08 August 2015 - Farmfest - Medina, OH
for The Lot Scene by Parker
Set One: Mountain Girls, Roll Away > Indecision, Mr. Charlie, Idaho, Loner, Bertha > Franklin’s Tower > Bertha, Goodhearted Woman > Wall Inside, I Know You Rider
Set Two: Big River, Dead Rabbits > Earth Cookies, White Freight > Royals, Jack-A-Roe, Down Under, Seen A Face
Encore: Foggy Mountain
So we at The Lot Scene were lucky enough to score an invite to the small, semi-private Farmfest this year, situated on a quaint and quirky, gorgeous little farm in the vicinity of Medina, Ohio. The grounds were all done up with tents and tables and chairs as people of all ages moved to-and-fro enjoying the fine summer evening. The sun was setting slowly and colorfully in the west as the second music act of the fest wrapped their set. This meant it was time to hear a little Syrup, Hinckley, Ohio’s own sticky sweet jamgrass ambassadors. For those who don’t know, Syrup are: Damion Dolney (mando/vocals), Kevin Hines (bass/vocals), Jared Magyar (lead guitar), Dave Nicholson (banjo/vocals), and Jon Toohey (guitar/vocals). This was my first time hearing Syrup play, although I’d been aware of them for quite some time as I met and befriended Damion last year at Strings and Sol. Just from chatting with Mr. Dolney prior to the show I was excited at the prospect of what he’d shared of the setlist. Suffice it to say, there was a great deal of good music on the way. We helped the band set up and get their space ready — it’s always nice to get to play roadie now and again. And, after everyone had a fresh beer and was in place, both band and audience alike, it was time for some sweet, sticky tunes care of the band known as Syrup.
They chose “Deep Elem Blues” for their soundcheck song (what a treat!), thereby setting the tone for the remainder of their show: fast pickin’, jamming, some excellent original material, and a whole lotta Dead. Like I said, a great deal of good music was on the way. Now it was time to commence things in earnest, opening their show with “Mountain Girls”, some fast pickin’ right at the very beginning. The perfect foundation from which to spring some original works on us, the first being “Roll Away” with Jon killing on lead vocals and the first time in the night I got to witness Jared’s wicked tight skills on lead guitar. Damn, can that man move around those six strings! “Indecision” followed “Roll Away”, however, I there was no indecision in my mind about this song — I really dug it. It had a mellow groove, a hot jam in the middle, and some excellent interplay between the strings, especially between Dave and Jared. They were to “duet” like that several times throughout the night, a sound that now stands out as one of the definitive ones of Syrup. Dave was just so adept at working with Jared and vice versa — it made for a great sound. Then it was time for Dave to hit the mic for the lead on our first official Dead of the night, “Mr. Charlie”. And a mighty fine cover it was, too. Rock solid. Which was followed by another solid cover, this time, Yonder Mountain String Band. Yup, Yonder. A little “Idaho”, too, no less. And the Syrup boys nailed it. With Jared in there shredding his fretboard to bits, how couldn’t they? Chilling things down a bit, Damion took to the mic to croon out the mellow “Loner” which ended up being a hit with the younger crowd present. Go figure. (If not familiar with the ekoostik hookah song, go Google the lyrics.) The fast-paced breakdown at the end of this one featured some excellent mandolin work from Damion not to mention once more Jared, the guitar beast, slaying his lines with precision. Bouncing back to Dead, we got a very fine “Bertha > Franklin’s Tower > Bertha” combo from the boys. Always nice to hear a couple of old friends, no? Good harmonies in “Franklin’s”, too. A really tight set so far. Back to some grass, Dave took the vocals for “Goodhearted Woman” after our dance with the Dead. Another superb addition to the mix. Especially with Kevin laying some supremely fatty bass down, the clacking of his strings on the fretboard providing the perfect amount of percussion and drive for the song, even busting out a sweet solo in the process. Another sound I now associate with Syrup. They took this directly into “Wall Inside” which was followed by another installment of the Grateful Dead. Closing out their first set with “I Know You Rider” the band took it as an opportunity to showcase their multiple skills and talents on their chosen instruments, solos abounding from guitar, banjo, and mando alike, Damion’s being particularly lovely. Excellent first set! I was really looking forward to my second helping of Syrup that evening.
After a healthy dose of professional fireworks displays it was second set time. Pretty cool stuff. And how about a nice, fat “Big River” to get things going? Lots of straight pickin’ and solid string band music, Jared’s acumen popping out in note after note. Perfect opener. The slower, more dirge-like opening “Dead Rabbits” came moving in afterwards developing its pace up into the actual song, a song I rather liked from Syrup. So far, I was really digging their original material. They went directly into the instrumental “Earth Cookies” next, featuring Damion on melody, things at a nice medium pace for some good, old-fashioned string work. Another one I really enjoyed. Especially the driving, lengthy, tasty jam at the end. “Earth Cookies” with Syrup…sounds pretty good. And it did!! And was!! Then we got a nice surprise as Kevin took lead vocals on “White Freight”, backing himself with more of that fantastic “slap-clack” bass from earlier. Damion took this opportunity to bust out an expert solo. No big deal. They went straight from this into the cover “Royals” followed by Dave jumping back up to the mic to give us an excellent “Jack-A-Roe” not to mention some excellent banjo licks in the process. Not ones to disappoint, the Syrup boys even gave us a Men At Work cover in the form of “Down Under”. What a version! Really enjoyed their take on an old favorite of mine. And then it was Jon up to simply spank the lead on The Beatles’ “Seen A Face”. Another great cover with some well-blended harmonies. And a great way to end the second set on a high, high note! But they took it even higher with one last encore tune for us: “Foggy Mountain”. A hard drivin’, fast pickin’ number, it was a mighty fine capstone of an even finer evening of music, all care of Syrup. As a bonfire raged in the background bathing the area in jumping orange light, the last notes rang out to a very happy crowd, smiles on each face displaying their true feelings about what they just saw and heard. And, how could you blame them? It was a truly good show, start to finish. I look very much forward to my next encounter with the boys from Hinckley. If you’re ever in the Cleveland/Akron area of Ohio, be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for your first taste of Syrup. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.