'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.