In the wake of what some will say was the best, others the worst, first-run music festival the Midwest has seen since Rothbury ’08, there is definitely a lot to discuss about the inaugural Phases of the Moon Music and Arts Festival.
As a writer I strive to provide the most honest, and when it comes to music festivals there will always be the lovers, the haters and the in-betweeners. Phases Fest was set to be a dream festival – the be-all, end-all in jam and funk music – and the perfect way to end summer. After two years in the making, founders Barry & Sam Shear took beating after beating, yet came out the other end smiling, looking to the rising sun with thoughts about how next year will be better.
To recap on the festival: it was set to take place at the Kennekuk County Park, a 3,000 acre park which includes historic buildings, lakes for fishing and plenty of wooded, as well as field, camping. The line up was stacked: two nights of The String Cheese Incident and Widespread Panic and single sets from Govt. Mule, Tedeschi Trucks Band and Galactic, just to name a few.
The first unforeseen incident took that struck Phases happened before the festival even got underway when headliner Bob Weir and Ratdog canceled their tour. The open timeslot was filled by Grace Potter & The Nocturnals – and it was a wonderful performance – but a disappointment to miss Ratdog nonetheless. Despite the weekend’s chilly weather, the music was amazing and every single band delivered powerhouse sets.
Heavy Rain Delays Early Weekend Festivities
As we arrived Thursday morning we knew the festival was going to be tested, as torrential downpours halted Wednesday arrivals and pushed back the Thursday entry time by several hours. What attendees need to understand, and unfortunately the festival staff failed to inform the public about, was just exactly how bad the rain was.
Countless backup plans could not have prepared Phases for the inclement weather they received. The venue, as was discussed in a short Q&A with Barry & Sam, is designed to hold up to 25,000 cars, but over half the facility was flooded and thus impassable. If they had allowed cars to enter and park, attendees surely would have been even more angry with cars stuck in the mud, ruined camping equipment and a hefty tow bill (the base fee was $80). This is why festival-goers waited in line for upwards of nine hours to get into the festival. This is why there were low flyovers from a helicopter trying to dry the grounds. This is why campers had to be relocated to the nearby fairgrounds and another park.
With alternate camping and parking plans in place and everybody safely inside the venue, stars finally aligned for Phases fest. The park is beautifully laid out with camp-next-to-your-car access and a short walk to the stage entrance. Once inside, there were a large number of food and art vendors, a farmers market selling local veggies and baked goods, lots of porta-potties and plenty of bars to purchase alcohol (at an astoundingly high $7-$8 per 12oz beverage).
The stages were close enough that walking between them was very easy, bur just far enough that there was no noise pollution from adjacent stages. The visual art present was awesome, Alex and Allison Grey were in attendance providing fans with endless eye candy. There was non-stop performance art in-between big acts, as well as live painting throughout the festival. Lastly was The Sanctuary, a beautifully constructed area that was isolated from the rest of the festival where they held educational classes on art, meditation and yoga.
Overall there was one thing that put a very uncomfortable and unnecessary vibe on the festival weekend, and that was the policing of outside beverages. We can all agree and understand that festivals must turn a profit, and alcohol sales are a big part of that. But when a festival allowed, what appeared to be private security meets club bouncer, to harass festival patrons all weekend. These people were demanding to look inside backpacks and purses AFTER patrons had entered the festival and passed the general security check point. Disregarding how illegal this is as we as Americans maintain our basic American rights, it was the only part of the festival that felt tainted.
On the whole, Phases of the Moon Music and Arts festival was amazing. The music could not have been better, the food vendors were top notch, they served beer that was not limited to domestic pours, and the overall crowd was very enjoyable to be around. Yes, there were some major flaws, but as my editor likes to remind me – what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger, and we can only hope that for the future these issues will be addressed in advance. I definitely plan to return next year, and I hope the same for everybody that went. Sometimes we have to find it in our nature to accept that some things are out of our control and find it in our hearts to give it a second chance. I am fully confident that this festival will be one to remember… both now and in the future.
As summer draws to a close, residents of the Midwest prepare to settle in for what is sure to be another lengthy winter. Trips to the state fair, mass quantities of sweet corn and late night bonfires are things every Hoosier gets their fix on before the cold hits. But for a select few that ritual also includes one last hoorah, one last big festival to go out with a bang. This year the Midwest welcomes the brand-spanking-new Phases Of The Moon Music and Art music Festival, set to take place in Danville, IL September 11-14.
Phases Of The Moon (POTM as I’ll refer to it from here on out), is a festival most of us have been anticipating with high regard due to the extensive line-up, the layout of the grounds and of course its proximity to home. Spanning four days, POTM is being held on the historic 3000 acre Kennekuk National Park in Danville, IL. According to their website, Kennekuk National Park hosts an array turn-of-the-century buildings, prairie lands, meandering streams, hiking trails and a 170 acre stocked fishing lake.
