Review & Photos | The Ville Music Festival | Ohio

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Images by: Suzy Perler

Words by: Ryan Neeley

The Ville Music Festival :: 8.30.13-9.1.13 :: Clay’s Park Resort :: N. Lawrence, OH

Suzy Perler’s Photos followed by Ryan’s review…

For most people across the country, the Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays mark the beginning and end of summer, with picnics and parades in most cities. But for many Midwest jam fans, these long weekends have meant a break from the pressures of mainstream society, celebrating life with an extended family of fellow music lovers in a place called Hookahville, or “The Ville” as it is now called. Hosted by Ohio jam legends ekoostik hookah every spring and fall, the Ville has become a destination for the top regional bands to share the stage with jam legends such as Leftover Salmon, Ratdog, Willie Nelson and Umphrey’s McGee. This weekend would be no different, with up and coming bands such as Fletchers Grove, Blue Moon Soup, Jones for Revival and Dead Ahead Ohio joining moe., Zach Deputy, the Wood Brothers and Floodwood on the star-studded lineup.

2013 has meant a change in the name of the festival along with a new venue, Clay’s Park Resort in North Lawrence, OH, a town in easy driving distance from most major Ohio cities. The resort boasts amenities such as flushing toilets and showers, a swimming lake/water park, paintball course, wooded camping and plenty of room to stretch out. And due to the fact that many original ekoostik hookah fans now have families of their own, it was a wonderful opportunity for members of the “Hookah family” to introduce their own families to the music that had shaped their lives for so many years. According to original ekoostik hookah member Dave Katz, this was the 40th festival the band has hosted, and the new venue and name change represent a “new beginning” of sorts for the festival, which started from humble beginnings in 1994.

After settling in to campsites on Friday, the crowd made their way to the concert bowl for Morgantown, WV group Fletcher’s Grove, who opened the festival with their versatile sound, followed by Nashville-based Americana trio the Wood Brothers, featuring brothers Oliver and Chris Wood along with multi-instrumentalist Jano Rix. The group showcased wonderful three-part harmonies, shifting from bluesy type selections to a more folksy sound, playing a number of favorites including “Luckiest Man” and songs from their new album Muse, due out October 1. Cincinnati, OH jamgrass veterans Rumpke Mountain Boys took the stage next, dishing out a high energy set of favorites such as “Huck’s Song” and “Relativity” from their new album Moon to close out the evening. ekoostik hookah bassist Phil Risko joined RMB on stage for a few songs, but this was far from the last we’d see of the Rumpke Mountain Boys.

Early morning rain let up by daybreak on Saturday, and the sun rose on the festival grounds to dry out the tents dotting the woods surrounding the concert area. Grateful Dead tribute band Dead Ahead Ohio and Ohio rockers Jones for Revival started the day off, with Wheeling, WV psychedelic group KR-3 holding down multiple sets at the second stage, which was tucked nicely into the camping area, allowing festival attendees a more laid-back atmosphere to enjoy music at. Due to some incoming flight issues, one of the afternoon’s scheduled acts were replaced by a laid back acoustic set by the Rumpke Mountain Boys, who did a fine job pinch-hitting in an early time slot. ekoostik hookah took the stage early in the evening to perform a fantastic set of old and new favorites, firing into an energetic “Schwa” and following with a performance that included “Ohio Grown”, “Hookahville” and “Black Mamba.” The visual highlight of the evening was during “Green,” when thousands of green glowsticks rained down from the crowd. Upon completion of the hookah set, the second stage was overrun by a marathon set featuring Rumpke Mountain Boys and Blue Moon Soup, two of the top bluegrass bands in Ohio. The bands thrilled the crowd by playing well into the early morning hours, outlasting many fans who had danced all night.

Sunday would again open with a Grateful Dead tribute, Terrapin Moon, who channeled the Dead with a set of songs that would satisfy the biggest deadhead. Blue Moon Soup followed their late night picking session with a dynamite daytime set that featured songs from their new self-titled album due out September 6, including “Fox on the Run.” After their set, fans rushed to the second stage to see Zach Deputy showcasing his sampling mastery in a funk-filled set that included a tribute to Biggie Smalls. As the sun started to let up on the resort, the crowd filed back into the concert bowl for what was to be a most memorable evening of music, starting with moe. The crowd shrieked as the band took the stage and launched into “Crab Eyes” followed by “Nebraska,” and the beloved band finished off the set with “Tubing the River Styx > The Pit.” ekoostik hookah then took the stage, kicking off their set with their hit “Loner.” Other highlights included “Anthony’s Song > Grass” and fan favorite “El Bandito,” where the crowd sang loudly along with guitarist Eric Sargent. Dave Katz’s versatility switching from keyboard to acoustic guitar along with the shredding licks provided by guitar virtuoso Steve Sweney were demonstrated throughout the eleven-song set.

moe.’s second set of the evening would be stellar, and they wasted no time getting the crowd dancing to “Wicked Awesome >(nh) So Long.” They also shined on “Spine Of A Dog > Buster” and “Wind It Up,” but the highlight for many occurred when they brought ekoostik hookah on stage for a memorable “Billy Goat > CalifornIA > Plane Crash” and Hookah fan favorite “Life is Good” as the “Moekah” (as many affectionately called it) closer. moe.’s Rob Derhak stepped back and played percussion while Katz took the lead on vocals and Chuck Garvey, Al Schnier and Sweney playfully traded licks back and forth on guitar. ekoostik hookah would start the second set of the evening with “Waterbear> Find Out > Waterbear” and continued to impress the crowd well into the night. The cover-filled encore would be most memorable, starting with Big Brother and the Holding Company’s “Combination of the Two” with guest vocalist Kate Goudy powerfully filling the Janis Joplin role, one hit wonder Thunderclap Newman’s “Something in the Air” (written by Speedy Keen) sung by drummer Eric Lanese and the Springsteen-written Manfred Mann’s Earth Band hit, “Blinded by the Light,” with Katz providing soaring vocals and synth work. Sargent shined on George Harrison’s Beatle classic “While my Guitar Gently Weeps,” with female vocalist Amy Hughes -along with Garvey and Jim Loughlin from moe. -joining the band on stage for the beautiful finale.

But the night was far from over, as the second stage would heat up with moe. bluegrass side project Floodwood breathing life into the now weary crowd, playing a set that included “I Know You Rider” and songs off their upcoming album This Is Life, such as “Whiskey Before Breakfast,” “Holy Sacred” and “Spoon Kicks.” Due to some noise ordinance issues from the previous evening, the band joined Rumpke Mountain Boys and Blue Moon Soup for an up close and personal acoustic fireside picking session where you could reach out and touch the artists. Floodwood is a fairly new project, but it seems that we’ll be seeing a lot more of them, as they recently reached their Kickstarter goal to fund a van and are embarking on their first major tour.

Overall, the weekend was deemed a huge success by many in attendance, with amazing lighting, sound, security, vendors and food to please any taste. The waterpark offered a multitude of activities to provide family friendly entertainment, the music was amazing, and the tried and true motto of “No hassles or bad attitudes” was in full effect. ekoostik hookah’s Dave Katz stated, “Thank you to everyone who came, and everyone should look for next year’s show. It will only get bigger and better at The Ville,” offering Midwest jam fans assurance that their holiday plans for Labor Day and Memorial Day will continue to be locked in for years to come.

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