Kerri Pinchuk>Senior>Journalism>University of Maryland
For four days, the West Virginia skies exploded. Brilliant fireworks, millions of glow sticks and a little bit of rain poured over some 25,000 people gathered on Marvin’s Mountaintop for the music, camping and other, uh, mayhem that is All Good Festival. The Woodstock-esque weekend, the first in All Good’s 14-year history to sell out, featured more than 40 hours of live music from big-name acts spanning genres and generations.
It was Throwdown Thursday, and the green expanse of Marvin’s Mountaintop was soon overflowing with all of the fixings of a jam band festival—clusters of brightly colored tents, rows of sturdy Port-O-Potties and a designated Shakedown Street lined with stalls selling jewelry, glassware, art and other groovy goods. Attendees rolled up from near and far, eager to jumpstart the weekend.
For Florida State University senior David Luria, making the trip was never even a question. For Luria, who has been crisscrossing the country attending music festivals since high school, the weekend marked his 11th music festival and his first time at All Good.
“This summer it had to be All Good,” said Luria, who camped out with a group of friends from his hometown. “With the lineup they had, it’s easily the best festival of the summer . . . it’s definitely up there as one of the best festivals I’ve ever been to.”
Thursday’s kickoff set the scene for the rest of the weekend with a lineup seemingly dedicated to the holy grail of jam bands, the Grateful Dead. Embodying the spirit of the transcendental group were former Dead vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux and wildly authentic cover band Dark Star Orchestra. A tough act to follow, Dark Star left the audience craving more, and wondering if the next day’s music, including the Dead alumni who were to play the next night, would measure up.
Friday saw a slew of memorable performances including Baltimore-based The Bridge and funky jam band Tea Leaf Green as the air grew heavy. Serious weather and serious music were on the way. Bumping bluegrass crew Old Crow Medicine Show had the crowd singing along to “Wagon Wheel” just as the skies began to open up.
“I can do a lot of things in my town, but I can’t stop the rain,” apologized the mayor of Masontown, Lydia Main, who seemed to be enjoying the festival atmosphere. Main welcomed the crowd and introduced rock-heavy crowd-pleasers Umphrey’s McGee. Providing the perfect segue into the much-anticipated night, Umphrey’s lived up to their name as one of the most inventive bands on the scene.
When Further, made up of Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh and guitarist Bob Weir, finally took the stage for their coveted 9:30 timeslot, the crowd exploded. With an energetic opener of “After Midnight,” the night was sealed. Visibility was instantly clouded as the crowd was enveloped in a celebratory fog; thousands had undoubtedly made the long, strange trip just to see the legends rock out. Fireworks dazzled overhead as the duo led their band through 30 years of the Grateful Dead, spanning fan-favorites and more obscure jams alike. Though energy was noticeably lacking during the second set, fans seemed to let it slide. Let’s face it—the silvered rockers are getting old.
Before anyone had time to recover, Bassnectar exploded on stage with an earth-shattering set, reminding reeling audience members that there’s always room for bass. Wrapping up the power-packed late night were electro-rockers Lotus, who revealed extended jams and a much-appreciated cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.”
“My favorite act was Bassnectar into Lotus, there was lots of energy and an amazing few hours of partying,” said University of Florida senior Jason Rubel. The part-time DJ traveled from Miami to catch the shows. “The glow stick war speaks for itself,” Rubel added.
Saturday meant a resurgence of sun, as temperatures blazed and showers were sorely missed. Early acts like reggae band Rebelution saw a decent showing, but stage grounds really began to swell as George Clinton brought out the funk with a wild show that barely hinted at his nearly 69 years. Headliners Widespread Panic wholly delivered, but southern rockers Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi easily claimed the evening. With an obvious chemistry unique to the betrothed duo, Trucks and Tedeschi touted the perfect blend of her unbelievable vocals and his extraordinary strumming. Their show peaked with a rendition of Bob Marley’s “Trenchtown Rock.”
Energy and audiences began to dwindle on Sunday, as crowds thinned and the reality of the festival’s end crept in. Keller Williams served up some southern comfort for breakfast, South Florida gospel gang Lee Boys got the crowd going and a gorgeous Grace Potter finished up the festival with some soul.
Festival newcomers and veterans alike were blown away by All Good, from the beauty of its setting to the scale of incredible music and the spectacular scene.
“It was phenomenal. Start to finish for four days, with back-to-back-to-back amazing bands,” said festival vet Luria, whose favorite performance belonged to Trucks and Tedeschi. “Throw in the beautiful drive, with the West Virginia mountains . . . it was just the best.”
Perhaps more powerful than the music and more hypnotizing than any laser light show, however, was the overwhelming atmosphere of pure joy and—don’t laugh—togetherness. “The best part was the people, the vibes,” said Rubel, who definitely plans to return in 2011.
From its legendary lineup to its peace-and-love spirit, All Good Festival 2010 was, well, all good.
The Best of the All Good
“Everyone put your hands up, I want to take a family photo,” yelled Lorin Ashton from the stage as he whipped out a camera. The crowd did as they were told, with deafening cheers ripping through the West Virginia night. Not bad for 2 a.m. Ashton, the freeform, electro-DJ otherwise known as Bassnectar, provided the drums-and-bass beats that electrified All Good. From behind his signature curtain of long, black hair, Bassnectar spun an incendiary set worthy of the late night slot. Sampling pop tunes and house beats, the DJ kept the crowd—and a full-on glow stick war—raging for hours. His unpredictable mashes repeatedly floored the crowd, head-bangers and hippies side by side. Because, after all, we were a family.
Keller Williams is a morning person. In his first of two performances on Sunday, the bluegrass rocker played an 11 a.m. show that easily ranked high as one of the weekend’s top acts. Flanked by husband-and-wife duo the Keels, Keller started his set by engaging the sunburned crowd in a conversation about the wonders of West Virginia moonshine. The already-buzzed singer then announced that a jar of moonshine was the morning’s menu: “Because it’s a Sunday morning after three days at a festival, and that’s what you need,” said Keller. After taking a gulp, the singer handed off a jar of the liquor for the thrilled audience to share. Between country-twanged covers of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” and Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” Keller played some of his own greatest hits, including the rare romantic ballad, “I Fell in Love in a Port-O-Potty Line.”
Bassnectar image courtesy of generationbass.wordpress.com.