This weekend Troy, a small west-central Ohio town with a population of 25,000, played host to the traveling music festival known as The Gentlemen of the Road Tour. Conceived by folk rockers Mumford & Sons, the event follows suit with the band’s rural, rustic image by selecting picturesque small towns as the backdrop for each stop along the tour, also known as The Stopover. The visionaries for The Gentlemen of the Road Tour had a clear mission to give attendees an authentic Americana experience that extended far beyond the stage which the festival’s headliners would stand upon.
Running in conjunction with The Stopover, a street festival walking distance from the main stage gave festival-goers an alternate destination before, during, and after the official musical offerings. Here, attendees could collect stamps in their GOTR passports by visiting local merchants while mingling with locals and sharing in the excitement of the liveliness of the city. Local businesses celebrated their out-of-town visitors by attaching gentlemen-like mustaches to everything and putting vintage Mumford-themed signage in their shop windows. Indeed, the decision to occupy Troy for the Midwestern leg of the tour gave the days’ festivities a special feeling of quaintness that no urban venue could ever possibly offer.
Arrival & Camping
Whoever designed the layout of the Troy Stopover wanted to be sure that campers were as close to the festival’s epicenter as possible. I’m sure that conceptually, the decision to locate the campgrounds upon the Miami River levee (right between the Troy Memorial Stadium where the main acts performed and the downtown street fair) seemed like a great idea. Unfortunately, the logistics of transporting 3,000+ people and their gear to an area of town with no capacity for parking- let alone camping- turned out to be a nightmare.
Festival attendees who wished to camp were charged $20 per vehicle for permission to park and $50 per person to camp- these fees in addition to the cost of a $109 weekend pass. Campers parked off-site in a large field northwest of town and carried gear to catch a hayride shuttle to the campgrounds on the levee. As with most festivals, volunteers along the way were largely uninformed and knew little information outside of their direct area of responsibility. Had volunteers been better informed about the logistics of the festival and its overall protocol, I’d like to think the three hours we spent checking in, parking, and finding our campsite could have been greatly diminished.
Friday – Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
Friday evening climaxed with the night’s highly anticipated headlining set from Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, who gave a particularly happy and uplifting performance. Front man Alex Ebert engaged with the audience as if they were lifelong friends in his own home, gently speaking directly to individuals and even giving them mic time throughout the night. When he turned to a girl in a flowered headband during “I Don’t Wanna Pray” she confidently belted out the lyrics with precision as she channeled her inner Adele. Later, as the band played crowd-pleaser “Home”, Ebert again turned to the people in the audience and asked them to share stories relating to the song.
The highlight of the set came when Ebert invited “any musician standing on the side” to join the band on stage. When Marcus Mumford and Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons obliged and promptly appeared alongside the Magnetic Zeros, reality set in that the Gentlemen Of The Road had arrived in Troy, OH… and that they had come to make beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime music.
It was easy to sleep until 9 am on Saturday morning, for there were no unruly campers yelling obscenities as the sun began to rise. There had been few, if any, all-night rage parties in the campgrounds. And when the hot sun did manage to chase us out of our tent, we weren’t greeted by sketchy drug peddlers walking up and down row after row of tents.
The Gentlemen Of The Road Tour attracted, well… gentlemen and ladies. There was no shortage of good time-having (country folk do love their booze and weed) but there were no obnoxious neighbors, belligerent drunks, or tweaked out users on site. Stopover attendees came for the music, the community, and the good times.
As the late morning turned into early afternoon, the Stopover population came to life and it seemed that everyone had jokes. Pedestrian onlookers walking over the bridge gave a round of applause to a clever camper who rode his cooler-on-wheels down the step walls of the levee. Greenman made an appearance and had an attention-grabbing run-in with a trio of grouchy, heckling life-size puppets. In a thick English accent, one of them barked at Greenman, “You be Miley Cyrus and I’ll be Robin Thicke!” as the two moved closer to dance.
The folk-loving traditionalists attending The Stopover might have been a bit confused by Saturday afternoon’s alt-psych rock group Rubblebucket. Rubblebucket’s set was dream-like and invoked the same sing-along vibes that Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros had the night before. Despite the audience’s stiffness in the beginning, they eventually warmed up to the band as the set marched on and swayed in tune with the music.
Rubblebucket’s neon streamers attached to the mic stands were about as elaborate as stage props got for the weekend. Frontwoman Kalmia Traver’s thrifted one-piece jumpsuit was paired with a mismatched patterned hat that effectively covered her buzzcut underneath. Trumpeter Alex Toth and trombonist Adam Dotson were dressed more akin to the Gentlemen Of The Road style; Toth even capped his look with a dapper vest, despite the afternoon’s warm temperatures and his relentless semi-choreographed dancing.
