Gelston Castle Estate in Mohawk is, of course, the home of moe.down as well as a number of other music fests, and they’re not done for the season just yet.
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.
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.”
As I turned the corner around the tumbling-down Gelston Castle in the fields of rural Mohawk, and beheld the vast concert area of moe.down XII, I wondered if it was going to be possible to give a coherent report on this three-day festival of jam bands.
What the heck, I thought. I’m in with my camera, and I’ll get some interesting pictures anyway. For some readers, just describing the annual event as a jam-band festival will sum up the whole thing, in either a positive or negative light, depending on the reader’s musical preferences.
This was my first moe.down. I’ve been to many festivals in my life, starting in 1974 in Sedalia, Missouri and, more recently, every one of the Mountain Jams down at Hunter Mountain. So I know the potential exists at these events to get totally swept away in a sensory overload of music, sunshine, lights and people. I mananged to remain pretty focused on checking out the music, but describing it is another matter.
Gelston Castle Estate in Mohawk is best known to music fans as the home of the annual moe.down festival, which is will run from September 2-4. But there’s more to the venue than just moe. and friends.
On Sunday, the estate will host Rock ‘n’ Grill, a one-day fest showcasing some of the finest homegrown Mohawk Valley bands. Music begins at 12noon and goes straight through til 9pm.
CHANGE: Jakob Dylan has cancelled his appearance, but Grace Potter & the Nocturnals have signed on in his slot.
Jam band faves (and former Nippertownians) moe. have moved their fest to a new location this year: Gelston Castle Estate in Mohawk, a quick, easy drive west just off the Thruway, which probably knocks off about an hour of driving time from their previous fest location in Turin.