Story by: Rev. Zicka-Funk
Any given weekend on Marvin’s Mountaintop in Northern West Virginia, one can witness breathtaking views of the Appalachian foothills overlooking the Cheat River Valley but the second weekend of July, masses convene for the four-day, epic music marathon called All Good. No exception to tradition, the 14th annual edition delivered a chocked roster of all killer, no filler entertainment – touting one of the most talked about line-ups this summer – delivered seamlessly to a capacity audience.
In the wake of a summer season that missed the return of Rothbury and 10,000 Lakes, AGF stepped up to fill the void and fans responded in hordes, packing in a record sold-out crowd for the Thursday Throwdown, which was hosted for the first time in the main concert arena to accommodate the attendance. Box office gates backed up throughout the night as festies edged into the campgrounds with reported wait times taking upwards of five hours at the peak.
Dark Star Orchestra sparked a field of heads, lighting the front end of the joint with a tasty “Scarlet Begonias”>”Fire on the Mountain” burning steady big hits like “Loose Lucy” and “China Cat Sunflower” then finally cashing the roach on “Morning Dew.”
Face-melting vapor hits and hefty belts of potent strawberry moonshine were good indicators that Friday morning was on. The lot was popping with an abundance of ganja goodies, although no real deals were to be found and product of exceptional quality had yet to surface – but it was early. The music stage side was another story as the Bridge made like the humidity and turned up the intensity several notches, saturating the sonic airwaves with smoking hot versions of “Honey Bee” and hitting a high mark on “Shake Em Down.”
Late afternoon downpours drenched the parched masses posted up for Old Crow Medicine Show, while the drunk and wrecked power napped to recharge the rage batteries for a late night session. The storm curtain parted in time for Umphrey’s McGee to crush craniums with their hammer-heavy duel guitar attack, lathering up the soggy audience on a slick “Turn & Dub” and sliding right through a frenzied “Divisions”>”I’m On Fire”>”Divisions” finale.
Festies fit to boogie filled the concert bowl for Furthur’s Friday headline slot on the Dragon Stage. Bobby and Co. came out strong on “After Midnight” but the energy went decidedly south with “Looks Like Rain” and the tempo remained smooth and easy-going for most of the first set. By the time Furthur hit “Terrapin Station,” the groove had picked up to a danceable pace and “Fire On The Mountain” was scorching. Furthur at peak performance is undoubtedly the liveliest Dead incarnation, due in part to the tremendous energy Joe Russo brings to the drum kit and John Kadlecik is as close to Jerry Garcia as it gets. Overall their performance was stellar, making magic on “Ripple,” as a blazing bouquet of fireworks punctuated the finale.
Everyone and the sun sat smoldering by the Crane Stage for Papadosio’s Saturday slam session. The Ohio based foursome have been shredding the scene this summer and packed a mixed bowl of high-energy electro-punch for the sweat glistened audience.
In the open areas sunscreen was the drug of choice, while folks in the shade seemed to prefer roasting mean green to ease the degrees. The cannabis cut of the weekend was unquestionably the Blue Dream strain – a sativa-heavy cross of DJ Short’s Blueberry and Santa Cruz Haze – brought direct from the Denver Relief dispensary courtesy of a heady homeboy. Several spicy fruit hits numbed the face and sent my cerebrum soaring on a high that lingered for hours.
The slate for Saturday was profoundly funky as George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic powered down the Mothership on the mountain and mopped up the masses on an explosive version of “Flashlight,” vibrating the bop gun on high for “Atomic Dog.” Later in the evening, the funk flowed freely when Brit-funk outfit The New Mastersounds came correct and punched rumps over the hump with a stank version of “Dusty Groove.” Front man Eddie Roberts applied heaps of watery, wah-drenched guitar licks to “Thermal Bad” and smashed the outro with a spirited “San Frantico.”
The populace packed in as Widespread Panic wailed under a canopy of Chinese paper lanterns that burned bright in the sky like hundreds of fleeting fireflies. At one point during Widespread’s set, an LED light dragon mounted by a massive glow puppet paraded around the venue before the hooting approval of a wild-eyed audience.
The choice musical selection Saturday – and possibly of the weekend – was Yonder Mountain String Band’s late night knockdown. Yonder paid homage to both Furthur and Lotus by touching on “After Midnight” and “Crazy Train” during their sonic onslaught. Mist set in from the ravine as Yonder laid on thick finger picking grooves on “40 Miles to Denver” and “Country Boy Rock & Roll” to wide audience accolades.
When the sun came up Sunday, space cases were strewn about the turf like an orbiting luggage lounge. Those still awake and drinking seemed eager to taste the Moonshine Breakfast with Keller and The Keels, while others pulled stakes and made way back into the regular world. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals served superb doses of soul and swagger to the worn and weary with the grit to groove until last call.
From the get-go it was apparent that event promoter Walther Productions took pains to make improvements to every aspect of this year’s festivities. Everything from the porta-johns to the décor made giant leaps from previous seasons. Perhaps the most profound improvement was All Good’s valiant effort to eliminate nitrous mafia crews – a long-time thorn in the festival’s side. In wiping out the shady nitrous blight that has taken toll on Shakedown Street in years past, Walther’s team has planted a flag in the sand that marks a new future and face for All Goods yet to come.
The 14th Annual All Good was beyond a doubt the best yet. A humble vision that began many years ago and now developed to the magnitude and scale that it enjoys today speaks volumes about the efforts and intentions of those involved in bringing it all together. Hats off to the heady faces that camped out on the mountaintop, especially those who contributed wholesome vibes to the tribes. Bringing so many positive energies together in one place to share in a monumental musical experience over four days is an accomplishment that far exceeds ticket sales. Until we convene again next year, cheers.
Click here to see the 14th Annual All Good Music Festival gallery