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All Good Music Festival 2013 Recap

Jul 25, 2013 10:56AM ● By Cate Reynolds

This year’s 17th annual All Good Music Festival, which took place from July 18th to July 21st, in Thornville, Ohio, combined many of the festival’s familiar past acts (Furthur with Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, Primus, STS9, Keller Williams, Papadosio) with a slew of new faces (Moon Hooch, The Soul Rebels, Digital Tape Machine), and what felt like a more manageable number of attendees when compared to some of the event’s overwhelmingly crowded past incarnations.

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Walther Productions, the festival’s Jefferson, Maryland-based organizers, have navigated All Good, their primary annual event, through major changes in both location and size since its humble beginnings at Wilmer’s Park in Brandywine. Organizers settled on Thornville, Ohio’s Legend Valley as a new venue in 2012 after an 8 year residency in Masontown, West Virginia. An accident at the Masontown site in 2011, which led to the death of an attendee and several lawsuits, coupled with reported efforts by local interests to charge Walther Productions increasing fees to stage the event, led to the event’s first uprooting in nearly a decade last year.

Away from the bucolic splendor of Masontown’s mountainside venue, the festival’s atmosphere is, unsurprisingly, markedly different. A major road splits the venue’s music staging area from parking and camping. The Licking County Sherriff’s Department did a commendable job all weekend in handling the logistical mess this obstacle presents. Upon crossing the road, however, festival attendees could often be found visibly disappointed in the execution of slow, sometimes invasive searches when entering the concert grounds. While important for the safety of both attendees and artists, security contractors would be wise, in the future, to find ways to speed up the search process, preventing fans in long lines from missing music.

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  Having addressed what was probably the event’s only obvious hitch, let’s explore some of its highlights, of which there were plenty.

Highest Energy Performance: Uber-talented, Berklee-trained funk outfit Lettuce roared out of the event’s gates Thursday night, punctuating their tightly wound grooves with emphatic horn accompaniment and superb bass lines from Erick “E.D.” Coomes. Washington, D.C. native Nigel Hall has been known to emerge from behind the Hammond organ and rock the mic for varying portions of Lettuce shows. His singing, banter and crowd engagement Thursday only served to further whip the crowd into a dancing frenzy.

  Proudest Maryland Moment: Longtime Baltimore favorites The Bridge, who called it quits in 2011, have reunited several times since their breakup for special occasions. Their Saturday late-night set attracted a congregation of proud Baltimoreans in front of the Crane Stage, several of whom waved large Maryland flags throughout the band’s performance. Launching their set amidst dazzling fireworks, which traditionally hold over from the end of a headlining set and into the night’s first late-night slot, the band tore through “Big Wheel,” with saxophonist Patrick Rainey blowing a passionate solo as said fireworks reached their grand finale. Mandolin player and beat boxer extraordinaire Kenny Liner also represented The Bridge well the following day during the for-charity improvised Rex Jam, adding his impressive vocal percussion to an already formidable mix of artists from several acts.

  Coolest Camping Spot: Of the areas allotted for camping around the festival site, none matched the convenience and ambience of the festival’s highly wooded area surrounding the smaller, more low-key Grassroots stage. With shade cover and cooler temperatures provided by the woods’ high tree canopy, the sites within the woods also often allowed for camp-side enjoyment of bands playing late into the night on the festival’s smallest stage. Adding to the allure of the woods was a surprise, impromptu performance by one of the saxophone players of the avant-garde trio Moon Hooch.

  Best Surprise Performance: For as neat as a sax player doing his thing in the woods for campers is, an unexpected performance on a path near the main venue on Friday night by roots-based string band Fruition was undoubtedly the weekend’s most enjoyable surprise.  The band’s members, fueled by alcohol and a certain sense of off-the-cuff ease, gave attendees wandering by a great taste of their whiskey soaked harmonizing. Adding to the surprise appearance’s mystique, the band would ultimately lose part of their Saturday afternoon set to a weather related delay. Unbelievably, the band would leave All Good and head straight to the airport to fly back to their native Oregon, where a late-night slot at the famed Northwest String Summit awaited them.

  Most Familiar Face: As the announced Artist in Residency for the weekend, Roosevelt Collier took it upon himself to appear at the most opportune times during a handful of the weekend’s best sets. Armed with his lap steel and a grin, Collier’s scathing slide licks were particularly at home during a solo-battle with Trombone Shorty and Orleans Ave guitarist Pete Murano.

  Coolest Use of a Light Show: Electro-fusion outfit STS9 occupied Friday night’s second late-night set with pleasingly grooved out sonic sounds, set to the sights of an impressive on-stage structure that included looping video clips and blindingly bright light beams. STS9’s lights display was not as over-the-top as the one employed by producer Pretty Lights, whose Saturday night latenight set turned out to be a yawner. Their less in-your-face setup, however, was much like the set it accompanied—a fusion of adventurous expression, punctuated by moments of subtle brilliance.

  Most Exciting Collaboration: With Grateful Dead founder and Furthur guitarist Bob Weir having sat in during Grace Potter’s set, Potter would return the favor by emerging for the end of Furthur’s first of two sets on Saturday evening. Potter’s undeniable stage presence and full, hauntingly beautiful voice infused new life into the sometimes lumbering, aging sound of Furthur. With the band having already invited guitarist Andy Falco of the Infamous Stringdusters to the stage several songs earlier, their set culminated in a full-sounding eruption, as Weir and Potter traded their best charismatic glances and soulful yells on “Turn on Your Love Light.”

  Patrick Preziotti and PJ Schenk contributed to this report.