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
'C' is for "Colorblind"
Robert Randolph isn't a magician, but he has always been known for having a few tricks up his sleeve. For the first few years, Randolph and his Family Band had the daunting task of re-hashing their repertoire to make their sets sound fresh, and some fans expressed frustration with the band's somewhat limited catalog. Since the release of 2003's Unclassified, things have gotten much better, and although Randolph has performed in several big markets two, three, or even five times in the past few years, he has managed to offer enough variety to avoid the "been there, done that" trap. The pedal-steel perfectionist can leave fans talking for months with just a little tease in a jam or a new cover. Yet not a single attendee of this year's All Good Festival could have expected the slew of new material that Randolph and company delivered. Each and every new song was unwrapped and inspected for a second, then broken out of the box with a celebratory fit of anticipation. While the set was essentially an extended half of what the band normally gets into in a headliner-type setting, their current tour with The Black Crowes and Drive-By Truckers has helped the Family Band hone their penchant for succinct setlist penmanship. After getting things "Going in the Right Direction," Randolph smiled an almost sinister smile before unleashing a sneak preview of some songs sure to make the new album, Colorblind, set for a late September release. Most notable were "Summertime," which sounds destined for placement in adolescent TV spots with its poppy hook, and the new anthem "Deliver Me." The standout covers were there as well, including scorching renditions of the Doobie Brothers' "Jesus is Just Alright" (which will be on the new album) and Hendrix's legendary "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" plus a fantastic tease of Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" in the middle of "I Need More Love." All in all, Robert Randolph continues to demonstrate his dominance on the pedal steel, and if the material he debuted was any indication, Colorblind is in position to be his best album yet.
'D' is for the "Drizzle"
As a light cooling mist dropped from the sky, the Disco Biscuits sent us out for another romp around Marvin's Mountaintop. They were thoroughly missed last year but were back for year 10. The fatty sets they finished at High Sierra earlier in the month had many in high hopes. Their late night take left me happy, but unfortunately, disconnected at many moments through the evening. The damp drizzle that fell from the sky brought on a lot of patient jamming, trance, and dub, but the set lacked much of the energy that pushed the 2004 All Good performance until daybreak. The "Astronaut" start should be finished in high style at August's Camp Bisco, but until then, the high moments that emerged during the "Shimmy in a Conga Line" > "Great Abyss" > "Cyclone" will have to do. In fact, the "Great Abyss" was one of the better versions of that song we had heard. Drummer Allen Aucoin's playing was impeccable for "Shimmy." Go figure, practically all he played was that snap-track, high-hat rhythm. It didn't matter because he was "Allen the Machine," and we ate it up. Marc Brownstein started the bass line early into "Cyclone," so many saw it coming, ready for craziness to ensue. The "Cyclone" seemed to build slower, with a methodical, intentionally layered effect. For some reason, it just didn't seem to fit the flow and energy of a late night show – the crowd was ready to be lifted by a raging, peaked-out "Cyclone."
Aron Magner - the Disco Biscuits by Jake Krolick
Guitarist Jon "The Barber" Gutwillig found creative pockets all evening as he filled the musical space. He played a lot of notes on the off-beats, timed perfectly, thrusting some interest to a lazy late night. After it was accepted that the evening would be a pretty, melodic, floating jam, all seemed to fall into place. There was some great interplay between keyboardist Aron Magner and Brownstein for "Munchkin." The jam out of "Home Again" and into "Jigsaw Earth" dropped the mood to a dark, slow crawl laden with heavy keys and bass, creating a celestial expedition of sorts. The Biscuits' lights synched up and shot hundreds of pulsing minuscule beams into the audience. The mist of the evening amplified the experience, and all was good as the ambiance took hold and we left our minds on the hill.
