Review & Photos | Phases of the Moon | Danville
Words and Images: Michael Kaiz
Phases of the Moon Music & Art Festival :: 9.11.14 -9.14.14 :: Kennekuk County Park :: Danville, IL
Read Michael’s review of Thursday and Friday after the gallery. Check out his pictures and review for Saturday and Sunday on Page 2.
In their inaugural year, the organizers of Phases of the Moon had to overcome issues that many festivals struggle with after a decade of experience. A torrential downpour the day before the festival led to a flash flood that covered much of Kennekuk County Park in water. The local law enforcement agencies wouldn’t allow attendees to arrive on Wednesday and much of the progress in preparing for the four-day event was brought to a grinding halt.
I didn’t wait in line for hours on end. I didn’t miss any music that I wanted to see. I wasn’t told to park at an alternate location for camping and that I would have to ride a shuttle bus to the festival grounds. I saw a different story. I saw helicopters brought in to dry out camping and parking fields. I saw 600 tons of gravel and mulch brought in so that the concert field would be traverse-able and dance-able. I saw the festival hire the people of the local community on short notice to operate earth movers all weekend long to distribute the mulch. I saw a festival adapt as best it could to host concert goers at a venue that was inundated with too much water.
Phases of the Moon is the first attempt at a large-scale transformational festival in Illinois. An outstanding lineup was supported by a cast of fire-dancers, philosophers and healers. The Sanctuary was the first festival “area” that greeted a patron upon their arrival at the concert fields. Shrouded in sun-sails of harvest colors, The Sanctuary housed a tea-lounge, shrines and a garden. Through a schedule of activities that engaged concert-goers, The Sanctuary reminded us that we are connected to the Earth and to one another.
The festival grounds were designed to be explored. There were beautiful art installations abundantly placed throughout the park. In the field, between the two main stages, there was a construct of branches and twigs that made a shallow shelter. It was a great gathering place between sets of music. There were train tracks that played host to a hidden bar, where a knowing festivarian could dodge the long lines in the barn and enjoy a drink with friends in the ornately-furnished dining car.
Ultimately the music is what brought people to sleepy Danville for a weekend away from home. Festival artist-in-residence David Gans kicked things off on the Harvest Moon Stage backed the Rumpke Mountain Boys. The Cincinnati bluegrass quartet would play more sets of music than any other band that weekend. Galactic got funky and the few people who could make it to the set got down. By the time The String Cheese Incident took the stage on Thursday night, the crowd was just starting to fill in. The Colorado jamband’s set featured a lot of older songs as they went back to their roots for one of their more intimate festival sets in years. Soulive played a fiery late-night set at the Harvest Moon Stage highlighted by a scintillating cover of The Beatles’ Come Together.
Dumpstaphunk started kicking out the tunes at noon on Friday. Their New Orleans dance party sound was just the right energy to begin the day. By now a good number of people had made their way in; the amount of time spent in line became a badge of honor, with the longer wait times winning bragging rights. Jackie Greene graced the Full Moon Stage for the first of his two sets and once again the festival was treated to a beautiful Beatles cover, this time “Don’t Let Me Down” was performed. The most anticipated moment on Friday night was the Lunar Landing Conspiracy, a special set to be curated by The String Cheese Incident. Right from the start it was easy to figure out that the songs would all contain moon references, so the game became guessing which song was next. Vince Herman joined the jam in a beaded robe and fighter jet helmet with new band mate Bill Payne for one of Payne’s Little Feat tunes, “Spanish Moon.” Leftover Salmon’s Andy Thorn, Sunshine Becker of Furthur and JJ Grey also joined Friday’s headliners at points during the Lunar Landing Conspiracy set (More on Lunar Landing Conspiracy here).
For more pictures and a review of the last two days of the festival, head to Page 2.
Read Michael’s review of Saturday and Sunday after the gallery. Get back to Friday and Saturday’s pictures and review by clicking here.
Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers welcomed the Saturday morning crowds as the sun finally shone down upon Phases of the Moon. Between songs Nicki paused to give Jackie Greene a hug. Jackie and Vince Herman would later join the Gramblers to close out their set. Leftover Salmon played their last set before announcing Bill Payne’s addition to the band, but you could tell the announcement was coming from watching their Phases set. Vince Herman repaid the favor to Nicki Bluhm by welcoming her on stage for a tune. The Tedeschi Trucks Band was a perfect lead-in for Widespread Panic, with the two bands having toured together earlier this summer. Susan Tedeschi played an acoustic for a particularly engaging part of the set. Panic’s set was a heavy hitting collection of some of their finest tunes. The Georgia rockers pulled out all the stops with tunes like “Chilly Water” and “Radio Child” making early appearances in the set. Late night had some great options as Poor Man’s Whiskey put their spin on Dark Side of The Moon while Cornmeal delivered a solid set on the Town Square Stage.
After a rather frigid night, the warmth of the sunrise on the festival’s final day was a welcome comfort. Robert Randolph put on a show playing pedal steel guitar, telecaster and bass in his set. The Family Band brought Sister Sparrow front woman Arleigh Kincheloe on stage for a sultry rendition of Bill Withers’ “Use Me.” Gov’t Mule’s set was highlighted by a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” that Warren Haynes went absolutely wild on (watch it here). Later, before a great Railroad Earth set, David Gans was joined by festival organizer Sam Shear and Sam’s father Barry Shear. The Shears put their heart into Phases of the Moon and wanted to thank the gathered crowd for joining them in the festival’s first year.
About halfway through Widespread Panic’s Sunday night an individual climbed on stage from the pit and began to approach JB, who had his back turned. Dave Schools acted quickly and distracted the man by throwing a pick in his direction. What ensued was a brawl between the unwelcome visitor and stage crew. Throughout the episode, Jimmy Herring kept the jam going and on the fly the band returned with the aptly chosen “Help Me Somebody.” Later in the set the band covered The Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” a gentle reminder that if you’re not supposed to be on stage, you shouldn’t be.
The Rumpke Mountain Boys had the honor of closing out the festival on the Town Square Stage, again joined by David Gans. In its first year, Phases of the Moon presented an incredible lineup of music and strived to create an environment in which a community can grow and foster new friendships. There were logistical issues brought on by severe weather and the festival adapted. There are lessons for the fest to take home with them this winter, but based on what I saw this year I am certain that those lessons will be learned and next year will see big improvements. The Phase of the Moon is gibbous and waxing.
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