Old Crow Medicine Show
Although the sun shone hot and bright on Saturday morning and early afternoon, the sky’s clouds got darker as evening approached. Rain finally arrived around 6 pm as everyone settled into their tents and crossed their fingers that it would pass through before 7:30 when Old Crow Medicine Show was scheduled to begin. An hour later everything felt cooler, albeit moister, and the weather had cleared enough to venture out for the final two sets of the festival.
The Old Crow Medicine Show opened with foot-tapper “Carry Me Back To Virginia” followed immediately by the dirty blues jam “Alabama High Test” that let everyone know Old Crow was ready for a party. Next, a special edited version of “Caroline” changed the story to be about a Buckeye who rode on down to Wapakoneta in Ohio tags- a sentiment that was met with wild applause from the crowd.
Midway through the set, the band introduced Ben Lovett of Mumford & Sons to “get a little hot sauce on your plate.” His appearance was applauded, to which he replied, “Let our voices rise up above that great Miami River!” Lovett joined Old Crow on “CC Rider” before fellow bandmate Winston Marshall joined them on stage for “Fall On My Knees.” When the entire group of musicians stood in a line facing the audience and marched toward the front of the stage, it was like sending a jolt of electricity through the body of every person in attendance. Knowing that something greater was brewing, the audience waited in anticipation for the next guest to be called; this time it was Marcus Mumford for “Take ‘Em Away.” The super jam continued to build up to what everyone was waiting for: an explosive, rowdy, energetic performance of “Wagon Wheel.” By this point in the evening, everyone in the stands of Troy Memorial Stadium were on their feet clapping, cheering, and dancing.
Mumford & Sons
By the time Mumford & Sons finally took the stage on Saturday night, after all the guest appearances they had made during previous bands’ sets, it kind of felt like the whole weekend had been one long, extended Mumford jam session. The two-hour, festival-closing set included all the standard crowd-pleasing songs and even a few covers (namely, “Come Together” by The Beatles).
Almost as if on cue, a little after 9 p.m. the band gently launched into “Thistle and Weeds” as a light drizzle touched down on the Troy Memorial Stadium. The lyrics “Rain down, rain down on me,” thundered across the stands while eerie, red light flooded faces in the audience, leaving them silent and standing in awe.
In today’s live music age of laser lights, special effects, outrageous costumes, colossal stage props, and music that’s not made by instruments- The Gentlemen of the Road Tour is a special change of pace. The festival represents simpler times, small towns, and the exceptional people who reside in them. The Troy Stopover embodied good natured fun, an appreciation for skilled musicianship, and the pride that comes with living in a tight-knit community like Troy. Hats off to The Gentlemen of the Road!
All images by C-Style Photography.
The drive in to Legend Valley was much less scenic, as expected, than the drive up Marvin’s Mountain. I entered the line around 2 p.m. (gates opened at 11 a.m.) and spent about two hours in line. After a scorching hot set up that required parking in The Bronze Lot and carrying gear across the dirt road to a tent-only area, I headed to the concert bowl for my inaugural visit inside of Legend Valley. Initial thoughts about the new home of All Good:
- The layout is a little odd, requiring festival-goers to cross a street from the campgrounds to the two main stages. Security and police did a nice job of directing the bumbling hoards of hippies through the bottleneck, but they did have a tendency to mean-mug the weary ragers on their final trek home at the end of the night.
- Speaking of security, the campgrounds were not friendly and security was more strict than usual. I personally witnessed hired help (with no real authority) approach a campsite to break up a friendly circle of toking friends who were minding their own business. Standard protocol has always been to look the other way if the party is not making a scene or blatantly dealing; this was not the case at All Good 2012.
- Once inside, the concert bowl looked and felt very much like the arena from All Good’s previous location on Marvin’s Mountaintop in West Virginia. The singular gathering spot is one of All Good’s best qualities; knowing that everyone enjoying the festival is in the same place to hear the same music at the same time creates a special bond amongst the listeners.
- Also, have no fear- All Good may not be on a mountain any longer, but there are still plenty of hills to be climbed!
Rain was off and on all day on Thursday, so trails were muddy and grass was damp. Temperatures dropped after the moderate morning rain, but eventually rose in the afternoon.
During the Bob Weir set, the crowd was large and filled the bottom level of the arena. The hill at the back of the venue was populous, but not compact or impossible to navigate though. The Werk’s played a short 45-minute set, but received much applause and enthusiasm from the Thursday night crowd. A team of six people carried totems across the front of the audience that together spelled WERK IT. The band made several references to their upcoming festival, The Werk Out, which is also relocating to Legend Valley this year. Before concluding, they gave a shout out to Lotus and Greensky Bluegrass, suggesting everyone catch their sets later in the weekend.
