Creekside Jamboree, Almost Heaven Campground, Forksville, PA- 6/6&7
Festival mode is a 12 hr. day that starts at 3PM. You prepare mentally for this mode by going to work everyday. Without even thinking you bitch and moan about how you have to go. At the same time you complain your thoughts linger off to the days when you are back at the festival. It's those thoughts of lazy, hazy, music that drives you through work and prepares you for the festival.
Driving into the Almost Heaven campground was a welcome change from my normal Friday afternoon work routine. This was one of the first truly warm and sunny days that had graced the Pocono's this spring. The dirt road in ran around to the left of the field cradling the midsized stage. Tents and music fans littered the side of the road with color. We picked a spot next to an old Ford flat bed truck. The flat bed had a blue house built on top of its bed. This proved to be the perfect landmark to help find our way back in the evenings.
No sooner then the tents had gone up did the drinks come out. Digger and I started on the fast road to liquid relaxation. The suns rays baked down upon us as we walked leisurely around chatting with our fellow festival goers. The conversation ranged from music to the gorgeous location that we were in, nestled between the rolling mountains of north western PA.
The music started up around two with a band called Akron. They played a mellow mix of rock, hip-hop and funk. The crowd walked nimbly around the barely mowed field trying not to spear their sandaled feet with pointy bits of grass and hay. Akron paved the way for the Granola Funk Express. They upped the ante a bit and actually made a few shake and dance.
The stage itself was truly a sight to be seen. It was flanked on either side by two modern looking totem poles. Each bore a bust of an ornately decorated female torso which hung firmly on large beams stuck in the earth. Swatches of brightly colored fabric hung vertically along the entire length of the stage. There were spectacular crystals sitting on the very front of the stage. Each crystal was a good foot maybe foot and a half and must have weighed close to 50 pounds. These caught the sun and glowed a white incandescent light all afternoon. Perhaps it was just me, but I am pretty sure that the crystals were placed dead center on the festival grounds. All weekend they drew me and many others towards them. They seemed to energize and excite all that got near them especially the bands.
The Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey struck the right notes with the crowd and by 4:00 pm the field was alive with motion. The tall grass was loosing more and more ground. JFJO Threw down the laidback, fun, airy vibe that came to be expected from future weekend performances. Brain Haas sent us to other world with his Melodica. The subtle jazzy grooves grew into fuller jams. They played with gusto and vigor and I gained a newfound respect for their tunes.
Dinner was consumed quickly and Knob Creek was dessert. A solid buzz had been passed around how the AZ Productions crew, headed by Alan and Zack, seemed to have nailed another fest. The funny thing was we were only a few acts in.
Israel Vibration started as they start all performances with the band on stage minus front men Skelly and Weiss. The bass, guitar and drums sent us into a fresh pulse of bobbing and shaking to the reggae beats. We were treated to an incredible display of roots reggae that flattened all of the remaining grass in the field. Skelly stood, his fist raised high above his head, in respectful manner signifying togetherness and thanks. Weiss sang with his heavy heart open to the world. The words of each song poured out across his lips and rang true and clear in our ears. Israel vibration played for a full two hours, but to me it seemed no more than ten minutes. Towards the end of their set, I ran into the bass player from JFJO dancing a bit behind me. His huge smile said a thousand words. This performance was truly special. Even the mountains seemed to hum the soft reggae tunes.
The New Deal continued on the mellow vibe but elaborated, twisted and spun it in new uncharted directions. The keyboard player turned the funk on so much that my feet pleaded with me to stop. Sounds shot out of the speakers ranging from booming bass rifts to what sounded like an old ColecoVision game. Large puppets were danced and worked through the crowd each moving to the beats. They freaked out some while delighting others. The Slip's guitarist joined the fun for the second set and led a few nice spacey jams. The smoke on stage really added to the great lights protruding out into the night sky. Camp fires crackled as I made a refreshment run before the unannounced late late-night set began. The Children of Babylon did a little free style rhyming. The night was over for me by three but the party had just begun for the drummers. From what I heard they went on until the rain started. The sound of drums sent me off into a deep dream world.
I was woken by the patter of rain on my tent and was in a haze from the night before. The dirt road that ran around the stage and field had turned into a brown pudding highway. It was being churned and tracked up as people went to and from tents to bathrooms. The morning plan had been originally either a short hike or a leisurely kick ball game. That was scrapped almost immediately and the new thing to do was to build a place to stay dry from the rain. By eleven make shift lean-to's and car forts had been erected all over the festival grounds. The morning was peaceful and calm despite the rain and I enjoyed the chance to just snooze in a comfy chair waiting it out under a big blue tarp. By two the rain had subsided and a warm grey day had settled in.
The Old Crow Medicine Show was a great way to warm my mud soaked shoes and get the blood flowing again. The true festival wake up call was on next. Antibalas kicked it off in style coming out hard with all twelve cylinders blaring. The full twelve person sound blast off that was ensuing on stage pulled the masses to the field's center. Each person in the crowd was enjoying the liberties that the sound provided their feet. The Antibalas orchestra played for a full hour and forty five minutes. They mixed heavily Latin influenced beats with Duke's spirited non violent rants. He turned more than a few heads and shook plenty of rumps with his vicious sky points, dances, and booming voice. This band is so impressive and today was no exception. I would have enjoyed a bit more of Duke's vocals added but it was a treat to see them play as a full orchestra.
The afternoon stayed dry and cloudy as the lazy spring day rolled on. The Slip pushed most back and forth from their chairs to the stage. Think of a theme song for cloudy day and this is exactly what the Slip played. Combining jazzy guitar licks with a constant under flowing bass line. The crowd ate it up and filled the air with bubbles. I sat drifting in and out of the music. The laziness turned to musical bliss and relaxation. The organic sounds melded with the surroundings so well that the mountains swayed along with the grooves. Bubbles wafted, floated and danced through the air each reflecting a rainbow of colors onto a dreary sky. The Slip ended to cheers and cries for more but it was time to move on.
The Saturday night crowd was out in full force and ready to party. All were in their flashiest and funkiest. Even the dogs had costumes on. The Roots had never let me down before and I was ready for a jazzy, hip-hop show. Boy was I disappointed as we were barraged with ten minutes of screaming, yelling, and noise. I looked at the rest of the crowd, who only moments before had been grooving, but now stood questioning their very existence. The Roots had read the crowd wrong and should have eased us into their new album's material.
We were treated to some good songs that combined rhymes with blues, funk and classical bits and pieces. I would get into a groove but then there would just be louder screaming and noise. Maybe I had been spoiled by the well executed jazz of the Slip and I tried to enjoy myself. I looked over at my buddy Digger and joked that the Roots had even messed up Space. I found their whole performance unsatisfying.
The fog had settled in the valley and the lights beamed out like a lighthouse to a ship. I was once again drawn back into the show. I faded in and out of sleep as I enjoyed the beats and grooves of STS9. A projection screen had been set up and added a nice surreal touch to the extensive light show taking place on stage. Once again I was trasported to a place of harmony with the music. The fireworks and party that ensued went well into the next morning and many had not slept as we drove off the next day.
I can't say enough was a great thing the AZ guys have put together. They have a beautiful location, professional staff and a line-up that continues to be new and unique year after year. It's easy to find a little piece of heaven at the Creekside Jamboree.