The Ville Music Festival, Clay’s Park Resort, North Lawrence, OH- 8/30-9/1
Photo by Traci Ellis
Sunday brought the promise of two sets each from both moe. and ekoostik hookah. Terrapin Moon started the day focusing on the Grateful Dead and featured vocals mimicking Brent Mydland so uncannily, it was haunting. Rising Ohio star Erica Hughes and the Well Mannered opened the woods stage thereafter. Blue Moon Soup grooved the main stage, and Zach Deputy made a statement at the woods stage.
And then the top of the bill began: moe. lit into their first set nicely, ripping “Crab Eyes” right at the onset, but P.A. troubles vexed the song. “Nebraska” was nicely established and followed by “Tailspin,” before laying out “Tubing The River Styx” into “The Pit,” but ongoing technical challenges cut short their first set.
Saturday’s all-night festivities, coupled with the technical challenges, did seem to sap a touch of the crowd’s energy, but after chasing the gremlins out of the sound system, ekoostik hookah took the stage for their first Sunday set, exhibiting no drop-off as they tore open “Loner” and “Old Montana Red Dog.” “Anthony’s Song” gave way to “Grass,” and “Lookout Below” preceded a new Katz composition with environmental overtones. “Walkin’ Down the Road,” “In the Clouds,” “Walkin’” and “Thumper” followed, before the set closed out with a hard driving “El Bandito.”
As moe. re-emerged with vigor following their abbreviated first set, “Wicked Awesome” bled into “So Long” to establish that the band was intent to deliver for an enthused audience, framed by the lyric “I can feel it comin’ round again, and I can hear it—that sound again” and they did just that. Bass player and vocalist Rob Derhak was really laying down the groove as “Paper Dragon” flew into “Happy Hour Hero.” But it was when “Spine of a Dog” gave way to “Buster” that the band was in full glory. Buster swirled and flowed, the audience was riding with the band, and when “Deep This Time” began, The Ville was jumpin’. Chuck Garvey and Al Schnier were interweaving guitar lines like the consummate veterans of stage they are. And Jim Loughlin established the ensuing “Wind It Up” with an ethereal tone on the vibes that the band embraced perfectly. Vinnie Amico’s drum work was articulate and inspired.
“She” stretched with exceptionally delectable leads. “Billy Goat” set upon the crowd with the strong signature bass licks Rob has stamped upon it, and spun through great ensemble work as it led into “CalifornIA.” As the song waned, moe. was joined by the members of ekoostik hookah for a couple of songs of joint venture: moe’s “Plane Crash” and hookah’s, which “Life is Good” offered the crowd a half hour of combination chaos to enjoy. The musicians adeptly gave each other the space needed to explore, contribute, and create a truly unique ensemble moment.
Hookah took over and delivered a tasty sandwich of “Waterbear” > “Find Out” > “Waterbear,” followed by a newer composition, the hard-hitting “You’ll Never Find,” the opening cut from the latest CD “brij.” “Hidden Away” and “Sheepdog” followed, setting up the set closing ballad “Ecstacy.”
The Ville was primed to discover what was in store for the infamous encores, always a mix of eclectic covers well-guarded in secrecy and steeped in intrigue. First on tap: Big Brother and the Holding Company’s “Combination of the Two” with Kate Goudy on vocals; very high energy. Next up, Columbus journeyman drummer Jim Casto took over the kit as drummer Eric Lanese came front and center to deliver “Something in the Air” by Thunderclap Newman, a late ‘60’s hit written by drummer Speedy Keen.
Not done yet, the band began the distinctive riff that opens the Manfred Mann arrangement of Springsteen’s epic “Blinded by the Light,” which Dave Katz fronted with backing vocals by Goudy and Amy Hughes. Presented complete with the full arrangement as done on the album “The Roaring Silence,” the audience displayed full approval.
And yet still not finished, the final encore of the night brought moe.’s Chuck Garvey and Jim Loughlin back to the stage, as they played the Beatles’ haunting ballad “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with Amy Hughes joining Sargent on vocals. Garvey and Sweney traded emotional solos, reaching multiple climaxes appropriate for such an epic weekend.
All that remained was another night of chaos at the woods stage with moe. spin-off Floodwood mixing it up with the Rumpke Mountain Boys and Blue Moon Soup.
Monday morning brought a gorgeous sunrise and began the dispersion. The temporary citizens of The Ville filed out peacefully, fully sated, and generally brandishing broad, easy smiles. Three days without hassles and bad attitudes were complete, the camaraderie banked, and the memories stashed. So long, summer of 2013.