Jam on the River – Day 1
It was a beautiful day for most of festival until the headliner; the Disco Biscuits came on only to play two songs before the monsoon like conditions canceled the show. It was disappointing for the hometown band because they came out on fire. Earlier, people walked through the large vending area, sat in the fountains, and enjoyed the gorgeous view of the Delaware River as boats sailed by all day. Here's a run down on each band that played.
Grimace Federation – This local band opened the festival and played a nice afternoon set of music. They have a progressive sound that was even more fortified then usual with the special addition of the horn section for this event. The focus for me, though, was the two drummers in the middle of the stage. One could tell that these guys had to be related with their connection on stage. Chris and Jon Wood really played as a finely tuned unit to entertain the crowd. In addition, you can check them out tonight (5/27) opening for the Disco Biscuits at their late night show at the Electric Factory.
Apollo Sunshine – It was my first time seeing this band, and I was extremely impressed. They are a very unique group with an extremely experimental fun sound that switches from 60's rock to avant-garde to punk and to anything else one can imagine. These Berklee School of Music grads out of Boston were placed #3 on the Boston Herald's top 5 Things To Change The Face Of Boston Arts and Entertainment in 2004 (#4 was the Democratic National Convention). They spent a lot of time opening for bands such as My Morning Jacket, Sonic Youth, The Roots, The Walkmen, The Decemberists, and Built to Spill, but I think they are more than ready to take the stage as a headliner. Jesse Gallagher, who plays so many instruments for the band that I can't even begin to name them, is so creative with taking notes and changing their sounds so many times with his magic boxes on top of his keyboard. He'll play a simple guitar chord and twist it into a sound that is very pleasant to the ear, but sounds little like a chord. I really enjoyed this band and look forward to seeing them again probably at Bonnaroooo although they are playing at the same time as Lou Donaldson & Dr. Lonnie Smith Quartet and the Yard Dogs Road Show. These are great conflicts to have, ah the beauty of Bonnaroo.
Bustle in Your Hedgerow – How could you go wrong with Marco Benevento, Joe Russo, Scott Metzger (guitar master from Rana) and Dave Dreiwitz (bass, from Ween) playing the music of Led Zeppelin? This was as fun as it sounds! This is obviously an all-star lineup, and they played some great Zeppelin songs as well. Some of the highlights of the show were "The Song Remains the Same," "Out on the Tiles," and "Over the Hills and Far Away," where Scott Metzger destroyed the guitar solo. Except for a brief vocal by drummer Joe Russo, which the crowd enjoyed, Marco Benevento provided the lyric arrangements on his keyboard like he does when he covers Phish songs like "Foam" and "You Enjoy Myself." Their set was brief, but it ended with the mighty "Immigrant Song" and "Ramble On."
Lotus – Lotus was the hometown hero of the day. I've seen Lotus before, and I've enjoyed their shows, but not as much as I did this set. Their opening two songs were amazing and very diverse in sound and scope. This band that is often categorized as electronic is very unique because a lot of their "electronic" sounds are coming from guitarist Mike Rempel, which was best heard on the song "Spiritualize" on this night. The other half of that sound is flowing through the hands of the other guitarist and keyboard player Luke Miller. Lotus gets more and more talented and diverse every time that I see them, and today belonged to them. Toward the end of their set, they played the Rocky theme song with a costumed Rocky dancing around the stage that set the crowd going crazy. Their third album, The Strength of Weak Ties just came out also, and I need to get a copy of that as soon as possible.
Cypress Hill - This classic act brought a lot of energy and nostalgia to the crowd. The mostly Latin-American hip hop group all the way from South Gate, California brought the hype and the ganja. They have always been committed to the legalization of marijuana and clearly demonstrated that dedication by puffing hard throughout the show and talking about how high they were. They also played their "marijuana" songs "I Wanna Get High" and "Stoned is the Way of the Walk." Cypress Hill has also been known to play instruments on stage while rapping, which has sometimes classified them as a rap/rock band. They had lots of drum solos throughout the night, and provided the necessary instrumentation for this crowd. After they played their famous "How I Could Just Kill a Man," the crowd was hyped and rapper Sen-Dog went sailing into the crowd for some crowd surfing.
Disco Biscuits – When the set began it was still very hot outside, but the clouds were rolling in, and Philly's favorite band opened with "Sweating Bullets," which got the crowd even hotter. They played "Save the Robots" and started to really get into "Munchkin Invasion," a song that I've wanted to hear for a while until it poured cold rain and the thunder and lightning stole the show. The band tried to play as long as they could by covering equipment and refusing to stop, but eventually it was too much and the wind was blowing the rain in every direction. They stopped the show and eventually cancelled the rest of the night of music. It's sad because the Disco Biscuits and Jam on the River have a history, but I have a feeling they will make up for it tonight at the late night show at the Electric Factory.
Photos from day 1 | Stay tuned for the Day 2 review tomorrow…