Photos | Review | All Good Festival | Ohio

Words by: Chadbyrne R. Dickens | Images by: Steven Limentani, Sarah Morganne Waldrip, and Brian Hockensmith

All Good Music Festival :: 07.19.12-07.22.12 :: Legend Valley :: Thornville, OH

Read the full review below this photo gallery, and click here and here to jump to Brian Hockensmith's photos

After establishing itself for over a decade in West Virginia as one of the country's premiere festivals, promoter, Tim Walther, uprooted the revelry to a location in Thornville, Ohio, the site of many Grateful Dead shows in the early 90's. Although a rural "destination" spot, All Good Music Festival manages to trump all other entertainment options with an unrivaled quality line-up of musicians. With no overlapping sets, one can fully engage in 48 different bands over a 4 day weekend, in a huge field with all the amenities, among friendly folks, with a line of trees up on a hill providing shade when needed.

Phil Lesh by Steven Limentani
Thursday Highlights

Cognizant that most attendees work a regular week, festivals often bolster their Thursday night line-up to draw a larger crowd earlier and thus have a greater audience to fill the venue. Anticipation builds before the initial lineup is announced. On the first day of the All Good Festival 2012, The Lumineers and The Werks brought energy like they had something to prove and garnered many new fans; bluegrass outfit Trampled By Turtles demonstrated their pickin’ prowess and why they will soon segue from up-and-coming band status to a household name; the bomb-dropper Phil Lesh, brought his friends and the house down during lengthy Grateful Dead jams performed under the stars; and Shpongle, (Simon Posford), entranced a late-night crowd who was ready for trippy psybient electronic music that lasted until the morning hours. But the highlight for me that night, perhaps of the entire festival, was:

"They're a band beyond description, Like Jehovah's favorite choir. People joining hand in hand, while the music played the band, Lord they're setting us on fire." – John Barlow

Bob Weir & Bruce Hornsby Feat. Branford Marsalis :: 8:30 PM – 10:00 PM :: Dragon Stage
The iconic former rhythm guitarist for the Grateful Dead, Bob Weir, remains the poster boy and elder-statesmen for the Jam Band scene in the post-Garcia era. The repertoire from which he continues to perform throughout his 3 decade+ tenure, remain a staple and necessary auditory experience for legions of Dead Heads and music fans. At All Good, Weir assembled an impressive band including his long-time friend, the man who had presented the Grateful Dead into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, Bruce Hornsby. Hornsby admirably joined in on piano with the boys for over 100 shows from 1988-1995. However, the element providing depth, a broader scope of sound and the promise of something truly special was the addition of tenor-saxophone stalwart Branford Marsalis.

Bruce Hornsby, Branford Marsalis, and Bob Weir
by Steven Limentani
With a full-band in support, Bobby and company escalated the energy from 0-60 pretty fast. Branford smoothly delivered the well-known opening notes of “Bird Song.” After a very intense “The Other One”, with Weir on acoustic, he said, “Well, there goes the set list!” For band members who are notably known for their improvisational skills, that comment was music to our ears. We unabashedly left ourselves vulnerable and open for whatever was offered next. With selections like “Jack Straw”, “Black Peter” and “Scarlet Begonias” the crowd was sent into a fury. Hornsby’s improvisational skills on piano and Marsalis on the horn added an element of Jazz and classical-musical training that brought to these well-worn Grateful Dead classics a fresh and engaging expression. The level of musicianship, effort, class and pure auditory excitement set a standard for all other acts to follow for the remainder of the weekend.

