What happens when magical weather, beautiful landscape, captivating music, and kind minded people collide? All Good Music Festival. Held July 14th-17th , atop the beloved Marvin’s Mountaintop in West Virginia, the 15th annual, sold out, All Good kicked off Thursday night for what was sure to be the perfect recipe for a weekend filled with tasty jams, juicy visuals, and scrumptious vibes. With 40 plus hours of continuous music on the bill, three stages, and one infamous hill, the festival dished out a four course meal of well balanced musical extravaganzas that left us all feeling full with energy and moments never to forget.
Upon passing through Masontown, WV a flood of emotions began to take over. Turning onto the familiar old dirt road that would lead up the mountain, a sense of coming home filled the air… along with the clouds of dust. Passing seemingly insignificant markers like barns, limestone rock formations, and turns in the road were reminders of the years before, as well as a reminder of what was waiting at the top. Excitement in its rawest form. Slowly a line of cars began to form, bringing the gigantic caravan from all over the country to a halt. Although the build up of traffic signified a wait to get in, the two lanes of cars became a party of their own.
Faces from all over passed by with the windows down and music blasting. Familiar songs of Phish, The Grateful Dead and Papadosio filled the air. It was interesting to note the plethora of different state license plates that were marked with bumper stickers of the bands we all know and love. Each car repped their home states, but all were united under one passion, the love of music. Although there was no avoiding a wait, All Good seemed to have improved their system for allowing people into the grounds. The wait was not long before attendees found themselves at the entrance check point.
What a surprise it was to reach the top and discover the new installation the festival had provided. A Ferris Wheel. First thoughts went towards the incredible view one could take floating above it all. Total elevation, on all levels. It wasn’t until night came that it’s true visual stimulation could be witnessed. Completely LED, the Ferris Wheel appeared to hover the mountain in the distance as it changed from pattern to pattern. Everyone set up shop and wasted no time preparing for the night to come. The mood was set.
At 8:00 p.m. All Good served its first course, starting it off right with an appetizer of Hot Buttered Rum. As they took the stage, at first glance, Hot Buttered Rum appeared to be one of the pegged bluegrass acts of the weekend. But you’d be surprised. They were a great choice from the menu to kick off the festival. The crossed infusion of various ingredients like jazz and world genres that make up Hot Buttered Rum was appropriate in setting the tone for the weekend of various styles and genres to follow. At times, the banjo was substituted for a flute, the fiddle was transformed to gypsy reminiscent rifts. As they reached the end of their set, guitarist Nat exclaimed, “Don’t hold back! This is NOT a time for restraint people!”. It was on, and as darkness rolled in, Hot Buttered Rum handed the stage off to Beats Antique.
Quite a change of pace, Beats Antique stepped out and threw down the heaviest beats this crowd had heard yet, and arguably for the rest of the weekend. The bass shook the ground. It was funny to look around and see baffled attendees letting out long “ah-h-h-h’s” to their friends just to see how the bass would shake the sound like yelling into a fan. The tribal electronic beats filled the night as the crowd was transformed into a party of animalistic-like movement and dance. It felt like taking part in an ancient ritual as festival goers became hypnotized in the group’s spiritual trance. With John Butler Trio as an uplifting feel-good intermission, it seemed that the theme of the night had already been set as the crowd anxiously awaited the next “tribe” element to come. Around 1:30, the late night fun began.
STS9 emerged on the main stage to an excited festival. Tribe fans were placing their bets on what song they would entrance us with first. When it finally came, to everyone’s delight, it was a Circus opener. It’s always a treat to get one thrown into a Tribe set, but a Circus opener? The crowd knew from that palpably exciting instant that the set to follow would be nothing short of a STS9 dish smothered in epic sauce. What followed was a well crafted blend of new songs like When the Dust Settles and Scheme, as well as old relics Arigato and Hubble. Hidden Hand Hidden Fist and EHM are always a good time, and it was a pleasure to hear Grizzly and Abcees. Even more of a pleasure to have Rent as the set closer. An encore of The Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature and Inspire Strikes Back, Sound Tribe took All Good on a galactic journey through space and time, landing the crowd safely (mind blown), back on the earth by the end.
With the Thursday appetizer already devoured, the second course Friday had in store was stuffed with prosperity and sautéed in face melting joy as the festival started off it’s first full day. As three-day pass attendees began to arrive, those who had already consumed the Thursday throw down were up and ready to start the day at 1:00 pm with Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. An eclectic concoction of genres, Friday had a lot to offer. The Infamous Stringdusters deep fried their set in raw bluegrass energy, with the high point of their set coming as a serving of “Get It While You Can”. The audience sang in unison, “I like your biscuits in my gravy mam’”, and followed that joint chorus with a down right bluegrass boogie dance party.
That 1 Guy and Galactic baked the audience in their unique sounds. Speaking of baked… the weather forecast had foreseen rain for the weekend, but there was not a drop of moisture to be had. The blazing heat cooked the mountain as attendees tried to stay hydrated in order to keep on truckin’ through the musical meal ahead. The water truck was an adapted version of last year’s Future bus as people crowded around, waiting to submerge their heads under the faucets.
Everyone Orchestra and Keller Williams got the crowd up and on their feet as they actively sucked the crowd into the vortex of their tasty jams spread on a slice of groove. Keller William’s, an all around festival veteran, got the crowd involved and moving just as it seemed the heat was beginning to literally drain the energy out of festival goers. Back at campsites people all around were taking cover in what little shade there was, waiting for the sun to go down. It seemed that night time was being willed by all not just because of the heat, but because of the incredible lineup it offered.
