All posts by David Shehi

Bear Creek Music And Arts Festival 2014 Get On Up and Get Down, Get Down!


Bear Creek Music And Art Festival 2014
Words and photography by Rex Thomson

Chris Robinson
Chris Robinson




If you’re looking for the most dedicated fans of funky music, look no further than The Spirit Of The Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida every November at the annual Bear Creek Music And Arts Festival. Thousands and thousands of people flock to the park for the show, disregarding the uncertainty of camping in the winter months for a chance to see one of a kind jams such as Chris Robinson fronting an all-star version of Soulive, Dumpstaphunk hosting their traditional, nigh legendary super jam, Roosevelt Collier and O’teil Burbridge putting a parade of special guests through their paces, an artist at large program that boasts bassist George Porter JR., sax man Pee Wee Ellis, beat master Bernard Purdie, guitarist Grant Green Jr., the horned one Skerik, trumpeter Jennifer Hartswick and many others, jam band superstars Umphreys McGee, a rock solid line up of the funkiest touring bands in the nation like Orgone, The New Mastersounds and Lettuce with up and comers The Nth Power, St.Paul and the Broken Bones, Locos Por Juana and Yojimbo representing the future. Okay…that was a pretty long sentence, but it’s truly difficult to capture the magic of Bear Creek in mere words. Lucky us…we get to use pictures too!

Yojimbo's Carley Meyers
Yojimbo’s Carley Meyers
Grant Green Jr.'s Orchestra At Large
Grant Green Jr.’s Orchestra At Large


Roosevelt Collier and Oteil Burbridge
Roosevelt Collier and Oteil Burbridge


George Porter Jr.
George Porter Jr.

The Spirit Of Suwannee Park is the home of over a dozen concert events a year, effectively launching the outdoor season with the Aura Music Festival, then wrapping it up with the epic dance party that is Bear Creek. While the line up IS funk heavy, the true purpose of Bear Creek is to bring the music that makes folks get up and moving, and year in, year out that’s exactly what happens. So while you may hear some jazz, some crunchy rock jams or even some unclassifiable hyper insanity you will feel the urge to boogie…and there is simply no fighting it. But for once you don’t have to take my word for it…you can judge for yourself!



Before we go any farther, I want to give a shout out to Jebb Long, for his amazing work taping seemingly the entire festival and sharing it with all of us! Concert tapers are true documentarians, selflessly buying insanely expensive audio gear, getting to shows super early, defending their rigs from errant beach balls, glow sticks and loud talkers…then sharing the fruits of their labors with everyone for no charge! Thanks to their efforts, these moments of musical bliss aren’t lost to the sands of time but preserved forever in sharable digital glory.



Dirk Quinn Band
Dirk Quinn Band


Locos Por Juana
Locos Por Juana


Though I recommend downloading the entire weekend’s music and turning it up on the loudest device you have access to, I do want to steer you folks toward some of the musical highlights from the weekend, starting with my favorite new discovery, Locos Por Juana. With a core of musicians from or descended from Columbia, the band mixes Latin rhythms, world music flourishes and a rock and roll aggression into a new whole. Their high energy set and diverse line up of percussion and horn fills and sit ins made their sets some of the most dynamic of the weekend. Speaking of dynamism, no act raised the stakes higher than Yojimblo, the New Orleans trio that buried the madness needle in the far red and never looked back. Fronted by trombonist Carly Meyers as if she had the bomb from Speed strapped to her person, primed to explode if she went less than fifty miles an hour the band is a melodic assault, only rarely slowing down to feature Meyers surprisingly sweet crooning. While she whirls like a dervish, drummer Adam Gertner and keyboard player Doc Sharp both add to the cacophony and ground it at the same time, allowing Meyers all the room she needs for her flights of fancy. It’s nice to see new acts bringing such energy and confidence to the stages of Bear Creek…it lets us know the future is in good hands.


The Nth Power, Brainchild of drummer Nikki Glaspie, formerly of Dumpstaphunk and Beyonce herself’s road band, unites herself, Nigel hall and a cadre of hand picked musicians may be a new band in name, the combined years of experience among the players clearly defines their pedigree. In the year since I last saw them perform they seem to have settled into their own groove. Their two sets on the main stage might have looked puzzling to someone not in the know about their membership, but just the slightest sampling of their combined talents showed them to be a force for reckoning. Thunderous beats gave way to delicate grooves, party line refrains transitioned into soulful singing while the grooves never seemed anything but as tight and as natural as they could be. It’s very impressive to see how fast they have gelled together, and the surety which they commanded the crowds attention spoke volumes about how far this band has come and just how high they can yet climb.

The Nth Power
The Nth Power


At the other end of the spectrum are the returning mainstays, Lettuce, Dumpstaphunk and The New Mastersounds. Having been a part of the festival since before it even WAS Bear Creek, these bands sounds are hard wired into the very DNA of the annual funk out and they always come ready to play, never holding anything back. Lettuce and The New Mastersounds welcomed guests like Alecia Shakour, Jennifer Hartswick, Bernard Purdie and 10 year old guitar phenom Brandon “Taz” Niederauer while Dumpstaphunk used one of their two sets to host the nigh legendary “Dumpstajam” which has evolved into a “Don’t miss” slice of swirling organs, bass duels and slinky, squealing guitar rampages. While in some cases the adage “Familiarity breeds contempt” could ring true, such is not the case at Bear Creek. Even if the bands didn’t take great pains to vary their set lists from year to year, almost every song seems to receive a transformative moment brought on by the fresh faces joining in on the fun. Florida’s own Rosevelt Collier teamed with Allman Brothers bassist Oteil Burbridge were joined by The Nth Power’s Nigel hall to bring a helping of Southern soul to the proceedings, mixing sacred steel gospel with down home jamming, seemingly enjoying the show themselves as much as the audience they performed for.

Lettuce with Alecia Chakour
Lettuce with Alecia Chakour
The New Mastersounds with Jennifer Hartswick
The New Mastersounds with Jennifer Hartswick


Dumpstajam with Taz and Tony Hall
Dumpstajam with Taz and Tony Hall
Nigel Hall with Roosevelt Collier and Oteil Burbridge
Nigel Hall with Roosevelt Collier and Oteil Burbridge

These collaborations aren’t limited to the regulars…this year we were treated to a head lining turn by Chris Robinson, who found his way to the amphitheater stage through his friendship with Eric Krasno of Lettuce and Soulive. The blues rock founder of the Black Crowes now fronts the Chris Robinson Brotherhood and was lured to the festival by the chance to play with not only Soulive, but some of the greats of of music like George Porter Jr. and Bernard Purdie. Purdie has appeared on more studio recordings than most anyone alive, and his drumming can literally be called “The Backbone of Funk.”

Chris Robinson, George Porter Jr., Eric Krasno and Ian Neville
Chris Robinson, George Porter Jr., Eric Krasno and Ian Neville

From studio sessions on James Brown, Aretha Franklin and many more to leading his own bands, Purdie is rightly revered in the industry and near deified in the funk community. George Porter Jr., himself a father of the form with his band the Meters bowed to Purdie onstage and was openly giddy about the opportunity to to play with him. Lettuce and Break Science drummer Adam Deitch was so honored to meet the man who had so influenced his development as a player he asked me to snap a shot of him with his hero…and honestly I was a bit awestruck in snapping the shot. Some moments you don’t want to miss…

Bernard Purdie and Adam Deitch
Bernard Purdie and Adam Deitch



Umphreys McGee's Jake Cinninger
Umphreys McGee’s Jake Cinninger


Returning for their third time headlining the festival, Umphreys McGee is riding a wave of love from their dedicated fan base, who turned their newest release, “Similar Skin”, into one of the fastest selling Jam band records in recent memory. The bands eclectic influences show in their lightning fast in song stylistic changes and their far reaching cover tune choices, with even the most experienced of audiences having no idea which way they’ll head next. Their sound is aggressive, heavy and yet still harmonic and melodic enough to capture the more laid back among the crowd. While their inclusion on a funk festival line up may look odd on paper, in practice they work perfectly for the underlying dynamic of the overall festival spirit…their fans never stop moving and grooving to the music, no matter which direction the band chooses to go at any given second. Known for their visual presentation as much as their musical direction, there’s an element of near sensory overload that blends the auditory and visual components into a coherent whole that can literally leave an audience dumbfounded…exhausted and joyous at the experience. Their enjoyment at headlining the main stage two days straight was obvious, and a concerted effort was made to ensure that no fan left the show wishing for more. That sort of dedication, commitment, just plain love for their listeners is a pleasure to see and I truly wish there were more acts that followed this philosophy.

Umphreys McGee's Brendon Baylis
Umphreys McGee’s Brendan Bayliss


Bear Creek attracts a wide variety of people from the neophytes ready for their first camping experience to the die hardiest, the fans who simply refuse to let the festival season end. These are the kind of people who build home made, battery powered air conditioners to survive the summer festivals, who have check lists that have been honed from years of practice that are meticulously followed….cars packed days in advance, costumes bought and made months before hand. The Spirit Of The Suwannee is a year round camp ground, with its beautiful trails and river views to it’s well worn and laid out camping areas, and, as such, they are ready for everyone. A general store onsite breaks the mold of festival vending by not only having everything you could need, from food and beverages to emergency camping supplies all the way to musical instruments and fire wood! The park also boasts a restaurant that serves an all you can eat southern styled breakfast buffet that will help replenish the lost energy from the previous nights craziness. One of the best parts about visiting a venue that hosts as many events as they do is, quite simply, the fact that practice makes perfect. At this point they’ve seen and done it all, and most importantly, they are prepared for any contingency. Nothing…not rain, nor snow nor sleet or hail shall keep this park from it’s appointed duty…to host the best outdoor events in the country year round!


Camp  Funknjam
Camp Funknjam

4J7A8596_edited-1As I said earlier in the article, Bear Creek is a haven for special collaborations that fans have only dreamt of…and these moments aren’t born of chance or happenstance, it’s all part of the grand design, and the weaver of that web is Bear Creek talent buyer Paul Levine.


