'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.