Jon Gutwillig - the Disco Biscuits by Jake Krolick
'E' is for the "Essence of the Big Easy"
Since the last All Good Festival, so much has unfolded that one can be tempted to question exactly what is going on in the world. New Orleans, in particular, has had the worst year of any American city in our lifetimes. After being drowned in a deluge of Mother Earth's tears, the Crescent City is still crying for some sense of normalcy. Although music alone won't lead New Orleans back to its cultured past, the sounds of bands like Rebirth Brass Band and Galactic will certainly supply the soundtrack to the march. Given all that's happened since All Good 9, it's no wonder it feels so uplifting just to get the chance to see and hear these two sides of the fabled New Orleans musical coin (or perhaps, more accurately, a Mardi Gras doubloon). Both acts lead their respective (and, for the most part, respectable) audiences on a voyage down to the "dirty south" through funky sweeps, brass stabs, and that notorious care-free NOLA disposition. Galactic drummer Stanton Moore looked like he was going to jump out of his seat and off the stage several times during "Tiger Roll" > "Bounce Baby" > "Space Headz." Likewise, the front line of Rebirth Brass Band got the crowd stepping high with their energetic renditions of songs like "Used to Love Her" and "Let's Get it On." Rebirth truly was "Kickin' it Live," and if it wasn't for the unavoidable scorch of the sunshine, one could have closed their eyes and been transported back to a pre-Katrina Tuesday night at the Maple Leaf Bar, when the heaviest trouble weighing on one's mind was deciding between an Abita Amber or a Turbodog. Although there is still so much work to do and so much aid to give, music fans are lucky that bands like Galactic and Rebirth are doing their part to rebuild the musical legacy of New Orleans – one beat at a time.
Rebirth Brass Band by Jake Krolick
'F' is for "Forging Ahead of the Pack"
I can place my finger on one of the exact moments I fell over the abyss into music craziness. It was in the summer of 1992. I was 17 years old, and Horizons of Rock were really Developing Everywhere. The H.O.R.D.E. show was in my backyard of Portland, ME. The precise moment actually happened after Col. Bruce Hampton and the Aquarium Rescue Unit had just about finished their 40-minute set. Coincidentally (or not), they performed many of the songs I heard at this year's All Good Festival. At any rate, they started to jam in their encore and were joined by a band I hadn't really heard of before. Aquarium Rescue Unit (ARU) actually jammed their way right off the Civic Center stage and were replaced by Widespread Panic, who went right into their set. Holy crap! Music was everywhere, and I was enthralled by the continuous flow. Heck, I thought I had discovered the greatest secret known to man!
Col. Bruce Hampton - ARU
The H.O.R.D.E. festival and a new-found experimental substance were probably the reason that musical love sprouted wings and began to fly. Fast-forward to Sunday afternoon at All Good, and the feelings from years back rushed into our minds as we reclined in our seats. By the time the band got to "I'm So Glad," Col. Bruce Hampton's sneer burned us enough to rise and suck wind with a sway to match his growls. All in all, this was not a bad feeling to experience by the second song from a band that originated at a weekly Hampton hosted jam session. The Aquarium Rescue Unit's experimental jazz-rock busted out of its seems into "I'm Basically Frightened." We watched Jimmy Herring work back and forth with Bobby Lee Rodgers. The two passed notes as old friends would exchange stories of their lives. What a special musical relationship they share. I kept thinking about why Herring had joined the band in the first place. He had said somewhere that he loved the freedom Hampton gave the whole band to explore. The Colonel actually would get mad if they didn't push the boundaries of what they were playing.
The show was a Sunday treat unlike any we had received at the nine All Goods of the past. The infectious boundaries of music were stretched from "Zambi" > "Space is the Place." The band was through with their set, but we wanted it to never end. Well, we guessed promoter Tim Walther had reminisced back to where his love of music started also. Just when we thought we would have no more, Walther waved his magic festival stick and gave the Georgia boys a second 30-minute mini-set that including a scorching "Elevator to the Moon" and "Time is Free."
Jimmy Herring - ARU
They've played a handful of dates since the late 90's, and as seasoned musicians, they communicate telepathically in a musical manner akin to the way teenage girls gab with every text-doohickey communication device known to man. The Aquarium Rescue Unit's music defeats any notion that these guys weren't light years ahead of their time. No doubt, this showing has become a new scale to judge future bands in the genre.
