All Good Music Festival :: 07.15 - 07.17 :: Marvin's Mountaintop :: Masontown, WV

All Good by Sam Friedman
The summer is stacked, packed, and bursting at the seams with tours, festivals, hootenannies, and loads of music. From the chilled-out monster of High Sierra to the behemoth wilds of Bonnaroo, the festival scene is at an all-time high. Is a larger, more mainstream festival really the answer? Who's to say, but I was a bit shocked to see the All Good, which was once a smaller, Eastern niche festival, grow from a crowd of 9,000 last year to a crowd that may have eclipsed 15,000 people. This year, the gathering was filled with some seriously impressive moments but also quite a few low points. The bar had been set high last year with perfect weather and a smooth-as-butter lineup. This year's gathering would not only change the folks who attended, but created believers and disbelievers in the power of All Good.

FRIDAY :: 07.15.05

All Good by Sam Friedman
Marvin's Mountaintop sat shrouded in an eerie, dense fog. We were slowly enveloped as we wound our way up towards the top. Little did we know the size of the lines we were heading into or the musical melee that was waiting for us over the next three days. Friday morning sent fresh breezes and a spectacular sunny day over the rolling grassy hills of Masontown, West Virginia. Folks were camped everywhere from Tigers Den to Dog Prairie. The smatterings of music heads were enjoying the much needed vacation away from the hoopla of the everyday world. Here on Marvin's Mountain, you can escape the turmoil of the world, and while you might still see some remainders of the nasty side of folks, you can be sure you'll see the best in others. I was on cloud 9 until 3 p.m., when the typhoon hit, washing my tent and many others' into the path of disaster simply shouted by many as "THE RIVER."

The sky gathered clouds like fans rushing to the rail. It figures that as soon as we were prepared to hit the main stage, the storm-o-the-weekend hit. People everywhere just held on to their canopies, chairs, and tents as sheets of rain poured like cats and dogs from the sky. Two hours later, it was over and we had a six-inch deep river flowing directly through our camp in Rabbit Hole, making a thorough mess of our festival. I'm an optimist, but this was one nasty moment that many festival guests and I never completely recovered from the rest of the weekend.

Wayne Coyne :: All Good by Jake Krolick
We were music fans, and we were determined to be the troops, so we marched our asses through muck and mire down to the main stage for the Brothers Past. Tom Hamilton and the Philly company tossed down a miniature set that was shortened by the rain. They managed to sneak out their typical "National Anthem Radiohead" cover and a few other tunes before a wild forklift knocked into the stage causing a lighting issue and yet another short delay before John Brown's Body warmed our ears back up. During this delay, Wayne Coyne, The Flaming Lips' front-man, decided to entertain the waiting crowd with some classic Lips antics. He appeared on top of the massive hill to our left, perched inside a huge plastic bubble. He was flanked on either side by a giant Nintendo-style sun and caterpillar. The gnarly crew carefully worked their way down the 30-degree hill meeting fans and making friends as they went. The sun finally came out as John Brown's Body grabbed some stage determined to raise the irie vibe. The horns were reminiscent of Burning Spear as they blasted the reggae beat around camp, ultimately raising our spirits.

Rose Hill Drive
All Good by Jake Krolick
Lake Trout swam up that irie vibe that JBB had laid down so eloquently. They tossed us a few bones as they breezed through a short yet spirited set encompassing the sounds of rock, stock, and a smoking guitarist named Ed Harris. The group announced that they have a new album coming out in the Fall and then offered up some Baltimore mus-ak for us as they launched into a heavy set of sounds. Lake Trout was the beginning to our darker-toned sets of the evening.

The Sproul Brothers of Rose Hill Drive immediately followed them. Jake and Daniel are about as close to rock gods as you get, each sporting a low-slung instrument and long hair that swirled in tornados as their fingers ripped prints across the strings. Their set was super short but right to the point. The announcer gave the South a tip-of-the-hat. Then the power trio let loose like dogs at the track tearing through "Fairies Wear Boots," "Off to the Games," and one of the most moving covers of the weekend - Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song." Alas, the All Good curse was back in effect as Jake's bass cutout during "Off to the Games" and didn't come back until midway through "Immigrant Song." By this point, it didn't really matter because everyone was on their feet enjoying the hell out of their quick set.

