All Good Music Festival
Photo Galleries & Review • Day 2 & 3
By Randy Harris
Day 2 kicked off with Big Something, an up and coming funk rock band from North Carolina, on the Believe In Music Stage (a small stage near the campgrounds). These guys absolutely killed it with a beautiful wake up set, filled with psychedelic funk, positive vibes and words of hope as the sun shone brightly above us. Early morning All Gooders tossed Frisbees and footballs, performed yoga, lay out on blankets or simply danced the morning away.
Then I headed over to the main concert area again, just in time for Cabinet’s second set of the weekend on the Crane Stage. Cabinet crushed it again, running through fan favorites and fast-pickin’ jams. What sets them apart from other bluegrass acts is there incredibly melodic vocal harmonies on songs such as “Caroline,” which they crooned out to a readily accepting crowd. Finally, the band finished off its final set of the weekend with their classic cover of The Byrds’ “Mr. Spaceman” with Andy Goessling (Railroad Earth) joining them on stage. The future of bluegrass is safe with Cabinet on the road.
One of the biggest surprise sets of the entire weekend came in the form of Turkuaz on the Dragon Stage. These guys brought some seriously dirty funk and had everyone in the crowd going absolutely nuts. Turkuaz has a triple threat on vocals with two lovely female vocalists, who both sing and dance like they were born to do it, and the male rhythm guitarist rocking the lower end. Aside from some insane shredding on lead guitar, the main attraction to Turkuaz (musically at least) is the bass-drums combo. This rhythm section is so tight, and the individual and combined talents are undeniably the glue that keeps the whole band together. Top all of that off with a bangin’ horns section and a funky cover of “Feelin’ Alright” to end the set, and my mind was left reeling after this incredible set of music.
The Bridge, from Baltimore, kept the funk train rolling at first, but also delved into some bluesy and bluegrass tunes as well. Baltimore is a town known for many different styles of music, and The Bridge, as one of four Baltimore bands playing All Good this year, represented all of them well. As this was the band’s only festival appearance of the summer, their local fanbase came out to rage and support them.
Swinging back over to the Dragon Stage, the funk/Afro-beat outfit Antibalas continued this ragin’ afternoon as the bowl where the stages were set up began to fill out.
During the second half of Antibalas’ set, I couldn’t help but dip out to the Believe In Music Stage for a workshop with Chris Kuroda (lighting designer for Phish), which basically consisted of a Q&A session with about 20 fans. Kuroda discussed his influences, touring with Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande (both of which seemed to be enjoyable experiences for him, despite the actual music), and he even revealed that he was offered a job with the Grateful Dead in 1993 but turned it down to continue on with Phish.
Up next was the Everyone Orchestra, headed by the one and only Matt Butler. This particular crew had never played together before, not even once, and consisted of members from Railroad Earth, Cabinet, The Word, Turkuaz and more. The amount of attention and improvisation abilities that it takes to put something like this together is unfathomable to us mere mortal music fans, but these guys most definitely pulled off an amazing experience. The ingenious Matt Butler leapt and writhed on stage, dragging every ounce of brilliance out of this amazing group of musicians. Beach balls bounced up and down in front of the stage as the sun shone brightly on the Friday afternoon crowd.
Chris Robinson Brotherhood
As the sun began its long descent, All Gooders were treated to one of the best strings of shows of the entire weekend. Chris Robinson Brotherhood brought their psychedelic brand of southern rock to epic proportions, led by Chris Robinson’s distinct vocals and Neal Casal’s shredding guitar. The quintet kicked off their set with some classic style blues, featuring Casal on slide guitar, before working their way through some straight ahead rock & roll. Then it was time to get down and dirty with “Shore Power.” The tune’s psychedelic intro coupled with a half-time bridge and a ripping solo from Casal really kicked the set up a notch. The band slowed down the groove with a bluesy take on “I’m A Hog For You Baby,” originally by The Coasters. The Brotherhood brings such a Psychedelic Sixties vibe to the stage, with such a bluesy and soulful brand of rock & roll. As they belted out such a beautiful set, I sat up on the hill and looked around. What I saw reminded me so much of the old photos and videos of the classic rock & roll festivals; Monterey, Woodstock, Miami Pop. It even brought back images of old Grateful Dead shows. Everyone finds their own space, whether it’s raging up front in the stage area, or laying out on a blanket with eyes closed and the music filling their ears and minds, or even standing further back from the stage with nobody within an arm’s length, dancing away like nobody’s watching. It was a beautiful sight to see that in today’s day and age, so much passion, love and civility, so much oneness of mind can still exist and thrive. The Brotherhood proceeded to rip through the second half of their set, including some incredibly positive vibes in “Vibration & Light” and Robinson’s classic cover of Otis Redding’s “Hard To Handle” from his days with The Black Crowes.