Eric Krasno and Paul Levine
Eric Krasno and Paul Levine

The music scene is actually smaller than most people would think, and the players are all just as much fans as anyone in the crowd…some might say even more so. There’s a glee in the eyes of everyone wandering around backstage, seeing friends and other players who they respect and admire…keeping instruments handy, ready to join in at any moment with any band, just for the joy of playing. it’ what separates festivals from concerts…the sheer amount of talented individuals on hand and the chance interactions that can spawn lasting friendships and collaborations. Big Gigantic, though not on the bill, is a fine example of musicians meeting, finding much in common and creating something that could evolve into a musical juggernaut. Though not every sit in is destined to spawn a national touring act, each can inspire a new train of thought, a new outlook or simply an idea in the mind of the players that could eventually grow into a song, a style or a genre all it’s own. Or it could just be a wicked nasty guitar face off that melts the minds of all withing earshot. Either way…it’s pretty sweet.

Dumpstajam with George Porter Jr. and Tony Hall
Dumpstajam with George Porter Jr. and Tony Hall
Chris Robinson and Eric Krasno
Chris Robinson and Eric Krasno

Over the years Bear Creek has shown a savvy in it’s bookings that is truly inspired, and at it’s core is the Orchestra At Large set, a special last day treat, this year curated by Grant Green Jr. With legends like Purdie, Porter and Pee Wee Ellis, the later of whom played sax on most of James Browns early hits and worked a number of different roles in many famous acts, even serving as Van Morrison’s band leader and arranger during his hey day to call on as well as Taz, Roosevelt, the ladies of horn Jennifer Hartswick and Carley Meyers, New Orleans sax man Khrys Royal, Green had the easiest job in the world. After finding enough songs the players knew collectively he simply set back and let the pros do what they do…and reveled in the eye of the musical storm of which he found himself.


Grant Green Jr.
Grant Green Jr.
Orchestra At Large
Orchestra At Large

There was even a moment when the diminutive Taz and the elder green shared a moment, as all barriers of age fell away and music united the two in a way nothing else could.


That, to me is the highest point of Bear Creek mystique, seeing the players, young and old, lose themselves in the joy of connecting on a level so far beyond the verbal…moving into the spiritual planes. After three days of multiple stages of music, Sunday slows the pace down to alternating stages, with the second sets of The Nth Power, Dumpstaphunk, The New Mastersounds and Lettuce closing everything out. Though worn from days of musical fie sparking them long into the night, the fans don’t sneak out early at this festival…they stay til the echoes from the last note have long faded…excitedly swapping stories and wondering “What could possibly top this year?”

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While the music plays and the lights dance, however, the work goes on behind the scenes. A dedicated recycling crew works to make their program a model of efficiency, doing what they can to leave this picturesque park as they found it when they arrived days earlier. This year incentive programs offered attendees a chance to win prizes, including tickets to next years festival for helping collect and separate recycling waste. It’s a fine way to motivate and inspire fans, and having enthusiastic crew members like Michelle Lee, Lindsey Bradley Brown and Chase Walks made the weekend more like fun than work.


Bean Spence
Bean Spence

As it says in the name, Bear Creek is an ART festival, and that is not simply lip service to the community, but a true commitment on every level from the promoters to increase awareness and show case the talents of the artists who make our world a brighter place. Boasting a robust artist alley, a “Live Painter” program with a dozen artists and a open submission contest to create the annual festival poster.

Bridget Adams


This years winner, Evan Warren, claimed the honor and seemed genuinely moved accepting his prize and the company he was in, with past artists including Ralph Steadman, illustrator and collaborator of the late Hunter S. Thompson. Lyle Williams, Bear Creek promoter enjoys the contest, seeing it as chance to give artists a chance to share their visions with the world and secure memorable works of art that stand out from the crowd.


Lyle Williams presenting Evan with his prize package
Lyle Williams presenting Evan Warren with his prize package


Evan Warren giving thanks.


The sense of community that pervades the Bear Creek Music and Arts Festival extends from the grounds of it’s home the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park to the stages themselves. For years the Purple Hatters stage stood in the music field, named for a fallen member of the park’s family, Rachel Hoffman prized head gear. Tragically, this year the other two stages were named as two more of the parks long time crew, Derek “DC” Corner and Robert “Buffalo” Roffe. “DC” worked festivals around the country, helping lead security teams and keeping their presence to a helpful background, while Buffalo made sure the lights stayed lit, the sound stayed loud and the love kept flowing. I knew both men, and was lucky enough to call them both friend. Seeing the stages listed as “DC’s Forest Stage” and “The Buffalo Amphitheater” brought my heart to my throat when I first opened the program. It was a fitting tribute to those who work is going best when they are unseen by the average festival attendee, but without whose efforts the show simply wouldn’t happen.

Derek "DC" Conner
Derek “DC” Corner
Robert "Buffalo" Roffe and friend
Robert “Buffalo” Roffe and friend

It’s easy to forget the sheer amount of logistical planning, scheduling wizardry, stage building, sound and light rigging, audio and visual design, catering, cleaning, trash removal and the thousand other jobs that go into putting on a music festival. Luckily, the Spirit Of The Suwannee and it’s many events has a tight knit crew of regulars that make these many gigantic parties go off without a hitch. Over the past few years I’ve come to know most all of them, from the owner of the park and his parents who founded this music playground to the men and women who live and work on the site year round to the aforementioned production crew that brings the stages to life so many times a year. On a personal note, I’m proud to count myself among them, serving as a staff photographer for the event as well as reviewing the party, and was this year privileged to take the staff photo.

Hardest working folks in the biz!
Hardest working folks in the biz!

There are numerous faces missing as the break down was in full swing, and no faces are missed more than DC’s and Buffalo’s. But, as in the name of the park itself, their spirits were there watching over us, as they did in life. They were missed, but I know they would have wanted everyone to live up to the oldest of showbiz credos…”The show must go on!” And so it went. Times change, faces change, but love…love is forever. See you next year Bear Creek!


Dave and Kristy
Dave and Kristy
Big Ginger
Big Ginger

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Sister Sparrow with Roosevelt Collier and Bernard Purdie
Sister Sparrow with Roosevelt Collier and Bernard Purdie
The Wizad and the warriors
The Wizad and the warriors



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Lettuce's Adam Smirnoff
Lettuce’s Adam Smirnoff
Khrys Royal
Khrys Royal
Jennifer Hartswick
Jennifer Hartswick
Dumpstaphunk's Tony Hall
Dumpstaphunk’s Tony Hall

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Yonder Mountain String Band’s Mulberry Mountain Harvest Festival Preview



Nestled in the picturesque Ozarks of Arkansas, Yonder Mountain String Band‘s Mulberry Mountain Harvest Festival has something for music fans of all types. Whether you’re there to hear roots and bluegrass music from some of the finest pickers and grinners, get low down and dirty with some truly spicy funk or you wanna have your mind blown by sounds that can’t truly be classified they’ve got you covered. Hosts Yonder Mountain String Band bring a renewed energy that is a joy to see, with three set of pure joy for their devoted fans and new listeners alike and a parade of modern bluegrass’s finest, from Grammy Award winners like the Carolina Chocolate Drops and Chris Thile, his band the Punch Brothers, dobro legend Jerry Douglas and his band, jamgrass stalwarts like Railroad Earth, Cornmeal and The Devil Makes Three.



Funk fans have a special treat in store for them thanks to a roster of heavy hitters such as Lettuce, Dumpstaphunk, Big Sam’s Funky Nation and Papa Mali to help everyone get down and dirty. Returning favorites Elephant Revival, Split Lip Rayfield, Mountain Sprout, Dirtfoot and Tyrannosaurus Chicken will be on hand to delight their fans and bring the love, while That 1 Guy will take folks to some place completely new and exciting.



Matt Butler will bring his Everyone Orchestra concept to the gathering, pulling in a diverse line up of special guests including drop steel master Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass in for the set of original music created in the moment. Creating moments is what the Mulberry Mountain Harvest Festival is all about. The grounds themselves are an attraction, with the mesa serving as a wide open view to spectacular views, open field and wooded camping and a wide variety of arts, crafts and one of the best varieties of food vendors you’ll ever see. With a pair of permanent stages, one massive and imposing where you can sit back and enjoy the full scale rock spectacle the other a secluded and intimate platform where fans can dance among the trees joined by a circus tent and a smaller stage highlighting the up and comers every musical viewing experience is well represented, with a stellar production team that let’s the music sound as good as it possibly can from any vantage point. As the night falls, the sky becomes an epic blanket of stars filling the mind with wonder while the music of this all star line up provides a wave of musical inspiration for flights of fancy to take wing.


Honest Tune has been to the mountain in the past, and we’ve fallen in love with this festival over the years. We’ve got a lot of special coverage lined up, with interviews, photos and written coverage of all the fun on it’s way, along with some shots live from the festival. We hope you join us in Arkansas for four days of music and merriment that has to be seen to be believed!

“Lay Down Sally” Cornmeal and Greensky Bluegrass

Tickets are available HERE and at the gate!

See you there!

“Hey! Let’s ask Jim!” an interview with moe. percussionist Jim Loughlin


If the band moe. was a baseball team two things are for sure…percussionist Jim Loughlin would would be a lock to start as utility infielder and they would probably lose every game because there are only five of them.  Luckily for the world, they are more focused on making music instead of double plays.   While Loughlin takes his role in the band seriously, he still manages to inject his sense of humor to the proceedings as he nimbly jumps from instrument to instrument, keeping time and filling the nooks and crannies with sound.  Honest Tune caught up with him at the bands stop at Cincinnati’s Moonlight Gardens and got a peek into his elaborate maze of instruments, his inspirations and his methods for keeping his sanity in an insane world.  Enjoy!

moe.down 2014 “Vote Rex!”

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3 Best of 3

Labor Day weekend the band moe. celebrated the fifteenth annual moe.down music festival in upstate New York, playing to a mix of delighted diehard faithful and eager new converts on the slope of the Snow Ridge Ski Resort. moe. put their experience to good use planning the festival as a relaxed weekend of no overlapping sets and a mixture of established crowd favorites like Lotus, Les Claypool, Soulive and Gogol Bordello alongside up and comers Floodwood, The Werks, Twiddle and Aqueous to give their friends and a memorable holiday weekend. With the bands upcoming twenty fifth anniversary serving as a milestone making them a beacon of stability and success to musicians across the scene the weekend these elder statesmen of the jam band scene were on top of their game, on their home turf and obviously delighted to see familiar and fresh faces stretched out before them.

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Okay…now that I’ve written the obligatory introduction paragraph and all the people who just skim the words and check out the photos are done paying attention…I WON!!!!!!!!!!!

me for FB article!