Gabby La La :: All Good by S. Friedman
Jason Isabel was joined by Mike Dillon and Shonna Tucker for another nice Southern blast. The current incarnation of the Drive-By Truckers blasted through a performance that was capped off by playing "Jailbreak" - a Thin Lizzy cover. Jason jokingly announced that all of the tunes they were playing were about methamphetamines. I was expecting more from this pairing and was a little disappointed with the lackluster set, but hey, they can't all be balls-out. Gabby La La followed with her odd, yet somehow interesting, eclectic mix of music. She stood on stage as some sort of blue-haired angelic figure. Her touch on the Theremin was exquisite as her voice floated like a butterfly and her sitar stung us like a bee. The allotted time slot she received was perhaps not the greatest choice for the riled-up Friday evening crowd, but thinking back to last year's Theresa Andersson performance had me asking, "Why the hell not?" Unfortunately, some of the crowd gave Gabby a less-than-All Good welcome as they booed and hissed her through "Butter and Eggs." Gabby is a spectacular sitar player, and even though she may fall outside the "Box o' Jam," I was disappointed in the reception she received. Sometimes it's OK to appreciate another style, but perhaps it's better suited for an afternoon set.

Les Claypool :: All Good by Jake Krolick
Les Claypool's offering was well received, and it segued out of Gabby's strange into Les's stranger like a good song segues into a better one. There was barely any break before the Frog Brigade hopped on the horse. The musical pairing of Mike D, Skerik, Les, and Jay blazed into the night sky. A white-robed Skerik grabbed the festival's vacant MVP spot quickly. His holy saxness wrenched his sound into spots in our ears that needed cleansing. During "Whamola," Les thumped and sliced through songs, leaning heavily on the bass with his left hand as his right smacked the strings. He would toss jams over towards Gabby, and she would start strumming them towards "Backpack." This was fine because Mike Dillon would just start banging heavily on the vibraphone, putting a heavy-handed end to that and sending the jam back out to space. The whole rotation reminded me of a game of tetherball - the ball was wound heavily in Mike's favor. During "Cosmic Highway," we were schooled in the ways of the Brigade, as was Gabby. It appeared that soon she would join the flow and rip.

The wrestling union was in the hills Friday night and started construction on a massive wrestling ring sitting smack dab in the center of the pit, against the rail. Turnbuckles, ropes, and all were assembled for what was soon to be some smack-down, get-down styles of the Kaiju Big Battle set to a soundtrack of Particle space porn.

The All Good Crowd by Jake Krolick
The crowd was full of feverish energy before The Flaming Lips took the stage. Folks were dancing around a makeshift sculpture featuring four sides representing the four elements of fire, earth, water, and air, and with tree branches mounted on top for shade. I mowed down a burrito and a slice of pie from the food vendors before hiking half-way up the hillside to catch an aerial view of the Lips. Balloons of all sizes were filled and placed inside the wrestling ring that now resembled something out of a candy shop for giants. The evening hillside also made for some darker entertainment as you could see the twisted festival guests stumbling and falling all over the side of that steep hill. Some creative folks had built a giant glow puppet and dragged him to the top of the hill, only to shimmy and shake him down towards the Lips.

Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips
All Good by Jake Krolick
Their introduction was very fitting as the announcer told us it was time to "take a journey to the center of our minds." Wayne gave a nod to the traffic as he said, "This goes out to the folks stuck in traffic for six hours. I hope you are ready to fuckin' rock." Steven Drozd immediately went into some heavily synthed key work on "Race for the Prize," as balloons were kicked all over the place and confetti filled the air. Wayne Coyne might be considered an artful rocker, but he can get down with the best of them. We were treated early to a special little nugget - a debut of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." The kicker was that Wayne kicked it off in a giant karaoke-style sing-along. Michael Ivins was dressed in a furry zebra suit and spent the evening pounding out the deep end with a huge smile on his face. We were treated to an incredible Lips set including a complete "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1" followed immediately by "Pt. 2" and the now classic "She Don't Use Jelly." The thing about the Lips and Wayne are the wild props used, from car-sized confetti-filled balloons to megaphones that blow smoke. Wayne went into a few speeches about war near the end of the performance before shattering Black Sabbath's "War Pigs." He screamed the lines "Generals gathered in their masses, just like witches at black masses. Evil minds that plot destruction, sorcerers of death's construction," as he doused himself in blood-red liquid in a shock-and-awe campaign against our senses. The Lips finale was a melee on stage with some of the Kaiju crew and a bunch of other costumed folks. For anyone who may have been living under a rock for the past few years, I would highly suggest checking out the Lips' albums Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots or The Soft Bulletin.

