Words & Images by Jake Krolick & Robert J. Massie
All Good Music Festival :: 07.13 - 07.16 :: Marvin's Mountaintop :: Masontown, WV
All Good 2006 by Jake Krolick
The Hottest Spot in Town
When you're a kid, you wait for Christmas, your birthday, the last day of school; all of those moments make the rest of the days worthwhile. Now, as adults, we wait for checks to clear, traffic gridlock to let us through, and that long meeting with the finance department to be over.
We lose so much of the magic of our youth waiting through monotonous events that seem to waste away each year. Yet for a special few of us technically called "grown-ups," we've found solace in waiting for a select group of annual celebrations just as enchanting as that first Christmas or that perfect 7th birthday. These events take place every summer across the country and have fabulous names like Bonnaroo, Wakarusa, High Sierra, and the one-and-only All Good Festival. This prestigious and renowned event takes place in the hills of what Les Claypool so affectionately calls "West Virginy."
Todd Sheaffer of RRE
This summer All Good celebrated its tenth anniversary. To distinguish this year from the rest, we decided to follow a new route into Marvin's Mountaintop, hoping to avoid some of the traffic. The narrow road wrapped through the outskirts of Masontown past farms, fields, and the most peculiar establishments, simply labeled "hotspots." Each hotspot advertised their "hotness" with bright neon or sequined signs adorning the side of the building. How does that fit in? Well, on Saturday afternoon, Masontown's esteemed mayor, a venerable lady you would never expect to see at a music festival, stepped on stage to officially offer All Good the town's welcome and seal of approval. In fact, if it weren't for a bit of pressing business, she would have joined us for a Magic Hat #9 and enjoyed the next performance. As she walked off the back of the stage she remarked, "This weekend, each year, All Good is the hottest spot in town!"
It felt so gratifying to hear the mayor say these few simple words. In a year filled with festivals that have been plagued with overzealous actions by Johnny Law or a sense of mistrust from the hosting town, the mayor's words differentiated All Good in the best way possible. Moreover, after ten years of steady progress and growing pains, All Good can finally be considered much more than just the hottest spot in Masontown. This truly is an event worthy of waiting for - through the monotony of preceding work weeks, bad weather, long commutes, and sleepless nights full of anticipation.
In the spirit of the regained magic of youth that the tenth annual All Good Festival so kindly bestowed upon us, we would like to review the weekend using another cherished childhood ritual – the alphabet game.
'A' is for "All Star Performance"
If All Good was a sporting event, the MVP trophy would almost certainly be sitting on band leader/multi-instrumentalist Karl Denson's mantle, with guitarist Michael "Elgin Park" Andrews and keyboardist Robert Walter gaining periodic visitation rights. The Greyboy Allstars took over late night with a performance that left no doubt that the godfathers of the jazz-fusion sound (who laid the tracks for so many present-day players) were still, in fact, at the very top of the game. Their display of "Left Coast Boogaloo" gave the crowd "A Whole Lot of Reasons" to "Get Down" as they ripped through their catalogue and incorporated some new treats and twists. The set flowed perfectly and kept the energy high without any need for artificial, electronic, or supersonic punctuation. This was honest music roasted on an open flame, fueled by the best of intentions, served piping hot, and still fresh after all these years. The rhythm section of bassist Chris Stillwell and drummer (and world record holder for best "this groove is so good it hurts" facial expressions) Zak Najor kept the anchor held so tightly that Denson and Walter could jostle and thrash about without rocking the boat. Finally, in perhaps the single biggest "oh no you didn't" moment of the weekend, the rumor mill was set abuzz with a tale that inaccurately stated that the old-schoolers in GBA paid homage to Sound Tribe Sector 9 with their cover of "Nautilus." In all actuality, it was Sound Tribe who perhaps jam-popularized the legendary offering from jazz keyboardist Bob James of Fourplay fame. Does "Nautilus" sound familiar? It should. The song has been sampled by DJ Premier, Pete Rock, A Tribe Called Quest, DJ Cam, Luke Vibert, and Ghostface Killah, and it has gained a coveted spot on the soundtrack to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The Greyboys may be off the road until Jam Cruise, but expect them to remain in top condition in the off-season. They will return ready to dominate again.
