I started Saturday afternoon with Railroad Earth, a six-member band led by Todd Sheaffer, who play rock, bluegrass, Celtic and American roots music. Next was Gary Clark, Jr., who played forceful blues guitar, at one point sounding like angry bees. Clark was often traditional but still interesting, such as a reworked chooglin’-style “One Way Out.” And he visited hip-hop and contemporary soul in his playing, in addition to John Lee Hooker and T Bone Walker.
The air got very humid when the sun broke through the afternoon clouds as moe. came out for the first of three marathon sets. “Now it’s on the rising, I don’t want to move,” they sang, while an artist sat on the right side of the stage working on a large painting. “St. Augustine” brought a jumpy African beat, a nice Allman-style slide guitar and a chant of “God is good.” The audience roared along on the lyrics “She loves me a whole frickin’ lot. She sends me.” At one point a costumed parade of children and large, costumed rabbits and pigs came out. More funky bass preceeded the lyrics, “She knows nothing about life, she knows everything about living.”
Following their set, Al Schnier and Vinnie Amico joined Jay Barady, violinist Nick Piccinni and bassist Zachary Fleitz as Floodwood on the Buzz stage. This was the first concert appearance of Floodwood, and they lost no time launching into covers of Bill Monroe’s “Run Molly Run” and the first Grateful Dead song of the fest: “Cumberland Blues.” A song about the joys of not getting up called “Stay In Bed” led to the Dylan cover, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright.” It had been nice and shady with a cool breeze on the hill, but I had to be down front for most of this set. The band played a passionate “Irene Goodnight” dedicated to the victims of flooding from tropical storm Irene before tearing into an excellent bluegrass finish. I returned to the hill top in time to see the thick haze in the valley turn gold in the late afternoon sun.
Slightly Stoopid proved to be smarter and better than their name might suggest. They played some steaming roots reggae before a nod to O.D.B. with “As Nasty As You Want To Be,” because, according to front men Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald, “We like it.” The funky groove under the words, “I don’t got a lot of money, all I’ve got is you,” wound into more roots reggae, a number dedicated to Burning Spear and a sing-a-long on “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”
The Brew – featuring Kelly Kane, David Drouin and Chris and Joe Plante – brought an anthemic sound right away with a cover of “Run Like Hell” by Pink Floyd. The band later returned to Floyd’s “The Wall” again with “Toys In The Attic” and “Dirty Woman.” Their set of otherwise mostly original material demonstrated their progressive influences of Queen and Steely Dan, although the poppy “The Girls When I Walk” made me think of the Cars.
The sun went down, but the steamy air remained and the stage lights highlighted the humidity and the clouds of smoke and dust that arose from the dance floor in front of the stage. TV on the Radio launched into some manic gospel at light speed which morphed into hip-hop on a crunching Godzilla beat. The trombone player added speed and doubled the call of a wah-wah guitar. The Brooklyn-based group of vocalist Tunde Adebimpe and multi-instrumentalist David Andrew Sitek have a singing style that is oddly traditional and yet strangely futuristic over a bed of electronic funk. “How to describe the music I just heard: almost impossible,” I read in my notes from the evening.
It was almost 10pm at the start of moe.’s second set of the day. They didn’t finish their third set until almost four hours later, which results in an impressive amount of stage time for Schnier and Amico – more than six hours in a single day. “Have a good trip, don’t die,” the band and audience sang. “If you die, I’d have to kill you.” During the third marathon set I heard “All the way down to the bottom, all the way down to the fire, all the way down to the devil” in a song about Beelzebub which was not as Satanic as the lyrics might suggest. I looked back and all the way up to the top of the hill above are hundreds and hundreds of glow-stick festooned bodies and lit-up hula-hoops. The stage lighting was particularly inventive. There was more audience singing on “Hey, let’s go, it doesn’t matter at all as long as you are there.” An energetic closer, with the words “Find my way back to you” led a break-neck run into a jazzy lounge tune complete with vibes. Once again the band outlasted me, as I headed for home to rest for Sunday.
Review and photographs by Stanley Johnson
moe. SET LIST (First show)
She Sends Me
Puebla>Mar-Dema> Timmy Tucker
Hi and Lo> Moth
moe. SET LIST (Second show)
Good Trip> Akimbo
Blue Jeans Pizza
Downward Facing Dog
Tubing the River Styx> The Pit
moe. SET LIST (Third show)
Meat> Don’t Fuck With Flo> Yodelittle> Lazarus