Wuhnurth Music Festival 2009 | Review
The Water Bowl is one of Indiana’s hidden gems, it is a 200 acre music venue conveniently located just outside of Muncie Indiana. It is far enough outside of the city that it is quaint yet close enough for festival-goers to make trips to town for their daily necessities. The Water Bowl gets its name from the two ponds located inside the venue. One of the ponds near the front of the venue has a beach that was utilized at all hours throughout the weekend. The festival had three stages: a main stage located at the bottom of a hill, the hill state located at the top of the hill, and the field stage.
With Wuhnurth being in its second year the high expectations were certainly met if not exceeded. The festival bolstered a lineup of heavy hitters such as Kyle Hollingsworth, Cornmeal and the Pnuma Trio as well as regional and local bands. There were nearly 2,300 in attendance throughout the three days.
Bloomington Indiana’s Shaggy Wonda kicked the festival off with a 5:00 p.m. set on the main stage. Although the crowd was sparse, Shaggy Wonda came out firing with a solid set infused with their signature funky sound.
Sweet Japonic kept the tunes going on the main stage following Shaggy Wonda. With the evening growing older more festival-goers ventured to the main stage for the Sweet Japonic set. Their smooth folk-influenced tunes had the growing crowd dancing. Sweet Japonic was a fitting band to lead up to Friday night’s headliners Cornmeal.
Coming off of the “official unofficial” Wuhnurth pre-party Thursday night in Bloomington, Indiana Cornmeal didn’t waste any time keeping the party going. A strong “”Doin’ My Time” opener instantly got the crowd dancing. Every Cornmeal show I have seen contains two things: positive energy and a mass of foot stomping smiling fans, this show was no exception. After a solid two songs Cornmeal busted into fan favorite “Hasten Jason” which featured a stellar Allie Kral fiddle segment. Following a nicely played “Feather” was a dark “Troubled Land” which was lead by Wavy Dave Burlingame. As the set progressed the band seemingly pulled out all the stops as they dove into the Grateful Dead’s “Cumberland Blues.” What would a festival be without a Grateful Dead song? One thing I noticed while watching the quintet was the smiles on each of their faces, the chemistry was on point Friday night as Cornmeal played a flawless set of down home bluegrass. With one song left in the set, they did not disappoint as they busted out the bluegrass classic “Rocky Top.”
The main stage hosted a variety of genres on Friday, closing out with New Hampshire’s Roots of Creation. The jam-reggae hybrid band kept the main stage going as they made their contribution to Wuhnurth. Roots of Creation laid down their signature upbeat and positive licks to keep the main stage going until nearly 1:00 a.m.
On the Field Stage, Muncie’s own MC Sparkplug composed of Tony Z and Lanie performed a 30-minute set of their unique hip-hop.
Although they faced some pa troubles Fresh Hops was determined to play their scheduled late night set. After a slight delay Fresh Hops took the stage by storm with “” segueing into a rhythm jam featuring bassist Dave Van Vlymen, drummer Kevin Mardirosian and recently added percussionist Mickey Clark. The Hops kept it fresh by bringing out frequent collaborator B.C. for a pair of his original hip-hop songs. Bloomington Indiana’s Herm Productions ran lights for the field stage all weekend and definitely lit it up. Herm’s lights matched the Fresh Hops performance almost as if he was their full time lighting director, accenting each member at the correct time. Fresh Hops closed out the night right with a fierce guitar driven jam.
As the sun peaked on this blistering Saturday afternoon The Hue took the stage to kick off the festivities for the day with a nice dose of progressive rock.
On the Hill stage Indiana’s “One man jam band” Derrick Howard played a short set between The Hue and The Vessel.
The Vessel put on a stellar performance considering they had a substitute drummer who filled the spot nicely. The unique folk/roots sound fit the vibes of the afternoon like a glove.
Family Groove Company took the stage around 4:30. The Chicago quartet opened with a song by the name of “New Tune 22” followed by fan favorite “Falling Off the Fence”, which proved to be a smooth combo. A spicy version of Carlos Santana’s “Oye Como Va” featured some fancy fretwork by guitarist Adam Lewis. During “Guns of Ticonderoga”, Lewis said “Janis is gonna play some bass for ya’ll right now” as him and keyboardist Jordan Wilkow left the stage. The drum and bass segment started out somewhat chaotic but eventually built into a funky rhythm jam before diving back into “Guns”. FGC ended the set with a smooth trio of Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay>West Egg Party>Trying to Live Up”.