Karl Denson with Greyboy Allstars
'B' is for the "Brown and the Black"
The Boognish hung thick in the air Friday as the Ween flag flew straight through Les Claypool's ear-tromping set. Claypool himself gave the PA boys a shout out, saying he would only do the show on the terms that either Ween or the Flaming Lips were playing. Ween did indeed play, and they threw down a nice mind-fuck with some balls-to-the-hills rock. The most serious crowd shake-up of the set started during a Gene Ween tagged "Best 'Transdermal' celebration ever." The spectacle was just brilliant to witness, with Gener singing his guts out from the very first note and drummer Claude Coleman, Jr. crashing away on the cymbals, matching Dean Ween's exaggerated riffs. "Transdermal" finished with a nice toss out to a dude waving the Maggie Simpson blow-up doll before Ween waved their dicks in the wind. The evening pressed on as a hippie shaking Voodoo Lady was welcomed with a yowl from the hills. Back in the crowd, a black, naked, spread-eagled blow-up doll made her way up to the front for a few choice positions before losing her crowd-lubricated ride. Gene stared wild-eyed at us and said he knew what we wanted. We watched as Dean Ween mistreated his axe like a dirty sex toy, foully maneuvering it through filthy exercises. A full-on rock assault was unleashed with the back-to-back "Johnny on the Spot" and "Puerto Rican Power" that shattered virgins everywhere. Gene Ween yelped out his country-flavored porn through the mic as he sang "Piss up a Rope." The band was joined by Mary Huff for some Southern Culture on the Ween. She shook her backside and tossed a fifty to Mickey. The scene made you want to squirm and look away, but you just had to stare and shake. Thick smoke poured out of the back of the stage, and Ween stumbled into a beautifully fucked-up "Roses are Free." The placement was warship Ween's pre-emptive strike before that "G.R.A.B." band that followed was able to fire off a cover. The show was as good as a festival gets with the real fire disintegrating Dean's fret board and a stud-horse stamina fueling Gene's voice for one awe-inspiring evening.
Ween by Jake Krolick
Time to shift gears from the "brown sound" to the black, as in The Black Crowes, who delivered - plain and simple. They decided to forego a "punch-of-the-clock" festival set and instead dropped a large, heavy rock show on our heads. Lead singer Chris Robinson's Mojo heart was in the right spot as they kicked off the show with a "Halfway Between Everywhere," reminiscent of their extra-famous August 2005 Fillmore Auditorium show. For one of the rare times, Mr. Robinson decided to not say anything even remotely negative all evening. He just worked the stage bathed in yellow and blue light. He kept his head back most of the evening, working his arms next to his body like some freaky rocking chicken.
Chris Robinson - The Black Crowes
Chris dedicated "Cosmic Friend" > "Young Man, Old Man" to deceased Floyd front-man Syd Barrett before he testified to the WV hills. The Crowes ran the gamut as far as covers; they presented material penned by the Allmans, Elvis Costello, Neil Young, and Joe Cocker. "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" was a cool, cool Beatles breeze before a half-moon celebratory jam from "Nebakanezer" to "Thorn in my Pride." The backside of "Pride" was met with Chris sucking hard on his harp. As he pulled on the harmonica, he pulled us in through his microphone. No southern answer songs were needed after the cover of Neil Young's "Alabama," but The Black Crowes were about to be paid a visit by a southern friend. Chris gave a little rap about one of their good friends just pulling up back-stage. This friend just purchased one of Chuck Berry's Cadillacs before driving up from Georgia. Well, who steps out of the shadows? It was none other than Jimmy Herring himself, who joined in for a marvelous "Dreams." Herring was a perfect third guitar. He didn't outshine anyone, but he was able to stand out and impress the crowd nonetheless. Jimmy Herring, Marc Ford, and Rich Robinson jammed well together. It was just too bad that the band didn't follow Herring back into the song for one more jam. It should be noted that the sound system for All Good was sensational. Through many of the performances, as you closed your eyes, it felt like you were at an indoor venue. At the end, Chris told the crowd to think about our loved ones and about all that is going on in the world. The Black Crowes produced a touching and adventurous festival performance. They could have easily played a grouping of only "popular" songs, but instead went with a set that offered a bit of everything. Chris Robinson is a vibrant and searing front man to watch.
The Black Crowes by Jake Krolick