All Good by Jake Krolick
The All Good was thoroughly twisted after the Lips, but we were about to step out a little bit further with a wild combination of Kaiju and Particle. It would have worked better had there not been the blaring announcer screaming the wrestling speak through Particle's set. By four in the morning, we just wanted our space funk and some crazy clad monsters going Jimmy "Superfly" Snuka off the top rope. The big battle group prodded at pro-wrestling for a good half hour until Particle fully took over playing until six in the mornin' as a few hints of sun started to break through.

SATURDAY :: 07.16.05

All Good by Sam Friedman
Saturday brought the heat and a certain group of folks blaring metal early, offering the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the earplugs that many brought along with them for protection from the monster stacks. This year's All Good featured a hearty camp-side vendor line-up with a guy wedged between the sugar shack and pizza vendor who made a mean breakfast sandwich with hot or sweet Italian sausage, eggs, cheese, peppers, and whatever other goodies slipped in from the grill. You couldn't pass these up, but you had to take your life and your sandals in your hands crossing the mud pit of no return.

Due to an incredibly late evening and plans for another this evening, we decided to take in many of the afternoon shows kicked back at our camp. From the sounds of New Monsoon's morning set, we could tell we'd probably made a poor decision. They woke the festival righteously as the sounds of a triple threat pounded the WV hillside. Drummer Marty Ylitalo, tabla ripper Rajiv Parikh, and Brian Carey on congas were putting on a clinic.

Ozomatli Parade :: All Good by Jake Krolick
We finally made it down for Ozomatli, and it's a good thing we did because these fellows definitely got the party started. If you haven't yet taken in the high energy horns of Ulises Bella on saxophone, Asdrubal Sierra on trumpet, and Sheffer Bruton on trombone, you need to soon. The set also included some amazing percussion banging and tossing by Justin Poree. It ended with a makeshift jam circle in the pit with a crowd of hundreds packed deep around the blasting musicians. They jammed for a good fifteen minutes, pulling out wild classics such as the "Sesame Street" theme song, before parading the music towards the campgrounds.

We soaked in the sounds of New Monsoon acoustic on the Funkbox stage and were happy to see the band joined by Billy Nershi early on. The good sounds lead right into Yonder Mountain String Band's set, which included guests Michael Franti for a spirited "Death Trip" sandwiched between a broken "Ramblin' In The Rambler." At one point, Jeff Austin referred to the Big Summer Classic's mascot, that giant blow-up sumo wrestler, as "Ziggy on crack." Keller Williams seamlessly segued directly into his set on guitar with the Yonder fellows in a robot jam.

Michael Franti & Spearhead
All Good by Krolick
Michael Franti, how you feeling? The answer to this was obvious - the man was en fuego, and despite the misting dew, he was uplifting - kind of like the jam world's version of Tony Robbins. Highlights from his set included a fantastic pairing of the Williamses. Keller and DJ Williams joined the mix for a lively "Stay Human" broken apart by a huge family jam.

Saturday night was fairly fly, but the mud seemed to suck much of the spirit from the crowd. The MVP of the evening was an easy choice. The little band from Baltimore simply called The Bridge stepped up and played like a band possessed. Hell, I should probably scrap the rest of the review and only focus on their two performances, but that would leave out an amazing Sunday and Umphrey's McGee's hot set later in the evening. Chris Jacobs is the man. His heart was out, and no one else had sleeves large enough to hold it. He ripped notes off his guitar faster then a cocaine heartbeat. The band tore apart the Allman Brothers' "Whipping Post" so well you could feel it in the droplets of sweat pouring from the band. Most folks didn't notice or care to notice that SCI was about to take the main stage. Those that did, well perhaps the mud had crept up to their ears. The Bridge's first set of the evening was just a wee warm-up for what was to follow later.

Nershi & Herman :: All Good by Jake Krolick
The Kanger, Kyle, Billy, Keith, and Michael paid a bit of homage to the stage as they rode in on the good vibe of the summer classic. It was unfortunate that they were dealt such lousy weather. I hadn't seen The String Cheese Incident since the last time they played All Good, so I was open to the new sound and the changes in energy. Vince Herman gave them a warm welcome, and the group slipped right into "Come As You Are," which featured a few decent teases of "Cross-Eyed and Painless" by Billy. It wasn't long after that when the sky opened back up and smacked us in the face. I stuck it out through Cash's "Ring of Fire," which I found to be pretty satisfying - in fact the horns of Ozomatli really added some burn, burn, burn to the dulling evening, but it was short-lived. I was in desperate need of a change of clothes and a shot of whiskey to set my night back on track, so back to Camp Soggy Bottom I went.