'G' is for "Girl Power"
With very few notable exceptions, most of the bigger music festivals lack a focus on fostering female talent. All Good has always believed in the singer-songwriters, and talents like Joules Graves and Libby Kirkpatrick have gotten prime-time sets between some of the monsters of the jam scene. But this year something felt different. Gone was the soft strumming of acoustic guitars; the hypnotic tribal patting on the djembe faded into the distance and the past. This year was the year that the women showed up at All Good ready to rock hard and making no apologies for it. In fact, the quote of the festival came not from the mouth but the stomach and back of Grace Potter, whose marker-tagged midsection boldly proclaimed "Less Talk, More Rock." Potter took the side-stage by storm, kicking things off with the title track from Nothing But The Water, and she proceeded to take the curious audience down to the river, washing everyone's soul clean. Guitarist Scott Tournet had an incredible performance and did his best to distract some of the attention Potter was getting, but in the end, it may have been a losing battle as every one of the 10,000 heads in the crowd seemed fixated on her every move. While Potter sang of putting out the "Devil's Fire," she lit the West Virginia hills ablaze with her unique and pristine delivery of all things blues, gospel, and rock. At the end of her all-too-short set, the audience expressed their thanks for the scenery Potter provided on each and "Every Mile" of the journey. Yet as huge as Grace Potter's splash was, perhaps the biggest surprise of the whole weekend was the tidal wave that was Danielia Cotton. A slot in between sets from Robert Randolph and The Black Crowes may sound like a no-lose proposition, yet any performance book-ended by such titans stands a chance of being overlooked or simply smothered. But from the first notes of the Zeppelin-esque "Try," Cotton's passion and unique delivery began to drop jaws and blow minds. New York City-based Cotton's performances are comparable to a shook-up can of soda - the second the tab is lifted, the explosive contents drench everything in sight. From the captivating opening lyrics of the sing-along "It's Only Life," the crowd was under Cotton's spell as she told the tale of a "teenage mother walking down a highway." By the end of her 30-minute set, one thing rang as clear as her voice and guitar tone – Danielia Cotton is a bonafide superstar on the rise. Both Cotton and Potter have unlimited potential, and although they certainly utilize their femininity, these two songwriters bring girl power that can beat the big boys at their own game.
Grace Potter by Jake Krolick
'H' is for "Hot and Unhurried Bluegrass"
The excitement and raw energy of each of the bluegrass live performances at All Good happened at two of the most fitting times. The Hackensaw Boys blasted us into the sky with their set of fireworks set to rowdy bluegrass. They blurred the lines that separate old-time, folk, country, and rock to set a whole field of people dancing Saturday night. Hot Buttered Rum introduced a slower, slinkier Sunday show that cooled the crowd and let the mass soak in the lemonade laziness of the sizzling Sunday sun. Either way, the 'grass' was pristine, and the pace was perfect.
All Good by Sam Friedman
'I' is for "Irie Computer" and 'J' is for "Jah Rastafari"
Leave it to Easy Star All Stars to solve a mystery in Radiohead lore that is almost a decade old. It turns out the Android was Paranoid that the Karma Police were after him because he was simply smoking too much ganja. In their quest to reinvent, reinterpret, and rasta-fy the most ambitious album projects possible, Radiohead's seminal OK Computer was selected to follow Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon as the next All Stars reworking. The result had slightly less mass-appeal and sing-along potential than Dark Side, yet the reworking was just as ingenious. Songs like "Subterranean Homesick Alien" and "Electioneering" sound like they were made for this type of treatment, as lyrics like "When I go forwards you go backwards, And somewhere we will meet" surrender to the horn stabs and shifting skank. If this world premiere was any indication, the album itself will be hailed as another masterpiece.
Easy Star All Stars by Sam Friedman
Half of team JamBase had missed the Allstars' cover of Radiohead's OK Computer, but landed in the midst of The Easy Star All Stars' Dub Side of the Moon. This has been one of my favorite albums since its release. The All Good late evening performance was shrouded in a dense cooling fog similar to All Good 8, where Ozric Tentacles played through a dense cloud of flashing light and alien-induced sound. The thick night and dub beats worked together seamlessly, creating an air of mystery. As Festivarians arrived they would stumble up the hill, pulled in by the drum and bass of the Pink Floyd covers. The song-by-song reggae recreation of the classic Pink Floyd album recaptured and reinvented the spirit of reggae's golden age. It mixed the best-selling album of all time with original dancehall riddims and exploded out an organic sound that was irresistibly fresh to our ears. The vine-filled jungle mix of "On the Run" was a treat to hear in the raw, earthy setting of Marvin's Mountaintop. Its beats pulled your legs into a slow and steady stomp, forcing you to surrender all control. "Money" was so close to Floyd's original that, for a moment, we speculated that perhaps it was meant to be a dub reggae tune. It should be mandatory to feature ground-breaking reggae on the opening night of All Good and every festival. After this amazing night, the bar has been set forever.
