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Deep Roots Mountain Revival 2016 - Friday

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Deep Roots Mountain Revival 2016 - Friday

DEEP ROOTS MOUNTAIN REVIVAL 2016

Marvin’s Mountaintop, WV

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Bill Rudd

Friday Highlights

    We awoke Friday morning to a gorgeous late summer day, the sky bright blue and the sun so warm that tents were uninhabitable shortly after 9AM. It was a welcome wake up call as we looked forward to the 10 world class acts scheduled to take the dual main stages of Deep Roots Mountain Revival. The massive festival stages were set up side by side, similar to the All Good days, in the corner of an expansive grass field facing a long sloping hillside that provided an abundance of additional viewing angles. A collection of vendors were set up along the entrance to the meadow, with Steal Your Plate, Shady Grove Wraps and several other tasty dining options to the right and about a dozen of the funkiest festival clothing and craft booths situated to the left. Things got started on Stage B around noon with Matt Mullins & The Bringdowns, West Virginian rockers who literally blend alternative and country to create hard edged twangy tones that filled the lawn and hillside. As we approached to investigate further it became immediately apparent that there was almost no one in attendance for the early afternoon’s first set, with only about 20 people who had mostly gathered near the shade of the soundboard’s canopy. Truth be told we must have been late arrivals ourselves because the set quickly came to its conclusion with an Uncle Tupelo cover, but not before we enjoyed a brief moment to bang our heads and stomp our feet simultaneously. Music was officially back in the heart of Marvin’s Mountain Top! 

Matt Mullins & The Bringdowns

Matt Mullins & The Bringdowns

    Megan Jean & The KFB were set up to the left on Stage A and after the previous night’s Roots Stage set we were extremely excited to hear Megan’s bold voice booming through the festival’s biggest speakers. Our high expectations were confirmed when “Playground Queen” began blasting across the mountaintop at a thunderous volume, sure to reach those just arriving, or yet to break camp for the day. Despite their loud volume the KFB specializes in stripped down tales of twisted knives and voodoo that rely on the rhythm of the duo to make you involuntarily dance to the madness. It was a little out of place to hear such dark imagery sung on a crystal clear sunny day surrounded by rolling green mountains. The next song, however, provided particularly poignant lyrics given the sparse crowd circumstances so far “Foxes in the hen house. Ain't it a shame nobody's home.” Indeed it was a shame that more people hadn’t made it to the festival in time to experience the pair of honest and energetic performances put on by Megan Jean and the Klay Family Band. 

    Up next were the rowdy Ohioans knows as The Rumpke Mountain Boys and they were more than ready to entertain the several dozen Mountain Revivalists that had assembled for their 2PM set. The four piece has evolved over the years, refining their brash style of bluegrass as they’ve crisscrossed the country honing their craft. After our back road journey to the mountaintop their lyrics “99 roads to travel but I'll get there someday” were felt wholeheartedly by the audience. Guitarist Adam Copeland sang “Fourdinaire” a descriptive story about their preferred partying lifestyle that can be found on their latest album High Time, Low Tide. They followed up with another song that couldn’t have been more apropos, calling out the “West Virginia Appalachian Mountains that I love.” Speaking of shout-outs it was nice to hear the Boys reference another former All Good location, the Sunshine Daydream Memorial Park in nearby Terra Alta, WV, a venue that helped the band build a tremendous fanbase among the region’s festival community. Mandolin player Ben Gourley switched to a similarly strung tenor guitar for a trashgrass take on the Grateful Dead’s “Althea” which signified a theme that would carry throughout the festival, with many more band members switching instruments and plenty of Dead covers to come. While the Rumpke Mountain Boys wrapped up their Friday set with a tune glorifying life in the medicine show we decided to mosey on back to camp to get prepped for the rest of the day’s music.  