Friday Highlights

The lots filled up, camps and tents were erected and Shakedown Street was thriving as the crowds exponentially grew. The music commenced early with a 9:30am Dirtfoot set followed by The Macpodz on the Grassroots stage located across the street from the main venue. Elephant Revival showcased their varied talents; Festival favorites ALO were convinced to belt out an amazing and fan-participatory rendition of “Eye of the Tiger”; The Wood Brothers shared their Blues/folk rock; SOJA represented the reggae genre with their unique experience; Moon Hooch was given a chance by the All Good founder to show they belonged and they did; G. Love & Special Sauce brought a fun hip-hop; Rubblebucket won over an audience ripe and eager to experience their psychedelic and broad of breadth sound with Kalmia Traver who showed off her Feist>Company of Thieves>Bjork inspired originality and energy; The Pimps of Joytime throttled a prime time slot with their Prince-influenced funk session; The Flaming Lips bombarded all the senses with an over-the-top and energy filled visual session with explosions, smoke guns, confetti, young scantily-clad dancing girls and lead singer Wayne Coyne crawling across the crowd inside a huge translucent balloon; and Galactic, with singer Corey Glover of Living Colour, infusing the night air with strong dance songs, bass lines and cover songs, including “Cult of Personality” and “Sympathy for the Devil”, highlighted by horn player, Corey Henry, walking straight off stage and into the frenetic and welcoming crowd while blowing his horn.

The Everyone Orchestra by Steven Limentani
“Sound is the method, energy is the experience” – Matt Butler, Everyone Orchestra

Everyone Orchestra :: 3:45 PM – 4:20 PM :: Crane Stage
The beauty of music is that it allows you to escape reality and live in a fantasy world. To do this most effectively, one must never have any pre-conceived notions or snap judgments based on anything except the music itself. Despite being his third performance in a row at All Good, most fans were unaware of what The Everyone Orchestra really meant. Matt Butler, a very modest yet outwardly confident man leads an assemblage of varied talent onstage with no prior rehearsal or pre-planned set list. Butler has performed with a who’s who of talent and on this day would be surrounded with the brilliant boys from ALO, the horn section from Rubblebucket, and the violinist and clapboard performers from Elephant Revival. Watching the unique experience of Butler directing the band, holding a dry erase board to lead the band and utilizing hand gestures and facial expressions to ask for more, was riveting. Similar to tasting a broth as one adds ingredients to a frothy soup, one is amazed to hear such exquisite and spectacular jams come from such a diverse group of musicians.

Many casual fans may question what it is that Butler actually does on stage. I asked him to explain his role, “I am a human volume-knob, a vortextual facilitator, a balancer taking pressure off the musicians and onto myself to that I may facilitate different ‘plays’, like a sports game, until we throw a touchdown together! I am a coach in a quest to expand melodies and music.” Butler is on the board of the Rex Foundation, a charity which provides musical instruments to schools, and his Orchestra efforts continue to raise money for a variety of causes. Despite a monster weekend of accomplished household names and icons, I was not alone when discussing this Orchestra experience and how it was the highlight of the entire weekend. A lthough there are numerous YouTube videos and a recently released studio album with Marco Benevento, Jennifer Hartswick and Steve Kimock, among others called The Brooklyn Sessions, I highly recommend one find the next EO concert and move up towards the stage to experience an auditory and visual treat unlike anything else on the music scene today.

Yonder Mountain String Band by Steven Limentani
Yonder Mountain String Band :: 8:00 PM – 9:30 PM :: Dragon Stage
The Colorado-based bluegrass outfit was slotted into the prime Friday night slot for a reason: the intense and frantic meshing of instruments create a jam that starts a domino effect amongst the dancing crowd who are compelled to start a groove and can’t stop. Each song is well-crafted, written with lyrical depth, and are dynamic enough that those not well versed in the genre are provided a quick lesson into the addictive scene that is today’s jamgrass. Regardless of tempo or topic, lead singer Jeff Austin performs live on stage with a raw energy and unbridled enthusiasm. Not only does Austin have an uncanny resemblance to actor David Naughton, from ‘An American Werewolf in London’, but as he manically and intensely shifts his countenance with each note he looks like he is about to transform into a werewolf. Ironically, when he finally takes a breather to wipe his brow, he does so with a cloth depicting the design of Phish drummer Jon Fishman’s dress, – the Wolfman’s brother, of course. Constantly on tour, Yonder Mountain String Band spearheads the current movement toward greater exposure and acceptance of jamgrass music, including bands like Cornmeal, Hot Buttered Rum, Cabinet and Railroad Earth.

