All Good 2009 is all good


Imagine the perfect festival…what do you see?

The best acts in rock, jam, funk, blues, electronic, bluegrass, and reggae?

No overlapping sets?

Beautiful scenery?

While no festival is perfect, All Good 2009 came pretty damn close.


Following an epic weekend at Rothbury Festival in Michigan, the All Good Festival had some pretty big shoes to fill. Set in the picturesque rolling hills known as Marvin’s Mountaintop in Masontown, WV, this year’s four day fest from July 9-12 had the potential to do just that.


Early arrivers to Masontown were not only treated to an incredible Thursday night pre-party lineup, but an unfriendly welcome from local police and drug task force officers. Some had attested to getting pulled over multiple times simply for driving a suspicious vehicle (a.k.a. VW Bus). Aside from that, spirits were nothing but high for the commencement of the festivities.

After rousing opening sets from Seepeoples, DJ Harry, and Boombox, the stage was set for the “mad-scientist” of guitar, Keller Williams.

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K-Dub opened things up with a lightning fast “Art”, followed by Heart cover “Barracuda.” Playing festival staples “Freaker by the Speaker,” “Breathe,” and “Best Feeling,” Keller also threw in Nirvana cover “All Apologies” and a quick version of the Dead’s “Scarlet Begonias.” The end of William’s set brought with it, the anticipation of rapidly growing electronic powerhouse Lotus’ late night performance.

allgoodcrowd1.jpgWhen asked how long his band would be allowed to play, Lotus percussionist Chuck Morris replied with a smile, “Hopefully ‘till the sun comes up.” The band took the stage with thunderous force, opening with a monster “Flower Sermon,” featuring an incredible mallekat solo by Morris. The set also featured extended jamming from the band and masterful six string work by lead guitarist Mike Rempel. Throw in precise interplay between the Miller brothers and nonstop beats from drummer Steve Clemens, and you’ve got a band on fire during this Thursday night. Although Lotus played a huge setlist that featured the “Zelda Theme,” “Tip of the Tongue,” a “Spiritualize > Cognition > Spiritualize” sandwich and a closing “Nematode,” they didn’t quite make it to sunrise; they took a bow at about 5 a.m. Regardless, there was not a dissatisfied face to be seen leaving the Grassroots Stage on this opening night.

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hcr1.jpgFriday morning brought with it a fresh crop of All Good arrivers and some unfriendly West Virginia heat, much to the dismay of the Thursday late-nighters. Luckily, the first slated act on the two main stages was Hill Country Revue at a reasonably scheduled 2 PM, which gave concert goers the opportunity to catch up on sleep before restarting the madness. Hill Country Revue was formed by North Mississippi Allstars Cody Dickinson (on guitar and electric washboard) and bassist Chris Chew, adding Daniel Coburn (vocals and harmonica), Kirk Smithhart (guitar), and Ed Cleveland (drums).

The normally five piece Southern rock and blues collaboration also had the pleasure of welcoming multi-instrumentalist prodigy Jackie Greene to the stage on piano/keys for the entire set. A fitting way to start the day, the Mississippi rockers got things crankin’ with some tasty harp licks by Coburn and soulful slide guitar work by Smithhart on “Georgia Women,” and “Let Me Love You.” They rounded out their set with rising single “You Can Make It” and an absolutely ridiculous washboard solo by Dickinson that featured his trademark heavy wah and delay effects that made it sound as if the devil himself was plowing down Marvin’s Mountaintop on a hedonistic train from hell.

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bignazo.jpgA brief shift over to the Golden Crane Stage to witness the annual Big Nazo antics at All Good was in order, only this time, the group of mischievous interplanetary mutts was taking their act to the stage. The band itself looked like a bunch of mutated bugs, and generally had a pretty funky sound. The lead singer had a dog’s head on a human body, then later turned into a green balding old man, as he and his futuristic space wife welcomed their human/animal hybrid children to the stage. Definitely a unique and interesting spectacle to behold, yet the visual arts at All Good did not reach far beyond that.

Young phenom Jackie Greene was slated to perform next on the All Good stage, and he was not about to disappoint. The 28 year old sensation from California has gained national recognition over recent years for his solo work and stint with Phil Lesh & Friends. Greene took the stage sporting a beautiful dobro-esque semi-acoustic guitar with moon and star inlays on the body, and proceeded to master his way through originals and the Grateful Dead’s “New Speedway Boogie.” After his brief one hour performance, That 1 Guy had to get thumping on his even shorter half hour set.