The Rumpke Mountain Boys

The Rumpke Mountain Boys

    We hurried on back to Main Stage A where The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers were locked and loaded and off with a bang, breaking out the roaring instrumental “Old Joe Clark” which unleashed the picking prowess of every member of the five piece. Five piece? Yep, you read that right. The Stragglers had gained a member overnight with the addition of PA’s Fiddlin’ Ray Bruckman who was joining the band on mandolin. Guitarist Gary Antol sang lead on an original swing tune called “Get Along Gone” before JFS took things up another notch with a blistering version of Flatt & Scruggs’ instrumental “Lonesome Road Blues” anchored by expert banjoist Joe Dep. They drove that one directly into their outstanding original tune “Checkmate” for a fantastic combination of old and newgrass. But don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself!

 Awesome right? The talented Libby Eddy was back singing lead on a pair of covers, first the appropriate “High On A Mountain” written by Ola Belle Reed, and then the Peter Rowan penned “Thirsty in the Rain,” a song that fits her beautiful voice so brilliantly the band recorded it on their latest album White Lightning Road. Newcomer to the Stragglers and former Brummy Brothers bassist Dave Brumberg stepped up to the mic for “Joy Bells Ringing” a traditional bluegrass number that suited his voice nicely and showed off his bass abilities a bit too. The band’s original instrumental “Red Prairie Dawn” was next with some exceptional fiddle work from Libby which they followed with “White Lightning Road” about the time honored tradition of bootlegging moonshine. The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers finished up with “I Know You Rider,” a traditional tune made famous by the likes of The Grateful Dead and Seldom Scene, that’s become a festival staple and thus a fitting choice to close out a their second stellar Mountain Revival set. Well done!

The Jakob's Ferry Stragglers

The Jakob's Ferry Stragglers

    After perusing the food options some more and refilling our beverages (gotta stay hydrated out there folks) we made our way back to Stage B where we expected to find Shooter Jennings. What we found instead were Waymore’s Outlaws without Shooter, and they were playing his father Waylon’s classic “Good Hearted Woman” as a tribute to their former bandleader. They followed that with... a set break? Really. A fifteen minute set break amidst an hour and fifteen minute set. Interesting time management to say the least. Our patience was rewarded when Shooter finally took the stage, solo at first with an acoustic guitar in his arms as he stood behind an electric keyboard. He wailed a country ballad first, strumming the guitar while letting his powerful voice command the audience which was still no more than a couple hundred folks at most. Shooter switched over to the keys and demonstrated his instrumental ability with a haunting composition that built around an extended intro before segueing into his hit “All Of This Could Have Been Yours,” which was gained popularity thanks to its appearance on the television show Sons of Anarchy. The Outlaws returned to supply backup to Shooter as the group finished out the set with a heavy dose of the hard hitting country rock that they’re known for. 

Waymore's Outlaws

Waymore's Outlaws

    The country vibe increased considerably when Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives took the to the A Stage in all their sequined glory. This is a real deal country western rock and roll band, complete with coordinated outfits and the twang to match. They proved it further with their spot on take of the genre’s standard bearer “Country Boy Rock & Roll,” which proved they meant business with speed and precision in addition to excellent harmonies. Next was another appearance of the infamous “I Know You Rider,” a song that some might consider too popular for its own good. This was the third or fourth time it had been played at the Mountain Revival (Looking at you Jakob’s Ferry). They followed that with Marty’s original "The Whiskey Ain't Workin'," a hit as a duet with Travis Tritt in the 90s and still a hit with the fans in the field on Friday. It was extremely interesting to watch the composition of the crowd change with each band. Older folks with tucked in Harley t-shirts sat in folding chairs where tie-died and dreadlocked people had been swaying to Rumpke Mountain Boys a few hours prior. No stranger to the spotlight Marty lead His Fabulous Superlatives with an epic “House of the Rising Sun” as the setting sun began to sink over the West Virginia mountains, ending another marvelous set of music.

Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives

Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives

    It was time for a diversion from the Main Stages as Grand Ole’ Ditch was set to perform on the VIP Stage, which was under a medium sized tent and separated from the common festival folk in a forested grove atop a nearby hill. The 7 member progressive bluegrass collective from Cumberland, MD, had ingeniously managed to have about a dozen of their friends and fans shuttled up to the secluded venue, by allowing their friend (me) to commandeer the band’s very own van. Talk about going the extra mile to get good folks in front of your music! And what great music it was, as Ditch started the intimate performance with a rocking rendition of banjoist Craig Miller’s “Take Me Back” which they followed with the breakneck instrumental “Chester's Breakdown.” The band kept the original tunes coming with their recent release’s relatable title track “Unwind,” that featured an extended intro before merging immediately into “Whippoorwill,” as smoothly as it does on the album. Jody Mosser mainly plays dobro with Grand Ole’ Ditch but switched to his Martin D-28 guitar for an extended solo that lead to his lovely instrumental “Pickin’ For Breakfast.” 

