Hookahville XX | 8.29 - 8.31 | Frontier Ranch Kirkersville, OH
Hookahville, man that is just fun to say isn't it? Everybody say it with me one time HOOKAHVILLE. Earmarking it's 20th episode and the next evolutionary step in the generation of Schwa this long running festival would go forth to write another chapter in the Hookahville legacy. As we follow in the footsteps of Old Bill words from George Clinton come to mind as, "it would be ludicrous to think that we have never done this."
Enter Frontier Ranch a well-ventilated and well-kept venue snuggled in the woods of Kirkersville, OH. Frontier Ranch has become the fixed spot for Hookahville and serves it well with ample parking, camping, and vending and kudos to Acoustic Productions for the architectural changes to the venue. The festival kicked off on Friday afternoon with the sounds of The Shantee natives to Columbus, Ohio and a very nice last minute touch to the lineup as this band would open both days of the festival. Coming off their new EP Four Now this band encases nice clean acoustical rhythms that mix well with the remarkable voice of lead vocalist/guitarist Michael Perkins. Giving the crowd some "Room to Run" as Hookahville 20 had officially begun.
Bringing Zydeco to Ohio was CJ Chenier & the Red Hot Louisiana Band. CJ Chenier has a vast musical heritage. His material reflects the influences of his father, the legendary Clifton Chenier, as well as the likes of Mile Davis and James Brown giving his music a prevailing approach. With great enthusiasm the band gave the crowd reason to get up and get down as the squeezebox roared giving the oft-overlooked instrument a chance to shine. With hookah percussionist Johnny "Starcatt" Polansky sitting in for the set, the party was picking up quickly. Forces of nature would cut the set short, but not before a little Cajun flavor was added to the Hookahville stew.
The weather subsided just in time for the legendary George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic. Never seeing this band perform I was not aware of what was in store, but as the spaceship took orbit I came to realize that on stage was the most significant icon in funk history. Having no benchmarks all I can say is I have never seen this many musicians, diapers, and speaker dancing pimps on stage in one instance. As crowd favorite "We Want The Funk" rang out, the dampened weather had no effect on the spirits of the crowd. Heavy bass and rip roaring guitar licks chained jams in to one continual set of true powerhouse funk. It was a true honor to see so much reverence paid by the crowd to the band that helped write the book on funked out, freaky music.
As evening was upon us, it was time for our gracious hosts ekoostik hookah to take the stage. Opening up their set with "Lax," the band illustrated the ease of a 13-year existence. This gave way to some newer material "Yumalaella" that displayed great three-part harmony technique. The band was then joined by CJ Chenier for a couple of numbers including John Lee Hooker's "Let's Make It" > "Boogie Chillun." As CJ had a grin from ear to ear homage was paid to the late great blues marvel in Hookahville fashion. Dave Katz then took the acoustic guitar for the accomplished "Old Montana Red Dog" followed by "Indica and Sativa" that had the agility to segue it's way in and out of "Red House" as rhythm guitarist/vocalist Ed McGee polished his chops with some weighty blues libretto.
hookah decided that set breaks were for the feeble, as their potent arrangement continued with "Only Falling," a song that I believe encompasses ones journey from birth through adolescences, and the trials and tribulations that one may face. The lyrical content is very moving and an extended jam makes way for a searing guitar solo that I relate to one reaching the pinnacle of self-actualization. hookah then brought the blues back with a song off of their first album, "In the Clouds" giving lead guitarist Steve Sweeney an opening to really show his aptitude for playing the blues, seizing the discern of the crowd with epic fashion. The encore concluded with the suitable "Bone," a tune that accentuates the unpretentiousness of Hookahville, with lyrics like "I know people who are not afraid to smile, and being happy is still in style." Furthermore it was good to see Eric Lanese back on the drum kit playing music with substance and vigor.
The second day of the festival opened with another set from The Shantee, playing music that went well with the nice 75-degree temperature that kept solid throughout the day. This is a band that has picked up momentum as of late and deservedly so, as they have a great mixture of musical predilection combined with talent that sets them apart from a lot of today's bands.