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galactic.jpgThat 1 Guy is truly a sight to behold. One of the most interesting acts at All Good, That 1 Guy (a.k.a. Mike Silverman) plays a device more similar to a science project than an instrument. Dubbed the “Magic Pipe,” his device is the brainchild of the inability to get enough sound out of an upright bass and the help and knowhow of a scientist. Consisting of two large aluminum pipes with fret markings, two single strings on each pipe, a snare drum, and a galaxy of buttons, knobs, and looping pedals, the device gives him the ability to create an enormous array of sounds, from psychedelic drum beats to funkified bass lines (while also playing his pipe with a credit card!). Luckily for Silverman and the audience, he was allotted an additional 20 minute slot following the next act, funk gurus Galactic.

After a long stint promoting their latest album, From the Corner to the Block, those funkateers from New Orleans are back to their instrumental domination (thank goodness), putting more emphasis on horns in their most recent tour. Having played with brassmasters Trombone Shorty and Big Sam, Galactic enlisted the services of Corey Henry of the Rebirth Brass Band on trombone, and Mike Dillon on percussion for this occasion.

The boys wasted no time throwing it down, as they powered through “Chris Cross” and “D. Boy” with excellent exchanges between Henry and sax player Ben Ellman, not to mention some nice keyboard fills from Rich Vogel. Henry then proceeded to hop down off the stage and go for a stroll in the crowd, all the while jamming right along with the rest of the band. After making his way back to the stage, they closed out the set with “From the Corner to the Block,” featuring Henry on vocals. He then called “all the ladies, only ladies” in the crowd to join them on stage (don’t think this was planned), to which females rushed the stage like seagulls flocking after a piece of bread! After more or less destroying the stage, the set was brought to a close with a very angry stage crew, and a very satisfied crowd.

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With just enough time to catch a breath with the quirky, yet amazing That 1 Guy for another quick 20 minute set, it was already time to turn back to the left for the start of Robert Randolph and the Family Band. Always a crowd favorite, this version of the Family Band also consisted of Adam Smirnoff (guitar) and Nigel Hall (keyboards) of the funkmasters Lettuce. After sporting a fire engine-red Stratocaster for the first couple of songs, Randolph got to work on his pedal steel as the band busted into “The March,” which prompted the crowd and Randolph to start dancing around in a fury, creating a dust cloud usually reserved for bluegrass bands. Following the foot stomping came the best interpretation of a Michael Jackson song that these ears have ever heard. Randolph and the band tackled “Billy Jean,” playing all of the vocals on his sacred steel, causing many a jaw to drop. They then slowed things down a bit, segueing right into “Man in the Mirror.” After a rousing “I Need More Love” and an “All Good Jam,” the masses could do nothing but applaud. A quick cool down session with songwriter/storyteller Todd Snider was in order before the insanity that is Les Claypool.

claypool1.jpgThe demented yet brilliant intelligence that Les Claypool brings to the stage, screen or pages is something uniquely intangible and very hard to describe. Back in 1986, Claypool had actually auditioned for Metallica after the death of original bassist Cliff Burton. James Hetfield remarked that Claypool was not awarded the job because he was "too good." After witnessing a Claypool performance, it’s not hard to notice why. Claypool’s quartet came out sporting Richard Nixon-type masks with buckteeth, making it hard to identify each band member (except for Mike Dillon and Les, sporting goggles and a derby hat. The array of costumes and stage setup was enough to know that Les has a good time disturbing concertgoers and blowing their minds at the same time. Les and Co. came out blazing, with some heavy xylophone work by Dillon and some extremely evil and mind bending sounds from Sam Bass on the cello. High points included a “David Makalaster I > Southbound Pachyderm > David Makalaster I” sandwich, an amazing drum jam between Dillon and drummer Paulo Baldi, and a good ole’ “Booneville Stomp.”