Easy Star All Stars by Sam Friedman
'K' is for "Killer Kick-off"
Brothers Past is looking towards the future. The Philly-based band is coming off a very hot year that saw the release of This Feeling's Called Goodbye and the laying of inroads to new cities and markets. But perhaps following in true Philadelphia electro-fusion trance band tradition (read: The Disco Biscuits), the band lost their drummer. Rather than stall out or focus on the nostalgia of the past few years, the band is moving forward in the right direction. With the incredibly talented Ilya Stemkovsky (originally of OM Trio) joining up on drums, Brothers Past was tapped to control the Thursday kick-off with Easy Star All Stars, and BP straight-up brought it. A sandwich-filled opening set (featuring a blistering "One Rabbit Race" > "State Police" > "One Rabbit Race") was followed with a Floyd and Radiohead-infused second set. First-time covers of "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" and "National Anthem" allowed the band to test their new percussionist, and by all accounts, the regnant rhythmist passed with flying colors. This feeling IS called goodbye – goodbye to the past and hello to the future.
All Good - Arial Shot by Sam Friedman
'L' is for "Love (as in One Love)"
By the time The Wailers took the main stage, we were sadly on our way out. Unfortunately, work was early on Monday morning a mere 300 miles away. But thanks to All Good radio, we took our camp down listening to the sweet sounds that made most of us fall in love with the reggae genre on the car stereo. This sensational shortwave FM broadcast was a fantastic idea – no longer did each circle of tents need to compete for best boom box selections – all they needed to do was set their radios to 88.1 to listen to the main and side stages live at the comfort of their own camp. "Kinky Reggae," "Soul Rebel," "War," and "Lively Up Yourself" are just some of the highlights from what was heard - a fitting cap on the festival weekend from Bob Marley's brilliant backing band.
All Good by Sam Friedman
'M' is for our "Magnificent Maestro"
Whether you believe he's the best bassist in the world or just one of the top 5, there is no doubt that Oteil Burbridge is a true master of the low end. Whether holding it down for the Allman Brothers, Vida Blue, Aquarium Rescue Unit, or his own Peacemakers project, there is simply no room to argue that Oteil is anywhere but at the forefront of the game. This year's All Good Festival was virtually framed in his trademark 6-string stomps with the Peacemakers kicking things off and the return of ARU helping to close the festival. The Peacemakers set the bar early with some great instrumentation and some spiritually-themed endeavors. Paul Henson fervently added his honest vocals to the flow, while Oteil guided the ship back and forth with grace and precision. While his Egyptian first name means "wanderer," Oteil's focus never fails over the entire course of the voyage. It was truly a unique and splendid treat to have him perform not once, but twice over the course of the weekend.
'N' is for "Nasty Weather Bringing the Noblest Music"
There was an incredible moment before The Bridge took the stage late Friday night. G.R.A.B. was finishing their set, and The Bridge was on the highest of highs, ready to play for more than 15,000 blissful freaks. The "oomph" dripping off the band was fan-fuckin'-tastic. Each member had a warm-up like that of a prize fighter about to take the ring for their knock-out bout. After last year's tromping of the festival, The Bridge has been slowly rising through the ranks of mid-tier bands, destined for the greatness of the top. The "not so little anymore" group from Baltimore was dished a hard start this year, as Trey and company were given extra time for an encore. This meant the energy that the band had built was left hanging out to dry for an extra 10 minutes. Also, there was a six minute-or-so soaking rain that sucked away some of the crowd, and to top it all off, an early sound problem.
The Bridge by Jake Krolick
With those challenges failing to hinder them, the band powered through a great half-hour. In the tiny time slot, these guys ripped apart one of the baddest versions of "Brotha Don't" in their extensive and fabled All Good history. Rumors of local authorities being called to contain Chris Jacobs' wild finger dance on the guitar proved to be quite true. His early shining moment was passed off to the beat-boxing, mandolin freak Kenny Linear, who popped, persuaded, and punished the mic in his bad-self, b-boy style.
The band finished in the haze of smoke and flames of "Jomotion" with Mike Gambone and Jacobs linking up in what I've come to expect as their runner's kick at the end of the marathon. There was no way they were coming off the stage yet, and the crowd was not going to let them. They ripped into a quick "Dr. Doughkneeder" riff as Chris yanked his bloody beating heart out so his body could breath. He worked the guitar into a mess of strings, wood, and reverberation. The result was one of the most talked about sets of the festival. It would be wonderful to see these guys with a well-earned main stage spot next year.