Originally scheduled for the 9:00-10:30 p.m. slot, up and coming electronic musicians Papadosio took the stage early due to some travel issues for Pnuma Trio. Papadosio kicked things off with a synth-heavy jam which eventually mellowed out. Throughout the set Papadosio weaved in and out of trancy jams that built up but went flat. They also hit it hard with funk heavy jams that had the crowd in dance frenzy.
Finally the Pnuma Trio arrived after some travel difficulties. They were conveniently flying out of the same airport as President Obama and their flight was delayed. The delay of their flight turned out to be a blessing in disguise, taking Pnuma back to the days of playing later in the night. In typical Pnuma fashion, they came out hard and laid down dirty electronic jams infused with smooth melodic beats. The highlight of the set was the “Tall Tree” bust out, they nailed it to a T. The Wuhnurth performance was the third consecutive festival performance for Pnuma, following a Thursday set at Trinumeral and a Friday set at Harvest Fest. The three consecutive shows didn’t phase them as they played one of the strongest Pnuma sets I have seen all of 2009. The set was so strong; they blew an amp and had to end the set with a computer track.
Grand Rapids, Michigan’s Ultraviolet Hippopotamus performed Saturday’s late night set on the field stage. Last year Ultraviolet Hippopotamus was scheduled to play a Sunday afternoon set but was forced to move their set to a local bar due to heavy rains. With that in mind, they came out firing with a solid Dusty’s Trumpet> Matt’s Atlas duo. Keyboardist Dave Sanders took control of Dusty’s Trumpet making sounds reminiscent of firing lasers throughout the crowd. Obviously they didn’t mind as the tent busted into a frenzy of dancing bodies. The “Cream Soda> Georgie> Cream Soda” showcased a fan favorite surrounding a politically driven song about the former president. Following the sandwich was the debut of a new song, currently titled “Dave’s New Tune” “So new even Z-brah hasn’t even heard it” said bassist Brian Samuels. The “Imperial Death March” made an appearance at the end of the set during which I noticed a member of the crowd walking like a storm trooper around the stage for added effect. The dueling guitars of Russell James and Sam Guidry resembled light sabers in the “Imperial Death March” Ultraviolet Hippopotamus.
Opening the final day of Wuhnurth was Euforchestra, Kyle Hollingsworth’s tour mates on the Midwest tour. Euforchestra’s global rhythm sound was an excellent way to wake up; they’re easy on the ears and tough on the feet as one can’t help but dance.
21-year-old Daphne Willis and her band performed the mid-afternoon set. The soulful voice and bluesy rock of Daphne Willis & Co. attracted a healthy sized crowd at the main stage in the blistering sun.
Sunday’s headliner Kyle Hollingsworth rolled into Muncie on the last stop of his Midwest tour in promotion of the new album “Then There’s Now”. Having seen Kyle Hollingsworth solo before, I knew the remaining crowd was in for a big surprise. Although his key rig is downsized from the one he uses with the String Cheese Incident, Kyle still fires bullets when he sits down on his bench. The theme of most festivals continued as a lot of people cleared out but during Hollingsworth’s set I heard one fan say, “Only the strong stick around for all that is Kyle Hollingsworth.” The Highlight of the set was the “BAM! > Eyes of the World> BAM!” sandwich in the middle of the set. Although I am unfamiliar with the titles of the songs from “Then There’s Now” the ones that were played were very impressive. They have a lighter and catchier sound to them; Hollingsworth’s voice shines nearly as much as his keys do. Midway through the set, a girl decided to entertain the crowd herself as she got on stage before being removed. “All Inside” a track from the new album began with a funky hip-hop influenced intro before dropping into a smooth key-driven melody. Throughout the set Hollingsworth and his band were joined by saxophonists Ryan Jeter, Austin Zaletel who are collectively known as the Stank Horns and percussionist Matt Grundstad of Euforchestra.
The final performers of Wuhnurth were Chicago electronica musicians Future Rock. Future Rock drew in a nice size crowd for closing out a festival and they gave those who stuck a healthy extended set. Apparently the crowd was excited enough to light a good portion of sparklers during the opening song. Future Rock treated Wuhnurth to the first performance of FM2 in nearly a year, shelving songs always makes the bust out that much more fun. Future Rock also came off of a 3 festival weekend like the Pnuma Trio and they too showed no signs of fatigue or exhaustion as they did what they do best, play beat heavy late night shows. The band’s interaction was on point, as they didn’t miss a beat. To close out the festival Future Rock did a nice rendition of Daft Punk’s “Robot Rock.” Bassist Felix Moreno constantly reminded the crowd to “pick something up on your way back, we’re at Wuhnurth, keep it clean!”