Next on the itinerary was the melodious bluegrass of Railroad Earth. A band that has thoroughly established themselves on the scene and now are starting to hit full stride. Playing songs of their newest album Bird in a House, they mix rich contemporary harmonies with traditional bluegrass to form a collective of soothing refrain. The song "Dandelion Wine" is a definite standout, in addition to Andy Goessling's multi-talented array of musical instruments including: acoustic guitars, banjo, dobro, mandolin, flute, pennywhistle, saxophones and vocals. Good to see this band make their second visit to Hookahville.
Grateful Dead tributaries Dark Star Orchestra would be next to grace the stage. Performing an all-acoustic set opening with "Monkey and the Engineer," followed by favorites like "Deep Elum Blues,"
"Cassidy," and "I've Been All Around this World." To venture a guess I would say material from shows in September or October of 1980. The encore of "Ripple" seemed to touch a chord with the audience. Now there are several Grateful Dead cover bands out there today, but I have never seen a band that could envelop the embodiment of the band in such a way. To play the material is one thing, to actually capture style and essence in another. True dead ringers they are, no pun intended.
Steve Kimock Band advanced to the stage as evening began to settle on Frontier Ranch. It was a special treat to have bassist Alphonso Johnson sitting in on bass for the set. SKB's amalgam of inventive instrumental material revealed nice textured layers of jazz flavored rhythms. The bands capacity for innovation were apparent as Kimock's mastery of the guitar led the way and communication between the band mates almost seemed subliminal. Drummer Rodney Holmes instituted a somewhat turntable style effect to give a hint of techno to one of the selections. An almost hypnotic sentiment covered the crowd as subtle hints of "Franklin's Tower" crept its way into the bands last choices, an extremely upbeat bluegrass medley that allowed Kimock to dazzle on his Gibson Explorer.
It was them time again for hometown heroes ekoostik hookah to take to the stage. Beginning with "Rollercoaster," and then "Surround," a song that concentrates on the changing of seasons and the subtleties that are often overlooked. Steve Kimock then joined the band performing a balmy version of "Life is Good" all the while exchanging solos with Steve Sweeney and ultimately joining for a consummate culmination of two great great guitar players. Continuing with the guest spot theme, members of Railroad Earth joined the band for "John Henry" and "Silver Train" giving each band member a chance to stand out turning Hookahville into a hoe down as a genuine mud boogie was commencing in front of the stage.
The second set opened with a well deserved "Float" as bassist Cliff Starbucks brought the funk out illustrating how much he had been inspired by Parliaments visit to the ranch. My compliments to Chris Kuroda for his first-rate work on the lights. Katz then picked up the acoustic again for "Ohio Grown," the title track off their new album, and an outstanding one at that. The song was a great mark of respect to the state that these individual hold so close to their hearts and the moral fiber that has given them inspiration over the years. Then came the appropriate "Hookahville" finishing with the crowd chanting, "ain't no party like a Hookahville party, cause a Hookahville party don't stop" and it didn't as the extensive and extremely poetic "Alexander" closed the set.
As we were all primed for the encore, which pretty much was expecting the unexpected, the band was joined by Chris Davis on backup vocals for a stirring rendition of David Bowie's "Space Oddity." A song that fit well with the fact that Mars was as close to the earth as it has been in 60,000 years. The rest of the Hookahville singers (Daniel Katz and Judy Russel) then came to the stage for "Treat Her Right" by The Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose that demanded respect. Eric Lanese then took the lead vocals for the family affair of Cheap Trick's "Surrender" that had The Shantee's Shane Frye sitting in on drums. Normally this would have concluded the evening, but the boys came back out for a second encore of "Through Hiker" > "We're an American Band," a truly consummate performance from a tightly woven band that is one of the premier live acts around.
And so it came to be, another Hookahville in the history books. As one chapter in the Hookahville days gone by came to a close another one began. Winston Churchill once said "History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it." I think for this band, this festival, and most of all these people, the future will be kind to them, and I intend to write it. So for all of you out there in Jam Nation write you're future, and always go see live music.
Words by: Scott Rosner
Images by: Trentation
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