'O' is for the "Odyssey"
Forgive the flashback to senior year high school Literature class for a second and hear this out. On Saturday afternoon, Umphrey's McGee unleashed another trademark "Jazz Odyssey" and unintentionally managed to create a dynamic and event-filled voyage reminiscent of Homer's tale of Ulysses. The classic Greek narrative, like the band's free-form improvisational exploration into sonic space, began with a bit of calypso. True, the beginning of Homer's Odyssey was situated on the island of the nymph Calypso while Umphrey's offering was accentuated with Andy Farag's calypso-infused beats, but the common element was certainly there. As the tale unfolded, several more coincidences arose; the music reached a crescendo that paralleled when Zeus sent two eagles down at Telemachus' request to slash and claw the necks of Penelope's suitors. In this case, the eagles arrived in the form of Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger, and their dueling guitars served as their talons. While the carnage was a less literal form of "ripping it up," the carnage was extensive. The underlying viciousness was apparent to all who witnessed this display of musical mastery (and lived to tell the tale). Several more similar surprises lurked around the corner, in the next chapter of the saga. For a second, keyboardist Joel Cummins even looked like blacksmith god Hephaestus as he pounded on his Moog as if it were molten metal (at any rate, the notes it produced were hot enough to melt most other musicians alive). The next universal undercurrent presented itself as drummer Kris Meyers switched and shuffled the swing of the song. Meyers always drums with passion, but there was an extra "oomph" in his playing that suggested a ferocity only surpassed when Poseidon shook the ocean with his trident. Poseidon's weapon had three points, while Meyers was bound to his two drumsticks – yet his speed and precision made it seem like he had an extra limb. Finally, Ryan Stasik rushed in with a grace and promptitude reminiscent of Apollo himself, dancing from bass fret to fret as if he had wings on his fingers. Granted, some of these comparisons may be a bit of a stretch, but both odysseys certainly have one thing in common – their legend will be revered and their tales told for a long time to come.
Brendan Bayliss - Umphrey's McGee
'P' is for "Passion"
MOFRO's front man John "JJ" Grey has more passion in his delivery than most folks can muster in a whole lifetime. The group's quick romp through the back bayous filled the humid late Sunday afternoon perfectly. The crowd wasn't as large as previous days, but the love for the Florida swamp sounds ran deep. Grey moved through songs slowly, picking his octaves with care as he commanded the attention of our ears during "Lochloosa." Judging from his demeanor, one gets the sense that MOFRO's front man likes a slower pace in life. His words crackled with a life of their own, causing the crowd to get the feeling that he knew something they didn't. Excitement rang through the performance as Grey sang about what he knows best: his life, food, and music. If one thing is clear, he loves performing. The only flaw in this heartfelt experience was that The Wailers had to sound check during their set, drowning out some of the emotion that typifies a MOFRO set.
All Good by Sam Friedman
'Q' is for meeting our "Quirk Quota"
Les Claypool is perhaps the most peculiar artist to emerge in popular music in quite some time. Although it's difficult to describe anyone or any artist with just one word, Claypool, the founder of Primus, Colonel of the Frog Brigade, pig-man of Oysterhead, and leader of the Fancy Band, is particularly difficult to summarize. "Eccentric" doesn't quite cut it, nor does "outlandish." "Idiosyncratic" could, but it just doesn't have enough punch or personality to do him justice. Perhaps the perfect word to describe Claypool is "quirky." In fact, I propose that from this point on, any illustrated dictionary contain a rendering of an open-mouthed Claypool playing his "whamola" bass-stick next to the word "quirk" (i.e., see the fancy freak in figure A). Lester Claypool and his band of merry misfits took the stage at the 10th annual All Good Festival to a huge roar, and they looked ready to drop knowledge in their black shirts with "Fancy" on the front, complemented by the backdrop from the cover of their new album, Whales and Woe. Kicking into things with "One Better," it was apparent that the "Fancies" were in good spirits. Percussionist Mike Dillon was grinning from ear to ear, and sitar-mastering mistress Gabby La La looked intriguing with her blue wig, complete with a gopher on top. Claypool took his trademark circular laps around the stage before diving in to slap after slap on his four-string. The set progressed with fan favorites like "David Makalaster 1" and hit a peak when Claypool left the stage for a second then returned with his pig mask. Observant fans had noticed an extra amp on stage near sax player/devil Skerik, and those really in the loop saw Trey's Paul Languedoc guitar getting tuned before the set. Those who didn't expect it were alerted to something special when Claypool told a tale and then referred to "Antipasto" as a familiar red-headed friend appeared onstage. Yes, Trey Anastasio himself had emerged for "Precipitation" and a "Mr. Oysterhead" jam. It was the stuff that legends are made of, and the music didn't disappoint. The "Big Nazo" characters joined the fun, and the stage and crowd became one giant freak show. This was Claypool in his element – wacky, funky, and oozing with quirk. A huge rendition of "D's Diner" closed out the set, and the Fancy Band left the stage, knowing full well that they had just completed one of the best performances of the festival.