Sidebar: An Illinois fishing license is required to fish, so plan in advance if you want to make this part of your weekend experience.
The musical line-up is what has many of us giddy with excitement, as the festival offers “four days of 100% organic, guaranteed feel good music,
performed by nationally renowned musicians on four unique outdoor stages.” That’s right: there is not a single DJ, computer or ableton-wielding candy kid set to perform at POTM- a unique experience for a music festival in today’s age. Musical guests include Widespread Panic (two sets!), The String Cheese Incident, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, Railroad Earth, Gov’t Mule, Leftover Salmon, Galactic, Tedeschi Trucks Band, JJ Gray & Mofro, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Dumpstaphunk, Toubab Krewe, and the Sam Bush Band just to name a few.
However, the POTM experience does not stop with the music. The whole festival is billed as a music and art festival, offering 14 different performing artists as well as 12 visual artists including the famed Alex and Allyson Grey. All of the artists will be onsite during the whole weekend enhancing the music with their rich visual talents.
The Sanctuary, another aspect of POTM, is set to be an oasis- a place to go to relax, rejuvenate and heal. A diverse line-up of renowned healers and instructors will be on site to provide education and practice in yoga, qi-gong, meditation, sound healing, massage and energy work.
In addition to music, art and healing, POTM will also feature a sober camp ground, the original Furthur bus celebrating its 50th anniversary, a disc golf course, a kids camping and play area for families and festival transportation by Festi Cab. There will also be a beer garden onsite and a wide array of farm-to-table food options, an organic farmers market and plenty of unique craft vendors.
Now that we have you hooked on what will probably be the most talked about festival of the summer, let’s see what we can do to get you there.
Tickets are still available for purchase for the whole weekend, set at $250 which does include your camping. Can’t make it for the whole weekend? They offer one- and two- day passes starting at $85. Please remember that these prices will go up the closer we get to the festival, so act fast.
Setting the stage for what may be the best festival of our region this summer, Phases Of The Moon Music and Arts Festival is sure to be the Midwest’s next hidden gem. Anybody who is a fan of live music owes it to themselves to come check out this amazing opportunity. Grab your ticket, round up some friends and pack the car; I’ll see ya out in the fields.
Forecastle Music Festival has the feel of any other large music festival, except that it is set in an urban environment right on the waterfront of the Ohio River in Louisville, KY. Since it is situated underneath an interstate overpass, it seemed difficult to reach the venue the first time I entered, but the location was worth it. The overpass provided great coverage from the sun and occasional rain. It also provided amazing acoustics for the EDM Red Bull stage set underneath of it. The line-up featured Old Crow Medicine Show, The String Cheese Incident, The Flaming Lips, The Black Keys, and many other artists. This festival drew in a very diverse crowd of fans, which made for an interesting weekend as it was completely different than most festivals that we cover here at indymojo.com.
As I arrived Friday afternoon at the media meeting, I learned that Forecastle is positioning itself as the next premiere world music event, partnering with AC Entertainment to make the event as big as it can be. J.K. McKnight and Ashley Capps (AC/Superfly) stressed their focus on bourbon as the 4th headliner of the festival, which was showcased by a bourbon tent where samples from many Kentucky distilleries were available for purchase. The grounds were beautiful. The stages were set within perfect walking distance from each other, although there was a bit of sound bleed from stage to stage. There were plenty of great vendors to provide any number of items from reasonably priced festival merchandise to amazing food. There was an entire section of the festival devoted to concert poster art.
The primary focus of Forecastle is music, art, and activism. They also seemed to focus on keeping a clean festival grounds as we saw very little trash on the grounds all weekend. The festival supports the local musicians and artists as well as brings amazing national acts together all for an affordable price. The highlight for me Friday night was the Old Crow Medicine Show followed by The String Cheese Incident. The lighting was perfect with the stage set right on the water, as the sun set on the Ohio River. These musical geniuses really opened my eyes to what Forecastle has become….a musical mecca for 3 brief days.
After the String Cheese Incident ended, we walked down the shore to the late night set to catch the DJ, Elliot Lipp. The show was set aboard the Belle of Louisville, which is the oldest operating steamboat in the United States. Getting on the Belle was hard due to ticket restrictions, and once on board it was probably the strictest show I have ever been too. There were a large number of uniformed police officers, as well as security staff everywhere.
The most interesting part of my late night adventure wasn’t the music, as good as it was. It was when I got to strike up a conversation with a gentleman by the name of John Grantz who helps put together Forecastle as well as being the owner of Headliner’s Music Hall in Louisville. Eventually, our conversation then included J.K. McKnight, the individual who started Forecastle in 2002. He mentioned how he lost money the first 8 years of the festival’s existence, and has only recently begun seeing a good return on his life investment. When I asked J.K. how he did it, considering it was a flop the first couple of years, his response was simple. “Just keep doing it, over and over again. Because if it’s what you know you want to do, then you have to just do it.”
Words by Chris Lucas
To see more high resolution images from the festival, click here