Papadosio by Sarah Morganne Waldrip
Papadosio :: 12:15 PM – 1:00 AM :: Crane Stage
The quintet, hailing from North Carolina but originally formed in neighboring Athens, Ohio, has been praised as one of the current leaders in the electronica movement. Although not as vastly known yet in the livetronica world as Conspirator or Lotus, Papadosio absolutely stole the show on the second night of the festival. Tony Thogmartin, with his unique edgy appearance, complete with long flowing dreadlocks, locked in with the crowd for an unforgettable outpouring of music that didn’t let up from an 11 on the energy volume scale for the entire 45 minute set. I take issue with those that say the band’s sound and dynamic light show are best suited for fans experimenting with mind alteration. Conversely, they are more than talented enough and innately likable that one needs no chemicals to be compelled to voluntarily matriculate in their school of psychedelic stimulation. One need only witness the totem poles waving, glow sticks flying and a sea of heads bobbing in agreement to the groove armada that is “Magreenery” amongst a combustible crowd wanting to explode, to be convinced that this band is on the verge of taking over the fast-growing electronic scene desperate for fresh quality new blood. Papadosio is currently touring across the country in support of their third album, and I highly suggest you seek out a gig and discover the hidden gem of a festival filled with heavyweights.

Saturday Highlights

No hyperbole is needed to state that this was a day for the ages. Similar to Wimbledon tennis where the last Saturday that consists of the 2 men’s Semi’s and the woman’s’ Final is dubbed, “Super Saturday”, this Saturday marked a monumental line-up of music that left most contemplating afterward if it was the greatest day of music that they had ever seen. Larry and Jenny Keel started it off right with an enlightening and fun set; Conspirator brought it heavy and hard at a bizarre and rare mid-day time slot; Tea Leaf Green continued to show why they belong on the main stage with Roosevelt Collier, joining in for a sick rendition of “Bastard Brother”; Dark Star Orchestra whipped up a tasty set of Grateful Dead fireworks with the usual charge; Big Gigantic’s heavy, unique and deep sound bombed the hill as the sunset moved in above it as a comfortable and confident young girl danced near the front with no shirt on all night without it being a big deal; the headliner of the Festival, The Allman Brothers Band, impressed fans new and old as the ‘next Garcia’ playing his cherry red Gibson; Derek Trucks, showed off his chops on an array of classics including a mesmerizing “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.”

Railroad Earth by Steven Limentani
Railroad Earth :: 4:15 PM – 5:15 PM :: Crane Stage
The talented six-man group from New Jersey has become a fixture on the festival circuit for years due to their infectious, upbeat and original sound, infusing bluegrass and jazz elements, among others. They continue to recruit new fans with a signature sound fueled by a heavy acoustic bass line from a variety of genres including the jam scene. Having released five albums, and veterans of more than a decade, they remain a touring machine and co-headlined the Mighty High Festival in May. RRE brought tremendous energy to a set mired in the middle of two jam bands on a very hot and sticky afternoon. The slow-tempo songs showcased the professional musicianship of the band and their articulate writing ability, while the upbeat selections like “Long Way to Go”, kept the bastions of dancers in the audience on their feet and gasping in an attempt to catch a breath. I asked bassist, Andrew Altman, what it was like representing jamgrass music at a festival wrought with jambands and specifically if there was any competition with Yonder: “We have an awesome relationship with those guys. We just played Red Rocks with them last year. We really respect them.” If respecting RRE for their music wasn’t enough, Altman detailed the exhaustive efforts the band was pursuing in support of many causes including the Sweetwater Brewery and Watership Alliance to clean up a river in South Carolina.