The Golden Crane Stage then welcomed rising English funk band, The New Mastersounds. These guys know how to have fun and “funk you up” at the same time, and the British four piece had to get right to work on the receptive All Good-ers, with only a 45 minute set to tear it up. One of their first tunes, “Carrot Juice,” came at you fast and furiously funky, with guitarist Eddie Roberts and keyboardist Joe Tatton exchanging licks to the uproarious approval of the crowd, then stopped and dropped back into the chorus on a dime. After exploring some of their newer piano-heavy tunes, they kick into “The Land of Nod,” sporting a driving beat by drummer Simon Allen and a deep rooted groove by bassist Pete Shand, while Roberts got up on the wah and Tatton tickled the ivories in rain drop fashion. They were then forced to cut it short and round out their set with the feel-good “Baby Bouncer,” showcasing Shand and his smooth walking bass lines and Tatton exploring some dirty synth notes……a definite highlight of the weekend for the funk lovers of West Virginia and beyond.

ratdog.jpgThe stage was then set for one of the main attractions of the weekend, Bob Weir & Ratdog. Deadhead or not, few missed this one. It seemed as if the best seat in the house was laid out on a blanket atop the hill in the concert bowl, really taking the opportunity to absorb the surrounding beauty (even at night), and the mass of humanity that descends upon one place for magnificent events such as these. Out of the gates with a interesting jazzy jam, Bob and the boys cranked into “Truckin’” perfectly on cue, yet got somewhat sloppy towards the end. Ratdog then wandered into Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows,” turning eerily dark and evil (and still somewhat off). The band really didn’t pick up the pace of things until a delightfully up-tempo and dirty version of Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm.” By this point, the band had definitely hit their stride, knocking out an energetic “Loose Lucy” and a soaringly beautiful “Eyes of the World,” before welcoming Mr. Les Claypool back out during a drum jam-turned-funk jam. After molding that back into “Tomorrow Never Knows,” and the always magnificent “Morning Dew,” Bob and the band brought out Al Schnier of moe. for the perfectly placed ending duo of “China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider.” As opposed to All Good 2007, Bob picked a good time to wrap things up, giving way to DJ extraordinaire Bassnectar.

Bassnectar (a.k.a. Lorin Ashton) was one act more fittingly allotted a short time slot – not because he wasn’t great, but because more than an hour of sampling and mixing just gets stale. He quickly turned it up for the raver crowd, causing the biggest explosion of glowsticks to be seen all weekend. The mountainside was decorated with everything from luminescent hula-hoops, to girls doused from head to toe in fluorescent paint, as Ashton flung his humongous mane of hair up, down and side to side. It was then time to get in position for Friday’s late night show, as chants of “MOE, MOE, MOE” began to ring out for jam band mainstay moe.

moe.jpgmoe. took the stage to roaring approval and a flashing Christmas light sign atop the mountain that spelled out m-o-e. The boys from New York broke in to their three hour set with “Skrunk,” a somewhat lackluster way to start things off. They then kicked it into high gear with the surfer-esque instrumental jam “Californ-I-A.” After a couple of minor flubs during crowd favorite “Buster” and the segue into “George,” it was smooth, crisp face melting from there on out. Following some driving, almost electro-psychedelic jamming during “George,” they took their only break aside from the encore to ask the crowd “Are ya’ll ready to party all night?” They followed with the slide-heavy psychobilly “Queen of Everything,” also featuring percussionist Jim Loughlin on the washboard. They jam on this one sent the crowd into a frenzy, hurling glowsticks and spinning around in circles. After completely breaking it down, what ensued was a magnificent improv exchange of licks between guitarists Chuck Garvey and Al Schnier, slowly molding the jam into monster “Brent Black.” The jam on this one saw everybody exit the stage for one of the most impressive drum sessions all weekend between Loughlin and drummer Vinnie Amico. As the jam progressed, bassist Rob Derhak came back out for some dirty bowling ballish-slapping, while Al and Chuck snuck back out for some wonderful textures. Following was your run-of-the-mill “Seat of My Pants,” and a treat of “Bullet,” featuring Al on the Moog synthesizer. What ensued was a gargantuan 24-minute “Meat.” Not only did this come with a ridiculous mallekat/xylophone solo by Loughlin, but also brought Al and Chuck out on top of the bass speaker stacks for a shredding duel to end the set. Throw in a “The Pit > Californ-I-A tease > Tailspin” encore, and this reporter thought it to be impossible for Saturday’s shows to top Friday’s. Survey says……ennnnngh, wrong!

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Saturday morning saw plenty of late night stragglers who hadn’t made it to bed yet, and literally piles of empty balloons littered next to campsites – couldn’t care less about the consumption of nitrous, but at least pick up after yourselves. However, Tim Walther definitely did a bang-up job as far as scheduling is concerned, having certain genres of bands playing in very appropriate time slots. Prime examples include bluegrassers Cornmeal and feel-good rockers The Bridge. Not having to travel too far from their home of Baltimore, MD, The Bridge was an excellent way to get your legs moving on this not-as-hot Saturday. Whilte not too familiar with their tunes they didr open with a very fitting “Good Rhythm,” that showcased guitarist Cris Jacobs’ chops and put smiles across every face in attendance. Their set also included a staple beatbox session by electric mandolinist Kenny Liner. Yup, definitely a good way to start the day.