    A fantastic aspect of the VIP stage is its close proximity to the Main Stages, complete with a handy wooden deck which allows you to look overlook them without leaving the hilltop. We took full advantage of the perch to catch a couple songs from Fruition who had already begun rocking on Stage B. The Portland based folk rock band performed “I Can't Stop,” a rootsy song sung by guitarist Jay Cobb Anderson. Mandolinist Mimi Naja was up next singing “The Wanter,” a really fun tune with a bluegrass bounce about someone with a phobia of wedding rings. The last song we caught from high above the main field was the appropriately titled, “Above the Line” off their recently released Labor of Love record which features the fancy drum work of Tyler Thompson and the vocals of guitarist Kellen Asebroek. We rambled back over to the Grand Ole’ Ditch set in VIP just in time to hear Fiddlin’ Ray Bruckman, fresh off of mandolin duty with Jakob’s Ferry, shredding some bowstrings on his incendiary instrumental “Dragon's Breath.” Up next was “Dark Rider” an original that recently made its way back into the band’s rotation and nicely summed up the experience we felt approaching the festival grounds. “Gaze upon the mountain, leave it all behind. Lay my tracks on down the road for someone else to find.” The band wasn’t about to leave anything behind in their allotted time, finishing the set with a raucous reggae-fied version of The Dillard’s “Old Man at the Mill” that’s become a favorite among Ditch diggers, in this instance requested by Libby of The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers. Musicians appreciating and interacting with other musicians was a special part of the Deep Roots experience and something we would see much more of over the course of the weekend.

Fruition

Fruition

   After an extended rest and recovery period back at camp we prepared ourselves for the impending session of world class jamgrass with Cabinet and Greensky Bluegrass scheduled back to back on the Main Stages. As we approached the infield to take our places up front we found the pop country act Love and Theft performing on Stage A with a straightforward cover of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” that a friend likened to a couple’s skate. They closed their set with a song about their fondness for Jesus and then it was finally time to get high on Pennsylvania bluegrass. Cabinet didn’t waste any time riling up the several hundred strong crowd with a fiery “Hit It On The Head” followed with a spectacular “Celebration” featuring Pappy Biondo on lead vocals in addition to the custom Circle Strings electric banjo he’s been playing predominantly as of late. His cousin, mandolinist JP Biondo took a turn singing lead on the long adored Cabinet classic, “The Tower” before the band transitioned to the cowboy anthem “Diamond Joe” which included some significant shredding from Mickey Coviello’s electric guitar. The fluidity with which the boys swap out instruments is always amazing, with Pappy switching back to his traditional Nechville banjo mid-song and especially impressive when Dylan Skursky’s bass changes from electric to upright without the band missing a beat. The spacey instrumental “Mysterio” was next and gave the dual drummers Jami Novak and Josh Karis a chance to show off their syncopation as well as some supplemental percussion that really adds to the breakdowns. Hot, hot, fire from all 6 of the band members there. "Watch out folks we're comin' atcha," exclaimed Pappy in his distinct drawl. JP was back lending his voice to “Treat Me So Bad,” which was a swingy palate cleanser before things got much heavier with the dramatic “Any Old Sign” which fell to “the Todd side” with a howling fiddle solo from Todd Kopec. The fellas really let loose after that with a wild and wonderful “Arco Arena,” which is derived from a snippet of a Cake song that they extrapolate expertly and often, this time with an added segment of “Shady Grove” to conclude what was already a monumental jam. And it didn’t end there — the band dedicated their rapid bluegrassy instrumental “Po's Reel” to a birthday girl named Candace and a couple called the Koons who were celebrating their 17th anniversary on the mountaintop. Interestingly it was the drummers who stood out on the song, demonstrating how a few well-timed symbol strikes can add gravitas to a bluegrass tune in a way that no mandolin can. The song’s usual “It Ain’t Me” tease was extended into a full on “Under the Sea” segment for all the Little Mermaid heads in attendance, before the band dove back in and finished the explosive mando lead reel. The grand finale was yet another extended jam that included a short diversion into “Shine Like the Sun” where it seriously seemed as if Pappy was communicating with both drummers solely via his eyes and electric banjo. For good measure they tacked on a hint of “Fire on the Mountain” to the outro, which made perfect sense because Cabinet had just set Marvin’s Mountain Top ablaze with a fire breathing monster of a set. Bravo boys, bravo! 