My most highly anticipated set of the weekend was Railroad Earth. I first saw RRE in 2011 at Red Rocks, and I hadn’t seen them since, so I was ready for an amazing experience. You better believe I was not disappointed! The first thing that I noticed as I worked my way up into the second row was that there was so much space to move around! There I was at 6:00 on Friday evening with some of the best sets of the weekend happening, and I never once felt constricted. There was no shoulder-to-shoulder pushing and shoving. Everyone had room to dance and do their own thing. Railroad Earth embodied this vibe as they opened up the set with “When The Sun Gets In Your Blood.” My mind immediately reeled as the sun sank lower behind me. As with Greensky on the first night, Railroad Earth is still favoring the tunes from their newest album, including the aforementioned opening track, “Monkey,” “Bringin’ My Baby Back Home,” “Tuba Mirum,” a beautiful “Chasin’ A Rainbow,” and a “Grandfather Mountain” that featured a Neal Casal sit-in. As Casal jammed over the uplifting chords, I couldn’t help but notice John Skehan on the keyboard. A talented multi-instrumentalist, the focus on Skehan’s face as he tactically filled the spaces between Casal’s lead guitar work was so powerful. It was truly amazing to watch from close range, as he made every single note seem like it was the most important note he had ever played. Also around that time, the person in front of me in the front row bailed, leaving a rail spot open. The person to my left, the person to my right and I all looked at each other as if to say, “Do you want it?” The only thing going through my mind at that moment was, “Only at All Good!” In any other concert setting that I have ever been to, that spot would have been jumped on within a fraction of a second, paying no mind to the feelings of the rest of us, but at All Good, it’s all about the neighbors. Railroad Earth also worked in some classic fan favorites, including “Warhead Boogie” and my personal favorite, “Mighty River,” for an extremely uplifting set of feel-good music.
What can really be said about The Word? Literally the ultimate supergroup, The Word is made up of Robert Randolph (pedal steel guitar), John Medeski (keyboards), Luther Dickinson (electric guitar), Cody Dickinson (drums, washboard), and Chris Chew (bass). Randolph is well known for his pioneering pedal steel guitar work, especially with his own Robert Randolph & The Family Band. John Medeski comes from part of the experimental jazz trio that is Medeski, Martin & Wood. The Dickinson brothers and Chris Chew are all members of North Mississippi Allstars. Together, they form the astronomical quintet that is The Word. The group recently released its first album in 14 years and announced a long awaited reunion tour, and they graced the All Good Festival Dragon Stage with a funky dose of Southern soul. Luther Dickinson and Robert Randolph created a dangerous combo in the lead space, while Medeski’s renowned keyboard mastery filled in the space between flawlessly. This set was one of the more raucous, party atmospheres of the weekend, as professional stilt walkers made their way through the crowd getting everyone pumped, and the entire audience got down hard.
