All Good Music Festival made its return to Legend Valley the weekend of July 18th-21st with what has now become an annual star-studded lineup of jamband and EDM favorites. This year was no different, with acts to please any music fans taste, ranging from bluegrass darlings Yonder Mountain String Band and Leftover Salmon, rock idol Les Claypool with Primus, to EDM powerhouse Pretty Lights with jamtronica masterminds The Werks and STS9 rounding out just some of the top acts. But the highlight for many of the estimated 16,000+ music fanatics in attendance was Furthur's appearance Saturday night, featuring original Grateful Dead bandmates Bob Weir and Phil Lesh. And based on the smiles, tears, and sheer joy on the faces of everyone you glanced out, Furthur did not disappoint.
The festival kicked off Thursday afternoon as thousands of campers, cars, and tents popped up in the fields surrounding the concert area. As was the case in the previous year, general camping was back to front, so the festivarians who showed up early were directed to gate one, farthest from the concert bowl; however, these campsites were close to many vendors, food and amenities, including the grassroots stage, where a lot of the late night and early day sets were played. Legend Valley, also known to many as Buckeye Lake Music Center, is considered hallowed ground to many, as the Grateful Dead played a number of shows there. The rolling hills makes the terrain slightly hilly but the temporary roads were set up so it was easy to navigate, and there were plenty of options for camping in the more shaded wooded area if you carried your gear a short distance. There were also plenty of VIP options that you could upgrade to for premium camping within 100 yards of the camping area, "glamping" with private restrooms, showers and other amenities. All Good's appeal is that with two stages set up side by side, there are no overlapping sets, so whether you're a lawn dweller, where you can dig your toes in the grass and hoop with ample room, a hammock hermit, curling up in the pine trees overlooking the action, or raging up front and center with your crazy group of friends in the gravel, you won't miss a "must-see" moment. And with the lineup assembled this year, there were plenty of those over the weekend.
Thursday's music started with John Scofield's groove/funk project John Scofield's Uberjam Band and Toubab Krewe, the Asheville-based instrumental group with African influences. But the crowd loaded up the gravel lot in front of the main stage for Athens, OH's own Papadosio, building with intensity as they made their first appearance on the Dragon stage at All Good a memorable one, kicking off with "New Love" and "Cloud Found." Each selection brought smiles, hugs, and shouts of joy from the fans of this high energy livetronica group. They played an exceptional "Paradigm Shift" that brought down the house, then closed with "The Eyes Have Eyes" a song they played at All Good in 2011. Dance-heavy funk outfit Lettuce returned to All Good for the second straight year and threw down an impressive set that included fan favorite "Blast Off" and an especially funked out "Makin My Way Back Home", both from their Rage album.
Yonder Mountain String Band followed on the main stage shortly after 11pm, as the heat was beginning to dissipate from the scorched ground. But Jeff Austin and the boys fired through an impressive 17 song set with an encore that many were thrilled to hear - "Two Hits and the Joint Turned Brown>Bolton Stretch." To finish off the first night of All Good 2013, Tribal Fusion performing arts trio Beats Antique brought their unique style to the late night All Good crowd with a visually stimulating performance that mixed the art of dance with heavy beats and sampling, closing out a near perfect night.
Friday morning got off to an early start on the grassroots stage, which was near gate one outside the main concert area, with northeast Pennsylvania bluegrass group Cabinet, who put on a fantastic show for the many fans rolling out of their tents to the early morning call of bluegrass music. As their set continued, the size of the crowd increased - this group can hold your attention even at 9:30am. This would be a challenging day for everyone, as after catching the amazing band Kung Fu's set in the early afternoon, during Bright Light Social Hour's set, a storm blew in. It was announced that everyone should head back to their sites, and BLSH's performance was cut short. With safety being paramount at these type of events, the staff did a great job during a hectic time making sure the thousands in attendance were away from harm. The first band to take the stage after the storm had cleared, leaving cooler temperatures and muddy shoes in it's wake, was Dark Star Orchestra, who had to perform an acoustic set under difficult circumstances. After a few struggles with the sound, DSO and the crew was able to pull everything together to fans coming back into the concert bowl. Psychedelic soul band The Stepkids came out to the second stage dressed in matching outfits, bringing dancers out of their mud haze while the sun came back out.
Friday afternoon's shower was ancient history by the time Colorado bluegrass-party band Leftover Salmon took the stage. Vince Herman, Andy Thorn and Drew Emmitt bring energy and flair to the table every time they take the stage, and today would be no exception. Dozens of beach balls were tossed about the crowd as the jamgrass icons played old time crowd pleasers such as "Zombie Jamboree" and newer favorites like "Gulf of Mexico" and "Sing up to the Moon." Featured festival musician Roosevelt Collier also joined them on stage with the steel guitar, adding a unique touch to the bands set. Portland, OR's Nahko and Medicine for the People proved to be the most inspirational set of the evening, throwing out amazingly positive vibes that seemed to transform to the crowd and back, a constant exchange of positive energy flowing through the All Good crowd and back to the group that left some in tears and many walking away with a newfound appreciation for this much talked about up and coming group. Australian group John Butler Trio followed Nahko Bear's Medicine with another high-energy set, leaving many in the crowd winded from dancing - Butler's vocals and fret work were astounding, and the sound put out from this three-piece band rivals many full bands. EDM band Digital Tape Machine took over from there, a project with Umphrey McGee's Kris Myers and Joel Cummings which Cummings once described as a "progressive video game dance party." The bass flowing through the grounds could be felt as the band played a set that was dance heavy and improvisational at the same time. But the energy was building for the next bands to hit the stage.
