This summer the 2004 Olympic Games will be held in Athens, Greece. The 2004 All Good Festival moved from April to July. Olympians put final touches on their conditioning, honing their bodies for sport. Musicians sling on their guitars, pick up their drumsticks, and penetrate our eardrums with blissful sounds day after day. The Olympic Games are still a month away, but my musical Olympians played The All Good Festival at Marvin's Mountaintop in early July and showed they truly rule the Jam.

All Good 2004 by Jake Krolick
Marvin made a wise choice when he picked his mountaintop. The sprawl is made up of fields, hills, and valleys all nestled in the middle of the woods. On the drive in you can see the lights, the tents and the main camping area on the center hills. The general layout forms a giant circle with the stage holding the edge of that circle. We were on the far side of the hill, right between Rabbit Hole and Tiger's Den. The festival planners had laid out a grid of camps named after animals, so let's just call the nine main hill camps the zoo.

Deep Fried by Jake Krolick
After a mere three hours of sleep late Thursday night, the sun's heat had settled into my tent making life unbearable. Friday morning began with a great breakfast--a burrito and some Deep Fried funk. This southern-bound supergroup pole-vaulted us off the ground and lifted us right over the bar. With the funky Meters' Brian Stoltz on guitar, George Porter, Jr. on bass, and Matt Abts of Gov't Mule pounding the skins, the heat these guys bring is relentless. They play so well together, I can't help but smile seeing them work off each other. I don't think that Deep Fried is the kind of band you can truly enjoy in an outdoor setting--it felt like the music was escaping around me. Highlights of the show included keyboardist Johnny Neel's original, "Where've You Been All My Life," "Stone Funky," "Norman's House," and what seemed to be a "Stone Funky" reprise. Their set ended with Neel saying, "We're Deep Fried and we hope you are too."

Steve Kimock by Jake Krolick
The afternoon sun was cresting nicely, the perfect setting for Steve Kimock. He leapt head first off the high dive and tore through some blazing late afternoon guitar, playing as funky as I've ever heard him. Kimock teased the Dead incredibly well throughout the set--more than once I heard the Motown-to-disco jangle of "Dancing in the Streets." The combination of Rodney Holmes's drums and Kimock's guitar made for a strong finish as they ripped through "Five before Funk."

Jerry Joseph by Jake Krolick
Just before Stockholm Syndrome I ran into Jerry Joseph. He said he was a bit nervous about that night's performance, but seemed to be in high spirits. Then, along with the rest of the Syndrome--Dave Schools (bass), Eric McFadden (guitar), Danny Dzuik (keys), and Wally Ingram (drums)--walked out and in seconds laid us out with a tremendous sound. This was a great Jerry show, his voice showing depth and grit, and his guitar trading licks with Eric and Schools throughout the set. "Tight," "Empire One," and "White Dirt" flowed smoothly from the stage. Wally Ingram slammed the first beats to "Sack Full of Hearts" and the hills came alive.

Stockholm Syndrome by Jake Krolick
Jerry Joseph is kind of like a can of paint--bright, colorful, and able to create beautiful work, yet dangerous when left on shaky ground. The band were the artists on Friday night, brushing Jerry all over those West Virginia hills. Schools held the captain's position, guiding everyone with subtle hand gestures and strong looks. The crowd ate up "Sack full of Hearts," not surprising because Jerry tosses down reggae with the best of them. Schools heaved shot-puts at us and was "bass-tastic."

Fixing Schools' Bass Strap by Jake Krolick
One of the finer moments of the evening came when Dave's bass strap broke and Sam Holt (guitar tech/and more) taped it up with fluorescent pink duck-tape. As this was happening Jerry and Eric ripped a guitar jam on the dance floor in front of the stage. As they were finishing Dave gave comical introductions of the band, saying Jerry Joseph was wearing a shirt that matched the color of our nation's terror alert. The end of the set finally broke Danny Dzuik out of his shell and he showed us why he was there. He and Schools finished the almost two-hour set with a nasty piano/bass jam. The evening was still young as the sun set.

