Strings & Sol Festival 2016

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Parker

Introduction

    The third time was most certainly the charm this year for me at Strings & Sol, Cloud 9’s annual bluegrass bash on the beach down in Mexico.  So much clicked and grooved and jived in all the right ways and having the privilege of plugging into that unique energy and wonderful positivity that is the Strings & Sol reality became all the more real and important.  And fun…we can’t forget the fun.  What a cast of characters assembled, too, both on stage and off this festival having become a quick repository for so many super fans and linchpins of our community as well as a growing number of multi S&S alumni.  As such, the subculture of Strings & Sol draws you in, seduces you with so many amazing experiences and wonders, and then delights you to the very marrow with unparalleled music, a heavenly atmosphere, and the chance to experience it all with some of your favorite people.  And that lineup?  Are you kidding me?  As always, just the kind of music I want to hear with a frosty beverage in hand and my feet in the sand.  Bravi to Annabel Stelling and all at Cloud 9 who have a hand in making this festival happen each year.  For our money at The Lot Scene, it is clearly one of the best planned, organized, and run fests around.  Honestly, it’s damn near perfect.  Please keep up the wonderful work, guys!!  So many thanks!!  I guess, for me, it’s the overall feeling I get when I come to Strings & Sol.  I am reminded so acutely of summer camp as a child…meeting new people and having fun for a week or so, making lifelong friends in the process, saying goodbye for a year in between…having more fun than seems humanly possible.  And the Now Sapphire plays a huge role in this, too, what with their staff (our counselors if you will) always at the ready to make things happy, to make us happy.  Seeing the same staff from year to year…see?  Just like camp.  And the anticipation.  An entire year’s worth of waiting to get back to the magic.  Back to friends and drinks and music and the beach and the pool and the Buffet and fun.  All that and more:  Strings & Sol.  Camp Strings & Sol.  But, where would our favorite summer camp in December be without the music?  Without those Strings we’ve been hearing so much about?  Where, indeed?  How’s about we get down to business then, my friends…  

Now Sapphire Pool and Pool Bar

Now Sapphire Pool and Pool Bar

Friday Highlights

Yonder Mountain String Band - Leftover Salmon

    Annabel Stelling joined Yonder Mountain String Band for the traditional welcome toast as the waves crashed nearby and as everyone raised their libations high into the evening sky in salute to the good times to come.  Always such a triumphant and expectant moment and certainly a favorite of many in the crowd.  How couldn’t it be?  With so much music in store at that point in the festival, that must serve as a great memory for so many people who attended.  And then, in a flash, the music was off to a hot start with Yonder at the helm getting everyone’s feet a-dancing in that cool white sand once again.  They kicked things off with a speedy and energetic “Insult and an Elbow” from their album Black Sheep.  A good choice in that these five talented individuals showed that they meant business for the remainder of the weekend from the very get go.  Jake Jolliff’s early solo at Warp 5 was a perfect example of this fact.  And Allie Kral's answer to that solo a bit later in the song?  Riveting.  Plainly put, we were all in for some sizzling YMSB this weekend.  And we were loving it.  Another selection from Black Sheep was next in line that evening in the form of a fantastic Strings & Sol rendition of “I’m Lost”.  But, the best thing is, you don’t have to take my word for it because we recorded a lovely video of it just for you!  Please enjoy! 