It all began with Warren Haynes Band around 7:00 pm. As the sun began to sink below the horizon of hills beyond, from the venue, it was a sight to behold. The sky was an array of pink and orange as clouds whimsically passed overhead. Coupled with the sounds emanating from the Dragon stage, the highly anticipated night had come. Toubab Krewe took over next, awing the crowd with their infusion of West African and American rock sound. It was sincerely captivating. With the lights from the stage beginning to have their effect, crowds began pouring through the venue gates, carrying with them their own array of lights. While psychedelic melodies of the Krewe filled the air it seemed that from the distant campsites, their sounds were calling attendees into action, hypnotizing them into joining the groove. It was clear that the entire festival had finally arrived when their set ended and everyone awaited the headliner Furthur to take the stage.
When the moment finally came, there was an overwhelming sense of unity and shared joy as the sights and sounds of the Grateful Dead were cleverly re-crafted and sent out in waves of love. It truly was one of the most significant moments of the weekend as the full moon had ascended above the hill, leaking it’s pale rays onto the venue of people and light. Everyone turned around to stare up the hill and into the sky as the clouds created endless patterns of entrancing effects passing across the moon. It was hard to tell if the sky really was that incredible or if it was all in our minds. Turns out it was real. Photographic evidence proves it. Furthur’s set was a delectable mixture of fantastic ingredients, with songs like I Know You Rider, China Cat Sunflower, Terrapin Station, and ending it all with the infamous And We Bid You Goodnight, sweetly serenading us all into blissful harmony. The fireworks followed shortly after, illuminating the already vibrant spectrum.
Immediately after that spectacle, Big Gigantic took the Crane stage and wasted no time throwing a perfect dose of dub and groove beats into the fryer, yet with an aroma of civility. Big G was raging so hard that about two songs into the set, Dominic Lalli kicked over his table, shocking the crowd with the intensity of which they had just been playing. It only took a few moments of anxious silence before they were back in gear. The party continued on into the late hours of the night. After Big G had ended, it was mind boggling to realize what still lay ahead. Umphrey’s late night set. Just as we thought our brains could digest no more, Umphrey‘s was set to offer us another heaping portion of soul nutrition.
Umphrey’s kicked it into high gear, opening with Push the Pig> Triple Wide. They were doing some serious work on the crowd as it picked up the pace and raged harder than ever. The real moment of their set was with the unexpected, yet completely exciting inclusion of Rush’s Tom Sawyer. Bayliss threw down his guitar, grabbed the microphone, and let out the perfectly mimicked rendition of the song as the crowd looked on in utter amazement. It appeared he must have been practicing that number because the perfection of vocals was almost eerie. This was not all. Not only had it appeared Bayliss was practicing Rush, the set closer was yet another perfect rendition of Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough followed by JaJunk. The night was full of the music we had been craving, but pace yourself!
Next on the menu… Saturday. A course full of wide ranging, and highly anticipated acts. The day started off with The Werks. The Ohio natives have been all over the festival scene this summer! They were undoubtedly one of the most talked about bands of the weekend by those who knew them, as well as those who were getting their first taste. Marco Benevento, Zach Deputy, and Donna the Buffalo also braved the heat, as yet another scorcher was upon us. It appeared the crowds were taking it as easy as easy goes when it comes to festivals, yet again praying for night to come.
By the time Yonder Mountain String Band took the stage, it signified the start to another night. Yonder Mountain’s late night All Good set from 2010 is still being talked about, and the band clearly had no intention of letting us down this time. YMSB’s set was full of high-octane, raw, bluegrass boogie as Austin, Johnston, Kauffman and Aijala did what they do best. All Good quickly transformed into shred-fest 2011 as they worked their magic on the Dragon stage. Jeff’s banter is by far the best in the business when it comes to exciting the audience as well as getting their complete and utter attention. All he has to do is say the word, and the crowd of dedicated fans will follow. When he says “dance!”, you dance! Their set was nothing short of fantastic as the hill filled all the way to the top and the sun began to sink below the stage behind them. Pure love was being generated as it was clear the band was having a good-ass time being there.
Night had come and it was yet again time for another course of jam packed fun when Moe began. The highly talked about band, Papadosio, another Ohio band that, like The Werks, has been all over the festival scene this summer, was heard in the murmurs of passing conversation all weekend leading up to their set. With an incredible time slot (in between Moe and Primus) Dosio did an excellent job of enticing and drawing in fans old and new. It was a memorable moment for them as they took a band photo on stage following the close of their set. Primus and Pretty Lights were still to come. The sounds of Primus thoroughly sucked in the crowd as the weird and wild noises tweaked and twisted the minds of the huge All Good crowd. With Pretty Lights closing it out, attendees took full advantage of the opportunity to get down late night style one last time. Rage like it’s your last! The rage was at its highest when he wowed us all with a remix of Country Roads. “West Virginia, mountain mama’. Take me home, country roads” was tastefully bassed with soothing beats as Pretty Lights radiated love for the mountain., and the festival threw the love right back.
With the major courses having been served, Sunday was a light dessert of palate cleansing jams from The Almighty Senators, Greensky Bluegrass, The Bridge, Toots and the Maytals, and last but certainly not least, Dark Star Orchestra. A fitting end to the weekend, it was a sad feeling to realize that it had come and gone. Early in the day people began to pack up their cars and prepare to hit the dusty road that would lead down the mountain towards home. All Good had upped their game big time this year. That was clear. If the tasty line-ups this festival always has to offer are not enough, the sheer beauty of it’s location should sell you every time and keep you coming back for seconds, thirds, fourths, all the way up to sixteenths. Next year, be sure to consider this festival as an integral part in your summer’s menu of musical greatness. You will not be left feeling hungry for more, but completely and utterly content in delicious satisfaction.
Written by Alicyn Lane
Photos by Brian Hockensmith. See more amazing work by “Liking” his Facebook page!