Treehugger’s Ball, Sunshine Daydream, Terra Alta WV- 4/16 & 17
Hippies get itchy in the winter. Everybody knows that. Ice and sleet and snow just aren't conducive to the barefoot dancing and the generally sunshine-based culture that comes out every spring and summer in the form of the festival. The folks at Sunshine Daydream Campground in Terra Alta, WV were never able to wait, and in the past, festival goers have paid in rain and gusty weather. This year, such was not the case with the fourth annual installment of the Treehugger's Ball held the weekend of April 16th and 17th in the rolling hills of Preston County. The greatest thing that can be said about this event was that it was held at seemingly the precise moment that spring had sprung. The lineup was partially responsible for the nice turn-out on the farm. The rest of the credit, however, goes to Mother Nature for smiling benevolently on the official opening of the festival season.
Jam rockers Zen were onstage when I arrived on the farm, the festivities set up in the barn, as for most of the smaller festivals at Sunshine Daydream. Usually, this is a good thing, because the middle of April in West Virginia usually equals nighttime temperatures below freezing. Needless to say, this festival was different and the temperate climes kept most of the festival crowd listening from outside the barn trying to soak up the warmth in the air.
By the time Northern Virginia's The Ordinary Way took the stage, the sun had long set and everyone was ready for a steaming set of music to burn on into the wee hours of the morning, and that's what they got. A staple at Sunshine Daydream events, The Ordinary Way shatter no jamband stereotypes right down to their dreadlocked guitar players, auxiliary percussion, and female vocalist. That being said, the group has honed its sound considerably over the last couple of years and have tightened up into a runaway jamband locomotive. Their sound blends effortlessly from rock to funk to space to reggae and back, taking the crowd on a high energy up and down ride. Their cover of Bob Marley's "Burnin' and Lootin" was well received, as were their originals, many from their most recent release, Dojo. A new song, "Crow" was also fired up audience in the barn making even the most hardened of headies' toes start tappin' and their face break out into a grin..
The next day saw more of the same as far as excellent music and weather were concerned. Again however, the afternoon's bands, which included sets from Mood Cultivation Project, Walnut Grove Band, and the freewheelin' sounds of Baked Fresh Daily, had a hard time drawing folks out of the sunshine and into the barn. The penultimate act of the evening, the Davisson Brothers Band finally lured the folks on the hill down into the barn for a two hour set of rapid fire bluegrass tinged rock, highlighted by a number of covers meant to elicit the squeals of glee from the dancing masses, including "Rocky Top", "Country Roads" and a jammed out take on the Dead's "Franklin's Tower" featuring their buddy Kentucky on Djembe. A local staple, the Davissons can usually be found bringing their high octane dancabilly sound to any number of North Central WV hotspots on any given night.
Finally, Baltimore's rock and soul superheroes took the stage to close down the festival in a big way. The Senators are one band that this reviewer never seems to tire of. Their two hour set exploded open with "Transmitta", "Winner" and "Culutre Shock" the band producing an infectiously funky sound that demanded that all in the barn boogie down to the best of their ability, and that they did. The Senators ran rapid fire through many of their staples off Music is Big Business, including "Kung Fu Masters" and "Giant Steps". Their covers, which included ZZ Top's "Tush", a theme very familiar to the Senators, and Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" were well received by the pumped up crowd who seemed disappointed that their weekend of music was drawing rapidly to close, but enthused because a summer full of great music on the farm and elsewhere was right around the corner.
Aaron Hawley has hugged a few trees in his time, but stopped due to the splinters.