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.

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