Nothing like taking it that special vantage point from the beach at S&S.  It really is as magical as everyone says it is.  “Pockets” followed “I’m Lost” for this opening set from Yonder Mountain on the stage sitting blithely next to the sea, the mixture of music and nature creating a heady brew for the crowd below.  Really fine guitar solo from Adam Aijala about a minute into things truly showcasing the musical acumen that is so prevalent in this band.  And this was only echoed in Allie’s own extremely gifted and skilled musicianship exemplified in her own killer soloing.  The next song saw Jake Jolliff come up to the mic to take the lead on King Harvest’s “Dancing in the Moonlight”, yet another excellent cover from YMSB.  They certainly have a strong collection of those very songs.  Fantastic ensemble work from the entire group on this one highlighting that easygoing feel of yesteryear that this song evokes in spades as well as the round robin of sweet solos that kept coming round the bend time and again.  I really enjoyed this version of an old favorite.  Superb job, guys!  Danny Barnes joined the band on stage for a couple of numbers beginning with “Winds of Wyoming” which they took directly into “Funtime” and back into “Winds”.  Holy goodness can that man play the banjo!!  Yonder just knows how to interface with a guest so very well to bring out the very best of the collaboration.  Adam took this to heart with a lengthy and fiery good guitar solo a couple of minutes into the mix.  Such skill on that instrument!  Allie’s contribution to the good times on stage is of necessary mention as well — that good lady can evoke so much incredible joy from that fiddle of hers.  And we are all so glad she does just that!  All of this was in anticipation of Danny on his 5-string, however, as he lit up the night with his own unique brand of picking.  What a monstrously awesome augmentation to Yonder.  Bravo, sir!  Then, Dave Johnston threw down some duet action with Danny as well which was twice the banjo goodness.  So much string band happy on stage all at one time!!  And then it was time for Danny to bust out the lead on “Funtime” with Ben in support on harmonies.  What’s that about Jake nailing down some seriously crazy good solo work?  Yeah, you got that one right, my friend for that certainly went down, too.  Talk about a fun time, indeed.  So fun!  Especially when they slammed right back into “Winds of Wyoming” to finish things out with Danny.  Excellence!  Later in the set, Drew Emmitt of Leftover Salmon came out to add his voice and mando to the madness on the S&S main stage for a couple of songs:  “Summer in the City” into “Kentucky Mandolin” back into “Summer”.  Again, another perfect example of how well Yonder really synchs with other musicians.  I love that aspect of this band.  You could tell Drew was having a blast up there, too, smiling away in such the infectious manner.  Nothing like watching our favorite musicians love what they do.  The final song of the set came a little later with Larry Keel added in this time to increase that fun payout.  Yonder and Larry finished the show with “Sidewalk Stars” an old favorite in the YSMB catalogue.  Larry, of course, added his signature grit and sincerity to the performance which, if you are a fan of Mr. Keel like I am, is always encouraged.  What a way to conclude the opening set of Strings & Sol 2016!!  What a set itself!!  If this was an indication of what was to come (and it was, believe-you-me) we were all in for the best weekend of bluegrass on the beach yet.  And that was pretty damn exciting.  Cheers to Yonder for tearing the lid off Strings & Sol 2016 for us!!  Bravi!!

Yonder Mountain String Band

Yonder Mountain String Band

    Festivaaaaaaaaaaaal!!  Ah, the cry of the Leftover Salmon.  The rally that utters forth time and again from the great polyethnic cajun slamgrass chieftain, Vince Herman.  Leftover Salmon.  That band’s band.  That amazing ongoing experiment in music, madness, merrymaking, and mutual awesomeness.  What would S&S be without LoS?  Where would we all be without them to help welcome us back to camp on the first night of the fun?  I am just glad we didn’t have to find any of that out this year as we watched Salmon take the stage after Yonder Mountain.  I freely admit my bias here:  I adore this band.  It’s really hard not to.  From the energy to the joy to the music to the everything, I really enjoy all that they do.  But, then again, I really like to have fun at shows and Leftover provides fun in droves.  So, let’s get to that fun, shall we?  “Mexico” was our collective intro into how Salmon was feeling this year at S&S.  Drew Emmitt was up to the mic for the lead vocals on this homage to our current location, with the band in full support to be sure.  Nothing at all like that sweet, sweet Salmon ensemble sound.  Alwyn Robinson was serving up some serious beats that translated directly into sand flying around our dancing feet on the beach down below and while the rest of the band wailed away, stirring the pot in all sorts of fine ways.  Quite the auspicious start to what would be a marvelous show.  “Zombie Jamboree” was the perfect follow-up to the intensity of “Mexico”.  Erik Deutsch tore things up on his keys in that ever-more-respectable way that only he can.  As most of you know already, I supremely love that man’s playing.  Especially with this, one of my favorite bands.  Lighthearted and joyous, Vince heartily sang the tongue-in-cheek lyrics as we all jumped and thrashed about in glee and as Andy Thorn serenaded us all on his mystical banjo.  Drew took his own turn at the fun with a lengthy and lively solo on his mandolin.  Pure excellence!  Then, how about a big turn at “Tequila” with Larry Keel?  Oh, the “Tequila” joke, you ask?  Ah, yes.  The “Tequila” joke.  So, apparently as we would find out later in the weekend from Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass, the idea was to play the ending riff of The Champs’ classic “Tequila” after every song and have the crowd yell the magic word.  So, Yonder did begin this…my apologies for not telling you sooner.  And it kept going.  And going.  All weekend.  But, we’ll get to that.  For now, it was still fresh and funny.  And how can’t you love Salmon with Larry Keel?  Next, we managed to get another great video for you to help transport you to the beaches of S&S with us.  Please enjoy this “Whispering Waters”!! 