'R' is for the "Reggae that Roars"
We happily caught the set by Soldiers of Jah Army, excited to see a band so "en fuego" you would swear they had hot coals smoldering underneath them. They were all over the stage in a mêlée of dreads and kicking legs. Their "Bad Brains meets Bob Marley" sound created a blend of conscious roots music tangled in the time-honored cadence of reggae. The sound permeated the skin, sending beads of sweat rolling down our brows. The Washington D.C. group plugged through five tracks off their 2006 release Get Wiser, the third album from the group's own Innerloop label. "9-1-1" capped the spirited performance that saw the pair of lead singers, Jacob Hemphill and Bob Jefferson, leave everything they had on the Magic Hat side stage.
Soldiers of Jah Army by Jake Krolick
'S' is for "Surfer-Soul Power"
Although his name brings up images of the love child of an angry green monster and a squirrelly, tunic-clad minstrel divulging his love for laid-back lemon, Donavon Frankenreiter would more fittingly serve as the spawn of Chi Light and Bill A. Bong. The extremely underrated singer/surfer/songwriter took the stage on Saturday and proceeded to ooze with a delivery as smooth as a glass pebble in a vase on Sade's bedside table. A certain highlight was "The Way it Is," which sounded like it could have been a Studio 54 anthem, or at the very least, overheard pumping out of the back of Jay Kay from Jamiroquai's purple velvet-trimmed love van in the parking lot of Pimpstock. Frankenreiter put on one of the most silky, intense, and commendable performances of the weekend and proved that his unique sound is here to stay, sex wax and all.
'T' is for the "Talented & Tenacious Tea Leaf Green"
The sky early Saturday was as gray as they come, but that didn't matter; light was brightly emerging from the Main Stage performance of Tea Leaf Green. Their rock and roll echoed around the camps, from the tents sitting slanted on the hills to the RVs six lanes deep and 56 lanes wide in the valley. Notes snuck off Trevor Garrod's keys and wandered into the tents of those late to wake, prodding them to get up and head down to the Main Stage. The persuasive "Two Chairs" pulled us from the laziness of the morning and sent us in through the cattle round-up look-alike fences leading into the Main Stage area. We arrived to witness the lighter, airier, cousin of the Funk 'N' Jam house show at High Sierra. "Devils Pay" and "Dragonfly" took their cue from the classics and reminded us exactly why we trek from all sides of the earth to these festivals in the first place. Our ears were caught by the same feeling evoked from bands like The Slip or ALO – that sensation of witnessing true innovators creating without mimicking their predecessors in any way. Hot off recent stops in packed houses all around the country, the band effortlessly traded the feeling of a cramped, smoky venue for the wide-open expanse of the festival field. And like their revered show at High Sierra, their fan-favorite song "Sex in the 70's" was a spectacular culmination, complete with some awesome hard-rock riffs and jams that grandly echoed off the mountainside back to the big stage. On a small, yet crucial side note, guitarist Josh Clark's 20-30 minute appearance with DJ Logic on the Ropeadope Stage was also truly special.
Josh Clark - Tea Leaf Green
'U' is for an "Unlimited Unveiling"
Not only did All Good see the first performance of an album (OK Computer), the first US performance of the year (Xavier Rudd), and the first performance by a new lineup (Brothers Past), an entire band made their debut performance. John Medeski knows his way around the keys; he's been wowing audiences for well over a decade with Billy Martin and Chris Wood. But lately, MMW has focused more on avante-garde jazz, jungle-paced tear-outs, and technically overboard compositions. In an effort to get back to the funk of earlier years, he has now formed a supergroup trio in the form of John Medeski and the Itch. Joined by Eric Krasno of Soulive fame and the extremely versatile and underrated Adam Deitch (of Scofield and Lettuce fame), Medeski chose All Good to debut a project that not only swings with the best of them... given the chance, it would tear the whole swing set clear out of the ground. Deitch put in one of the best performances of the weekend, and it was amazing to watch Krasno and Medeski push each other around floaty and funky grooves. Hopefully the Itch will go on to tour someday soon – their unveiling went off without a hitch!