Joe Russo’s Almost Dead
On an incredible high from the last three performances, I made my way to the Crane Stage to get up close and personal for Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. This was my first Almost Dead experience, and I did not want to miss a moment. Opening up with a short, tactful jam, the band wasted no time blasting into “Reuben & Cherise,” and everyone in attendance, many still reeling from the Fare Thee Well run in Chicago the weekend before, was more than happy to continue the celebration of the Grateful Dead. Almost Dead rocked this opening tune with an extremely euphoric jam that sent waves of ecstasy through the dancing crowd, before giving way to a funky take on “Feel Like A Stranger,” which held a deep, dark jam that built into a rager! The band ended this tune with a lengthy “King Solomon’s Marbles” jam, followed by “Alligator” and into Deadhead favorites “Franklin’s Tower” and “Sugar Magnolia” to end an unbelievable set of Grateful Dead music. Personally, I believe they fit a lot of great music and improvisation into an hour and fifteen minutes, and I absolutely fell in love with this band’s unique spin on some of the best music ever made. Deadheads all around me danced, spun and sang along as darkness fell upon the hills of West Virginia.
While I personally have never caught the Primus bug, I was evidently in the minority, as Primus fans flocked to the Dragon Stage for the best attended set of the weekend. With giant inflatable mushrooms on stage and a large screen for the backdrop sending psychedelic waves out from behind the band, a Primus set can only be described with one word: strangeitude. Their weirdness knows no bounds, and their fans relate to them through that weirdness. All in all, the Primus set was certainly a trip, and while I do not have much to compare it to, the screams of “Primus sucks!!!” from the audience told me they were doing their job right. That pretty much says it all right there! I was also told by one of my neighbors in the campground the next morning that it was the best Primus show he had ever seen out of a total of 20+ shows.
As the heavily Primus headlining crowd dissipated, Lettuce took to the Crane Stage to bust into the late night festivities for Night 2 of All Good. In true Lettuce form, the famed funk group brought a slamming energy to the stage. Lettuce skirts the edge between funk, dance and even hip hop at times, creating a unique blend of fans within their audience. The one thing they all have in common, however, is they come to get down and party hard. Lettuce is pretty much always happy to oblige its fans with such a party, and All Good was no different. Noticeably absent, unfortunately, was guitarist Eric Krasno, who does not play every show with the band these days due to his hectic outside schedule, but Adam Smirnoff was more than capable of handling the guitar duties on his own.
As the cloud cover became somewhat ominous in the sky, Thievery Corporation took the final late night set of the evening, bringing out guest singers galore and spanning a broad variety of genres. Though I have always longed for a Thievery Corporation set that resembles the downtempo, chill vibes studio material from their past, I quickly came to the realization that the live action they bring to the table is unrivaled. They even played a couple of the older tunes I wanted to hear, including my personal favorite “Lebanese Blonde,” with a unique live spin on it to fit the late night dance party setting. They also continued the Grateful Dead celebration they began in Chicago, rocking out a reggae version of “Fire On The Mountain” featuring Ras Puma on vocals as the rain began to drip lightly on the rowdy audience. Unfortunately for Thievery Corporation, the rain began to fall after only about a quarter of their set, and many people began the long trek back to their campsites. The late night party raged on, however, into the wee hours of the morning, capping off a stellar Friday at All Good.
Another beautiful, sunny morning brought in the final day of All Good, and I immediately wandered up to the Believe In Music Stage, where the early birds were jubilantly enjoying the weather in various ways. ELM (Electric Love Machine) was on stage bringing a psychedelic, interstellar experience to the lucky early risers. The quartet from Baltimore joins the age of jamtronica with a bright twist, spreading love and positive vibes to those who will listen.
B Side Shuffle
B Side Shuffle took to the Believe In Music Stage next, rocking out an insanely funky set! One of Washington, DC’s most promising up-and-comers, the funk flows vigorously through their veins. The band consists of a primary core four members with a rotating cast of guests. At All Good, they had a strong horns section with them and even invited one of The Bridge’s horn players up for a couple tunes. B Side Shuffle proceeded to absolutely rock the stage with not only a mastery of funk music, but a strong stage presence as well.