Who am I, and what did I win you may ask? My name is Rex Thomson, and for the last five years I have been running for the coveted title of “Mayor of moe.down.” Yes…that’s totally a thing. So, my apologies for folks wanting to read a standard festival review…but due to my complete preoccupation with the election to write anything else would be a lie…and nowhere near as fun! See…a few years back I got a terminal health diagnosis and decided to spend my last days having a little fun. Happily, my doctors were able to stabilize my various illnesses and I was able to take my new found lust for life to extremes I never thought possible. As I started making bucket lists and trying to get the most out of what time I had left, I set my sites on entering the notoriously silly Mayoral election. (And covering random people with stickers along the way!)




After the late Jimmy Boone declared himself the “Mayor” of the first festival, the second installment saw a new tradition born…fans running for and then actually participating in a voice vote to determine who was indeed, “Mayor of moe.down!” Animate and inanimate objects (And in the case of Bob Weir…both) have been winners in the past, and five some odd years ago I got it in my head that it would be fun to enter the competition myself! I know, I know…journalists aren’t supposed to become part of the story…but seriously…I barely can be considered a fake music journalist on a good day. So facing all comers…hell..last year I lost to a place…a ditch in the ground no less…for the last five years I have been “On the campaign trail” I have acted as a politician in a heated race for the highest office in the land.


Traditionally candidates or their supporters announce their candidates and show up at moe.down with signs, bribes and weirdness planned to spread their word. That appealed to my sense of pomp and silliness…but seemed a little too small scale to me. My point, ever since I first heard of the office, was that I was actually QUALIFIED to hold the position if it was an actual job. As a music photographer and a videographer I work with bands, promoters, vendors and so on…as well as the vendors and fans themselves. Who better to preside over a music festival than someone who knows the ins and outs of all sides of the operation? With this in mind I made a giant sign for people to hold and thereby “Endorse” my run and spent the entire year leading up to the 2010 installment of the festival using every chance I got to get bands, fans and random folks to hold my sign and proudly tell folks to “Vote Rex!” With a huge head of steam I went to my very first moe.down (Yes…I ran for mayor the FIRST time I went…because that’s how I roll!) and promptly lost. Not in a fair way either…but by my name being forgotten by the time the second round of the election was done.

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It could have all stopped there…I had sworn to run, and I had most certainly done that. But honestly, telling random strangers about how great a band moe. was, schlepping that giant sign and acting like a loonie all the time was some of the most fun I’d ever had. So…ditching that bulky sign in favor of a Diamond Joe Quimby inspired “Vote Rex” mayoral sash made for me as a joke by my friend Shellie I set out on an odyssey of laughter and joy that were easily the best times of my life. After another year of hard work and spreading my message I returned…and lost again. This time to a merged candidacy of the legendary rhythm guitarist for the Grateful Dead, Bob Weir and a wig made out of the hair of recently shorn band bassist Rob Derhak. Undaunted, I redoubled my efforts and ran again…only to be defeated by a camp running the magic festival essential Gold Bond Medicated Powder. I have to say…it’s fairly sobering to lose to a substance whose primary use is to help prevent chaffing of tender…areas…of the human body. I was daunted, truly…but far too stubborn to admit defeat.



Over my many years of campaigning I’ve ended up on national television, traveled coast to coast, got to meet music legends and up and coming bands and gotten endorsements from all all while passing out cds of live moe. shows to anyone who had no idea what I was talking about. And make no mistake…it’s the music of moe. that so inspired me. I honestly can’t name another band that so effortlessly combines their raw talent, road earned skills and dynamic song writing range to present a package as wholly satisfying and complete as the band moe. With a pair of guitarists who could easily be fronting the darkest of metal bands or the silliest of kids acts, a hulking bass player whose dexterity belies reason and a pair of percussionists that have every single thing anyone has ever struck to keep a beat with in arms reach the band is capable of playing in any tempo, style or genre at any moe.ment. Sorry…moe. puns are another lil tradition I’ve grown quite fond of over the years.

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So I packed up the car and headed to New York with a serious purpose…this year I was going to go all out in my bid to win. Having lost to a person, place and thing I was dead certain that my next loss would come at the hands of a concept…an unshakable ennui or sense of honor, but I was determined to let nothing stop me. The level of my endorsements had grown to where I was now being openly endorsed by the band in videos and on the Twitter sphere, and I was starting to think I may actually finally have a chance to come out of the weekend with a win! I arrived Thursday for the pre-fest sound check, and it was like a (Seriously…love me some moe. puns) reunion of all the faces I’ve grown to know and love over the years. With a number of very familiar sounding “This is your year!” comments, I found myself watching my favorite band rehearse for the upcoming weekend and silently wished they were right. The road is fun…but my sash was starting to get a little gamey.

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The weekend started with two sets by jamtronica war horses Lotus, and the rising-in-the-ranks gents The Werks. Lotus proved fitting music to groove by in both the sunlight of their early set and the starkly illuminated darkness of their second set. The Werks provided three short sets that bracketed the Lotus sets and opened directly into moe.’s big evening blow out with a funky vibe and some serious jamming of their own. Finally the reason we all had shown up took the stage…moe. came out to a cacophonous cheer that seemed to take even them by surprise.

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102.1 The Werks 2

It would be easy to coast on their laurels and give the fans a greatest hits styled set, but with the moe.’s new album “No Guts No Glory” doing well on the charts and chock full of fresh tunes, it was to everyone’s delight that a true cross section of the band’s material was rocked out. From new songs like “White Lightning Turpentine” and “Same Old Story,” to old school classics like “Meat,” “Dr.Graffenberg” and newer pieces like “Faker” and Chromatic Nightmare” there was something for fans of every era. The band even managed to slip in a cover of the 90’s Cracker hit “Low” while breezing past their one a.m. curfew..playing a full hour longer than expected. Fans left the hill exhausted but buoyed by the tremendous energy emitted from the stage like tired moths after the porch light burned out.

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I’m writing this article from my personal perspective because honestly it would be either extremely short or full of lies if I tried to pretend I sat and reviewed all these bands. I didn’t miss any moe., true, but sadly in my zeal to finally win a few acts got missed. I heard American Babies from a distance as I was pressing the flesh up and down the aisles of tents, but I can only speak to the reactions I heard from people, which were resoundingly positive. I did make it over in time to catch Conehead Buddha play their first show with their returning members and their now official line up. Brassy and confident, the band has a layered sound that you would expect from the amount of players, but never seemed over loaded. Their horn section was razor sharp, and since they’ve often joined moe. onstage it was fun to see them perform their own tunes, and get excited for the likely sit in to come.

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58 Conehead Buddha  2
moe.s traditional afternoon set was full of fun…and surprises. As I started my campaign years ago I wrote myself a list of guidelines, to govern my behavior as I ran for Mayor. One of which was to not spend money doing this, but to ty and earn the office based on merit and good will. I wander the crowds taking portrait shots of folks, sharing them with them for free along with my shots from any moe. shows to build love. This year that love paid dividends I never would have expected. From the sashes Shellie made to a lot of bizarre things my friends have done (The “Rex” masks were a particular favorite!)…


…but this year it went to the next level. One friend, Gypsy,  made her own sash.


Other folks made signs and their own stickers. I ran into folks wearing my “Vote Rex” slogan on themselves with no idea who I was. But my friend Franklin, who owns Design By Franklin in Chicago, Illinois (PLUG!) actually made me shirts! Why is this relevant to a moe. concert review you ask? Well…Al. Schnier, guitarist of moe., took the stage actually wearing one of my shirts!

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As moments in my life go, that was pretty amazing. Their afternoon set featured the traditional “Kids Tent Song” where the lil ones who make up a large part of the crowd paraded onto the stage and danced and played while moe. performed “Billy Goat.” I was running video at that point, so there aren’t any shots from this heart warming spectacle, but literally a thousand proud parents were there snapping and filming away…so I think the moment was captured.

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Alternative rock godfather and founder of Primus, Les Claypool brought his Duo De Twang act, with guitarist and high school friend Bryan Kehoe along for a set of stripped down, rootsy versions of Primus classics Like “Winona’s Big Brown Beaver,” hundred year old folk tunes and not one, not two, not even tree but four renditions of the South Park television show theme. Les openly wondered about the legacy a man leaves behind as he shared the recent loss of his grandfather, before realizing that on his tombstone it would likely read “Les Claypool: Dude that wrote the South Park song.” Rather than feel slighted, he seems proud, and the crowd sang along with gusto on each go round.

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From there the fun went over to the second stage where Matt Butler brought his brilliant Everyone Orchestra concept back to moe.down, along with special guests John Kadlecik from Furthur, Cody Dickinson from the North Mississippi All Stars and the venerable Allie Kral, who has been tearing up stages across the country with Yonder right now, along with drafting Al from moe. along with his friends from Floodwood. Allie Kral basically invented the “Rockstar Endorsement” of my campaign, and even has her own sash! She was frantic that she left hers at home, but happily festooned her amplifier with one of the spares.

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The Everyone Orchestra was truly an amazing set, and one of the few where I was able to put don my gear and just listen. Matt Butler call out song structure and themes, then turns the players loose in a frenzy of improvisation that needs to be seen to be believed! Speaking of hard to believe…Gogol Bordello is another act that everyone should catch at least once in their lives. Besides playing uplifting, crazily jacked up high energy music that’s good for the soul, they also provide a good example in how to rock out by being easily the most physically active band of the weekend. I’ve never seen a band do calesthetics backstage to prepare for a show, or help each other stretch like it’s pregame at the Super Bowl. All that hard work paid off as the literally never stopped running the entire set. They made me tired just watching them, and made me smile by just listening. A wonderful blend of hope and joy that was just what the afternoon needed as it crept into evening.

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Most bands would be intimidated following such a spectacle, but not moe. This was their home court after all, and they were playing to a rabid crowd of moe.rons (the proper name for their legion of fans) and they could do no wrong. Guitarist Chuck Garvey was in rare form all weekend, mixing impossible seeming fret work with precise slide stylings and acted as an emotional core to the entire weekend musically. Joined by the Conehead Buddha horns, as predicted, the band gave a stellar two set nearly four hour performance that was precisely what was hoped for and more. With the addition of the horn section the band took some interesting chances with covers, including Bruce Springsteen’s “Tenth Avenue Freeze Out,” Paul Simon’s “Late In The Evening'” and Black Sabbath’s “The Wizard.” The set was heavy with sing a longs and up tempo crowd pleasers, with “Mexico” being greatly bolstered by the horn section, “Plane Crash” receiving an excellent rag time jazz styled intro from the brass as well. They reached DEEP into their catalog to produce their encore of the traditional Jewish tune “Hava Nagila” and Long Island Girls Rule,” teasing fans who had gotten to vote for a request after helping the band reach an online milestone. Another night of pleasing every corner of the grounds behind them, moe. took the chance to thank the fans and went to get some much needed rest.