Following The Bridge’s set was guitar virtuoso Steve Kimock and Crazy Engine. The style in which Kimock plays any one of his varied guitars is something that is unique. Tingling ears with that special Kimock tone, they kicked into “A New Africa,” which sounded exactly how you’d imagine a song with such a name. Featuring a galloping beat by son/drummer John Kimock and heavenly fills by the legendary organist Melvin Seals, the song just makes you happy. There’s also nothing better than seeing a group of polished musicians just gettin’ it, and that came in the shape of “Long Form Part 4.” All that needs to be said is that Steve plays a fretless guitar on this one……wow. Then the foursome covered the timeless Little Milton tune “That’s What Love Will Make You Do.” Simply a delight to see these guys in action.

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Next up, and first act on the Golden Crane Stage, was the unusually interesting pair of Brendan Bayliss (Umphrey’s McGee) and Jeff Austin (YMSB). Playing in bands at the opposite end of the musical spectrum from each other, many were anxious to hear this intriguing duet. Having a folksy bluegrass sound, the two really possessed a similar singing and songwriting style and meshed really well, considering they’d rarely had the time to play with one another. After the brief acoustic cool down, it was time to witness the disturbed, yet genius persona that goes by the name Buckethead.

buckethead.jpgWith Les Claypool, That 1 Guy and Buckethead all included in the same festival lineup, it was hard not to anticipate some sort of collaboration. This wish, however, did not come true. Buckethead took the stage to some technical difficulties, yet still drew a huge roar of approval from the anxious fans. Wearing his trademark bucket (no longer a KFC one), blank white mask, one piece mechanic suit, and some Converse Chuck Taylors, he played to pre-recorded drum tracks, which was a bit strange but hey, it’s Buckethead. He was surprisingly animated, marching back and forth across the stage and absolutely shredding with his monstrous hands. His custom white Les Paul also had two red video game-like buttons which acted like an electronic whammy bar or vibrato (very hard to describe). He also sported an elastic guitar strap, giving him the ability to “cock” his instrument to the sound of a shotgun reloading on his track. After the ridiculousness that Buckethead delivered, it was time for a cool down during Assembly of Dust’s brief half hour set before the good ole’ boys from Colorado, Yonder Mountain String Band.


Always an All Good crowd favorite, Yonder Mountain String Band delivered just the right amount of foot-stomping on a cool afternoon in the beautiful, and fitting, mountain surroundings. It didn’t take ‘em long to hop into feel-good festival favorite, “Two Hits and the Joint Turned Brown,” ushering in clouds of pot smoke from every direction (All Good and its promoters were very pro-marijuana the whole weekend as well). Having brought the rain to All Good in ’07, it was nothing but blue skies and cool breezes for this go-‘round, as they twanged their way through a couple of song sandwiches, including “Angel > Follow Me Down to the Riverside > Angel” and a closing “Peace of Mind > King Ebenezer > Peace of Mind,” which sent dust every which way. Another break from the action was in order during Lake Trout’s brief set, before the start of electro-masters Sound Tribe Sector Nine.

sts9.jpgThe five-piece from California gave the All Gooders a special treat with a rare opening “Atlas.” One could tell right from the get-go that there was to be no screwin’ around tonight. As the sunset and STS9’s legendary light show kicked into gear, you could almost feel the ground shake from the intensity of the crowd’s dancing. There was a point during this show that the combination of Dave Murphy’s bass and Zach Velmer’s kick drum were thumping so hard that it was hard to maintain bowel control. Add some magnificent “Monkey Music,” “Instantly,” and “The New Soma" (featuring masterful fills from Hunter Brown on guitar and synth), and the audience was left screaming for more. This was one of the few occasions at All Good where additional room for an encore would’ve been nice, but it was time to hand things over to dirty NOLA funkers Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk.

dumpsta.jpgAllotted an unusually late set for this particular lineup, the five piece known as Dumpstaphunk had to bring it quick and hard for their hour set. Sporting duel bass players Tony Hall and Nick Daniels, they create an extremely deep pocket that few others can. Blazing through “Meanwhile,” and “She’s Music,” they thumped their way into trademark tune “Put It In the Dumpsta,” which got the whole mountainside hopping from front to back. On their “Gas Man” finale, Ivan Neville got up from his organ and joined cousin Ian Neville on guitar, causing the front row to almost knock down the photo pit barrier, giving security one hell of a funky headache.