Cabinet

Cabinet

    That might have been a tough act to follow but if anyone’s up to the challenge it most certainly was Greensky Bluegrass. The Michigan powerhouse quintet opened the proceedings with a funky “Jaywalking” through thick billowing fog that engulfed the stage. Guitarist Dave Bruzza stepped through the mist and up to the mic for “Somebody To Lean On” in his unmistakable raspy tone. The crowd had swelled significantly by this point, with the flat part of the field mostly full, however it was still one of the most intimate Greensky festival performances you’re ever likely to find. Mandolinist Paul Hoffman, or phoffman as the kids call him, was back singling lead, dropping f-bombs and jaws with an emphatic “Windshield,” the emotion drenched ballad from their previous release If Sorrows Swim. With a full harvest moon overhead and stage lights eerily illuminating the smoke that persisted through the set, it seemed almost as if Paul was the mythical wolfman, leading his pack with an intense outcry of emotion. The track that contains their last album’s title line “Burn Them” was next, with it’s fast pace punctuated by Anders Beck’s dobro, which picked the party back up into a frenzy. Greensky won the competition for first Main Stage band to call the state by its unofficial title, “West, by God, Virginia,” a prestigious distinction to be sure. Bruzza was back singing “Doin’ My Time,” a number brought to bluegrass by Flatt & Scruggs and turned into a gravelly jamgrass interlude by Greensky. The boys took things to The Dark Side of the Moon with their awesome interpretation of “Time > Breath,” the legendary Pink Floyd piece that’s been a staple of GSBG sets for almost a decade. The evening’s festivities reached a grandiose pinnacle with an elongated exploratory “Don't Lie” that at times resonated across Marvin’s Mountain Top like a herd of bison stampeding across the plains. Back at the comfort of camp it seemed as if the echoes continued to reverberate for hours, though that was likely just BIG Something or Pigeons Playing Ping Pong crushing it late into the night on the Roots Stage. Without a doubt the Deep Roots team made sure that there was certainly no shortage of incredible music on Friday, with many more amazing Mountain Revival moments yet to come.

Greensky Bluegrass

Greensky Bluegrass

Saturday's review and photos coming soon, friends!!

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Deep Roots Mountain Revival 2016 - Thursday

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Deep Roots Mountain Revival 2016 - Thursday

Deep Roots Mountain Revival 2016

Marvin’s Mountaintop, WV

Festival Experience Archive

for The Lot Scene by Bill Rudd

    There's something to be said for being an early adopter. Normally that term is used for technology but it's equally applicable for music and especially the festival format. Like buying the newest iPhone, attending the first incarnation of a festival is always a bit of a gamble. Sure you can read up on the information provided by the organizers ahead of time, but it’s difficult to accurately anticipate how the details will fall into place in person. Could you be one of the first folks to have an amazing new festival experience? Absolutely. Could you be walking into complete discombobulation? Also a possibility. There are always pros and cons to consider but if you conclude to make the trip determined to have a phenomenal time, you could be rewarded with memories and bragging rights to last a lifetime.

    Deep Roots Mountain Revival is an extremely interesting case because of its storied location on Marvin’s Mountaintop in Masontown, WV. This legendary venue played host to tens of thousands of people at the All Good Music Festival from 2003 to 2011 and earned a reputation for parties of epic proportions. Folks familiar with the site’s history couldn’t help but wonder how the first Mountain Revival would compare with All Goods past. The impressive multi-genre lineup lead us to believe that the music would be plentiful, but would the festival goers be as abundant? The only way to find out was to attend. Or read this review. Either way, it looks like you’ve come to the right place!
 