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As I’ve mentioned, moe. is the type of band that inspires a level of devotion among that converted that is rare and beautiful to see. I’m not the only lunatic who’s spent years chasing the title of Mayor…hell my four losses up to that point weren’t even the most among former candidates! That honor belongs to Mark Hodge, who ran 7 times before finally winning…then immediately abdicating. It’s in that spirit that the contest runs, but don’t think moe.rons are all in it for laughs. Hodge is currently helping to run a Go Fund Me drive to help his nephew to afford a pace maker to regulate a rare heart disorder, hopefully giving the kid “A chance to be a normal kid and play and stuff.” The band was kind enough to give his cause a shout out from the stage, and anyone who’d like to contribute can do so HERE.

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This level of community dedication isn’t limited to mayoral candidates. Super .ron and front row veteran of more shows than can easily be counted, Meredith,  runs the Yodeladies. Here’s a quick Q & A between her and special guest interviewer Al Schnier (Who asked these questions for his own reference, and we’re simply stealing them cause they’re perfect and I am lazy!) about the organization…

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1. When did the Yodeladies form?
April 18, 2007 – The idea for the Yodeladies came to Tiffany Lodholz after she joined the now defunct group 2nd Self (Umphrey’s McGee’s version of the Yodeladies). This group was also modeled after Phish’s own version of a women’s group, known as the Phunky Bitches. At the time we had an amazing community of women moe.rons around the country who had become close friends. Tiffany had recently heard about a sexual assault at a festival and many of us had witnessed young girls in trouble at shows. We all thought the moe. community needed to take some positive action to create a safe and welcoming environment for women.
Tiffany took her idea and posted it on the moe. Phantasy Tour webpage to gauge interest and the response was overwhelmingly positive. We started our own yahoo group and and thanks to the hard work and individual talents of our founders (design, public relations, legal knowledge, violence prevention, etc.), the Yodeladies were born.
2. Who started it? Who currently runs it?
Founding members: Tiffany Lodholz, Valarie Taylor, Meredith Freed, Mindy Reznik, Melanie Francis, Amy Boyle, Melissa Postolowski, Carla Eilo, Carolyn Flint, Elayne Carringer, Carrie Watson, Jenny Grimes, Missy Hebert, Kelly Brewer
Current leaders/active contributors: Tiffany Lodholz, Meredith Freed, Melissa Postolowski, Elayne Carringer, Missy Hebert, Laurie Sandow, Jenny Grimes, Roxanne Winslow, Carrie Watson, Melanie Francis, Carla Eilo
The Yodeladies do not exist without the enormous community support we receive from women in the scene. We are eternally grateful for the endless offers to volunteer time and/or donations to our cause by all fans.
3. What do you actually do?
Yodeladies is a women led association of individuals who actively promote a friendly and safe environment for women in the
At shows, Yodeladies will often provide local information, including important phone numbers, health and safety resources, and various sundries (condoms, tampons, etc.) that might be needed, if the venue allows.
We welcome the support of anyone who loves moe. and who is committed to creating a positive environment for women in the moe. community.
4. Why do you do it?
Because every person at a moe. show should feel safe to rock out.
5. How would you like to see it evolve?
It has already evolved so much in the 7+ years we’ve been working together. We’ve created merchandise with our logo to generate funds as opposed to existing purely off donations and volunteer efforts. Our community has been so supportive and we are extremely thankful to the universal effort put forth by moe.ville. We are currently recruiting regional coordinators to check local numbers and organize distribution of information and supplies at local shows during the moe. tour. If you are interested in helping out, please message us on Facebook!

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moe. also has a very active “Clean and Sober” group, “The Happy Hour Heroes” that helps connect fans in recovery with each other and hosts meetings at festivals and raises awareness of their lifestyle at shows across the country. moe.down itself is a model of events working with the community, with golf outings, school supply drives and even a light contact lacrosse match set up to raise money for the city of Turin, host of the event. It’s this spirit of egalitarianism that speaks volumes on the quality of people who follow the band, and the example they set is not lost on the younger fans in the crowd. As the band has moved across the years, their original fans have begun families of their own, and seeing the smiling young faces playing in the kids tent, hiking the trails and rocking out during the shows makes me feel the future is safe in their hands.


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And finally Sunday dawned on the festival…election day. I vowed to take my message to the fans, and wandered the crowd, snapping pictures, making my pitch and losing my voice all in an effort to win a made up office that, up til now at least, had had no real duties or responsibilities. I’ve explained my run around ten thousand times, to complete strangers who by all rights would never have heard of the band…I’ve passed out free cds…I’ve spent a good portion of my LIFE the last five years spreading the word of moe….simply because it was fun to do. Life’s a little too serious for my tastes…and the smiles I’ve left on people’s faces after encountering them and speaking of my crusade have let me know that I was a bright, silly spot in a lot of people’s days over that time. See…I have a secret. Win or lose…come election time…I’ve already won more than I could ever have hoped. My previous losses only served to give me the opportunity to keep having the time of my life. Savvy observers have even asked if I actually really WANTED to win…since that would stop the fun.

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So with all this on my mind I watched Dobro and drop steel virtuoso Jerry Douglas wow the crowd with his pyrotechnics as I campaigned on the hill. moe.’s drummer Vinnie Amico and Schnier’s bluegrass side project Floodwood took the second stage and showed what all that touring in their spare time with their picking and grinning compatriots had wrought…a fierce and independent entity that has grown far beyond the simple side project mentality into a full fledged band of it’s own.

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Fans danced up a storm as the five piece laughed and jammed through a set of originals and a cover or two. I even got to check out the band Aqueous, who went above and beyond in their help of my run for mayor. Due to a scheduling conflict, a friend of mine was unable to deliver the rest of the shirts my friend Franklin had made for me, and they sat at a club owners home in Virginia (PLUG: Check Out The Hot Spot if you’re ever in the area!) and it looked like they wouldn’t make it. As fate would have it though, Aqueous was playing The Hot Spot on their way to moe.down, and nobly accepted the charge of delivering the shirts to me Saturday night upon their arrival at the fest! A class act. So when I say that their set was funkier and as ear pleasing as any of the weekend…you’re just gonna have to trust my honesty as a politician for my words veracity.

52  Aqueous 1 53 Aqueous 2I’d passed out all the free copies of the poster I drew for this years festival, a tradition started three years ago.  The poster is available to any and all who want it as a free download, (Message me at along with all the pictures from the weekend.  My having produced festival and band art over the years for a variety of acts was just another reason I felt like the best person for the job!  Sorry…once you start running for office…it’s hard to stop!

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But now, at last…it was time. Politicking becomes impossible when moe. takes the stage, so it was time to shut up and dance…I mean…work and take pictures and stuff. In my years of covering moe. and my decade plus of seeing the band I’ve been fortunate enough to not only meet the band several times, but to earn their at least tolerance if not actual respect for my zeal and love of their work. I’ve been allowed to hang in the photo pits fora bit longer, and they’ve even been known to mug for the camera from time to time.

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After the amazing moment of seeing Al. in one of my shirts…I was treated to the site of percussionist Jim Loughlin not only wearing one but doing so while playing a variety of instruments that few players would feel comfortable attempting!

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Even beloved band guitar tech Frank got in on the act!

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I so preoccupied with the election that at first I didn’t notice that moe. was performing the winner of their fan request poll…the first live version of “Canned Pastries” performed in nearly twenty years! A variety of crowd pleasers like ’32 Things,” “Water'” and “Moth” were broken out…and bassist Derhak even found himself a comfortable seat from which to play a particularly engaging “Time Ed.”

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As is tradition, guitarist Schnier read a selection of notes and thank yous passed to him throughout the day…a rite known as the “al.nouncements.”

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Schnier generally uses these moments to thank fans from the bottom of his heart for their love and support…and the mist in his eyes belied the honestly of his words. Finally…Derhak too the stage with his kids in tow to start the election process and the lump in my throat had grown to epic proportions. The first candidate was even a parody of me…an inflatable T Rex dinosaur with it’s own wee camera and sash. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery I’m told…but i swear to you now…if I had lost to an inflatable parody of me this would be an entirely different article…written by some local reporter about the violence that broke out following the election at an upstate music festival in New York. Happily, that wasn’t the case. As the names were read and audience response was gauged I got more and more nervous…until at last my name was called. And the crowd went ballistic. Seems like my efforts had finally caught on…and the wave of emotion that hit me was almost more than I could stand. To be fair, Derhak ran through the candidates a second time…and even jokingly again pretended to forget me. When he remembered, comically, and said my name, the cheers, chants and such literally blew my mind. Preston Hoffma, moe.’s lighting wizard even turned on the house lights and let the whole thing escalate for a few moments.After a quick congratulations the band closed with one of their most epic songs, “Rebubula” as always dedicated to Derhak’s wife Becca for her efforts behind the scene to make the organization run as smoothly as it has for so many years.

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So now…that phase of my life is over…but not done. Now I’m the Mayor…and as you may assume from hearing how hard I worked to get the title…I’m gonna make the most of my year in office. I’ve already proposed and received tacit approval for a series of art contests, am working with fans to launch a fan site and am looking for ways to continue to help spread the music of the band I love. That’s been my whole point all along…follow your dreams, spread good energy and never, EVER quit. Make each step a step forward and upward…find like minded people to help you and help then whenever you can, and above all else…GO SEE moe.! Tell ’em the Mayor sent ya!

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moe.down 2014 Preview



al. schnier raging
al. Schnier raging



The fifteenth annual moe.down music festival is happening this weekend in Turin, New York and their fans couldn’t be happier to spend Labor Day weekend with their favorite band and the supporting acts like Lotus, Gogol Bordello and Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang for three days of music mayhem. moe. hails from upstate New York, and the moe.down festival has always served as a “Thank You” to their die hard fans (Known as moe.rons) with a weekend of extra long sets, featuring deeper than usual set lists and fun interactions such as a special performance with the children in attendance and even a joking “Election” for a “Mayor” of the festival itself.


