Friday: bella vida at harmony park in geneva minnesota
Saturday: summer camp in chillicothe illinois.
Sunday: delfest in cumberland maryland.
Memorial day weekend has always been a busy one for me. I’m happy and lucky to say that this year was no different. Being so dependent on the airline industry makes me think differently when it comes to weekends like this. I am forced to think that flights will be delayed, connections will be missed, gear will be lost or damaged by the airport throwers and I will miss my time slots completely. If any of that does happen, I wouldn’t be so sad because I was expecting it. But when we arrive on time and all the gear shows up and more importantly, it all works, it’s a means for a celebration. I’m happy to announce that there was a lot of celebrating this weekend as the weekend plan came together perfectly.
Harmony park is magic site for a show. I played there for 15 minutes back in 1999 as a tweener (Between sets) during the summer sessions tour featuring string cheese, gov’t mule, moe and galactic. Each band brought along a tweener. Galactic brought radioactive, moe brought gibb droll, the mule brought kevn kinney and I was with the cheese. I remember the site being special there and was excited to return. When we pulled into the back stage area, I immediately got turned on to heatbox, a minneapolis based solo act who relies on vocal loops to accompany his singing. His style was slightly in the doo-wop vain which was refreshing. A few other musicians joined him by the tail end of his set but his solo stuff was where it was at for me. The crowd seemed very familiar to his stuff as they were singing along loudly to songs I’ve never heard. I love that. Being an outsider to a musical act that a lot of people are hip to. I get excited by the energy and feel as if I’ve been missing out, thus making me attempt to mentally catch up. After heat box was emmitt-nershi- 2 leaders in the high country bluegrass revolution. Bill nershi on guitar and drew emmitt on mandolin. Drew broke ground with leftover salmon and billy with string cheese. Together they complement each other’s style by staying true to the bluegrass, string band formula. I sat in with them and they with me. After my set, we journeyed back to minneapolis for a 2 hour nap and an early flight to chicago. Once there, we drove 3 hours to chillicothe illinois for the 10th annual summer camp. Moe originally started the fest and eventually partnered up with umphrey’s mcgee. Summer sessions rolled through this site in ‘99 and moe started up the fest the following year. They continually have impressive lineups and this year was no exception. The site is massive with a shakedown street type of path through the woods. Tents were almost on top of each other as they had record attendance. Somewhere in the 13 thousand range. Lots of open fields with stages. Two big stages, one smaller stage, and one in the campground, which was the smallest but, had the most shade. It was hot as balls. Upon arrival, we were treated to a set by steel pulse followed by a.l.o. I then hauled ass over to another stage to catch the tail end of victor wooten. That guy is a genius. I’m thinking he’s going to go down in bass player history in a similar way to that of jaco pastorious. Its like victor took everything he could learn from jaco and then excelled way way beyond. I left that stage inspired. After that set, I was drawn to some super nasty, crunk style beats that were laid out by ana sia. A san fran based female dj with a computer. She was cool. She hand danced and moved her lips to the hip hop samples that she was dropping. She was almost animated and looked like the girl dancing next to me. People were connecting with her and hanging on to her every tension build, then exploding with the climaxes. The temperature was well into the 90s but people were out in full force. From there I walked over to the late night barn to squeeze my old buddy andrew queen. He was there helping to set up sts9. Y’all will see him stage right this summer, filling in for boogie as the string cheese guitar tech. Go drew!!! I then made my way back through the sleeping wookies of the forest to the stage where I would be playing. The sun was thinking about going down and was right in my face. It was to the audiences’ back which made them very happy. I like a happy audience. I was joined for two songs by danny barnes. We did cornpone sally- you can find a version of that along with moseley, droll, sipe and barnes at theonceaweekfreek.com
The version we played at summer camp was my loop version. Then we played the danny barnes version of get it while you can. A version appears on the new thief record. After my set, moe ripped it up in custom suits. Damn, they looked good. We would have stayed longer and seen more music, but we had a 3 hour drive to chicago and an 8 am flight. If we got in the hotel by midnight, we’d have 6 hours to sleep. That sounded nice. And it was. On our way out, I stopped by to check out pretty lights. Wow. They had a sea of people in front of them and yes, a lot of pretty lights. A dude, a computer, and a drummer. The video production for this set was way way high for a festival set. Big digital screens behind them and on the dj and drum risers. I was amazed. It was very cool. Soul and funk style samples done very tastefully.
The next day, we flew to D.C. From there we drove to delfest in cumberland maryland to do a set with keith moseley and jeff austin. Joe craven gave me such an incredible introduction, it almost brought me to tears. Keith, jeff and I were joined on stage by darol anger, scott law, danny knicely, wavy dave (cornmeal), larry keel and joe craven. It was a cluster pluck. After our set, del mcCoury and his family took the stage. It’s impossible to see del and not smile and be happy. His son ronnie is the nicest dude you will ever meet. Not only does he look like his daddy but he sounds like him too. The respect is high in that family and I truly respect that. Del brought out his older brothers for some tunes and I believe ronnie brought out his sons to play. It was truly a special performance and I felt lucky to watch it for free. The dave rawlings machine closed the festival. Joined by gillian welch and a really cool string band, they breezed through familiar tunes as only folk royalty could. The next day I jumped in a car with larry and jenny keel to go to nyc for a press day. We had a free night so we caught the blue man group, which is total trip. If you haven’t seen them yet, I highly recommend it. Afterward, we had drinks and munchies with my old friend christine stauder at the b bar. Tuesday we went to the relix office where we did a podcast recording. From there went to sirius radio for a live on air performance/interview with Stef Scamardo. They both went well (despite some botched lyrics at relix)and I had a blast with keels (as all ways). After sirius/xm, I hopped in a cab to the train station where I caught a train to D.C. where my wife picked me up and took me to a super fancy restaurant called equinox on I and 17th. Owned and operated by my old buddy/super cool gourmet genius of Chef, Todd Gray. The meal was incredible and I truly look forward to returning. From there we walked a few blocks to the 18th st. Lounge where I was denied entry because of my crocs. These were not regular crocs. These had a nice piece of leather on top that matched my pressed pants and my clean collared shirt. I looked good. But door dude wasn’t havin’ it. We didn’t make a scene and just turned around and started to walk away. We surely cussed the shit out of that place on the walk to the hotel. We both swore we would never return to that snobby uptight piece of shit place. But…..we woke up thinking we might try it again with a nice pair of merrells. It is owned by the thievery corporation so I couldn’t be too mad. They are the coolest. But damn, they could lighten up the cool croc policy. They could keep out regular crocs and let in the cool crocs. I will always have an uncomfortable pair of shoes in my truck should the situation arise again. The music is always fantastic, the place is just a bigass apartment with an incredible vibe turned into a nightclub where everyone wears uncomfortable shoes. With such a fantastic weekend under my belt, the situation didn’t really bother me. I felt pretty lucky to complete the memorial weekend inspired and unscathed.