Making my way towards the main stage area, I was just in time to catch most of TAUK’s set. While I myself am no stranger to their live experience, it seemed that there were many first timers in the audience. Most people I talked to had not seen them before, so I am sure they gained some new fans. If you have not hopped on the TAUK train, I highly suggest that you get on it. The quartet from New York brings a euphoric energy to their music that is infectious and nearly impossible to dislike. Their All Good set was stunning, featuring a beautiful Beatles cover, as well as a variety of tunes from their catalog. Charlie Dolan’s bass rang out in the valley, while Isaac Teel’s drums snapped and crashed without ever missing a beat. Alric Carter’s mastery of and versatility on the keys made him an unstoppable force, while Matt Jalbert shredded mind numbing solos on top of it all. The TAUK takeover is real, and by this time next year, I guarantee you will not be seeing them playing early afternoon sets at festivals. They will be headlining.
Pigeons Play Ping Pong
Switching back over to the Dragon Stage, I was very fortunate to finally catch my first Pigeons Playing Ping Pong set. Baltimore’s finest funk quartet seemed on top of the world as they tore up the stage for All Good Music Festival. Lead singer and rhythm guitarist Greg Ormont did not stop smiling the entire time, as the crowd in front of him danced their asses off to the mind-bending funk. Ormont’s smile seemed infectious, and I could not stop smiling the whole set either, especially since they played my favorite Pigeons song, “Melting Lights,” early on in the set. Lead guitarist Jeremy Schon particularly impressed me with massive, ripping solos, and Ben Carrey and Alex Petropulos formed a tight, face-melting rhythm section. Later on in the set, the band played another fan favorite from their newest album, and the crowd chanted along with them, “F – U… N – K!”
Elephant Revival took over on the Crane Stage, and despite their musical genius, they had an unfortunate time placement. TAUK into Pigeons was so much high energy, and Elephant Revival seemed kind of like a lull in the afternoon. They still had a decent turnout at the stage, but many people seemed to use this time to sit, rest or even leave the concert area. That being said, they still put on a great show. Their unique blend of folk and Americana makes for an exclusive, intimate type of performance. The vocals and lyrics speak to the listener, as if they were meant for each and every one of us.
Back to the Dragon Stage, the dynamic duo that is BoomBox raged on. After some quick technical difficulties, they put on one of the epic dance parties they are so well known for. Including their well-known remix of “Shakedown Street,” the duo cranked through its run of tunes as the audience happily danced the afternoon away. By far the most electronic group on the lineup, the ground-shaking, four-to-the-floor beat was welcomed by the elated Saturday crowd. More and more single day ticket holders flooded in, filling up the canyon. The hot sun beat down upon us, but that did not stop anyone from getting down and dirty with BoomBox.
JJ Grey & Mofro
JJ Grey & Mofro brought that Southern soul back to the stage. Grey’s passionate vocals rang out clear and true in front of a grooving audience. With a fearless stage presence and a top notch backing band, Grey turned up the heat a few notches, taking us for a lesson in the true beauty of music. The combination of blues, rock and soul sent me back to my Memphis music roots, as we all readied ourselves for the final night of All Good.
Yonder Mountain String Band
As Yonder Mountain String Band took the stage, I could not help but notice a renewed vigor in the crowd. The addition of the single day ticket holders had obviously had an effect on the entire audience, and Yonder took full advantage. The band ran through almost every song on its newest album, Black Sheep, as well as some new and old favorites. Highlights included a brilliant “Kentucky Mandolin” and a massive “All Aboard” sandwiched around “New Dusty Miller.” Yonder’s vocals sounded amazing, rebounding off the hill and ringing throughout the crowd. The band’s rejuvenation from its recent album release matched the crowd’s, and Yonder put on an incredible show for the eager audience. One thing is for sure, the Yonder train will keep on rollin’! Jacob Jolliff and Allie Kral have lifted Yonder’s three remaining original members to new heights.
The number one biggest surprise set of the weekend for me as SOJA. I had never seen the rock/reggae band before, and they impressed me beyond words. As the sun began to sink, SOJA took the stage with such an awesome presence that I could not look away or stop dancing. Bassist Bobby Lee provided the most visual entertainment as he swung his dreads and commanded the stage. The music was like a wave of positivity, filling the soul and warming the heart. Hailing from Arlington, Virginia, SOJA revealed that this was their sixth All Good Festival appearance in a row, and they proceeded to tell us a slew of interesting stories from All Goods past in between songs. One of the most entertaining stories included turtles and mortars… I’ll let your imagination fill in the details. As their set came to an end, I felt empowered and uplifted, and the entire crowd seemed to share in that vibe.