With two side by side stages and no over lapping sets fans can easily see all the bands play without missing a note.  The Saranac Brewery provides a selection of  tasty craft beers, with a wide variety of food vendors, artisans and activist booths give attendees fun shopping opportunities for the rare times there isn’t music playing.  The venue itself is a ski lodge during the winter months, and the stage is set at the bottom of the run, letting the hill serve as a perfect natural stadium incline for great viewing from any angle.


The festival officially starts on Friday, August 29th and runs through Sunday, but a special Thursday entrance upgrade is available for diehards to get in, set up and listen to moe. do a sound check preview of the madness to come!

Tickets are available at the gate and HERE



P.S. Our editor, Rex Thomson, will be on hand not only covering the festival, but also running for Mayor for the fifth time in a row.  Let’s hope he finally breaks his losing streak this year!  Good luck buddy, we’re rooting for you.  VOTE REX!

“We Want The Umph, Gotta Have that Umph”

Words by Lacey McClain
Photos by Brad Kuntz


Bass thumping, guitar shredding, key mashing, Umphrey’s McGee took the stage last Thursday, July 31st at Charlotte’s Fillmore Music Hall. Fans lifted the notorious “Umph” hand signals skyward as the six piece entered with their usual vigor. Umphrey’s wasted little time and within moments women were tossing their hair back and forth, while others thrashed their fists in the air. Some became possessed by the music, flailing and shaking in light of the live-out-loud rock blaring beneath the sparkling chandeliers of Charlotte’s premier venue.


The initial jam was snuffed out as quickly as it was ignited. Wafting over this unstoppable segment was one of an effervescent nature, cued flawlessly through a seamless transition. Known for their exceptional ability to lead fans out of heavy, shred worthy realms and into a delicate pasture of lofty, pillow-encrusted harmonies, Umphrey’s makes no reservations in changing things up as they see fit.


“It’s pretty amazing to see the way these guys communicate with each other on stage,” says fan, Katherine Kirk. “Ryan Stasik (bass) and Jake Cinninger (guitar) came together during the first set and stood back to back slaying their instruments in unison. To see how charged they both became as a result of this was magnetic. The pair radiated this intangible power that can only be felt live.”


While Umphrey’s tends to reign in the style of hard rock, the band does dip their toes into pools of metal, funk, jazz, blues, electronic, bluegrass, and folk. With the recent release of their eighth studio album, Similar Skin, the pendulum swings again. The band captures every facet in the spectrum of musical ingenuity by meshing structured compositions alongside spontaneous jams.


It is undeniable that Umphrey’s McGee is a species all their own. Although their musical influences are detectable, the band’s style is truly organic. The success of this dynamic jam band lies in reverence to balance and synergy. The erratic nature of their songs may at first seem inconsistent, but it is the consistency of never staying in any given genre for too long that make them masters in their craft.


Front man and guitarist, Brendan Bayliss, led the band through a fairly wordless first set. It was a heavy, rage- friendly, mash up of running bass lines and thrashing drum solos. Kris Myers trounced his drum set madly as his facial flinches exemplified the effort he put forth, while percussionist, Andy Farag, accented with cymbals. A thick “Mulche’s Odyssey” grew spacey, gained momentum, and finished with a surge of frantic drumming and bass-filled frenzy.


The first set finished beautifully, diversely, and nothing short of “umph-forgettable.” The crowd stood perplexed as a swanky take at “Utopian Fir” melted into Led Zeppelin’s “The Ocean.” A swirling cyclone of sound plucked “Night Nurse” off the ground and whirled with all its being into a funk laden fury. The musical storm grew before it delicately released the crowd back onto the platform of “Utopian Fir.”


Returning from set break, Umphrey’s became more approachable in content with song selections that were lyrically based and grounded. A zesty “Miami Vice” was rounded out in a whimsical, trance-like fashion. The stage lights steadily reflected the music: flashing vividly during moments of high intensity and settling into cool monochromatic beams as the music became subtle.


The cover to follow was every southerners dream: “Black Water,” by the Doobie Brothers. All the remaining energy in the crowd was expelled in the midst of this timeless tune. Smiles were exchanged, as all the pretty mama’s waved their hands towards the stage. Joel Cummins, on the keys, contributed a jazzy accent to this American classic, while Bayliss tweaked the lyrics to incorporate a Carolina moon.


Umphrey’s McGee took fans through one last portal of metal, funk, and space before encoring with “Slacker.” The Fillmore’s energy was so high come the end of the show, no one seemed to know what to do once the music stopped. Some just kept on dancing, but when it comes to Umphrey’s McGee, the next show is always just around the corner. Until next time, boys!


Set 1: Lucid State > Rocker Part 2, Anchor Drops > Room to Breathe, The Bottom Half, Mulche’s Odyssey > Utopian Fir > Night Nurse > Utopian Fir > Ocean Billy

Set 2: Little Gift, Der Bluten Kat > Final Word > Der Bluten Kat, Miami Virtue > Black Water, Much Obliged > The Floor

Encore: Slacker

Northwest String Summit 2014 Announces Simulcast

Northwest String Summit Simulcast Announcement


The 13th annual Northwest String Summit takes place this weekend at the jewel of the Pacific Northwest, Horning’s Hideout.  Joining hosts Yonder Mountain String Band for the celebration is an all star line up of of bluegrass bands and players ever assembled including the Sam Bush Band, Railroad Earth, The Wood BrothersSteep Canyon Rangers, 2 Nights of Greensky Bluegrass, The Infamous Stringdusters,
Danny Barnes, Vince Herman & Friends, Shook Twins, Darol Anger, Wicked Messenger (w/ Adam Aijala & Ben Kaufmann),
Dave Johnston’s Banjo Strummit, Fruition, The Motet, Dead Winter Carpenterse, Grant Farm, Lil Smokies, Blackberry Bushes, Scott Law w/ Sam Grisman, Tyler Grant, & Andy Thorn, Scott Law Bluegrass Dimension, Burle and the No Brainers, Allie Kral & Friends, Burle w/ Travis Book & Anders Beck, The Student Loan, The Rumpke Mountain Boys, Gipsy Moon, Pete Kartsounes, Sugarcane, Big E’s Magik Kids Show, Polecat, World’s Finest, Arthur Lee Land, Steep Ravine
and more!  Honest Tune Magazine will be on hand to provide coverage of all the magic to come, but this year you don’t have to wait for the reviews…you can watch the festival LIVE from the comfort of your home!

IMG_7867Thanks to a partnership with Stumptown Bliss & EPIC Creative the NWSS will have a majority of main stage sets available for live streaming wherever your are in the world.  A variety of packages are available, and though single day pacages are available with the sheer amount of incredible bands and  one of a kind sit ins and performances, the only sane choice is to get the whole weekend’s worth of madness, sit back and lose yourself in four days of bluegrass bliss.

Northwest String Summit Tickets are available HERE

Simulcast Packages are available HERE


If you can’t join us in the flesh we here at Honest Tune hope you join us online for a weekend of truly special performances, collaborations and fun as we kick off our shoes and dance on the cool northern grass to the music of the mountains!  See you there!









Preview The LOHI Music Festival 6/14/2014

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Nestled in the smoky mountains…not the real Smokey Mountains, but actual, you know, smoky mountains the fourth annual LOHI Festival is being held June 14th, a day long party held on the streets of Denver, Colorado..  Headliner, legendary jam-band moe. is joined by other national touring acts the funksters The Pimps Of Joy Time, rockers  The Heavy Pets along side local favorites like Chrome Drones,  Joey Porter’s Vital Organ, Tiger Party and Genetics.   A fine mix of fun in the sun, great tunes and a positive result is sure to be the result.


The Pimps Of Joytime
The Pimps Of Joytime

Honest Tune will be on hand to provide words, pictures and even some fun video for our readers, and we hope to see you there!

Multiple tiers of tickets are available, Available  HERE

DELYEA!! DelFest 2014 “Del’s Diamond Jubillee”

Words and pictures by Amber Marie


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Nestled in the mountains in Cumberland, Maryland the 7th annual DelFest welcomed festival goers from Thursday, May 22nd through Sunday, May 25th. Eager festivilians started arriving in Cumberland and the surrounding towns Wednesday night in preparation to be the first in line at the box office on Thursday morning. The rainy weather gave way overnight and the Thursday morning sunshine sprinkled through big fluffy clouds along the mountainside. The small crowd started lining up outside the box office doors around seven in the morning, laughter and “DelYea’s” could be heard and to everyone’s delight the box office opened up about thirty minutes before it was scheduled too.


As folks received their wristbands they excitedly hurried back to their cars to make the fifteen minute ride from the box office to the Allegany County Fairgrounds, for DelFestivilians the delight of this ride is quite exuberant. The DelFest sign on the windy country highway clearly marks the beginning of good times. As you make the turn and start heading down the typically quite sleep country road the West Virginia mountainous cliffs begin to loom before you. Keeping in time with the box office the campgrounds also opened the gates early. The access into the campgrounds is easy and simple, as you pull up you show the attendee your wristband and parking sticker and you’re directed to park in the grassy fields surrounding the ballparks. The parking passes sold out quickly as well as the tickets for the late night shows. As folks began parking it is evident in the mid-morning hour that you’re surrounded by long time DelFestivilans by the quickness of how everyone makes their way from vehicles to the campgrounds to claim their favorite spots.


The hardworking Grammy award winning, Grand Ole Opry member, father, grandfather and host, Del McCoury would take the Grandstand Stage with his band later in the afternoon at five, giving people plenty of time to get settled into their campsites and explore the festival grounds.


Thursday Schedule

Del McCoury Band sound check on the Grandstand Stage started at five with a big happy birthday welcome from the crowd to Del, who celebrates his 75th birthday this year. The banter back and forth with the crowd would continue as Del, with a giant grin, would ask what everyone wanted to hear since the sound check is a chance for them to explore songs they typically do not do during their sets. From songs about mountain tops to songs about Virginia the crowd’s smiles matched Del’s. Rob McCoury (banjo) did a tune from his new album that is scheduled to be released soon. They also covered a George Jones tune, “Ain’t no Change Left to Hold Me” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky”.