Thursday Highlights

    After exiting I-68 somewhere across the West Virginia line, we quickly found ourselves winding down narrow back roads, up and over hills as the sun started to set over the mountains. With a Deep Roots approved playlist pumping from the stereo, we were welcomed to WV by a randomly selected Hillbilly Gypsies track, “West Virginia My Home” off their One Foot in the Gravy album. We were confident in our GPS directions and the abilities of the all-wheel drive Subaru that transported us, but these were still some extremely legitimate country roads, with deep ruts and potholes seemingly springing up with each passing turn. Just as we thought we must have gone too far, having not passed a car for miles, we finally merged with a main road, right before the entrance to Marvin’s Mountain Top. We had arrived at the storied grounds of festivals past, ready to embark on a brand new experience. It was time for Deep Roots Mountain Revival.

    After a smooth check in at the front gate we traversed the looping roads around the property until coming upon an expansive field with a collection of RVs and cars camped along either side of the road. We quickly encountered a bevy of friends from far and wide and left our vehicle and gear to come back for later. We’d familiarized ourselves with the layout a little and determined it was time to make our first hike up the rugged hillside towards the Highland Outdoors Roots Stage. The rock and root-filled trail was significantly steep and seemed to get a little more lengthy with each subsequent ascent. The sun had sunk below the horizon, but thankfully the festival team had illuminated the path with an array of ever changing lights. We followed the shifting circles of color until we reached the summit, a forested grove surrounding a full-size temporary stage which faced a grassy hillside beyond the tree line. The festival had a roaring fire pit ready to go nearby, not far from the handy beer vendor tent and a Shady Grove Wraps booth, standing by to fuel the raging that was about to go down atop the hill.

    First up for this reporter was Megan Jean and the Klay Family Band (KFB) a married duo, perpetually on tour, known for making a raucous style of genre-mashing music that sounds something like a gothic rhythm and roots version of Lady Gaga. Simple, right? Megan Jean has moved on from the snare/kick/washboard combo she’s rocked for years, and was now seated behind a full drum kit where she belted out her intricate original lyrics as her husband Byrne strummed an electrified banjo. Her booming vocal talent was on full display during “Mr. Boneman,” a song about friend’s ex so awful Megan couldn’t help but write a breakup song about him. She pointed out the audacious and just about full moon that had risen overhead, appropriate as the next song, “Feel Alive,” made mention of a moon that seems absurd, as was indeed the case Thursday night. Or was it a spot light? Megan thought for a moment before determining, no, it was definitely a gorgeous glowing orb circling the earth, shining down on those of us gathered in celebration. The KFB continued with “Ain't No Daughter of Mine,” a once forgotten original with a distinct gypsy vibe, accentuated by the synthesized pitch effects Byrne used on his banjitar. As the band played on with Megan Jean’s reggaeton tinged song “Spider,” we decided it was time to dance our way back down the hill to construct our campsite for the weekend.

Megan Jean and the Klay Family Band

Megan Jean and the Klay Family Band


    With tents pitched and coolers loaded we made the trek back up the sloping trail to the Roots Stage where we found The Jakob's Ferry Stragglers preparing to bring the first strains of bluegrass to back the Mountain Top. The four piece kicked things off with guitarist Gary Antol singing lead on “The Legend of Gandy Grey,” the opening track from their first album The Lane Change and followed it with fiddler Libby Eddy singing “Mannington #9”  from the same record. Gary and Libby are a couple who share the lead duties in the band and hail from western PA and northern WV respectively. Their mountainous upbringing is instantly apparent in their lyrics, filled with vivid tales straight from the country’s coal mines. Next up was a personal favorite of this reporter, “Scattered Pieces,” a sweet slower song that shows off the band’s stellar songwriting, like this excerpt from the chorus “I’m dirty and I’m humble, now I’ll do what I do best: scatter the pieces and study the mess.” Gary’s wordsmithing is also a big part of “Beaumont Butler’s Blues,” a bit of a JFS origin story, in that it tells the tale of a man who sued The Weedrags, Gary and Libby’s previous project, because he worried folks might confuse them for his group The Weedhawks. A weed is a weed, after all. Fittingly, they followed that up with “Tumbleweed” a bouncy number that goes back to those Weedrag days but persists in the band’s catalog thanks to its catchy chorus. Miss Eddy again mesmerized the crowd with her vocals on “Country Melodies,” which included a bit of an homage to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in a section of the verse. Very nice! Jakob’s Ferry finished things off with an excellent rendition of the mostly instrumental “Sandy Boys,” leaving us all without doubt that we’d be front and center for their main stage set the next day.

