All Good Music Festival, Sunshine Daydream Campground, Terra Alta WV- 5/17 & 18
I, like most music lovers in the area, was intrigued when it was announced that Walther Productions would hold their annual All Good Festival at Sunshine Daydream Campground in Terra Alta, WV. This was the first time Walther, arguably the leading jam band promoter in the region, would hold an event at Trips farm. In my mind, it brought together the best possible lineup, in the nicest venue. Those who haven’t attended a show there are urged to, it is one of the most picturesque venues on the east coast.
As with many things before it, this started the motions and soon it was the talk of friends who live close, and those who I hadn’t seen in a while. Tickets were bought, jobs were called off, and plans were made. By Thursday night I was relaxing in Morgantown with old friends biding our time for the first show of that most of us would be going too. Things looked pretty good.
We left Morgantown in the early afternoon on Friday, having opted to forgo the Thursday night opening sets by ulu, OM Trio, and the Ordinary Way, in favor of touching base with friends traveling in from out-of-town. As we departed the gray storm clouds began to roll in. As we traveled the twenty-plus miles through scenic West Virginia farmland from the interstate to the festival site the rain began to come down. It would be a recurring theme for the weekend.
We hurriedly set up a campsite on the long slope that encompasses most of Sunshine Daydream, under the premise that we would work first, and play later. Once our tents had been pitched, and a central canopy created between them, we went about preparing some food, and talking about which sets we were anticipating the most. We waited under our tarp canopy with one eye at all times on the gray skies hoping that at some point, the rain, which fluctuated between a moderate sprinkle and a steady beat, would cease.
We weren't so lucky.
By the time Sam Bush took the stage the drizzling rain wasn't enough to faze a good portion of the crowd to come down to the main concert area. Bush's set was a fast paced blend of bluegrass to reggae to rock to country. He and his band worked through a number of originals including "Mahivishnu Mountain Boys," from the Newgrass Revival days. He grabbed the audience's attention and devotion with his well played covers, including the Bob Marley tributes "Lively Up Yourself > Is This Love?", and the Stones "Jumping Jack Flash". With the close of his set the crowd sprinkled back to the campgrounds to wait for the Dark Star Orchestra, and hope to find some sort of cover from the intensifying rain.
Dark Star took the stage with full on 70s setup, complete with female vocalist for Donna's parts. They opened with "Mississippi Half Step", the "pray for better weather…" line receiving a large response from the now fully soaked crowd. A Help-less version of "Franklin's Tower" followed, as well as the appropriate "Looks Like Rain", during which the rain actually began to let up briefly, an ironic moment that the band commented had never happened before. It was not a sign of things to come, and by the end of the first set the bitter cold, compounded with the pouring rain, sent this intrepid festival-goer in search of cover.
By the time the All Mighty Senators rocked a packed barn with their funky late night set, most of those in attendance had ventured off to wherever they could find shelter from the elements. Some never would, spending the weekend soaked with rain, and covered in mud from head to toe. I managed to find a dry spot to sleep in my car, but others weren't so lucky.
When Saturday morning faded into the wet, gray skies of the previous day, things looked bleak. The usually pleasant vibe that can be found at Sunshine Daydream had given way to feelings of desperation as many in attendance felt that the battle with the elements they were enduring, was one that would not be won. The festival grounds looked like a refugee camp, with many tents blown here and there with the previous nights storms. Nearly every inch of the festival was covered in mud, in some places ankles deep, and everyone seemed to be suffering through a lack of warm, dry clothes. Over half of the party I arrived with chose to pack it in and head home, the inclement weather of the night before, and presumably, the day ahead was too much for them, and many others. The largest traffic build-up of the weekend followed as many tried to leave, the weather having gotten the best of them. For those who tried to bolt, they found it was a slow process, being slowed even more by the mud, cars sinking into the earth left and right, their owners having to toil endlessly behind them in order to push out of the holes they had quickly created in the saturated ground.
By Saturday afternoon the party had moved to the parking area with most of those who opted to stay seeking refuge from the rain and the chilling temps in their cars reading, listen to music, smoking, and the like. All told, spirits seemed pretty low and everyone hoped we weren't facing another drenching like the night prior. The heated car treatment was what was needed for me and my friends, as our spirits began to rise as we warmed ourselves inside the car for the bulk of the afternoon.