The Boston based bluegrass band, the Deadly Gentlemen took the stage after the Del McCoury Band and would cover tunes from their 3rd album, Roll Me, Tumble Me. Banjo innovator Greg Liszt of the Deadly Gents leads the band thru dives and twirls of a bluegrassy Lovin’ Spoonful sound. Following the Deadly Gentlemen on the Grandstand Stage was the Devil Makes Three (DM3) hailing from Brattleboro, VT. The bluegrass rockabilly raised a few of eyebrows from attendees who were in their silver years that were expecting to see more pickers but the bluegrass, old time music, country, folk, blues, jazz, ragtime, and rockabilly from front man guitarist Pete Bernhard, tenor banjo player Cooper McBean and upright bassist Lucia Turino set most of the crowd in motion. They rambled out their set with “Stranger”, “Beneath The Piano”, “The Bullet”, “All Hail”, “40 Days > Gracefully Facedown”, “Johnson Family”, “Hallelu”, “Statesboro Blues”, “Spinnin’ Like a Top”, “Graveyard”, “A Moment’s Rest”, “Old Number 7”, “For Good Again”, “Worse or Better”, “Aces and Twos”, “Black Irish”, “Do Wrong Right”, “Bangor Mash” and wrapped up with “Help Yourself.”


The headliner for Thursday night was Greensky Bluegrass. They lit up the night with “Working on a Building”, Worried about the Weather, Light Up or Leave Me Alone before welcoming Del McCoury to the stage for single mic configuration on “Beauty of My Dreams” and “I’ve Endured”. The last part of the set seemed to sink into more of jamgrass and they wrapped up their set with “Windshield > Wind Doves Cry”.



Friday schedule

Toronto, Ontario based band The Unseen Strangers opened the festival on the Grandstand Stage on Friday, their traditional bluegrass music welcoming folks into the music meadow. The American roots music of the Dead Horses opened the Potomac Stage, singer/guitarist Sarah Vos’ voice filled the air as the unique new-age string band drove the melody. The Kitchen Dwellers played next to the Potomac stage inside the cool low lit music hall. The young bluegrass group combined different elements of jamband style with traditional grass. The Shook Twins took the Grandstage Stage following the Unseen Strangers, the identical twins who were born and raised in Idaho but now hail from Portland, Oregon blended Midwest sound with west coast sound to produce a unique harmony filtered thru a re-purposed telephone microphone that blended folk and roots music. While the twin’s claimed the Grandstand Stage over on the Potomac Stage “Party-Gras” band Mo’ Mojo moved the crowd with exuberant brass infusing Cajun and funk. The raw acoustic bluesy Americana music of Liz Frame & the Kickers could be seen in the Music Hall.


Joe Craven throughout the festival could be found wearing many hats from workshop host, to announcer for the Delfest Radio 90.1 FM to playing the main stage on Friday afternoon. His free style folk world and roots music was a welcome jam. His set included, Sitting on top of the World, Julie Ann, Tree Top Flyer and the Craven Story.


As the day progressed the stages were filled longer by bigger acts. Chris Jones and the Night Drivers hit the Potomac stage with traditional bluegrass. Chris’ smooth voice crooned over the crowd with a majestic backdrop of the Appalachians. Chris is also known for hosting Sirius XM’s Bluegrass Junction.


Wisconsin based Horseshoes and Hand Grenades was the second to last band to play the Music Hall on Friday. The quintet has an arsenal of Midwest progressive bluegrass jams. Rebecca Frazier and Hit and Run followed shortly after Horseshoes and Hand Grenades. Frazier is the first female artist to ever be on the cover of Flatpicking Guitar magazine and is noted to have played with some of Nashville, Tennessee’s greatest. Her husband, John Frazier, plays mandolin in her band and has also been seen recently playing with Yonder Mountain String Band.


Midafternoon on the Grandstand Stage was The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. The Big Damn Band’s set of fierceness was kicked off with “Train”, “Something for Nothing” followed by crowd favorite, “Easy Come Easy Go”. Rev introduced the next number, “Dirt”, as a tune written after overhearing someone at a local cafe discussing with disdain the lunch crowd who had come in from working and were covered in dirt. “Jump A Train”, “Clap Your Hands”, “Pot Roast And Kisses”, “Front Porch Trained”, “Devils Look Like Angels”, “Everything’s Raising”, “Can’t Judge a Book” and “Glory Glory” followed with as much ferociousness as the first few tunes.


The Deadly Gents played the Potomac as Yonder Mountain warmed their strings on the Grandstand Stage. Yonder’s set was a crowd highlight of the weekend, with sit-in dobro player Jerry Douglas and mandolin player John Frazier the band laid siege to the stage with special guests Del McCoury (guitar), Ronnie McCoury (mandolin), Robbie McCoury (banjo) and Jason Carter on Fiddle.


YMSB kicked off their set with “Casualty”, “Pockets” and “Little Lover” before Ben took vocals on “Pretty Daughter”, a Danny Barnes number which usually has recently departed band member Jeff Austin on vocals. “Pretty Daughter” segued into “Wheel Hoss” back into “Pretty Daughter”. Del McCoury came on stage for “On a Monday” and “Spanish Harlem”. YMSB banjoist Dave Johnston took lead vocals on “Black Sheep” followed by “Walkin Shoes”. The McCoury brothers and Jason Carter took the stage for “Kentucky Mandolin” which sequed into “Girlfriend is Better” and “Southern Flavor”. “Southern Flavor”, a Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys number was a great way to end their set.


Grammy award winning Jim Lauderdale closed out the Potomac set shortly after YMSB’s set wrapped up on the main stage. The sun started to sink and people hustled their way back to their campsites to grab extra layers for the coolness of the night and get ready for The Del McCoury Band to take the Grandstand stage.


The Del McCoury band hit the stage, Del on guitar and smiles kicked the night off with a short intro and “I Wonder Where You Are Tonight”. They kept up the old timey bluegrass with “Train 45”, “Count Me Out”, “Hang Your Head in Shame”, “Let An Old Racehorse Run”, “She Can’t Burn Me Now”, “Dusty Miller”, “Cabin On A Mountain”, “Rain and Snow”, “Big Blue Raindrops”, “Randy Lynn Rag”, “Nashville Cats”, “Smoking Gun”, “Lonesome Road Blues”, “Train Wreck of Emotion”, “Crying Heart Blues”, “Limehouse Blues”, “Some Old Day”, “Thanks A Lot”, “More Often Than Once in Awhile”, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, “Cheek to Cheek With The Blues” and wrapped things up, appropriately, with “Farewell Blues”.


With only about thirty minutes between Del and Railroad Earth most people stayed in their spots and chatted about the days music. RRE would not disappoint them with their set of progressive rust-belt bluegrass. They started the night with “Seven Story Mountain”, which had the audience singing back to them. “When the Sun Gets in Your Blood”, “Dance Around Molly” slipped into “Dandelion Wine” and “Grandfather Mountain.” They also played “Monkey”, “The Hunting Song > Lacrimosa > Face with a Hole”. Elko’s slinky number ripped into “Chasin’ A Rainbow” with an encore of “Peace on Earth.”


The Friday night late night show sold out before DelFest opened its gates with Greensky Bluegrass and the Cabinet boys. The show started at 11:30 and lasted for about an hour with set in guests Ronnie McCoury and Railroad Earth’s fiddle player Tim Carbone. The late night set list consisted of “After Midnight”, “Don’t Lie”, “Walking the Dog”, “The Chain” and a “Del Yea Breakdown.”

Saturday Schedule


Saturday was greeted with an early morning set from the Tuckahoe Ridge String Band on the Potomac Stage. The Spirit Family Reunion on the Grandstand Stage and back to the Potomac for the boys of Cabinet. Cabinet was another fan favorite at the festival, along with Rev Peyton’s Big Damn Band you would also hear bursts of enthusiasm over the rustic American Beauty-era and old-timey bluegrass of Cabinet. During the Cabinet set Andy Goessling from Railroad Earth set in on saxophone. If you wandered into the Music Hall Saturday morning you would have found yourself in the middle of a playshop hosted by Joe Craven where he could be found giving instructions on how to make a musical instrument from your soul. The Grandstand Stage around midday was host to Sierra Hull. Ms. Hull has played at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, her amazing range of vocals as she plays the mandolin was a perfect set for the sunny afternoon.



The California Honeydrops opened on the Potomac about half way thru Sierra Hulls set. Once again Andy Goessling from Railroad Earth was a guest set-in on the Potomac stage only this time he could be found following front man for the California Honeydrops into the crowd with the rest of the band on a mini tour parade before getting back on the stage.


Chris Jones and The Night Drivers played their final set of the festival at the Music Hall and there was a short break before legendary Tim O’Brien and Darrel Scott kicked off their set on the Grandstand Stage. The Duhks followed by Rev Peyton wrapped up the sets on the Potomac stage while the Gibson Brothers followed by Jim Lauderdale saluted the Music Hall. While Breezy Peyton and the Rev warmed up the Potomac Stage the Carolina Chocolate Drops warmed the hearts of those at the Grandstand Stage. The traditional Appalachian sound of the Chocolate Drops filled the music meadow with people dancing and singing. Their set was kicked off with “Pretty Little Girl With The Blue Dress On”, “Sandy Boys”, “Country Girl”, banter about the origins of banjos, “Briggs”, “Oh My Little Darling”, “Please Don’t Let Me Love You”, “Buck Creek Girls”, “Goin Down the Road Feeling Bad”, “Water Boy”, “When I was a Cowboy”, “Ruby”, “Can’t Nobody Hide from God”, “Scottish Wedding”, “Hit Em Up Style”, “Old Cat Died”, “Red ’em John”.


The Del McCoury once again lit up the night for pre evening get down. Del gave a wink and a giggle as he drove the band into “Traveling Teardrop Blues”, “Blues Rollin’ In”, “Shuckin’ The Corn”, “Sweet Appalachia”, “Queen Anne’s Lace”, “Washington County”, “The Lights On the Hill”, “All Aboard”, “Blackjack County Chains”, “Bluegrass Breakdown”, “Kentucky Waltz”. Ricky Skaggs came out for a special guest appearance on “The Old Cross Roads” and “I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome”. A short and sweet Streets of Baltimore was played before Jim Lauderdale stepped on the stage for “Slewfoot”. The McCourys finished the night with Eli Renfro “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”, “Working On A Building”, “Henry Walker”, “Orange Blossom Special” and encored with “It’s Just The Night”.




Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby with the Kentucky Thunder sandwiched nicely between McCoury sets. Bruce’s ability to add a new dimension to the old bluegrass numbers excited the crowd. The set was by far one of the top sets of the weekend. The combination of Grammy award winning Skaggs and Hornsby teamed with the Kentucky Thunder was only topped by the next act on the Grandstand Stage, the Travelin’ McCourys.



