Sunday’s first act for me was Ozomatli, an LA-based band with a palette of sounds ranging through salsa, hip-hop, dancehall, samba, New Orleans second line, Indian raga and Jamaican reggae. At one point, they went from a Latin jazz/rap groove into “Give Peace A Chance” and then into what could have been “Louie Louie.” Next was a ferocious reggae number that changed into a power chord growler. Back into dancehall and “Just My Imagination,” which morphed into a demented Latin polka. The world tour in music wasn’t over: “Fail Fail,” a twisted Yiddish-Mexican hybrid resulted in an audience sing-a-long… in Spanish. Just to cover all the bases, members of the band came out into the audience and got the dancers into a large circle for “The Hokey Pokey” and, yes, “The Chicken Dance.”
Next up was Dangermuffin, the trio of Mike Sivilli, Dan Lotti and Steven Sandifer. The band moved through a set of reggae, American roots and twangy guitar, as well as continuing the Pink Floyd theme from the previous night. During this set, a long line formed at the autograph table for moe.
Then moe.down sort of became Bobfest, as Bob Weir appeared during the next three sets that were, for me, the most exciting music of the fest. But the humidity led to the appearance of thunderheads rearing high in the sky. Some were viewing the approach of an ominous storm-line on their smartphones.
Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers – featuring J.V. Collier on bass, Doug Derryberry on guitar, Sonny Emory on drums, Bobby Read on reeds and J.T. Thomas on keyboards – began with “King Of The Hill.” Throughout “Mystery Train” and the songs that followed, Hornsby’s piano both rode on top and underpinned the band. Hornsby and the Noisemakers played a funky “Go Back To Your Woods,” which Bruce wrote with Robbie Robertson. Hornsby brought a stringed instrument that might have been a lute to the center of the stage next to Emory on washboard. Hornsby switched to accordion for “The Mighty Rainbow” with what sounded like weird insect vocals before the song melded into part of the Band of Gypsys’ “They Don’t Know.” The crowd roared when Weir came out for rowsing “Jack Straw,” a wonderful end to an energetic set.
The Ragbirds battled the growing dark on the Buzz Stage with a sort of Celtic-folk-rock fusion. At one point, I thought I heard Romanian Gypsy music from the fiddle of front woman and ball of energy Erin Zindle.
The ominous sky forced a delay in the show. The audience was warned to move back away from the stage, and apparently everyone was familiar with at least one of the five stage collapses this year, because they moved back. It was possible to duck the worst of the rain under the various tents at the top of the hill, but the lighting was vivid and frightening. Incredibly, the rain stopped within an hour, and we had dodged a serious bullet: just an hour east along the Mohawk River a tornado was making a mess of Cranesville.
Levon Helm and the Ramble On The Road Band came out and launched into “This Wheel’s On Fire.” After a smokin’ blues number, the band returned to the Band songbook for the traditional “Long Black Veil,” followed by Teresa Williams singing “making a living by the sweat of my brow.”
If there hadn’t been enough lightning in the sky, we next got some on stage when Weir came out for the rest of the set, starting the series of songs with “Deep Ellum” with Levon on mandolin. A haunting, quiet version of “Attic Of My Life” preceeded a riotous “Tennessee Jed” and an “Aiko, Aiko” fueled by a second-line horn march across the front of the stage. A big sing-a-long on “Ripple” and “The Weight” brought things to a dancing finish.
Rubblebucket may have felt a little intimidated to follow a set like this, but they didn’t show it. The bright day-glo scarves tied to the microphone stands and the big honking saxophone played by Kalmia Traver won me over to their bright sound.
And for the best set of the fest, moe. began with a Beatle-esque song, singing “Rain Shine,” before a song about “one more bottle for this happy hour.” Weir came out and the band launched into extended versions of “Smokestack Lighting” and “The Other One,” in which the major differences between the moe. sound and the Dead sound become audible to me. It seems moe.’s approach is harder and more angular, with a clear progressive jazz-rock fusion influence, a markedly different approach than the smoother, rolling and organic expansion and contraction pioneered by the Grateful Dead.
A fun sing-a-long on “Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again” wound into a smoking “Feel Like A Stranger,” which brought a close to the hottest set of the night and left the crowd wanting more.
There is more: another set by Rubblebucket and the festival finale by moe. “Be on my side, I’ll be on you’re side,” sang moe., echoing Neil Young. I decided to leave, as another batch of lightning approached. It took quite a while for me to slog up the hill through the treacherous mud, so I refreshed myself with a tasty grilled-cheese and sandwich and headed to the car with a smile on my face.
Review and photographs by Stanley Johnson
moe./BOB WEIR SET LIST
Happy Hour Hero
Big World>Ricky Martin>The Other One>Smokestack Lightning>The Other One
Stuck Inside Of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again
Feel Like A Stranger
moe. SET LIST II
Faker> Billy Goat
Suck A Lemon
Paper Dragon>Recreational Chemistry
Mayor Of Moe.ville
Spine of a Dog>Seat of My Pants
LEVON HELM & THE RAMBLE ON THE ROAD BAND SET LIST
This Wheel’s On Fire
Long Black Veil
I Know (You Don’t Love Me No More)
By the Sweat of My Brow
When I Paint My Masterpiece
Deep Ellum Blues
Attics of My Life
All on a Mardi Gras Day (Aiko-Aiko)
A tip o’ the hat to Sugar Megs for the setlists…