All was good in Thornville, Ohio last weekend with the 16th annual All Good Music Festival. Marking its first time being held at Legend Valley, the festival was previously held for a number of years at Marvin’s Mountaintop in Masontown, West Virginia. Still, these festival grounds have accommodated large gatherings before, having held Grateful Dead concerts, Hookahville, and the Werk Out fests.
The festival grounds ran parallel to 1-70 with state route running right through the middle, separating most of the 15,000+ people from the concert bowl. Inside the main concert area were vendors of all types. Some food vendors offered your usual festival fare like corndogs, pizza, and cheesesteak, while others hocked gator bites, organic and vegetarian cuisine, and even some pad thai. Clothing vendors displayed tie-dyed goods, guitar straps with Dead emblems, percussion instruments, hammocks, art, and light-up plastic goods from overseas.
As the crowd would enter the stage area, they moved down a steep hillside. To their right was a fence with lettering that read “Welcome To All Good.” The letters would be re-arranged throughout the weekend to spread messages of love and community.
Thursday night sets were loaded with jam band history. Bob Weir was joined onstage by Bruce Hornsby (who I’m told made his debut with the Grateful Dead at Buckeye Lake 24 years prior) and saxophonist Branford Marsalis (who also has a storied history with the Grateful Dead). Their set would start off with an acoustic “Birdsong” before moving into a mix of Hornsby and Dead songs like “Scarlet Begonias,” “Rainbow’s Cadillac,” and “Franklin’s Tower.” SEE PHOTOS FROM THE SET HERE.
An hour later, Phil Lesh and Friends brought more sounds of the Grateful Dead to the masses. Being from a ‘younger generation,’ I have only seen members of the Dead a few times and was caught off guard with the beginning of Phil’s set. While I thought the band was just tuning their guitars and setting their levels, I concentrated on getting a few good photos of the crowd. However, the band was just working their way into their opening song “Truckin’”. Before I knew it, the set was underway, guitars were howling, and voices were harmonizing ten feet in front of me. With a group that also included sons Brian and Grahame Lesh, Larry Campbell, Jackie Greene, Joe Russo and Teresa Williams, Phil Lesh and Friends delivered notable favorites like “Casey Jones,” “Sugaree,” and “And We Bid You Goodnight,” with numerous jams sprinkled throughout and a cover of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”. SEE PHOTOS FROM THE SET HERE.
Friday’s music differed greatly from Thursday’s and was much more diverse, with sets moving through more jambands, bluegrass, DJs, funk, and blues. Still bands and artists like the Wood Brothers, SOJA, G. Love and Special Sauce, Rubblebucket, Yonder Mountain String Band, and the Pimps of Joytime were able to capture the crowd and myself. Primarily there to cover the “classic rock” artists, I was able to step away from the ‘work,’ grab a bite to eat, and enjoy the music and atmosphere attached the festival.
At 10:15pm, one of the groups I was most anxious and excited to see took the stage for a dazzling spectacle of lights, confetti, and an interesting take on psychedelic rock. The Flaming Lips, along with a group of costumed girls dressed in skimpy Dorothy outfits, put on a two hour set that culminated with a very extended “Do You Realize.” Earlier in the set, frontman Wayne Coyne entered his famed giant inflatable hamster ball and surfed the crowd for several minutes. Following the performance, a brillant display of fireworks entertained the festival-goers before Ohio’s own electro-rockers Papadosio took over the Crane Stage. As 1am passed, New Orleans style funksters Galactic took to the Dragon Stage for a two hour set that included The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy of the Devil.” By this time, I was nearly out of Red Bull and ready for my air mattress. I knew I still had Saturday and Sunday to go.
Even though I only had two bands to cover on Saturday, I was very interested in catching a few other acts for my own amusement. The first was Red Wanting Blue, a group the formed in Columbus in 1995 and made their major network debut on The Late Show with David Letterman earlier in the week (watch the performance HERE). Furthermore, the band featured a relatively newcomer to the band, drummer Dean Anshutz. Dean and I go back about as far as the band does, having played youth soccer together in the mid-90s near Wooster, Ohio. His dad was our coach. RWB will return to Northeast Ohio on August 17th for a concert at Musica in Akron.
Later in the afternoon, another great group of friends played the Crane Stage – Augusta, Georgia’s Passafire. The reggae-rockers had a very difficult week leading up to their appearance at All Good, with their van breaking down and dying, personal items stolen, and thousands of miles put on U-Hauls and other vans. Still, the group put on a memorable set that included newer songs like “Start from Scratch” alongside fan and personal favorites like “Submersible.”
Following Passafire, Dark Star Orchestra performed a 90-minute set on the Dragon Stage. The Grateful Dead tribute act moved through their set with ease jamming through “I Know You Rider,” “Deal,” and “Fire on the Mountain” among others. DSO will be back at Legend Valley for their own festival – The Dark Star Jubilee running August 31-September 2nd. SEE PHOTOS FROM DSO’S SET HERE.
Several hours and performances passed before the night’s most anticipated set – The Allman Brothers Band. At 10pm, Gregg Allman (led by a stage hand with a flash light and a blue solo cup), took the stage along with Warren Haynes, Butch and Derek Trucks, percussionist Marc Quinones, and bassist Oteil Burbridge. Based on where you were in the audience, the sounds from two drummers and percussionist got jumbled and seemed un-synced. However, the group was still full of rock and soul, covering Muddy Waters’ “Trouble No More,” Dr. John’s “I Walk on Gilded Splinters,” Bob Dylan’s “Blind Willie McTell,” and Blind Willie’s “Statesboro Blues.” The band was also sure to feature Allman Brothers’ hits like “Midnight Ridder” and “Whipping Post” (encore). It was very evident that Warren Haynes and Duane Allman have very distinct styles to playing the guitar. Warren’s tones sound more raw and while that of Duane’s sounds more polished and lighter. Still, I was very pleased to have watched the legendary southern-rock keyboardist Gregg Allman before the inevitable time that comes where he either hangs up his hat or joins his brother above us. SEE PHOTOS FROM THE ALLMAN BROTHER’S BAND SET HERE..
After their set, I re-joined some friends on the hill for a slice of spicy pizza, a Sierra Nevada pale ale and another fireworks display. Afterwards, it was time for me to skip the electro-music and head back to my tent, for there was still one more day of music along with a two and a half hour drive back home.
Even though Sunday only featured seven performing groups, most of the crowd stuck around. Few tents were torn down before I made my way back to the concert bowl for Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart. As the temperature climbed to the mid-90s with high humidity, many attendees hid in the minimal shade provided by a line of pine trees while a few hundred brave fans (whether induced by alcohol or love of music) battled the sun for the Mickey Hart Band. Mickey took the stage before 3pm and entered a ring of djembes, bells, and other percussion instruments for a mixed set of Dead classics and new material from his new intergalactic inspired album Mysterium Tremendum. SEE PHOTOS FROM MICKEY HART’S SET HERE.
After Mickey’s set, it was time for this rock reporter to escape the heat. Michael Franti and Spearhead were still yet to perform, but I longed for a home cooked meal, my own bed, and a shower.
All in all, All Good was well… all good. It had been my first experience at this festival and venue. The atmosphere and energy were positive, the weather was wonderful (especially the first two days) and the music was even better. From the gray-haired hippies to the new dubstep kids with furry boots, there was fun to be had by all. Whether or not the organizers decide to return to Legend Valley is up to them. I believe that it worked out just fine and look forward to its 17th annual edition.