The Jakob's Ferry Stragglers

The Jakob's Ferry Stragglers


    While in search of sustenance and beverage replenishment, we heard the sounds of “Lay Down Sally” make their way to our encampment and thus we knew that Melvin Seals & JGB had taken the stage. Atop the hill they raged, with Melvin exploring the range of his electric organ’s keyboards in short bursts which encouraged immediate replies from the sizzling guitar on the other side of the stage. After an impressive extended instrumental jam came to a thoughtful conclusion we were treated to a lovely “Sugaree” sung by Zach Nugent. The Dead Set and Cats Under The Stars guitarist recently joined JGB but already seemed like a natural fit, bringing refined vocals in addition to his instrumental musicianship. Their version of the Garcia/Hunter standard stayed nice and mellow for a long while before ramping up into a heavy jam and then instantly dropping back, like someone taking a pot off a burner just before it boils over. Melvin asked the audience "Is anybody having any fun yet?" and quickly answered himself with a "Shit yeah" that he followed by belting out some soulful song about still being in love after all these years. Clearly the crowd was still in love with Mr. Seals and company based on their heartfelt reaction. A Peter Rowan tune was next with an extremely appropriate and peppy “Midnight Moonlight” that had everyone dancing away as the golden celestial body still shined overhead. The Jerry Garcia Band classic “Don't Let Go” featured a fantastic example of the lengthy improvisational interplay expected from a band bearing the JGB moniker. The keepers of the flame made sure that it burned as bright as the campfires that kept our bodies warm while our minds continued the Mountain Revival party.

Melvin Seals

Melvin Seals


    Fletcher's Grove is a band built for a late night mountaintop throwdown. Born from the legendary WVU party scene that rages like a blazing couch in Morgantown fewer than 15 miles away from Marvin’s, this band was the perfect choice for the inaugural festival’s first 2am set, and the hometown heroes definitely delivered. Fletcher’s blues rock anthem “All The Way Home” brought the necessary heat to fire the crowd up on a chilly evening and the addition of a long outro jam morphed into a very welcome “Not Fade Away” that tied together the grateful spirit of the evening. The guitars of Wes Hager and Ryan Krofcheck took center stage, a hollow bodied Les Paul and straight Fender Strat respectively. The duo employed an assortment of effects to elevate the performance, from echoing spacey tones to grungy distortion, all while Wes showed off his dexterous fingering of the fretboard. Speaking of fretboards John Ingrahm’s six string electric bass was a sight to behold and be heard. The dude was busting out some seriously funky bass lines with varying slaps and plucks all night long. The whole band is a cohesive unit and would shift from a genuinely heavy riff immediately into a fast dance groove as the stage was enveloped with circling lights to match. Some festivarians wondered, “Is ‘Satellite Party’ next?”  Nope, it's “Don't Take My Peace,” a funky number with a definite blues rock basis. The Fletchies weren’t anywhere near finished, and there would indeed be a “Satellite Party,” but right then it was time for this reporter to get some shut-eye. Friends who stayed till the end confirmed that Fletcher’s Grove prolonged their set past 4am, including a “five-minute warning” from festival organizers that lasted well over half an hour. It was obvious from Thursday night’s performances that all of the bands were prepared to bust out much more memorable music at Deep Roots Mountain Revival.

Fletcher's Grove

Fletcher's Grove

Stay tuned for more Deep Roots Mountain Revival coverage all week, friends!!

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