Phil Lesh & Friends was a great headlining set for Thursday night after a long day of travel and camp set-up. Hardcore fans easily took a front seat for the show right in front of the stage, while the rest of the fatigued festival-goers sprawled across the back hill to rest and relax during the easy-listening jams.
Shpongle brought a party for those who were ready to get down, but his trancy, tribal sounds were a bit too much for the majority of All Good’s heady attendees. Friday morning, discussions of the previous night’s adventures suggested most hippies stuck around long enough to check him out, then headed back to the home base for the night. Those who did stay were fortunate enough to behold Shpongle’s asthetic smorgasboard of lights and thumping beats.
Shpongle photos by B. Hockensmith Photography
As early as Friday morning, the giant “WELCOME TO ALL GOOD” letters had already been rearranged to read “COME TO LOVE ALL”; I don’t know who was frisky enough to make such a bold move so early in the weekend, but it’s an All Good tradition that an AG OG made sure to carry on from previous years.
Long before I made it to the concert bowl on Friday afternoon, however, I managed to find my way to The Grassroots stage tucked into the thick of the campgrounds- yet another nod to All Good traditions. Customarily used to host early morning shows (and now also used for late night DJ sets), The Grassroots audience is a special one- comprised of the ragiest of the ragers who have yet to find their bed from the day before mingling with early risers who most likely skipped out on the previous night’s festivities altogether.
It was still raining hard enough on Friday morning to necessitate rain boots and an umbrella, but not enough to deter this Dirtfoot fan from catching the band’s 9:30 a.m. set. With no chance of waking fellow campers at my site to accompany me, I draped my Dirtfoot flag around my shoulders (made for my inaugural trip to Wakarusa last year) and set off to find my favorite gypsy punk country grumble boogie band.
A small handful of people peppered the otherwise desolate Grassroots Stage as Dirtfoot kicked off the morning with “Rest My Head”, a classic from their 2006 album Entertain Me. Diehard fans clung to the gate in front of the stage and shouted the chorus with the band, “We don’t want your bullshit, oh no! (oh no!)” Front man Matt Hazelton immediately thanked those in attendance for “being out in the rain” and swiftly moved into “Gonna Get Ya”, featuring a banjo/saxophone interlude. Three songs in, Dirtfoot finally warmed up (and the audience finally woke up) during the ultra-funky crowd pleaser “Rhinestone Ring”.
The audience was verbally thanked at least two more times for getting out of bed so early to come jam with them, but Dirtfoot also showed their appreciation by an engaging, robust show that included a lengthy version of “Back of a Stranger”, requested whistling assistance from the crowd on “My Girl” (not to be confused with The Temptations classic), and special jig by acoustic bassist Nathan Woods that involved straddling his instrument.
The rain eventually stopped (for the rest of the day) and people began to show up in record time, as if they had been huddled up in their tents listening from afar wishing the rain would stop so they could come see what the ruckus was all about. Admittedly, the Grassroots Stage isn’t entirely convenient to get to (the main venue is on the opposite end of the festival grounds) but it does have one perk: it’s totally BYOB with no security gates to pass through.
That’s right; I had a Sun King Cream Ale for breakfast on Friday morning at All Good.
The simplicity of The Wood Brothers set made it one of the standout performances of the weekend. With just three members and four instruments (Oliver Wood on vocals and guitar; Chris Wood on vocals and bass; Jano Rix on vocals, drums, and shuitar) the emphasis of their show was purely songwriting and instrumentation.
They began with “Up Above My Head” and followed with the endearing “Liza Jane” during which Oliver Wood bore a facetious face as he sang the opening lines “When I was a little boy I like to goin’ swimming, but now I am a bigger boy and I like to go with women”.
“We’re honored to be here on a great weekend of music,” Oliver paused to speak to the crowd that had assembled and then added with a burst of enthusiasm, “The suns poking out!”
The satisfying set moved along swiftly with more audience pleasers including the celebrated “Luckiest Man Alive”, which featured Rix on the melodica. “One More Day”, a song from The Wood Brothers’ new live record, incorporated a twangy interlude that completely stoped for several seconds of hesitated silence until it kicked back in for another run of the chorus and an extended jammy breakdown.
“We’re gonna play a tune from our first record; it’s a true story,” Oliver announced as Chris snuck a drink of water, to which a fan shouted out, “Coconut water!” Oliver replied, “Who likes coconut water? You like that?”
The song was “Spirit”, immediately followed by another heartfelt introduction from Oliver. “This is a song that goes out to all the fantastic musicians playing this weekend. It’s another true story. It’s about a guy who plays music ‘cause he’s gotta play music. I bet you if you asked anybody- Elephant Revival, The Wood Brothers, any of these folks playing- if there were no lights and no stages and no fans, we’d still be playing. That’s what this song is about. And a little bit of this goes out to the fans who appreciate it and who come to listen. It’s a song called ‘Postcards From Hell.’”
