next we were joined by a visitor from the past, David Nelson Band, giving an acoustically centered performance that made me hypothesize that if Bob Dylan and Jerry Garcia shared an apartment you could conceivably have a David Nelson. Anyway the "Cumberland Blues" rocked as David gave a shout out to his good friend passed.
Next on the agenda was a band that I extremely anticipated, the Steve Kimock Band, comprised of Steve Kimock on guitars, Alphonso Johnson on bass, Mitch Stein on guitar, and Rodney Holmes on drums. They were very well put together and never missed a beat. Virtuoso Kimock played a wide range of guitars anywhere form a Fender Strat to a Gibson Explorer. He laid down a tremendous "Stella Blue" on a lap slide for the man that said, "Steve Kimock is my favorite guitarist the you've never heard of."
It was then time for the finale, and what a finale it would be as ekoostik hookah again took the stage and "Lax" kick started the reeling crowd. Steve Kimock then joined the band for the Dave Katz tune "Life is Good," as he and lead guitarist Steve Sweeney endlessly traded guitar licks back and forth, that made life even better. The set continued with the best cover of the weekend The Grateful Dead's "China Doll" with a wink and a smile to Jerry in the background. Hookah then performed a reggae style cover of John Denver's "Country Roads" which exemplified one reason I enjoy this band so much. Their versatility of style, ability to effortlessly switch from genre to genre, and present in a manner is totally innovative. We then heard "Spiders," a request from the large spider that had resided and begun to build his home on Ed McGee's mic stand.
After set break, ekoostik hookah was joined by friends, The David Nelson Band and Vince Herman for a groundbreaking bluegrass jam that had everyone on stage grinning ear to ear with enjoyment. The friends left the stage as hookah proceeded in delivering a classic performance that included "Schwa," "Through Hiker,” and the awesome "Raging River."
The boys once again returned to the stage for a "Loner>Here Today>We Bid you Goodnight>Gone Tomorrow>Loner" encore. It might have been this moment, or perhaps the late night jam in the barn with Mecca Bodega, or when Vince Herman and members of hookah played with The Davison Brothers, or the people of Sunshine Daydream, or maybe it was everything about this weekend… For a fleeting moment that will last a lifetime, I honestly felt that Jerry Garcia was all around us. Not only present in our hearts and minds, but there with his hand on our shoulders like a good friend. I believe that he knew why we were all there and truly understood what how his life has effected many generations in their search for self-actualization and the ability to live and love. I want to say thank you to everyone involved and to Jerry Garcia, for whom our love will never fade, and I pray to all of you out there in Jam Nation to never let your love fade and to always Go See Live Music!
JamBase Southeast Correspondent
Go See Live Music!