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All Good has always been my favorite festival to attend as a patron. This year I was a little anxious, given the new location and the fact that the festival had booked itself for the very same weekend as Gathering of the Vibes. Although official figures can’t be confirmed, this year’s attendance seemed down.▼ Article continues below ▼
The lineup missed the vivacity that it has had in years past. Some of the most hyped performances proved to be the more disappointing of the weekend, while various lower-level acts were picking up the reins, creating one of a kind moments on stage. This, in part, was due to a disconnection of energy between the stage and the crowd. The concert bowl in Legend Valley is bigger, and the hill is home to plenty of shade. There was so much space that some of the connective electricity we’ve all felt in the West Virginia bowl was missing.
Additionally, All Good has no overlapping sets. If the lineup isn’t 100% of interest to you, there may be large periods of time where you are left wanting to ignore the stages. This isn’t a bad thing. All Good usually has something for everyone musically, and the slowed down, relaxed pace gives you ample time to explore and indulge in other experiences.
For a festival that has had to completely rebuild in a different location thousands of miles from its original home, while attempting to make attendees pick between itself and Vibes, All Good 2012 was a monumental success. It will be exciting to watch this festival learn and grow with their new home in Legend Valley, Ohio.
Without wasting any time, the only poor-ish performance worth mentioning at All Good was perhaps the most disappointing of the weekend. For many attendees the Flaming Lips were the main reason for coming to All Good 2012, but when they took the stage it was obvious that something wasn’t 100%. Wayne Coyne looked tired. When he spoke his voice was muffled and raspy.
Regardless, the Lips opened up with a ferocious burst of energy. The stage was a combustion of confetti, movement, emotion, and smoke during “Race For the Prize” and the “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song.” After that point, their set took a decidedly mellow turn with a cover of Pink Floyd’s “On The Run” followed by the spaced-out track “Is David Bowie Dying??”, a collaboration the group did with Neon Indian. The rest of their set dawdled through the flatter, unhurried moments of The Soft Bulletin, Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, and At War With the Mystics. Equally far-out, oddball tracks like “Ashes in the Air,” a song done with Bon Iver and “Drug Chart”, one of the tracks released in the band’s 2011 Gummy Skulls, flash drives with music inside of a seven pound skull crafted of edible gummies, made their appearance as well.
Wayne Coyne pulled out all of his usual tricks – big laser hands, that crowd-surfing plastic bubble, two packs of female dancers from the audience, a megaphone, a confetti gun, a stage full of balloons, and extravagant visuals. After all is said and done, the performance seemed rushed, and at times dispassionately pushed through, like a labor of love that had lost its ardor.
There were moments where the audience and the band seemed disconnected from one another, and Coyne made it visibly apparent that he felt it too. On multiple occasions he reminded the crowd that he had a camera strapped to him, stressing that our time was coming to an end soon. I remember immediately feeling anxious for him and for the rest of the set, as if we were all in this big mess together and that only together could we get out of it.
Ending early, the Lips made sure to finish on a positive note with an extended version of “Do You Realize??” Coyne willed the crowd to turn their magic onto the world – that if society could be like us in that moment, we would all be ok in the end. It was as though after singing that song, whatever was missing had returned to Wayne, the band, and the festival.
“I’m sorry for everything I said about you Wayne!” a person in the audience screamed. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry…”
Ohio outfit The Werks were probably excited to move from a day set to an evening slot on the main stage at this year’s festival, which had conveniently relocated to their home state. The Werks play epic jam music, big standout guitar riffs against a steady dance beat and groove, made a little psychedelic. Shortly into their set, drummer Rob Chafin stopped mid-track, speaking into the microphone, “Hold up hold up hold up- I wanna get into it… ” “Oh yeah?” replies another bandmate. “Like a sex machine, man,” Chafin continues, “Can I count it off? 1-2-3-4,” dropping into a Werk-Out version of James Brown’s “Sex Machine.” The crowd went wild.
Shpongle presents the Masquerade
Simon Posford smiled happily from inside of a Masquerade version of his Shpongletron. The Shpongletron is an an edifice made of various video panels to look like a giant mask sitting atop a stage. This version was smaller but sleeker, brighter, and more visually stunning than Posford’s original structure. The Masquerade placed the Dj font and center, glowing bright pink. Posford operates his psychedelic transformer, blending world instruments and sounds into EDM heaven, morphing through colors and shapes of every kind, that twist and turn about to make the mask appear to have motion and texture.