The song was met with cheers of joy and fervent singing from fans. Jammy, bassey “Shoofly Pie” sustained the excitement well into a guest appearance by “artist at large” Roosevelt Collier of the Lee Boys who also sat in with Galactic, ALO, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Allman Brothers Band, Tea Leaf Green, Larry Keel & Natural Bridge, The Rex Jam, and Lettuce over the course of the weekend.
Moon Hooch, personally recommended by All Good founder Tim Walther, did not disappoint at their first major festival performance. The young band from New York, comprised of only two saxophonists (and all variations of the instrument) and a drummer, gave All Good a polished show that was well-received. With only one album of released music (and another one, called This Is Cave Music, in the works), the set remained true to their written songs but ventured into experimental, electronic territory.
Read my full interview with Moon Hooch here.
Rubblebucket came straight from their west coast performance on the Jimmy Kimmel Show to their interactive, spirited show at The All Good Festival in Ohio. They’re currently promoting an EP that’s set to release in September and their schedule is consequently packed with very little wiggle room.
Unless, of course, you’re talking about their live show- because that’s filled with plenty of wiggle room. The eight-piece band lived up to their reputation as an “indie dance jazz” band complete with trumpet, saxophones, trombone, synths, organ, drums, percussion, electric guitar, and bass guitar. Leading lady Kalmia Traver is quite wicked and very out-there, channeling the late, great, psychedelic Janis Joplin- both in personal and musical style.
Trumpeter Alex Toth was equally as entertaining; throughout the show he danced in step with trombone player Adam Dotson as they waved their horns back and forth in the air. Later, nearing the end of the set, Toth exited the stage to catch a ride through the crowd on the shoulders of one unsuspecting spectator. By the show’s conclusion he had donned a blue vest equipped with Christmas lights and tied a neon scarf horizontally around his forehead.
To top of the sporadic and wonderfully chaotic set, two gargantuan robots named Bert and Sam wobbled into the audience from side stage to dance and play with fans in the last moments of Rubblebucket’s show.
The Yonder Mountain String Band played an energetic show, as was expected. Although their set was scheduled to end at 9:30, the festival’s emcee confessed All Good’s love for the rowdy bluegrass band (remember when they played the late-night set last year in West Virginia?) and admitted that they would break the rules for Yonder and permit an encore to appease the audience.
The Flaming Lips’ Friday night headlining set was as untamed and disorderly as I expected it to be. It began slow and stately but quickly transformed into an explosion of confetti, lights, streamers, large balloons and people dancing on stage. From my vantage point on the field, a loudspeaker was affixed to a tall pole several rows back and blasted a siren at my back as one early song faded out, sparking a moment of panic; “Is an emergency evacuation about to unfold?” I wondered to myself, but quickly returned to a state of blissful awe when the show’s theatrics continued. The highly anticipated “crowd ball” also came early in the evening and lived up to its expectations as a clumsy Wayne Coyne struggled to walk across the sea of people from inside the giant, see-through ball.
To continue the sensory overload, the show proceeded with lasers and fog and rapidly flashing projections of wild animals snarling their teeth. Coyne proclaimed his visit to All Good as “the best festival all summer” as he stared into a camera hanging obnoxiously close to his face from the microphone stand. In one of the calmer, but most revered, moments of the night, The Flaming Lips performed “Ego Trpping At The Gates of Hell”. The encore brought Coyne to the stage with a bullhorn in his hands from which he gave a speech about the necessity for the world to be full of “people like you guys”.
Flaming Lips photos by C-Style Photography
The announcement of All Good’s relocation months ago sparked a wildfire of complaints and concerns about leaving behind the breath-taking West Virginia mountaintop that has been the festival’s home for so many years. Indeed, the beauty of Marvin’s Mountaintop cannot be matched- not on a plateaued mountain in Arkansas, in a forest of lazers and lights in Michigan, or even in the hills of southeastern Ohio. The sights I saw and the vibes I felt in the mountains of West Virgina will forever rest in my heart.
BUT, as the Rolling Stones once sang, you can’t always get what you want. And while I would gladly tack back on the extra five hours of travel time to return to Marvin’s stunning Mountaintop, I believe that All Good has made the right decision in moving to a safer, more accessible venue. Legend Valley’s concert bowl- lined with trees at the top of the hill illuminated by colorful lights and flanked on either side with the famous “Welcome to All Good” letters and a huge Buddha statue- did the best it could possibly do at living up to the teenaged festival’s previous home. Matched with an equally impressive lineup rooted in the rock and roll of classic festival forefathers, there’s no way any one couldn’t have had a memorable time during their stay at Legend Valley.
Like the bumper sticker said that was being sold in the merchandise tent: it’s ALL GOOD.