Ben Harper and Relentless 7 was next on the bill, and many (including this reporter) were a bit apprehensive as to what kind of sound they’d deliver. The minute Harper took the stage, the crowd was immediately reminded of his stage presence and how amazing of a performer he is. Playing mostly new material including "Shimmer and Shine" (which was a bit cheesy), they wiped that clear with a raging cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times,” causing heads to bang and girls to scream. Not only did the end of Harper’s set bring the start of SOJA’s (Soldiers Of Jah Army) set, but also the start of a magnificent fireworks display from behind the main stage which lasted almost their entire show, almost putting the icing on the festival cake for the weekend. That particular feat was fixing to happen in the form of Umphrey’s McGee.

It’s hard to actually say that one particular band stole the weekend, but that crown undoubtedly went to Umphrey’s McGee for this edition of All Good. Busting out with an opening “40’s Theme,” it was clear from the get-go that not only were they going to melt faces, but that this was a party and they were here to have fun in doing so. Guitarist/lead vocalist Brendan Bayliss stated after the opener that “All Good let’s have a good time tonight……we’ve got nothing to do, but have a good time."

um1.jpgAfter the darker “The Floor,” they slid into the groove-happy “Wappy Sprayberry,” showcasing their danceable electro-beat side, with wonderful interplay between drummer Kris Myers and percussionist Andy Farag, and excellent synthesizer work from keyboardist Joel Cummins. During this 19 minute masterpiece, they slowed almost to a halt to give way to gold medal winner for the night, lead guitarist Jake Cinninger. Jake would let fly on the most screaming, painfully beautiful notes to be heard all weekend. The sextet then cranked into festie staple “All In Time,” featuring a masterful drum session between Myers and Farrig. This 24 minute beast also showcased bassist Ryan Stasik’s rarely highlighted skills. Following were “Cemetery Walk I and II,” the latter of which contained an evil broken down reggae pace.

Coming out of the “Cemetery Walks” was the feel good “Women, Wine, and Song,” featuring uplifting organ work from Cummins. What followed were the eerie opening textures that could only be Pink Floyd. Sure enough, it was “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” prompting a huge roar of approval from the still standing All Good crowd. Cinninger proceeded to beautifully rip the song’s opening notes that would’ve given David Gilmour himself the chills. Following it up was the latin-esque “Prowler” and the funkier “Bright Lights" (w/ a “Thriller” bassline tease from Stasik) to end the set. This also prompted festival promoter Tim Walther to take the stage to have the crowd give plenty of love for a ridiculous set and a soon-to-be encore. After vigorous “Umphrey’s! Umphrey’s! Umphrey’s!” cheers, the boys took the stage to hop into “Nothing Too Fancy” into a “Resolution” that was filled with not only a “Norwegian Wood” tease, but a Warren G’s “Regulators” tease. Segue that back into “Nothing Too Fancy,” and you’ve got an audience left with dumbfounded looks on their faces after the most top notch show to be seen all weekend.


crowd3.jpgSunday annually serves as a cool down day at All Good, with the last show being mid-afternoon. As many filtered out, the troopers were treated to some nice daytime sets from Trombone Shorty, Donna the Buffalo, another set from The Bridge, and San Francisco rock n’ rollers Tea Leaf Green. Highlights from their set included an opening “Kali-Yuga,” which states that “the mountains are for exploring (how fitting),” and a closing “Gasaholic” that showcased still fresh bassist Reed Mathis’ running bass lines. Follow that up with two doses of Grateful Dead by BK3 (Bill Kreutzmann’s band……quartet as of lately) and closing band Dark Star Orchestra playing the Dead show from 7/1/1978 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, which featured an opening “Good Lovin’” and an amazing song selection from top to bottom.

Every festival-goer has a uniquely different experience, so it’s hard to say that any particular festival is better than the next. Aside from some bands deserving a bigger/different time slot, there’s really not a whole lot of negative things to be said about All Good. From a consistently amazing (jam-friendly) lineup each year, to not having to miss hardly any shows, it’s hard to go wrong at All Good Festival.

Guess it’s not just a clever name!

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