Lettuce by Steven Limentani
Lettuce :: 12:30 PM – 1:15 PM :: Crane Stage
Lettuce has burst so strongly onto the scene of late, an average music goer would think the band was the new kid on the block. However, the eight guys who met at Berklee School of Music 20 years ago are finally coming into the adulation they deserve. During the morning hours of music, after a stacked day of music preceding it, the formidable funk outfit expressed more raw firepower and frenetic energy than any band at the Festival. With the professional guitar play between Eric Krasno, Adam Smirnoff, the Octopus hands of Neal Evans mauling the keys, and a powerful horn section, the band didn’t waste a minute of it’s 45 minute set. With selections from their recently released fourth studio album, Fly!, which has been dominating the charts and a smart collection of covers. The band enthralled their hard core loyal fan base while inspiring new ones with their passionate effort. When they opened the set with “Madison Square” into “By Any Schmeans Necessary” the clear skies above were a stage for a pyrotechnic showcase of elaborate and beautifully detailed trippy fireworks that only supported the already full and explosive sound of the band. It was the moment for many of the festival – where one was simply overwhelmed with pleasurable stimulus. It was the kind of rare show where a bootleg will never suffice and as one must have been there to fully understand the scope of brilliance. Drummer and producer, Adam Deitch, explained the plans for their next album, "We are thinking of a hip-hop influence with just an MC and big horns...we prefer a studio album to a live one because we can play off each other rather than the crowd, which best brings out our raw-funky sound.” Clearly, the band is making all the decisions of late. Ironic that a band who coined their name because they were once begging bookers to, “Let us play!” is now the one in demand. Give them a listen to understand why their fortunes so drastically changed.

Lotus by Sarah Morganne Waldrip
Lotus :: 1:15 PM – 3:15 PM :: Dragon Stage
As they have previously done at Mountain Jam, the boys, originally from Indiana, attacked the stage and delivered a non-stop pleasure attack to the senses. It is without surprise or hesitation that this writer again represents the audience members who considered their performance a highlight. Unlike their genre contemporaries, who they are consistently lumped in with, Lotus brings a more diverse and varied sound as evidenced in the tight renditions of “Bush Pilot” and “Wooly Mammoth”. When I asked bassist Jesse Miller how he could incorporate more jam fans into the fold he stated, "People forget that our original sound is rooted in the jam band arena and that we are consistently experimenting and tackling new sounds and material in an effort to grow." When discussing with a plethora of strangers at the festival who their highlight was, the name Lotus was almost always one of the first bands mentioned. With a stellar light show experience, a groove that is unpredictable, and a unique sound with a slow build-up, it ultimately leads to a monumental crescendo that allows participants to bask in its afterglow. Rather than worry about where the band is going, crowd members trust the band to lead them on a voyage to discover new heights and feelings.

Sunday Highlights

Clearly the crowd thinned out before Sunday’s shorter line-up. Corey Harris and The Rasta Blues Band surprised a small noon crowd with strong and heavy bass lines and a fun dance groove, The Devil Makes Three started the jam with their quick-tempo bluegrass, Greensky Bluegrass continued their quick ascending momentum on the music scene with a set that left the audience in awe and Michael Franti closed the festival with his trademark feel good vibe, with some major assistance from Roosevelt Collier.

Mickey Hart by Sarah Morganne Waldrip
Mickey Hart :: 2:45 PM – 4:00 PM :: Dragon Stage
Once known exclusively as half of The Rhythm Devils (along with Bill Kreutzmann), Mickey Hart has carved out a distinguished career as an ambassador of drumming so impressive that he would deserve a heavy dose of accolades and adulation even if he had never performed with the legendary band. With a lineup now featuring Widespread Panic’s, Dave Schools on bass, soulful singer Crystal Monee Hall and guitarist Jon Bagale, his band offered an interesting and different incarnation than the Kimock era. In addition to the unique and alternative take on Grateful Dead classics that were covered, including "Brokedown Palace" and "Bertha", the band also shared numerous tunes from their Mysterium Tremendum album which dropped in May, before closing with a rambunctious version of "Fire on the Mountain" (sung by Bagale rather than rapped by Mickey). Hart remains not only the most spiritual, but arguably the most respected member of the Grateful Dead in the music community due to his intense study and respect for his instrument. He continues to advocate its deeper importance in the musical sphere and elsewhere, including how it may be used to enhance healing.