The John Scofield Band took the stage at 5:05, the first "A-List" band of the afternoon. By the third song of Scofield's set the sun began to peak through sky eliciting a huge cheer from the concert area and campgrounds alike. It was fleeting, and as Scofield ran through a tight, funky set comprised mostly of tunes from his newest album uberjam, it began to rain again, but seemed to be nothing by comparison. All it took was one ray of sunshine to remind the crowd that we could take it, and that there was no way it could be as cold and uncomfortable as the night before. The beach ball that was being passed around the crowd seemed ironic, seeing as we hadn't really had any "beach ball-type" weather, but it showed a resilience of the crowd to not let a little (or a lot) of rain spoil a festival, and those who remained long enough. Scofield got the crowd working hard with "Watch Out For Po Po" a song which required the crowd to add "Po Po" to the tight groove he and the rest of his uberjam cohorts cranked out.
Keller Williams followed, and was my personal musical highlight of the weekend. Keller never fails to dazzle with his blend of guitar loop wizardry. His set featured many Keller staples such as "Best Feeling", "Kidney In A Cooler", and "Freaker by the Speaker". It was also during his set that Mother Nature threw one last wild card at us: Hail. The vibe had taken a dramatic shift, though, and the crowd responded with intensity. The hail proved to be short lived, and by the end of Keller's set, an entertaining "Stash" which found him comping on the guitar and playing the overlying guitar melody on his trademark mouth flugal, the clouds showed signs of clearing, and we could finally feel that weather-wise the worst was behind us, and music-wise the best was still to come.
Leftover Salmon triumphantly took the stage as the penultimate main stage act of the festival. They opened with "High on the Mountaintop", and took off on a high energy trek that got the crowd dancing as hard as they had been all festival. Salmon's "polyethnic Cajun slamgrass" seemed like the perfect cure to their water logged All Good audience, and they responded. Not a butt in the crowd was left unshaken by the time Drew Emmitt belted out the closer, a cover of the Bob Dylan classic, "Tangled Up In Blue".
Tim Walther deemed the night's final set, "moe. in the snow", as indeed a few snowflakes were spotted falling towards the festival's muddy ground during the set break. I was particularly curious to see their set, as a few years ago I was a dedicated moe.ron but I grew away from the band in recent years, unfamiliar with anything they've done since 1999. The upstate New York quintet took the stage and tore into a rollicking "Moth" to open their set. As the jam took a spacey turn, out from the side stage tent stepped John Scofield with guitar in hand to join in, sporting the same blue toboggan with fluffy red ball on top, adding his own jazzy edge to the jam, as well as "That Chuck Song" and "Opium" which followed. Scofield's guitar lines were interesting, and definitely an added treat, it did seems at times though, that moe.'s frantic pace and intricate songs had the best of him, and he played with a great deal of reserve.
"Shoot First", held the scariest moment of the weekend when a girl, obviously out of her head on god knows what, climbed up the scaffolding at the right front corner of the stage, just to the right of guitarist Al Schnier. As she dangled precariously more than twenty feet above the crowd, security, dubbed "Peacekeepers" by the Sunshine Daydream staff, made their way up after her. Unwilling to come down, the girl made several motions towards jumping, even letting go of the scaffolding on a number of occasions, being held only by the three people who had climbed to the stage roof to get her down. After a few tense moments, in which members of moe. were distracted bringing the jam to a halt, she was wrestled from the scaffolding and brought down unhurt.
moe. answered with their aptly titled "Not Coming Down," followed by "Kyle" which segued into the rollicking "Timmy Tucker" to close the set, only the 2nd song of the set that was in the repertoire when I had last seen them. I was pleasantly surprised at the turn that the band's sound had taken, a stretch from where they were when I last caught a show. If I had to describe moe.'s music ca. 1998 I would have said it was led by fiery twin guitars, and a bassist who is soloing at all times. But in the more than two years since I had seen the band, things had changed. Now, Derhak's sound had matured, he even held off on his frenetic slapping until nearly halfway through the set. Al Schnier spent nearly half the show fiddling with his keyboard rig, laying down a lush and spacey soundscape that had been previously absent in the band's sound. Unlike Trey's recent foray into keyboard space sounds, I have nothing but positive things to say about Schnier's playing. It created an interesting accent to many of the jams, and allowed Chuck Garvey to push the envelope with his playing.
By the time moe. had returned to the stage for the final song of the evening, the Band's "The Weight," I had begun to make my way to the car, eager to fire up the heater one last time, and remove my mud-caked shoes for the ride home. A lot of people will have a lot of things to say about the weekend spent in the cold rain and deep mud of Sunshine Daydream. In the end, if you ask those who stuck it out they will assure you that the weekend was, in fact, all good.