If you aren’t able to catch Shpongle’s full-band, which features visual and performance artists of every kind, as well as a host of instruments found around the globe, then marvel at the Masquerade. Posford has developed two of the most powerful, creative live performances on the electronic scene, both of which are so different, but so worth loving and experiencing individually.
Elephant Revival was slated to have the first performance of the day on Saturday, and by the time of their supposed set a line had formed outside of the gates to the concert bowl. Security wouldn’t let anyone in before the music started. Just as fans were released into the bowl and streamed down the hill toward the stage, the band strummed its first few chords into the air. Elephant Revival is simple, with a home-baked apple pie type of sweetness. Vocalist Bonnie Paine whispers softly into the mic, introducing each song and thanking the crowd with the flash of a smile that leads shyly toward a downward glance.
This quintet performs with fiddles, violas, washboards, saws, guitars, and a banjo, among other instruments. Even so, contrasting harmonies alongside a rich set of acutely thoughtful lyrics, and the soft, deep throated warble of Paine’s voice against an unselfish backdrop of folk and bluegrass give Elephant Revival a stripped down feel, turning their music into such that is simple, elegant, and timeless.
The Wood Brothers
It was hot and humid. The sun was beating down strong. There was no shade in front of the stage. Yet, like a fish to water, All Good attendees were drawn toward the full-bodied homeliness of Oliver Wood’s voice. The Wood Brothers performed a relaxing set, playing tracks off their new live record as well as old favorites like “Luckiest Man” and “Liza Jane”. The pair, with the addition of drummer Jano Rix, craft timeless songs, each feeling personally intimate, regardless of whether or not the lyrics are about a type of molasses pie found in the Pennsylvania countryside or one of the Wood brother’s dream girls. We all have a little bit of this kind of country in us somewhere, and The Wood Brothers will pull it out.
Everyone Orchestra / The Rex Jam
It’s not the same as Bonnaroo’s superjam. The Rex Jam is, on the surface, much like the Everyone Orchestra. A conductor leads an improvisational jam session with a random selection of available artists and conducts the jam using whiteboards and dry erase markers, various themes, and the help of the audience. The difference is that The Rex Jam is a live-performance fundraiser, where volunteers are sent into the audience to collect donations for the REX Foundation, a non-profit founded by The Grateful Dead decades ago as a way to support other non-profits and artists. Everyone Orchestra is just that, sans fundraising, and each year both jams happen at All Good.
Everyone Orchestra’s Matt Butler conducts them, crafting different lineups for each set. This year’s Everyone Orchestra included the members of ALO as well as Rubblebucket’s horn section and percussionist. Saturday’s Rex Jam featured musicians from a larger slate of bands including Elephant Revival, Railroad Earth, and Tea Leaf Green, as well as musicians Reed Mathis and Roosevelt Collier.
On stage the musicians smile and fidget about nervously, a mix of anxiety and excitement flitting across their faces. Butler orchestrates with a gusto of energy, communicating silently to each artist and to the audience, wild gestures building the excitement from within the crowd. When you throw together select picks from the day’s lineup and put them on stage in front of a willing audience with Matt Butler at the helm, chances are you’ll see a performance that builds compositionally through a unique synthesis of artist and audience, festival and attendee. A nexus that, when drafted into song, captures the essence of what it means to be soaked in stage lights, laid up in a hammock, roaming through campsites, or in the thick of the crowd during that one summer weekend where you managed to escape reality and find your way to All Good Music Festival.
When Papadosio took the stage shortly after the Lips ended, the energy turned from floundering to prosperous. Bodies, movement, buzzing, whirring you into the night. Papadosio has come into their own over the past year. Last summer was full of seminal performances for the band. The fan base they’ve built through touring and surprising large audiences at events like All Good and Camp Bisco is alive and well, in fact it’s thriving.
It’s true. Lettuce was the highlight of this year’s All Good festival for us at Performer. Regardless of how many times we have seen, photographed, written about, and spoken with Lettuce, they never fail to surprise us. We have walked away from their sets before at events, but definitely not this time. Performing after the Allman Brothers, Lettuce opened up with a literal BANG. Fireworks exploded behind Neal Evans as he lit onto his keys with a zealous rage, giving the performance an energy most keyboardists play without.
The energy in the crowd that had, at times, felt missing throughout All Good 2012 was finally present. The group nailed it. They played tracks off of their new release Fly, including their cover of “Slippin’ Into Darkness” which proved just as potent live as recorded, stirring people into a frenzy.