Reviews > Shows
All Good, Yet Again
John Butler – photo by John Patrick Gatta
15th Annual All Good Music Festival & Campout
All Good has long been the little festival that could — and in it’s 15th year, it finally became the festival that did, and did it big.
That’s not to say All Good was ever short of great in years past; rather, something clicked on Marvin’s Mountaintop in way-out-there West Virginia July 14-17, and you’d be hard pressed to find a festival-goer who wasn’t struck by just how smoothly the 4-day weekend went, from the near-seamless ‘no overlapping sets’ practice, to the not-too-hot sunny weather, to the reasonable costs of food and, of course, the undeniably peak quality of so many of the festival’s acts.
All Good began a decade and a half ago in Maryland with less than 1,000 people, staffed by founder Tim Walther and a handful of friends. In 2011, the fest maintained its friends-and-family vibe while brimming with about 30,000 people. The venue certainly didn’t hurt — All Good is tucked into the foothills of West Virginia, so while walking to your campsite might be a hike, it’ll be a breathtakingly scenic one. Hidden streams, treks through the woods and a huge cliff outlining the campgrounds were just part of the package.
A deep, rumbling, electro-snake charmer set from Beats Antique lit the festival fuse Thursday night. Fairly new to the scene, the trio had audience members breaking out the hula-hoops early, as thousands struck into some variation of their own bellydance. But it was the John Butler Trio that first shot All Good sky high. Butler’s sincere acousti-funk wobbled the whole hillside, but his stunning solo, 12-minute instrumental, “Ocean,” brought some JBT faithful to tears. STS9 closed All Good’s first night in good form, with an ambient, twinkling dance party that matched the pristine setting well.
While Saturday’s lineup spotlighted some edgier acts, Friday’s schedule was packed with well-loved jam favorites. An evening of Galactic’s dirty funk, the endlessly somersaulting guitar of Keller Williams and the classic rock sting of the Warren Haynes Band set the stage for Furthur’s second year headlining All Good.
As Walther found his way into the scene as a Dead lot dweller, he’s made it clear that All Good is a Dead-centric festival — and the audience seemed to agree. Though Furthur took the stage late (the only band to do so all weekend), once the first notes of opener “Jack Straw” twirled up the hill, any anxiousness was put to rest. While muddied sound dampened Furthur’s 2010 set at All Good, the band played with crisp precision on classics like “Corrina,” “Bertha,” a majestic “Terrapin Station Suite” and an “I Know You Rider” that veered into “She Came into the Bathroom Window.”
Scene vets Umphrey’s McGee closed out well past 4 a.m., skipping no ounce of irony as the near-daylight crowd got down to a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough.”
All Good has always been a musically focused festival — go jam or go home. That’s an admirable, and increasingly rare, quality among festivals, but it worked against garage rockers These United States, whose fantastic Saturday afternoon set was largely ignored.
By early evening Saturday, though, All Good could not be stopped. Rebelution provided some prime and much-needed mellow vibes, leading into a genre-clashing, head-exploding night that stretched into Sunday. Yonder Mountain String Band and moe. loosened the crowd (“I usually play this song without pants on,” said Yonder’s Jeff Austin before diving into “Complicated”) before the slithering electro-jams of Papadosio, a young band whose rapid growth was apparent simply from All Good set times: early afternoon in 2010 to pre-headliner in 2011.
That headliner was Primus, and Les Claypool’s original trio arrived with appropriate stage décor — two gigantic astronauts — as the band, to the surprise of many fans of mellower grooves, ripped All Good right open. There is simply nothing quite like a Claypool bassline. Songs like “Whamola” quaked and shook with frantic energy.
But the night belonged to Pretty Lights, an act whose ascent to the pinnacle of the electronic heap, along with Bassnectar, has been staggering. Fittingly, too, he spun (sans drummer) from atop a huge, glowing pyramid, forcing the most urgent and elastic dancing of the festival. A slow-building remix of John Denver’s “Country Roads” (with its refrain “Almost heaven, West Virginia) blew apart any tiny portion of the audience still gripping reality and launched the Mountaintop into a frenzy of movement.
While the sun rose on Sunday, three-dozen dancers kept moving as a Shakedown Street vendor blasted dubstep remixes, desperately holding onto the feeling of the night before. The rest of All Good may have been asleep, but the sentiment was pervasive: hold on as long as you can; it’s a long wait till 2012.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
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