The Travelin McCourys set would be graced by several artists, Billy Nershi of the String Cheese Incident, Jeff Austin of the Jeff Austin Band, Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth and Kimber Ludiker. Southbound brought in the set with “Deeper Shade of Blue”, “Old Boy Still in the Game”, “No One Will Ever Know”, “Let’s Sing Our Song > guitar solo”, “Messed Up Just Right”, “Welcome to China”, “Blue Ridge Cabin Home”, “Lonesome”, “On’ry And Mean”, “Feudin’ Banjos”, “On the Lonesome Wind”, “The Shaker” a short introduction of Billy, Jeff and Tim for the last tunes on the Grandstand Stage of the evening.




Late night Saturday night was Railroad Earth with Shook Twins, the show sold out the day before.

Sunday Schedule

The last day of the festival opened with the Gibson Brothers on the Grandstand. On the Potomac stage an acapella group, the T Sisters performed, their roots as songwriters steeped in family tradition. The Duhks once again performed only this time on the Grandstand Stage, their quirky Americana vocals were perfect as the gigantic American flag in the Grandstand lazily billowed in the midafternoon sun. Joe Craven hosted his final playshop in the Music Hall before the McCoury Family Jam and the Unseen Strangers and Sierra Hull wrapped up their final sets on the Potomac stage. Bela Fleck and wife Abigail Washburn had a special treat for everyone during their set, the husband and wife duo brought with them their bouncing baby boy, Juno, who lead the crowd in a “Simon Says” sort of frolic of hand claps and arm raises. Fleck talked Abigail into doing a Flectones number to everyone’s surprise and happiness. Hot Rize followed Fleck and Washburn on the Grandstand Stage. Someone in the crowd had mentioned these guys were a little more than bluegrass and they proved that remark to be every bit true. The old-timey bluegrassers did a couple of tunes before introducing themselves in different outfits and dressed with a lot of flair for some honkey tonk. The Kruger Brothers set was the last set at the Music Hall for the afternoon and Spirit Family Reunion bid the audience farewell on the Potomac stage for the weekend.






The Del McCoury Band hit the stage for their last performance at DelFest promptly on schedule. After a few songs Del introduced the family and had everyone come out on stage to thank the audience for making DelFest such a great festival. They covered “Radio Boogie”, “High on a Mountain Top”, “Train 45”, a Hazel Dickens tune “Won’t you Come Sing for Me”, “99 Years And One Dark Day”. Del took a break from singing tunes to also thank folks who have been assisting at DelFest for several years. The first round of applause went to Keven who runs the camp, Larry Kunkle for 20 years of folding tee-shirts, Ron Chittum and Doug McKenzie who helps with the RVs.


The organization of the festival is indeed something to praise, not only does DelFest offer an amazing line up with little overlapping there are also several workshops for both adults and children to participate in. The organizers made sure to include the kids of DelFest with activities such as Ash Street Puppet Works for workshops for painting and puppeteering for a parade on Sunday with the kids. They also had hula hooping, face painting and other arts and crafts as well as a day in the creek for a bug workshop.


The last two sets on the Grandstand for Sunday night were saved for the String Cheese Incident. The Cheese celebrates their 20th anniversary this year and also just released a new studio album. As Billy Nershi made his way on stage his excitement didn’t falter and he jumped up and down several times as the other member’s made their way on stage. They kicked off their set with one of the songs from their new release, “Song in my Head”. After a few short words they went into “Close Your Eyes” and segued into “Can’t Stop Now”. Joe Craven came out for “Smile” and Del McCoury made his way onto the stage for “Sittin’ on Top of the World”. Nershi gave Del a big birthday squeeze before Del wandered off the stage and they went into Beautiful. They brought the psychedelic jam with a massive “Land’s End” with Tim O’Brien and Nick Forster into “I know you Rider” with the addition of Jeff Austin. The special guests cleared the stage and the Cheese took it into a boogie of “Bumpin’ Reel” followed by a high energy “Miss Brown’s Teahouse” that segued into “Can’t Wait Another Day”. The Travelin’ McCourys came out for “Colorado Bluebird Sky” that was followed by “Sirens > This Must be the Place > Sine”. After a short encore break the Cheese came back out and finished with a solid “Bolly Munster”.





To close off the festival the Late Night show at the Music Hall was another sold out event for the The Travelin’ McCourys Bluegrass Ball with the California Honeydrops.

Monday morning as everyone gathered their belongings it was noticeable at how respectable of a festival crowd had been at the fairgrounds. As folks cleaned their camping sites and made their way to their cars full of smiles and good memories the rolls of laughter and “DelYeas” could still be heard as people gave squeezes and hugs with promises of seeing each other for DelFest 2015.

Summer Camp Music Festival 2014 – Memorial Haze

Words and pictures by Rex Thomson

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Illinois’s Summer Camp Music Festival enjoyed a Memorial Day weekend of sun, fun and fantastic music for it’s 2014 edition and it’s attendees couldn’t have been happier to embrace their freedoms. Whatever your musical preference, Summer Camp had something for you to scratch your itch, from funk to reggae, DJs to bluegrass pickers not to mention good old fashioned rock and roll. All weekend long the fields and pathways of Three Sisters Park on the outskirts of Chillicothe were filled with smiling faces heading to, coming from and actually getting lost in the sounds that speak to their souls.

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After last years rain, the sunny weather was a welcome experience as was the return of perennial headliners moe. and Umphreys McGee, as well as Trey Anastasio, who came back to make good on a promise to last years water logged crowd to finish his set. Anastasio did so in fine style, flanked by a stellar backing band including the sultry sirens Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman, as the guitarist stretched his legs musically stepping away from his day job with a full, loose sound. His legion of fans in attendance enthusiastic responses and desperate cheering for more made it seem as if they were happy with what they had heard.

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Zac Brown brought his mainstream credibility and charisma to the party, and his two sets were filled with guest stars, cover tunes and an undeniably good feeling. He joined headliners moe. during their Sunday evening show for a rousing version of The band classic “The Weight.”

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A strong current of nostalgia for the nineties ran through the crowd as Blues Traveler braved the sunny day while Primus lit the murky night delivering sets of their classics,

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…mixed with…ummm…okay…I think all the folks who only read the first lil bit of a review then just skim the pictures are done reading by now. It’s just the serious music junkies and me so I can drop the formal third person writing style for a minute and tell you a story about how wonderful the music “Scene” really is.

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My name is Rex Thomson, and I’m and editor and writer/photographer here at Honest Tune Magazine. It’s as much fun as it sounds and it would be fair to say that I enjoy what I do as much as anyone out there who does what I do..does. Except for the last six months where I haven’t got to do what it is I do. As I wrote in my last festival review, in order to explain it’s lateness, I have had some rather serious health woes that have kept me very close to home and limited in my mobility. It’s a long and kinda gross story, but let’s just say I am slowly getting better.  Attending my ninth Summer Camp in a row was a goal for me all throughout my recovery, and thanks to some wonderful people it happened.

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The amazing team of doctors I have worked tirelessly with me, the vendors Technaflora allowed me to camp with them close to any emergency medical attention I might need and the kind promoters and media liaisons like Mike and Bridget allowed me to arrive a day early and get set up. After six long months of waiting I returned to what I have come to view as my true home…the grounds of a music festival.  I’ve been public about my illness and my longing to return to work and the reception I got, from friends, family and even the bands was enough to choke me up on more than one occasion. I blamed it on the dust, but it really did move me. People were running up to me and hugging me from every direction…gently…and welcoming me back with just the kindest of words. Getting emotional just typing this, honestly. Riding a wave of emotion ten stories high I walked out of my tent the first day and promptly sat down for a rest.

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I chose to write this review in the first person…mostly…to not only document the joy I felt personally having my teeth rattled in the photo pits, but to explain why there were far less bands covered in the article than usual. I usually see and photograph about sixty bands at Summer Camp, sometimes even more in a good year. The sad reality is that normally I don’t get to listen to any band in it’s entirety thanks to my photographic duties…at the bigger fests like Summer Camp there’s always another stage starting and more wildness to capture. But as I am still in recovery, I was forced to take things a lot easier, and only shot about twenty bands, although one of them, moe., did play for about twelve hours total. Not in a row though…although that would be pretty damn cool.

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So, where as now is where I would normally try and distill the experience of the whole fest, I’m just gonna give you some of the highlights and insanity I saw. Thursday night saw a considerable late night one-two punch of Americana and bluegrass as The Ragbirds and Floodwood took the Campfire stage long into the wee hours of the morning. The Ragbirds have always had a huge spot in my heart, I love their blend of folksy influences and rock spirit. Erin Zindle was her usual delight, dancing and playing seemingly a dozen instruments like a manic pixie while her brother T.J. rocked harder and was more powerful than ever in my memory. The new rhythm section joined in well, and percussionist Randell Moore added spice to everything.

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It’s hard to mention Floodwood without also mentioning that a couple of it’s players are in another, well known band, and that’s a shame. Over the past four years the band has solidified into a rollicking, good natured group, and have come to be a good time that can be counted on. As side projects go, Floodwood has long since passed the stage of being a diversion and become a force of it’s own. Old fans and new danced around the fire LONG after their bed times! But it was okay…we were at camp!

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Friday morning gave way to a hot afternoon and moe.’s first set of the weekend, their now traditional welcome to new and returning campers alike. The band has a new album to promote, No Guts No Glory, had a huge crowd of smiling faces waiting for them as they took the stage. We don’t need to go into my levels of fandom, and the legal measures the band has been forced to undertake to keep themselves safe from me…but let’s just saw I was as happy to be there as was anyone could possibly be. There were plenty of fun highlights in the first set, including advance tastes of the newest songs, but the biggest cheer was for percussionist Jim Loughlin’s escape from behind his kit and marching band drum kit. Freed to roam the stage he took full advantage, visiting his band mates and taking a well deserved turn in the spotlight.

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Oh and speaking of embracing the spotlight…

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I know I know…I used this picture already…but…DAMN this was cool!

Blues Traveler brought the first dose of old school nineties flair to the weekend, and honoring their festival credentials in helping foster the scene from years back with the H.O.R.D.E. Festival series. John Popper, front man and focal point was in trademark form, singing and pulling out an array of harmonicas from seeming out of nowhere. Seriously…I think the dude’s into magic and stuff. I saw him doing card tricks backstage.