The Bridge & Dancers :: All Good by Jake Krolick
With a few shots in me, it was time to get back to the smack-down with The Bridge. For a crowd that was struggling, you know the music had to be good to pull a huge second round late night crowd by the side stage. At one point, some local girls jumped up on stage to shake what their mamas gave them. At first, security tried to rain on their parade, but a nod from a sweaty Chris Jacobs sent security away with their tails tucked between their legs. The group ran with the night and did a few more tunes, including a sweet little broken-string beat box. Kenny Liner can beat box like a mofo and after just seeing Matisyahu puff the check, I'd love to see a battle royal with these two in that wrestling ring. The Bridge continued the high energy, intense jamming straight through to the end of their set. The last jam they played, "Jomotion," was fucking crazy. The Bridge formed some amazing connections between themselves and the audience and absolutely saved us after String Cheese. Their hour of shredding pulled us from our tents and kept us around for the Umphrey's late night.

Umphrey's McGee with Kang :: All Good by Jake Krolick
Umphrey's McGee laid down an extremely diverse late night set. Jason Hann of SCI joined in early for a strong "Triple Wide" > "Jazz Odyssey," and then Kang jumped in for some old school WWF fiddle vs. guitar and bass. He was tag-teamed by Brendan Bayliss and Ryan Stasik in the ensuing battle that left the stage in ruins. The guests were a fun kick-off, but the show really took off with Joel Cummins taking on Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall." He sang his guts out and injected one of the few much-needed adrenalin shots of the evening. Around this time, an impromptu dance party broke out in the photo pit that stretched back around the stage and into the crowd. It was one of those moments where the band and the crowd merged as one. The band busted through a catalog of music until about five a.m., finally encoring with Fugazi's "Waiting Room," which I first heard them do here last year. The walk back to the camp after Saturday's late night was like traveling through a demilitarized zone. On one side of my trek were folks passed out in the mud, and on the other side was a churned-up pond that could have contained weapons of mass destruction or some naked skinny dippers - who knew.

SUNDAY :: 07.17.05

All Good by Jake Krolick
On the walk over Sunday morning, we chatted with a crew from Georgia that swore the only thing better then a bluegrass beginning to a day is a funk start. Funk is what we got, starting right off with Ivan Neville and his rag-tag group of extended family and friends. Their set was all hopped up on the funk juice and made our weary feet move. Ivan introduced his band as a plumber, an electrician, a garbage man, and well, Ivan was the self-proclaimed drug pusher. Nestled in-between the funk was the gem of the morning - a short, but oh so sweet Duo set. The pairing of keyboardist Marco Benevento and drummer Joe Russo made sounds that rivaled a full orchestra of musicians, or at least that's how Victor Wooten described them when he took the stage. The Duo announced that they could stop the light shower that began to fall as Marco said "Sure, we can bring the sun or at least buy it." This kicked off a solid track from their album Best Reason to Buy the Sun. The two snaked and slithered through a jazzy morning mix that placed us in a cozy warm zone of musical bliss. Rain or no rain, we would enjoy the taste of all that this group had to offer. I couldn't help mentally comparing them to The Slip with the grand airiness of their sound. As The Duo ended, two folks in front of us just yelped over and over, "MORE DUO!" I couldn't agree more!

Victor Wooten :: All Good by Jake Krolick
Victor Wooten was a blast, rounding out our funk sandwich with a full backing band including two female singer/rappers. One of these women also worked a bass while lyrically assaulting us. A mention of his performance wouldn't be complete without talking about the guitar player's solo shredfest. He worked his way through bits of Jimi Hendrix, Steve Vai, and some original bad-ass moves with his guitar and his teeth. Steve Kimock continued the rotation back to an airier sound as he played a "La Petite Groove" and what I think was just some random jamming before his "Steel Guitar Rag" closed the set.

All Good by Sam Friedman
We decided we had had enough and skipped out on the Dark Star Orchestra, though I heard that Kimock sat in for most of the second set.

This year's festival reminded guests of other All Goods in that you just have to expect the worst when it comes to weather. Perhaps we were all a bit spoiled last year, but I've seen just how amazing Marvin's Mountain top can be with the sun. To answer the initial question, is bigger better? Perhaps, if you are talking about a bigger line-up, but for this festival, I like the crowds a bit smaller. All in all, the festival was a blast, with some minor weather inconveniences that slowed us down but never stopped us. I can only hope Walther Productions continues to bring us mainstream acts as well as the stellar smaller acts like The Bridge. Next summer, please pay off the weather gods. The only thunder I'd like to hear is the sound of David Schools' bass.

Jake Krolick
JamBase | All Good
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