Roosevelt Collier :: Artist-at-Large
Even the most ardent music lover and festival follower may not have heard of Roosevelt Collier. It’s not a shame that you didn’t know, but it may just be a crime if you go on enjoying music and not know one of the current talents ripping up the scene. Collier, 29, front man for The Lee Boys out of Miami, carries on the southern gospel tradition of sacred steel music by playing the lap and pedal steel guitar. Although this gentle giant wields his axe like a mad man, he is naturally often compared to veteran stalwart Robert Randolph and was invited to the All Good Festival as the only Artist-at-Large. He is as humble a human being as one can ever meet. Rosie has been carving out a name for himself as of 2012 with busy touring including Mountain Jam. Often sitting-in with a variety of household names, Collier shows an uncanny ability to join along in any genre, whether it’s jam, bluegrass, funk, blues slide or rock. Rosie’s most impressive feat is the fact that he jumps into a myriad of different songs and immediately takes off into a solo, making the song his own, despite having never heard it before!

Roosevelt Collier with The Allman Brothers Band
by Steven Limentani
Those familiar with his work knew that All Good would be a treat as he was invited to sit-in with nearly 10 varied acts including Tea Leaf Green, ALO, Yonder Mountain, The Rex Jam, Allman Brothers, Lettuce, Greensky Bluegrass, and Michael Franti. When we sat in his car and talked music over some sodas, Rosie was well aware of his new found position and was slowly soaking it all in, cherishing each moment. A seemingly modest man with no outward ego or extravagant divisive opinions, he wants to share with people the vocation that he loves. Fortuitously for the audience, he is a master at it. Just minutes before his scheduled appearance with the Allman Brothers, I asked him who he would love to sit-in with most if it could be anyone. Without hesitation, Rosie turned and smiled with the enthusiasm of a young boy on Christmas, “Derek Trucks. He is my idol.” Touching the stage and looking up at the interchange between Trucks and Collier on “One Way Out”, I could feel the passion and the love that Collier had for that moment, and that we had for his performance.

The organizers seemingly did everything right to deliver a smooth and flawless experience for the estimated 17,000 attendees who trekked to the middle of Ohio. All Good implemented the computer chip in the bracelet pass, which had debuted at Bonnaroo, and it has proven very effective for accurate entry through the gates with efficiency. The Festival did not have an iPhone application, as did Bonnaroo and Mountain Jam, yet this was not as critical at a festival with 2 adjacent stages and no overlapping sets. Sometimes one could hear the band performing sound check while setting up, while the other band was playing, but this was a minimal distraction and certainly worth the benefit of almost continuous music all day. Some complained of construction lights or loud dubstep music bombarding the senses at the Grassroots Stage, near the camping area all night. But, by all counts, the music and vending and plethora of folks were most pleasant and felt part of a large family. When musicians bring out the best in music, it often brings out the best in people.

Not every concert, show, party, meal, conversation or song can be termed as a ‘rager’ or as ‘epic’. This writer has never written either word when discussing music. Epic should be saved for something truly extraordinary and for times where it deserves a place above all the rest. In 1970, when the Allman Brothers/Grateful Dead were co-headlining at Watkins Glen, one could the number of music festivals out there on one hand. Over 40 years later, with members of the same bands again sharing the same bill, there are hundreds of music festivals and more blossoming every day. I can state, without reservation, that the All Good Festival was a rager. All Good is the definitive Festival in the land. Unfortunately, despite memories that last a lifetime - all good things come to an end – even epic ones.

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