Greyboy Allstars by Jake Krolick
Greyboy Allstars grabbed the stage next. Karl Denson immediately tossed flute javelins and pierced us with his sound as Zak Najor rolled his percussive snowplow right through us. Elgin Park on guitar resembled a cross between Howdy Doody and Mr. Roboto, his guitar work speaking in tongues. We watched as Karl filled his lungs with the cool West Virginia dew-heavy air. As he exhaled he resembled a bull on a cold morning with steam rising from his nostrils. The Allstars' set was wonderfully diverse, mixing slow jazzy jams with their trademark undeniable funk.

Theresa Andersson by Jake Krolick
Theresa Andersson... hmmm. She's not only beautiful but talented and commands the stage, captivates the audience, and on and on. The crowd was in love with her almost immediately. Overheard more than once: "If I didn't have a wife I would follow her around the country." Her sweeter-than-honey vocals and finger dance on the fiddle captured everybody's gaze. She is exactly what the scene needs--a vivacious, talented young woman to stir the male dominated soup. She sang and danced to the cheers and cries of the audience. At one point, Keller Williams sidled out and accompanied her for ten minutes. Theresa turned it on, oozing sensuality and took Keller to the blushing point.

Theresa Andersson & Keller Williams by Jake Krolick
Keller was a trooper--he shook off her flirting and played his heart out for us. His two-hour set included a menagerie of Keller hits, especially a tweaked out "Vacate" that had him running around the stage like a wild man who lost his woman. The songs had a great flow, as each seemed to relate to last and he mixed in improv lyrics relating to All Good. I definitely would have enjoyed some harder rocking tunes but he definitely didn't disappoint.

Ozric Tentacles by Jake Krolick
The dense cold settled in for the Ozric Tentacles, and it was clear they were ready to blow our minds. It was tough to tell where their smoke machines ended and the fog began. The band led us away on a journey to some distant land: I heard hints of Egypt, Africa, and India coming out in there psychedelic trip-rock. They worked almost every sound imaginable out of their synthesizers, from bubbles to cackles, a kitchen sink of sounds. These Tentacle fellows have a different feel then American bands and it made for a nice change from the norm. They were playing this festival as their first in the States, and there was an unusual air of exoticness around their music. I ended up on the hill looking down through the fog wondering if I had left WV.

Ozric Tentacles by Jake Krolick

Overheard loudly Saturday morning: "E is Dick Chaney's middle initial!"

There's something that clicks by the second day of a festival, something in your body that makes you say, "This is the good life." Maybe it's a combination of sleep deprivation, lack of food, or intake of substances, but you start to feel that a weekend like this can take on spiritual proportions. As I stared out across the West Virginia hills I contemplated that this is my worship of choice and musicians are my gospel.

Brendan Bayliss :: Umphrey's McGee by Jake Krolick
Umphrey's McGee was the first show I made it to on Saturday morning, and boy what a treat it was. I felt like a kid with a new toy on Christmas morning as I watched these Midwest rippers break down an old Fugazi tune called "Waiting Room." Other highlights were a "Utopian Fir" sandwich that had a great bit of peanut butter and strawberry JAM holding it together.

The Burning Spear by Jake Krolick
The talent only increased as Soulive brought us into the mid afternoon. This was such a relaxed Soulive--no vocals from any guests, just stripped down, bare bones, jazz-e-funk. A far cry from the hip-hop flavored remix album, but man Eric Krasno and the Evans Brothers were on. I took a break from the main stage for ekoostik hookah and napped at camp only to stumble down to the tribal sounds of Burning Spear. This was the perfect setting to skank away the late afternoon. The roots reggae beats filled the valley with joy setting up a perfect evening for Leftover Salmon.

Overheard by the chair massages: "This is great but does it come with a happy ending?"

Leftover Salmon by Jake Krolick
The memories of days past flooded in with David Lowery and Johnny Hickman's Cracker set and I was even more impressed then I had remembered. LoS meandered out and I found enjoyment sitting back with a good group of friends listening to Drew Emmit rip the mandolin electric guitar style. During Salmon's set, I was drawn back behind the stage to see the workings of the large screens set on either side. Scott and Jon from HPX Media were mixing visuals like a DJ mixes records... controlling the images quickly, but with a delicate touch. Morphing pictures of old cartoons with a camera shot of the antics on stage. The crowd ate this up all weekend and more then once I caught folks just staring at the screens in amazement. Salmon finished strong and the pumped crowd trekked off in all directions.