With the stage set up consisting of two spacemen and a large screen, Primus took the Dragon stage to a large roar. Bassist/Vocalist Les Claypool, the master of the slap/pop on the bass, has a commanding stage presence, purposefully marching in circles around the stage in between lyrics and stopping in between songs to entertain the audience. At one point he explained that if they do their job, they will "entertain the sh*t out of you. So if we put on a good show, there will be feces all over the place," and challenging guitarist Larry "Ler" LaLonde to make up for the fact that Warren Haynes was not appearing on the lineup. Primus' show was both visually and musically stimulating, and it doesn't seem that they've missed a beat, playing favorites such as "Jerry was a Race Car Driver," "My Name is Mud" and "Tommy the Cat." Following Primus' amazing set was The Bridge, a great band hailing from Baltimore that did a fantastic job bridging the gap between Primus and Sound Tribe Sector 9. STS9, in my opinion, had the best visual/light setup of the weekend with musical ability to match. Even at such a late hour, the lawn was packed with people hooping, dancing, and recovering from the day while enjoying the mind melting set from STS9. As the day ended, the grassroots stage heated up with 2012 All Good alumni Moon Hooch, who packed the late night crowd in the campground. Amazing that two brass players and a drummer can create such a dance party.
By Saturday, many more fans were making their way to the grounds especially to see Furthur; however, the morning started out with torrential rains soaking the grounds. As most people huddled in their tents, many of us recovered from the previous night, regrettably missing some of the mornings performers like Fruition and March Fourth Marching Band, but UV Hippopotamus and Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue provided a nice start to the day. The evening really got off to an amazing start when Grace Potter and the Nocturnals took the stage. Potter is simply angelic, with a voice and stage presence that will leave you with goosebumps. For many, though, the highlight of her set was when Bob Weir joined them for a beautiful rendition of "Friend of the Devil". Just the look on guitarist Scott Tournet's face was worth the price of admission, as he stood there in awe that he was sharing the stage with Weir. Following Potter's set was Infamous Stringdusters, a band that always seems to deliver. Andy Falco, Andy Hall and Chris Pandolfi traded licks back and forth with fiery precision while the crowd cheered them on. All building up to the band many had been waiting all day to see while watching the clouds and weather forecast - Furthur.
Introduced by former road manager Sam Cutler, Furthur came out to a packed crowd, with seemingly every person in attendance facing the stage, waiting for the first note to strike. "Dancin' in the Streets" led off, and the band was sounding tight, starting to hit a groove - they segued into "Don't Ease Me In", and Bobby flubbed the lines a bit during the second verse, something that the crowd appreciates more than disapproves of. But guitarist John Kadlecik stepped up to the plate and finished off the song with ferocity. Other first set highlights were a proper "Mississippi Half Step > Uncle John's Band" and "Good Lovin'" finishing off the first set with Infamous Stringdusters' Andy Falco adding a nice touch to the band's sound.
The excitement built during set break, and as soon as the second set started with "Feel Like a Stranger", the venue exploded into dance happy patrons with wide grins. The middle of the second set was semi uneventful with a "Dark Star", a bouncy "Saint Stephen" and a nice "Stella Blue", but the highlight of the second set had to be the closer, with Grace Potter joining Furthur on stage for "Turn on your Love Light". Everyone around me exploded as Grace Potter's energy and vocals made many people instant fans. Coming out for an encore, Furthur played an emotional "Brokedown Palace" to an extremely appreciative crowd, leaving many in tears. Having the chance to hear Bob Weir sing songs written by and traditionally performed by Jerry Garcia was quite a treat, and many recognized this.
Following Furthur's set was Ohio livetronica supergroup The Werks. Performing after Furthur could be both a blessing and a curse, but The Werks are always up for a challenge, and they delivered once more. As the fireworks went off above, the Werks launched into their high energy hit "Duck Farm> Fat Man". With the crowd hooked, drummer/vocalist Rob Chafin proceeded to melt faces with the Lennon/McCartney hit "With a Little Help from My Friends," a song they had never performed live. Guitarist Chris Houser, keyboardist Norman Dimitrouleas and bassist Dino Dimitrouleas have been gaining fans by the throngs the last few years with their unique sound that continues to evolve. After The Werks, Pretty Lights finished off the night with a visual smorgasbord of lights, lasers, and stage equipment, and kept the people dancing far into the night. For those who wanted to keep the last full night of All Good going, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad and Founding Fathers held down the grassroots stage well into dawn.
As the sun came up over Legend Valley on Sunday, many campers packed up and called it a weekend, weary from dancing into the night and a bit muddy from the rains. But a surprising number stayed behind to catch another half day of great music, with The Revivalists, March Fourth Marching Band, The Ragbirds and North Mississippi AllStars rounding out the start of a new day. To complete the great weekend of music, New Orleans, LA based Soul Rebels cooled off the crowd with water cannons and came with gift bags to toss into the crowd. The horn section for these guys are simply gifted, and they bring a lot of energy to the stage. Sunday's headliner was Keller Williams with The Travelin' McCourys, and the crowd that stuck around was glad they did. Keller has a lot of different styles, but seeing him with the McCoury's is my personal favorite. He played a lot of classic Keller songs including "Freaker by the Speaker" and a great version of "Women are Smarter" that had all the ladies in attendance smiling.
And as the final day closed on All Good Music Festival, many people decided that it was just too difficult to part ways with the weekend, and extended their stay into Monday. And like all of the previous All Good Music Festivals, everyone went home with memories to share, stories to tell, new bands to listen to, and a whole group of new friends to run into next year.