July 13th, 2009
09:28 PM ET
Jarrett Bellini reports from the 13th annual All Good Festival in Masontown, West Virginia
All Good 2009 is now done and dusted, and what a weekend it was!
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I opted out of Saturday's late night Umphrey's McGee set in favor of this really awesome new band called My Head Hitting the Pillow Inside My Tent. I play every instrument.
However, reports that came back throughout the day on Sunday told of one wildly fantastic late night. Oh well... you can't see 'em all. And, as it turned out, not seeing 'em all would sort of be my personal theme for Sunday, a notoriously wild day on the mountain.
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue was the first band I missed, and I was told they played a terrific opening set to start out the day. That said, I was able to catch Donna the Buffalo, immediately after. My friends really enjoyed them, and I thought they were pretty good, but nothing spectacular – just some quality feel good music to help liven up the mood for the final push.
Tea Leaf Green would be the next band to hold down the main stage, and I had every intention of checking them out. However, something big happened that forced me to pass, something that would turn out to be the highlight of my weekend.
A few of us from the media were hanging out in the press tent, filing our reports and sharing war stories from the previous night. Then, from out of nowhere, Bill Kreutzmann, one of the drummers from the Grateful Dead, casually strolled into our area, beer in hand. I had to do a double take as he wandered over to where we were all sitting. But it was definitely him.
Apparently, he was bored hanging out in the artist compound and just felt like going for a stroll. We must have seemed like fresh, friendly faces, so he decided to sit down and shoot the breeze. Here we were, sitting with a member of the Grateful Dead, just having a normal, everyday conversation that ranged from talking about his home in Hawaii to some of his efforts in protecting marine wildlife. It wasn't an interview – just a rock legend killing some time with strangers. He even shared some personal thoughts on Jerry Garcia, and recounted his experiences recording with Bob Dylan. To our surprise, he was amazingly candid about a number of things, both good and bad.
So, with all due respect to Tea Leaf Green, there was simply no way I was leaving that tent.
Naturally, I did make it out to catch Kreutzmann's new band, BK3, who played a really good, hour-long set on the side stage. Donna the Buffalo's Tara Nevins sat in with them for the entire performance, which consisted of a mix of original songs as well as some old Dead tunes. Scott Murawski turned in some heavy hitting guitar work, making BK3 one of the better performances of the weekend.
The final act, closing things out, was Dark Star Orchestra, who, last year, belted out what I thought was the best set of the entire festival. For those who aren't aware of the concept behind DSO, they're a Grateful Dead tribute band that, for eleven years, has been killing audiences nationwide with their commitment to "raising the dead."
To be honest, I'm not even entirely comfortable using the term tribute band – I'd hate for someone to misinterpret that as them being in any way amateur, because I can assure you there is nothing amateur about these guys. The musicianship is absolutely out of this world and sometimes, if you close your eyes, I swear you'd think Jerry and boys (and girl) were up on stage.
Unfortunately, needing to get back on the road to head back to Atlanta, we only managed to stay for half the set. However, I was more than pleased to leave having heard my favorite Dead song, Jack Straw, and another classic, Terrapin Station.
Adding to the overall atmosphere of those closing hours was the fact that this was Sunday on the mountain – the day when things get a little weird. Generally, the crowds are smaller; many have left early to drive home and others are simply "too tired" to make it out. However, the crowd that does emerge on the hill tends to bring it strong – the tops come off, the dancing gets wild, and there seems to be a real music-first attitude among the fans. Of course, this is also the day you're most likely to see some wookie burn away his final brain cell, fall into another guy's folding chair, and then attempt to explain that he can't pay for the damage because he spent all his money on drugs. The chair owner's response, "I know. It's all over your face!"
So, yeah, Sunday's can get a little wild. But that's All Good for you... a weekend of great music and great friends that always seems to go out with a bang! Or, in this case, a broken folding chair.
*** FESTIVAL NOTES ***
BEST SET: Yonder Mountain String Band
BEST SONG: Morning Dew (performed by Bob Weir & RatDog)
BEST DARK HORSE PERFORMANCE: Cornmeal
BIGGEST SURPRISE: Buckethead
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Todd Snider... love the guy, and his set was cut way too short
THE WEATHER: A+++
BEST NEW FRIEND: Eric, the HeadCount.org intern
FUNNIEST MOMENT: "Mr. Shuffles" breaking the folding chair
BEST PERSONAL MOMENT: Meeting Bill Kreutzmann
BIGGEST "FEELING OLD" MOMENT: From the hill, watching the amazing rave atmosphere during Bassnectar and wishing I could still hang
BAND I MISSED, BUT WISH I CAUGHT: Tie: Trombone Shorty and Lotus
BAND MOST LIKELY TO GIVE ME NIGHTMARES: Les Claypool... the whole stage get-up was a bit creepy
ONE THING I WOULD HAVE CHANGED: Dark Star Orchestra to headline Saturday instead of Ben Harper
PERFORMER I'D LIKE TO SEE AT A FUTURE ALL GOOD (BUT WON'T): Roger Waters
NOTE: Though I may not have mentioned every act in my posts, I did see most of them. You can read all of my All Good posts by going here.
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