Overheard midway through MMW: "It's Saturday night. I don't know about you, but I want to dance."

Chris Wood by Jake Krolick
Sure, there were moments with a glimmer of hope. But Medeski Martin & Wood had poor placement as the headliner for Saturday night. If they had been in the late afternoon and perhaps switched with Soulive, it would have been on. All three are such incredible musicians, but perhaps they were just experimenting a bit too deep, and they never really fell into a solid groove. Thinking back on it, no one had a rock solid groove. No one at least until later that night when the Disco Biscuits manhandled the crowd.

Disco Biscuits by Jake Krolick
Unlike the cool damp air of Friday, Saturday night was warm and dry. The DJ set slipped and scratched through, readying folks for the craziness that was about to ensue. After the first few minutes of the Biscuits, I knew something was up. They started with a version of "Hall of the Mountain King" that was tweaked to almost sound like the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy." Stage lights gave the whole venue an eerie fluorescent glow. The performance was like a horse out of the gate, and before we knew it they had kicked into high gear. People all around me had trouble staying connected with the earth. Bodies were flying, writhing, and grabbing onto anything just to balance the mayhem of sound. I focused my gaze to the pit and the crowd. It was incredible, people seemed to be swallowed up only to be spit back out glowing and beaming from ear to ear. The crowd started to take on ocean-like qualities, as they would surge against the front barrier. In doing so they would catch the stages colored lights, each person changing colors as the stage lights changed. Turning from purples to greens to yellows, some were blinded by the lights while others seemed to gain energy from them.

Disco Biscuits by Jake Krolick
I'm not a huge trans-rock fan and at times would have walked away uninterested. However, this show rocked my face off. Set two walloped in with a "7-11" into "Helicopters." By the time the encore set in the sun had started to rise. Morning came with freaks rolling barrel style down the now seemingly monstrous hill. It was time for my three hours of sleep before the giant glowing alarm clock in the sky popped and I was cooked thoroughly in my tent.

Overheard Sunday morning before Del McCoury: "Is everyone he plays with the world's best?" "No, just the country's best."

Del McCoury Band by Jake Krolick
Del was on at noon and he sure did impress. Flanked on either side by band members, and grinning from ear to ear, Del ripped through a catalogue of bluegrass that burned hotter than the noontime sun. Early on a "Fifty Two Vincent Black Lightning" stood out among the highlights. During his performance an announcement was made that a couple had recently been married and they had saved their wedding bouquet to have Del toss it out to the crowd. Del obliged and threw that bouquet deep into the mix and launched into a ripping "Nashville Cats." He then took every crowd request that was shouted. After each one he would introduce Ronny and Rob McCoury, Jason Carter, or Mikey Bub, saying how each one had won this or that award. The sun singed my skin as the North Mississippi Allstars and John Medeski chilled on stage.

What seemed like a pretty standard NMA set gave way to such intricate keyboard stylings by Medeski. The energy between him and bassist Chris Chew was quite remarkable. Chew was dancing all over the stage. I had dreams of the Campbell Brothers coming up for a quasi-Word reunion. John Medeski is exactly the musician the NMAS need to throw them further into stardom. Cody Dickinson finished us off with his lightning fast handwork on the washboard.

All Good 2004 by Jake Krolick
Digger and I chose to watch Jeff Austin's solo set before packing up the car and heading out. It's a good thing we did because Jeff was really incredible alone. The ride home gave me five hours to reflect on the weekend as I drove up to Philadelphia. Walther Productions pulled together an awe-inspiring group of musicians. It's wonderful to get them all together for a weekend of music and fun. All Good was just the spot to pay homage to the folks who play the music of our lives and ultimately put a smile on our face daily.

This summer when you watch Olympic coverage on TV or read about it in the paper, think about the men and women putting in two hour plus sets in blazing heat or freezing temperatures. Playing strings till fingers are raw. Lungs so dry from singing that the desert looks wet. Yes, these are my Olympians, my heroes of the jam.

All Words & Images by: Jake Krolick
JamBase | Philadelphia
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