If you closed your eyes, you could’ve almost been there, right?  That’s what we try to do for you, good people — take you there.  Later on the fantastic familiar drum intro of “Gulf of Mexico” heralded in the perfect anthem for the setting at the Now Sapphire right by that very body of water…or a little around the corner at least.  But who’s counting?  Hey, we were by water in Mexico.  More than good enough for us as we enjoyed this classic from Leftover, Drew at the vocal helm.  Some marvelous banjo badness from Thorn helped kick things into high gear as Drew answered on his electric guitar, all the while Robinson like a mad metronomic monster throwing down the base to the whole affair.  Brilliance from every corner of the band!!  Bravo to Greg Garrison on that bass of his!!  Bravo to Erik on the keys!!  What a showing!!  Then how about a little Hendrix, why not?  Why not, indeed!!  “The Wind Cries Mary” is one of my favorite covers from this band, and they just freakin’ kill it every time I hear it so why shouldn’t it be?  Drew provides the vocals for the adventure and the whole thing is taken at a quick bluegrass pace.  Magnificence.  Erik tickled those ivories so adeptly and sweetly, synth set to organ, phaser set to “kick ass”.  And so much awesomely awesome drumming, Alwyn!  My goodness…leave some beats for the rest of the class, please.  Ha!  Not to mention Drew on his mandolin and Andy on banjo!!  It’s enough musical merriment so as to cause palpitations!  Big, big music from this big music band.  After a small set break the band got back into the shenanigans we’d all been enjoying thus far.  A bit into that second set, the band launched into a “Funky Mountain Fogdown” with a “Tequila” inspired intro that developed into something rather fun and funky, indeed.  Maybe it was Andy Hall’s dobro that really brought the funk to it all.  Whatever the reason, we were on quite the ride through fast pickin’ heaven.  So much great musicianship going round and round and round.  Crazy good!!  I mean, Vince was nailing it on guitar like a super champ and then, bam, hands it right off to Hall who…runs…with…it.  I mean just goes and goes.  Such incredible music.  Not to be outdone, Deutsch comes in on those keys and just dominates until Andy Thorn steals the show on banjo!  Whoa!  What a rush!  What could you even follow that with?  Well, Salmon does it a little something like this:  “Get Up And Go”.  Vince singing to us about living life in much better fashion?  A perfect way to dance out the energy from the “Fogdown” before.  Andy Hall stayed out there throwing down those perfect dobro licks to enhance this travelin’ song.  What a player, huh?  That man knows his instrument so damn well.  So impressive.  So appreciated.  Finally, they closed things down for the night on the main stage with “River’s Rising”.  A great and strong staple of the Salmon catalogue, this one never disappoints.  It’s just a great rock song, you know?  Drew was in fine voice with Vince in support, throwing down the vocals like a a pair of rock gods.  This was a big one, too, clocking in at 13:54 — lots of music up in here.  This, of course, gave everyone the opportunity to shine and shine they did.  From Drew just shredding it on electric to Alwyn going nuts on those skins, the energy just kept building and building.  But the real creme de la creme was the mid section of the song, the jam.  At times pure, high energy rock’n’roll and at others trippy space breakdown, Leftover was determined to take the audience some place far away and special.  And that is exactly what they did.  Wow.  By the time the song came back to itself at the end of the more than 10 minute jam it was still filled with madness and energy and fun and laughter.  What an ending!!  Not a person standing on that beach wasn’t left wheezing with pure merriment and gratitude.  What a show!!  Festivaaaaaaaaaal!!  What a ride!!  And that, my friends, is precisely why we go to Strings & Sol.  Boom!  So many thank yous to the band and their folks who help to get them to places like S&S.  Thanks to the Cloud 9 folks for an amazing first day at Strings.  Ah, back at camp and couldn’t be happier.  So much fun to be had…already had.  Amazing.  And still three days to go!!  

Leftover Salmon with Andy Hall

Leftover Salmon with Andy Hall

Stay tuned for Saturday’s fun, everyone!!

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