THE Keller Williams rocked out the Crane Stage next. Perhaps the only man brave enough to get up in front of a crowd like All Good on his own, play every instrument on stage and lay down some of the funkiest jams of the entire weekend. Keller opened up his set with John Denver’s “Country Roads,” a perfect fit for the weekend, as All Good Festival had moved home to West Virginia this year. The entire audience sang along, “Country roads, take me home to the place where I belong; West Virginia, Mountain Mama, take me home country roads.” From there, Keller ripped up the stage with his “one man jam band” act, looping all the instruments on top of each other into a whirlwind of funk and classic jams. Keller jammed until the sun had set, as the crowd welcomed a break from the heat afternoon heat.
The primary “X Factor” of the weekend, as I and some of the other writers were referring to them, was Cake. Why Cake was a headliner for this event is still an enigma to me. While they put on an energetic show, they just did not quite fit the bill and gel with everything else going on at All Good. That being said, they were literally the only act at All Good that has ever had a hit single; two hit singles in fact! Those are the only two songs I have ever heard by Cake, and of course, they played them both. Despite some interesting dialogue in between songs, bashing people who constantly have their phones out at concerts and preaching sort of a “live in the moment” type of vibe, fans seemed fairly happy with their performance.
They say save the best for last, and I believe that All Good had this saying in mind when they chose to begin the late night sets with Dark Star Orchestra. Dark Star is the longest standing, and perhaps the most well-known, Grateful Dead cover band in history. Despite the death of one of its founding members, Dark Star continues to thrive and provide one of the most intense and realistic Grateful Dead experiences in the world today. Starting off with a nice “Feedback” jam, the band wasted no time busting into a “Viola Blues” that shook the crowd, setting the tone for what would become an amazing set. Other highlights included a strong “China Cat Sunflower” > “I Know You Rider” and an amazing run of tunes to bring us through to the end: “St. Stephen” > “The Other One” > “St. Stephen” > “The Eleven” > “Turn On Your Love Light.” Again, the Saturday single day ticket holders had a lot to do with the energy in the crowd, but everyone seemed to still be high off the Fare Thee Well shows the weekend before, as Deadheads and All Gooders grooved into the late night festivities. Finally, Dark Star capped off their set with a cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit,” just for good measure. The excitement in the crowd was palpable, as the now packed out bowl of the concert area moved to the Dragon Stage for the final set of All Good.
Lotus took the stage to thunderous applause. As All Good veterans, they too wasted no time kicking off a heater of a set. A funky “Greet The Mind” rocked out a nice dance party vibe, as All Gooders danced into the wee hours. “Greet The Mind” gave way to an epic “Suitcases,” which led into “Elephants” to end an incredible opening run of tunes. “Elephants” is a stellar tune by Tame Impala. Watching them lay down an exceptional cover of the song was magical. The All Good crowd was absolutely on fire, and it felt like we were back on the first night. Other highlights from the set included a hard hitting “Hammerstrike” and “Spiritualize,” a bookend to finish off “Greet The Mind,” and finally, the title track off their latest album, “Gilded Age,” to finish off an amazing weekend of music.
All Good Music Festival provided a one of a kind lineup that made for a truly epic weekend of music. The festival attendees truly embodied the term All Good, as everyone seemed to be happy to be there and having a great time. I even got to meet the gentleman who owned the property, and he told me he was pleasantly surprised at the lack of altercations among fans. He mentioned that there is a county fair that occurs nearby, and security has to break up numerous violent fights every year. At All Good, however, he encountered no violence or hate, and everyone he met thanked him graciously for allowing us on his land, once they found out who he was. I felt the same way about everyone in attendance. I never met a single person who I did not get along with. We were all just there, united in one common love for live music. That is the magic of All Good Music Festival, and nothing would stop anyone from enjoying a weekend of live music in the hills of West Virginia.