It's tough to pull off a great festival when the venue is nestled in the armpit of an interstate ramp, but somehow Bill and Carol Huff make it happen time and time again. This year, with 66% more camping space and a much more aggressive lineup, Summer Ripplefest 2005 was not only bigger but definitely BETTER than ever before.

Ripplefest 2005 by Samantha Hanford
Ripplefest is different from anything like it. Its will-call booth is operated out of a fireworks store at the gate entrance, and the owners are accessible and happy to talk with their guests. They open their "home" for the weekend, and in return are given a unique and powerful musical experience grown out of the love that ensues there. The venue is not exactly 'beautiful,' but beautiful things happen all around as a result of its intimacy.

This family-run affair is also kid-friendly to the max. Ripplefest is the birthplace of Kidz Jam, a volunteer and donation-driven organization dedicated to providing a safe and fun environment for kids to relax in. A clown and ape can be spotted throughout the grounds entertaining kids in the designated play area and beyond. Face painting, bubbles, and art projects allow Moms and Dads a chance to dance, and in turn, their donations perpetuate the amenity. Raffles were held all weekend to support the cause, offering both cash and prizes to winners. The One-Eyed Show started the first day of music off with a proper "Social" for the crowd – tipping their drinks back in celebration of two days full of stellar music to come. This was the second TOES show for me, and again, I was thoroughly impressed. The band comes with a following of its own, perhaps born from the charity festival they throw every July in Mendon, Ohio: Tabfest. This year, Tabfest fell over the weekend of July 22 – 23, with the Jerry Garcia Band featuring Melvin Seals headlining. 100% of the proceeds went to help the Ronald McDonald House charities of the Miami Valley, giving fans a great reason to celebrate in the beautiful surroundings.

Ripplefest 2005 by Samantha Hanford
Col. Bruce Hampton came next and put forth a funky performance with a sit-in by Derek Trucks. The chemistry on stage was electric, creating a collaboration vibe that carried on throughout the weekend. Derek sat in with Hampton, Hampton sat in with Trucks, Dark Star Orchestra's Rob Barraco sat in with ekoostik hookah, and the fans just loved it.

Karl Denson was up after Col. Bruce and the Codetalkers as the sun sank in the sky. As the Tiny Universe took the stage inside the giant barn structure, it was funny to think that just days before he was on stage at Bonnaroo playing to thousands. Ripplefest fans felt suddenly blessed to be watching his thick and funky, soul-filled set - lucky to experience such an intimate evening with one of the jamband scene's leading musicians.

Ed McGee (ekoostik hookah) at Ripplefest
By Samantha Hanford
Headlining Friday night's festivities was the Derek Trucks Band, who didn't come on until almost 11 p.m. and raged until after 2 in the morning. Members of the Codetalkers, including Col. Bruce himself on "Fixin to Die," made memorable appearances during the show, but the "Everything is Everything" toward the end was what blew the roof off for this fan. Derek's non-emotional stoicism delivered a chilling blues funk while Mike Mattison's perfectly fitting vocals pumped up the energy level. Taking the crowd late into the night, the Derek Trucks Band delivered a huge performance for this tiny venue.

All kinds of fun took place under Saturday's cloudy but warming sky, including Midwest favorites like The Recipe, Grasshopper Pie, and others. Dark Star Orchestra took the second-to-last spot Saturday night, with Rob Barraco taking the keyboards in place of the recently departed Scott Larned. The original set was a bit of a departure from DSO's typical follow-the-setlist-to-a-tee stylings, but the result was unreal - gracing the audience with "Estimated Prophet," "Eyes of the World," "Scarlet Begonias," "Mr Charlie," and (the obligatory) "Ripple" (all without even a set-break!). Rob Barraco's presence was comforting and gentle, fitting perfectly into the groove of the laid-back affair. At the end of the set, the band gave a big thanks to their crew - a gesture I don't think happens nearly enough.

Ripplefest 2005 by Samantha Hanford
Fitting the mid-Ohio venue, hometown band ekoostik hookah took the stage for the event's last hurrah. It was an emotionally charged show, starting with a powerful "Through Hiker" that seemed to erupt out of singer Ed McGee. The evening was all rock-and-roll - even the bluegrass tunes, like a killer version of Ralph Stanley's "Bound to Ride" sung by Cliff Starbuck in the first set.

Rob Barraco joined in for Set II during Zeppelin's "Fool in the Rain" to help the band ease into the Dead's "The Eleven" and eventually into a raging "Cumberland Blues." For the encore, "Three Little Birds" was encased in a powerful "Lax," and the audience headed away to the giant bonfire determined not to worry about a thing.

At the end of another successful Ripplefest, it's time already start thinking about Fall Ripplefest 9.16 – 9.17, where acts like Hot Tuna Acoustic, The Sam Bush Band, and The Recipe will again take the barn's magic stage to create more great memories.

Samantha Hanford
JamBase | Ohio
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[Published on: 8/1/05]

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