John Medeski with The Itch
'V' is for "Viscosity"
Southern Culture on the Skids has been around and kicking out sticky southern rock forever. The North Cackalacky-based "trashabilly" rock trio's journey started out with tiny clubs almost two decades ago. The bucking bronco ride that is their career rode onto the Main Stage at All Good during a most opportune moment on Friday afternoon. Front man Rick Miller ripped through a double over-head set of songs from many of their records, going back to 1991's Dirt Track Date, and their latest, Mojo Box. His fearless charging with the guitar was only met with enthusiasm and grit from bassist Mary Huff and drummer Dave Hartman. S.C.O.T.S. delivered a sweaty southern surf-rock party that fired on almost all cylinders, barreling down the road at 10,000 RPM. "Double Wide" featured a splendid hook, with shared vocal duties creating a solid exchange between Huff and Miller. Huff's presence made their show that much more enjoyable as she just beamed with enthusiasm and energy.
Mary Huff - S.C.O.T.S.
'W' is for "Who?"
What "who"? Whose "who"? Well, "Who Are You?" of course. A brilliant cover of the 70's anthem (or CSI Las Vegas theme song to the youngsters and rookies) introduced the 10th annual All Good Festival to a super-band whose presence was like something out of a dream. G.R.A.B., D.M.T., Mike and the Italians, the Phuo, Trey and Phriends, or "Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, and the Benevento-Russo Duo" – this kick-ass rock band, by any name, would sound as sweet. An almost 20-minute jam danced around the core of what is arguably The Who's most famous song, even containing an awesome acoustic guitar interlude by Mike Gordon. By the time it was over, this group had seemingly accomplished the impossible – just one song in, the crowd was both united in dance and eating out of the palms of the group's collective hands. "Mud City" > "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" followed, and although some of the youngsters in the crowd seemed hard-pressed to identify the latter as a Paul McCartney song, they all somehow knew the "hand across the water" refrain. During the stretch from "Trouble" to "Drifting," Trey Anastasio again proved that he has more chops than a kung-fu fight at a Chicago steakhouse. His tone is so polished and pure; Anastasio's playing seems like something out of a fairy tale, especially because it seems to impossibly grow more refined and unpresumptuous at the same time. The next offering from the four illustrated the influence of the dynamic Benevento/Russo Duo on the ex-Phish boys – "Becky" was raging and was great to see, hear, and experience live. Although at times, Anastasio could have been mistakenly looked at as either bored or lost, he found a few nice ways to contribute. Intentionally or not, one of the beautiful things about this band's dynamic was loudly publicized in this moment – this new mix forces Anastasio to take a step back every now and again, and that can't hurt after years of always pushing forward at the front of the pack. Balance helps all aspects of life, and this was no exception.
Trey with G.R.A.B.
"Sweet Dreams Melinda" offered Anastasio another chance to catch back up and retake the lead. In an interview for the release of 2005's Shine (the album on which "S.D. Melinda" appears), Anastasio said, "I hope my 'Sweet Dreams Melinda' makes people remember their own moments." Well, whether or not it led to widespread reminiscing, it did create a moment that many will remember for a long time. The next stretch of "Get Back" > "Mr. Completely" > "Goodbye Head" > "Something For Rockets" was like the band's thesis statement on how their musical ideas, strengths, and backgrounds fit together. Mike Gordon showed why he is world-renowned as an original bassist – he threw down a bigger bottom-end than Mandisa from this season's American Idol competition. "Get Back" was a fun sing-along, but during "Mr. Completely" and "Goodbye Head," it was all about the driving drums. Joe Russo, "Sir" not just by royal name but also due to his regal attitude, simply smoked through his duties as skin-slapper. "Something for Rockets" was the second of the Duo's compositions to be offered, and it was something to behold. Marco Benevento almost looked at times like he was auditioning to play the Joker in the next Batman movie – his smile never left his face. Any longtime supporter of the Duo knew this was a special moment; it was just an amazing feeling to see such a huge crowd react so positively to one of their originals. After thanking the crowd and pointing out a really cool glow-rope-man that had been dancing above the crowd all night, Anastasio led the band through an encore of "Tuesday" as a light rain began to fall. It was one of those moments that sticks with a music fan, and this was one performance that delivered exactly what the All Good Festival experience was meant to be about.
Mike Gordon with G.R.A.B.