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Before I went to catch a bite to eat and rest my bones, I swung by the merchandise tent, where moe. had scheduled a signing, giving fans a chance to buy advance copies of the new CD, and shake some hands and share the love a bit.
When I returned from dinner to shoot Girl Talk…well…mostly his crowd of lunatic fans…I saw the tell tale sign of a Summer Camp tradition…the “Secret Set” where moe. finds a spot to set up impromptu shop and plays acoustically for any lucky bystanders. Sneaking onto a gold cart full Indiana Jones/Ninja style…okay…I asked very politely…I got to go along for the ride, and am happy to share some of the results here with you now!

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To check out moe. with members of Floodwood playing ‘Blue-Eyed Son”  click HERE

From the lighter side of alternative rock, to the dark side we went when the sun got low Primus arrived to take us to a dark place. A deceptively powerful three piece led by the flamboyant Les Claypool, the band resonates deep down the spinal column. Guitarist Ler LaLonde alternatively cuts through the thick slabs of rhythm or simply let out a long run of peels of psychedelic wailings, while returning drummer seemed to fit right back in. But here’s a fun lil fact I normally wouldn’t share…all the crowd surfers were being chucked into the photo pit as they neared the front…which made my workplace a “Flying Hippie” caution zone.

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The next day saw more blue skies, a sea of new faces streaming in in the morning light carrying their hopes for a great weekend, dreams of favorite songs to be played and Costco sized jars of beef jerky and cheese poofs.

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Bill Evans Soulgrass is a fierce project the saxophonist has put together to fuse the instrumentality of his favored genres, and it makes for a chaotic blend of sounds that had all in the area bobbing their heads. The Starshine Stage saw some great sets over the weekend, but due to my lack of get up and go it wasn’t visited near enough by me on my rounds. Learning to not question my situation and instead embrace it I actually got to listen to more music than I had in the last few years at a festival.

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Greensky Bluegrass saw duty fresh off a several hour bus ride from another festival. In true fashion they had chosen not to sleep and brought their second show in a day super energy to their set. I’ve felt like Greensky was one of the finest bands touring the nation for a couple of years now, and they drew their biggest crowd yet in their years playing the fest to the dusty main stage. As far as the eye could see through the dust kicked up by all the boot scootin’ the fans of Greensky, new and old got down. Long time Scamp alumni Allie Kral returned as an artist at large and had a fiery sit in with the band that like to set the stage on fire.

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Following Greensky might have been scary to some folks, but Keller Williams has more than fifteen years experience under his belt, a fine funk band to show of, More Than A Little, and a smile that just makes nothing seem to matter on his face to pave the way. Versatility has always been the name of Keller’s game, and he has taken it in yet another new direction with this band. His crisp style blends well with the swampy funk, and the reworkings of his tunes and cover like “The Mothership Connection” came together in a way you might not have imagined, but were more than happy to hear.

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Greensky hadn’t completely scratched my itch for some pickin’ and grinnin’ so I checked out The Henhouse Prowlers for the first time in waaay too long. Don’t get me wrong, I love the band, just always seems to be some sort of scheduling conflict between their shows and my travel schedule, but we were all in the same place so I got a good dose of old timey single mic bluegrass, done fancy suit style for bonus points!

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I made a quick trip out to the Sunshine Stage, where festival co-hosts Umphreys McGee hung their hats all weekend long. Arriving early enough to catch G. Love & Special Sauce was a treat, as their down and dirty brand of roadhouse blues has always appealed to me. The crowd surged and the lights flared to life as Umphreys McGee took the stage. Their rise to prominence has a lot to do with their years at Summer Camp, as they have honed their sound and built their fan base on the Scamp stages for years now. As they have grown so has their production and their stage presence. Another of the sad realities of my current health woes was my lack of ability to get out in the crowds during the late night sets and get some shots of the epic lights on display during their shows. Usually you’re supposed to show, not tell in these articles, but you’ll just have to trust me…their lights were WAY cool.

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moe. has spent nearly a quarter of a decade rocking stages from dark and dingy bars to the biggest and brightest, and they’ve done so with an obvious comfort and personal style that is gratifying to see. Over the years the band has eschewed typical management and recording partnerships whenever possible, forging their own path and it seems to have done okay for them. So many artists get ground up in the corporate music industry, and to see a band not only last this long, but still honestly be excited to play new songs for the people is gratifying. What’s even more gratifying is when those new songs are actually good tunes. We’ve all been to the shows where a singer says “Here’s one off our new album” and you are nearly crushed by people heading to either the bar or the bathroom, but not so here. The band had studiously sound checked the tunes that weren’t already catalog staples, and one of the nights highlights was the new tune “Same Old Story.” Sounding like a modern take n the more classic bombastic moe. song style, the song evoked a explosion of cheers from the gathered faithful upfront that seemed to please the band.

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Utilizing a dual guitar attack that is seemingly out of favor these days, moe. is one of the most versatile of the jam bands of this or really any era. Al Schnier and Chuck Garvey are capable of seamless duality and wild discord, all within seconds of each other. Playing together for so long has made anticipation between the two at least appear to be nigh telepathic. Though none of the three main vocalists will be singing arias to breathless, stunningly attired people anytime soon, they all have a level of skill and endearing idiosyncraticity that elevate them above the common jam band. Vinnie Amico seemingly personifies the band, adept at doing a dozen things at once, or pulling back in the pocket and allowing the other s to do their thing, while always building and easing off the tempos. Jim Loughlin brings a mad mix of percussion and even some acoustic guitar to the mix, and his growing vibraphone prowess is becoming a wow moment every evening. Free agent percussionist Mike Dillon joined Jim on the vibraphone during “McBain” and the two switched back and forth effortlessly in a wild display of musical and physical dexterity.

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Speaking of Mike Dillon, his band had the honor of closing out the evening and he wasn’t planning on letting the crowd down. Dillon’s history is in the punk scene, and his mastery of what is normally considered a more scholarly instrument is a counter point ro the madness he brings from his core. Though a player much sought after who is presently in, like, seventy bands he’s gathered a tight four piece of New Orleanians to his standard, including the spitfire Carly Meyers for his personal band, and through constant touring has formed them into a force of spiraling madness, melodic interludes and spirit squad energy. Frenetic stops and starts, long peels of trombone and stream of consciousness lyrical tirades made the entire set a fever dream of incredibleness! Jim Loughlin of moe. returned the sit in favor, and was forced by Dillon to play over half the show, to Loughlin’s obvious delight. Easily the soundest I slept.

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I woke up a lil hungry and a lot mind blown from Dillon’t late night shenanigans, so I went over to the catering building the kind staff had allowed me to use to keep a modicum of sterility or just plain safety around me and my walking wounded situation, and was unexpectedly part of a lil video prank between the bass players of moe. and Umphrey’s McGee, Rob Derhak and Ryan Stasik, respectively. I have to admit to being a bit of a “Home Team” guy, so at first when I thought shit was getting real I jumped up to have Rob’s back. Derhak has been a good guy to me, and helped make sure I was taken care of over the weekend, and I was more than ready to show my appreciation, even with an open surgical wound taped up on my belly. That’s just how I roll.

Watch the video of the moe. versus Umphreys bassist “Fight” HERE

I’m the guy in the Venture Brothers shirt. And the sash that says “Vote Rex”. Just don’t..don’t ask.

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Sunday saw moe. head out to the Starshine Stage for their annual acoustic set. It’s fun and enlightening to hear a band strip down their own songs, hearing them choose what elements are easy to lose, and how they tackle replicating some of what electric instruments can do without the juice. Al Schnier pulled out the mandolin he has been strumming so much with Floodwood and showed off his new dexterity and comfort level. Joined by Floowood band mate Jason Barady and the always welcome Allie Kral, moe. took classics like “Lazarus” and Akimbo” to the more Amish territories than usual, but still managed to electrify the crowd.

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I went on a bit of a tear at that point, seeing Van Ghost perform a couple of great sounding songs…

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…to catch of few songs from the slinky funksters in Pimps of Joytime…

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…to finally shoot a few songs of Lettuce then get out in the crowd and get down in the least actual getting down way humanly possible while still counting as “Getting Down.”

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I finally made it over to the Zach Brown set before I needed a wee break before I headed over to watch Trey Anastasio. I have to say, though it might be heresy to a lot of folks…I actually prefer his side band to his regular gig in Phish, honestly. The fuller sound, the space his guitar playing is given…I just really like this band!

I tried to shoot Bassnectar…really I did….but his fans…they’re kinda scary. I ran. I ran so far away…

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Anyway…it was time for moe. to wrap up the weekend with the new, later set ending time of 2 a.m, a welcome new addition to the festival. As I said, I’ve been coming to Summer Camp for more than a decade, so the last set on the last night is always a bit sad for me, like a bitter sweet parting. But my emotions were nothing compared to the band, or their tour manager Skip, who was spending his last weekend with the band in his official capacity after seventeen years. On Thursday I happened upon the band presenting him with a token of their appreciation for his years service in the form of what looked like a very nice embroidered golf bag.

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I took the opportunity to earn my keep and got them to gather together for a group portrait. My relationship with the man was like any near stalker level fan with the man in charge of protecting my targets…I mean favorite band…from people exactly like me, but he had grudgingly come to accept my lack of harm and positive intentions, so I will miss the guy as well. Good luck dude!

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Besides the aforementioned Zac Brown sit in, Bill Evans joined the band and showed how good a horn can sound in the right place at the right time. Towards the end of the night, the guitarists and Jim cleared out to let Derhak show his stuff. A clinic of precision bass slapping endued, leading to a fine drums and bass interlude that cracked the back of the first fifteen rows! Coming up with creative ways to visit the bathroom during long shows is always a problem for musicians, but luckily moe.’s friends Umphrey’s McGee were on hand to switch out with the band one by one for a much needed bathroom and beer run.

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Winding the evening down, the band closed the weekend off on a high note, sending their fans out into the night and the world beyond the park know ing everything was both “Okay” and “Alright.” I may not be healed physically yet, but after the weekend of kindness, therapy of the musical variety and a simple change of scenery I am well on my way to being whole.

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Memorial Day was established to honor the men and women who gave all to help keep us free…and I thank them for their sacrifice. It truly felt like I was being set free again, at least on the inside. Thanks for putting up with my ramblings, and reading this far. See you out there somewhere, sometime soon!

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