Graced with beautiful weather and incredible music, Spring Hookahville 2004 proved to be as successful as any of the 21 festivals Ohio's ekoostik hookah has produced. Nestled in the woods of Kirkersville, Ohio, Frontier Ranch provides the perfect backdrop for a Midwestern-style party: laid back and friendly and up 'til the crack of dawn.

Hookahville by Sam Hanford
As has been the tradition for several years now, the weekend starts on Thursday evening as the early-bird campers pull in and stake their spots. Hookahville vending staples like Disc o' Pizza fire up the ovens while the stage gets its finishing touches and Chris Kuroda (of Phish!) tests the lights.

The thick mud from Thursday's rain made for a somewhat messy start to the weekend, but this is nothing a Hookahville fan hasn't seen before. Last Labor Day the rain lasted all festival long, making this spring's occasional puddle more than bearable. This year's fun started early Friday afternoon with the energizing tunes of Jen Durkin and the Bomb Squad and was followed by festival faves Leftover Salmon.

ekoostik hookah by Sam Hanford
ekoostik hookah's headlining performance on Friday night was one for the books. Opening with a powerful "Schwa" and keeping the energy consistent, the band highlighted the set with a powerful closer, Bob Dylan's "Isis." A recent addition to the repertoire, this tune has gotten exponentially better each time this critic has seen it, and the result was a perfect execution this time around. The energy at the end of Set I was unbelievable.

Part of the beauty of Hookahville is the inherent smallness and intentional simplicity. There is just enough time between artists and sets to get back to the campsite, which is just close enough. The size of the crowd makes the walkways maneuverable and the port-o-potties accessible--two things that festivalgoers hold dearly.

Set II of Friday's show kicked off with "Loner," always a crowd-pleaser, and ended with sit-ins by members of both Leftover Salmon and the Bomb Squad. It was great way to send the crowd into the night--satisfied by great music and ready for even more.

Keller Williams by Sam Hanford
Saturday's lineup kicked off with four hours of renowned bluegrass artists tearing up the stage. With one-day-only tickets available this time around, many new faces joined the crowd on Saturday to sit in the sun and partake in great music. Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder put on a particularly impressive show to round out the bluegrass portion just before Keller Williams' slot.

As usual, Keller's performance was wild and random. He danced and looped and played imaginary horns. He even carried his invisible horns onto the stage to join ekoostik hookah later for a rousing version of the "Theme to Sanford & Son" as well as Ed McGee's "Through Hiker."

ekoostik hookah's Saturday show was solid and impressive, breaking out a surprising "Cosmic Charlie" encore alongside some dependable good-time favorites. Eric Lanese ended the show with his traditional stunt, plunging into a tub full of water on the show's last note.

Although the fact that this festival has been going ten years strong is probably evidence enough, the magic of Frontier Ranch is something that needs to be witnessed to be truly understood. Check it out this Labor Day weekend... it'll be every bit as much fun the next time around.

Samantha Hanford
JamBase | Ohio
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[Published on: 6/6/04]

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