'X' is for "Exit (as in Exit Clov)"
Online press-kit pioneers sonicbids sponsored a contest for unknown bands to win a set at All Good. The Boogie Hustlers won the chance to kick things off on Thursday night, while the second winner of the weekend got to break in the Magic Hat stage on Friday afternoon. Hailing from Washington D.C., the band consisting of Susan Hsu and twin sister Emily introduced the crowd to the concept of Exit Clov, who play in the noble tradition of twin front-women pioneered by the Breeders. The band began with an energetic opener called "Trans-Siberian Love Triangle." Other highlights included "Communist BBQ" and a killer rendition of Blondie's "Call Me," which wrapped up their set. The harmonies of the Hsu sisters' vocals were tight and sweet with wraithlike synchronization. Their only downfall was that their guitar solos ended too abruptly, but their set definitely had people talking. In fact, I overheard a raging crowd member comment during "Call Me," "These two twins, I'm not sure how old they are, but I'd check their IDs before they hit that Magic Hat stand."
Exit Clov by Jake Krolick
'Y' is for our "Yearly Sunday Surprise"
Every year All Good delivers something special on Sunday. While some short-sighted attendees see Sunday morning as an opportunity to "beat the traffic" and get a head start on the journey home, All Good veterans know that there will always be something on the schedule that will blow away any and all expectations. Those that leave early to get back to the land of responsibilities always miss something pure and magical. Last year, the Benevento/Russo Duo announced their arrival on the scene with perhaps the best set they played all summer. The previous year, Del McCoury and his band showed that necktie-clad gentlemen can get down and dirty too. The "All Good Sunday Surprise" doesn't have to be an unknown act; it just has to be that musical exclamation mark on the weekend. This year, the honor went to Australian Xavier Rudd, whose one-man show offered an honest and unique take on rhythm and harmony. Presenting material from his albums Solace and Food in the Belly as well as some notable covers (particularly Toots and the Maytals' staple "Famine"), Xavier Rudd has successfully replaced the tambourine-on-the-foot model of the one-man band with a heartfelt yet energetic Aboriginal-infused soul. Although many expected Rudd to rise to the occasion, few expected his first US appearance in over a year to be so compelling. Perhaps the single biggest highlight was his rendition of the unrecorded masterpiece "Gift of the Trees," in which he proclaims, "So I guess I should say, this is all that I need - music and you and the gift of the trees." As he finished the song, a sweeping breeze covered the West Virginia hillside, and the trees seemed to bow, indicating their approval and reciprocation of Rudd's gesture.
'Z' is for the ZOO Animals, "Free Them All!"
Before Animal Liberation Orchestra (ALO) jetted off to tour Europe, they made a nice little showing at All Good. The left-coasters played a solid little set that was highlighted by a buoyant mix of soul, jazz, and surf-flavored rock. A verse covering "Ophelia" was by far the highlight of the barely 30-minute show. The Band cover was the saccharine in my early evening coffee. Zach Gill did a splendid job acting as the legendary Levon Helms. It's tough for a band to come charging out of the gate, hit their stride, and wail in about the time it takes many bands to jam out one or two songs, but ALO won more than a few new fans out at All Good and made the best of the time they were given!
All Good 2006
AS GOOD AS IT GETS!
All Good 2006 was truly an event worth waiting ten years for. If you had attended All Good since the beginning, you felt extremely validated joining the festival this summer. "We" - the collective that shares this weekend every year - have grown, laughed, cried and made it through some of the wildest weather and trying times together. This summer, the All Good Festival fully sprouted the wings it was always meant to fly on. The special touches were prevalent everywhere; from the "All Good Radio" to the street signs marking all of the previously unlabeled roads, the advances in the infrastructure paralleled the maturity of the crowd and new benchmark set by the lineup. All of these factors combined to push this year's festival over the top, making it easily the best All Good Festival yet.
Relive the Magic – or catch it for the first time!
Already, there are a great number of audience recordings from All Good on the web. Please follow the links below to download your favorite show from the weekend or to find out what you missed. A huge shout out goes to all the tapers, THANK YOU for everything you do, and to the folks who work so hard to bring this amazing weekend of music together each and every year!
All Good 2006 by Jake Krolick
Aquarium Rescue Unit:
The Black Crowes:
The Disco Biscuits:
DJ Logic & Friends (members of Umphrey's McGee & Galactic):
Donavon Frankenreiter Band:
Grace Potter and the Nocturnals:
Hot Buttered Rum String Band:
John Medeski and the Itch:
Les Claypool and his Fancy Band:
Skerik / Mike D / Marco Benevento:
Southern Culture on the Skids:
Stanton Moore and Friends:
Tea Leaf Green:
Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, and the Benevento-Russo Duo:
JamBase | All Good
Go See Live Music!