It’s mid-July which, to the avid festivalgoer, means it’s All Good time! In years past the festival was located in West Virginia, at Marvin’s Mountaintop, but this year it has relocated to Legend Valley in Thornville, Ohio — the home of some legendary Grateful Dead concerts, so there’s a certain bit of magic lurking about this location. One of the things that All Good has always hung their hat on is the fact that there are no overlapping sets, so you can literally catch every single artist on the bill. Oftentimes, there are brutal schedule conflicts that are simply unavoidable, but All Good has completely eliminated this issue, and they’re one of the only festivals to do this.
Interview with Dave Weissman, media director for All Good
When did you start working with All Good and what drives your passion for this festival?
I went to my first All Good Festival in 1999 and worked my first All Good Festival in 2002 – the event’s first foray into West Virginia. It was certainly wild and wonderful…it was back in mid May of 2002, and at that point of the year, the weather in a low mountain region like West Virginia is really unpredictable. I remember parking cars on the super sunny hillside that Thursday, the first day of the event, the sun was so bright I got sunburned being out on the super green, rolling mountainside. The next day, I was on another hillside on a different part of the mountain parking cars in the dark and it began snowing. Now, I try to come prepared to every festival I go to – but this was a little ridiculous.
I just knew to expect the unexpected with my experiences at the All Good Festival and ever since have always looked forward to it. Now, it’s so much more about the people and the energy that is created there. We work year round and build the festival on site for weeks and weeks to try and let everyone who comes attain a peace and security in an unmatched environment. At All Good it is about getting to enjoy some of the best music, in a beautiful setting and with the people most important to you at your side.
I have met amazing people every single year, so my All Good ‘snowball’ of fantastic people and experiences makes me more wealthy than I could have ever imagined. I think everyone who attends knows that the event is already on a countdown to being over once it starts, so there is just so much intention into every moment. This is contagious and absolutely palpable every day at this festival. Not to mention, getting to float around in the same space with some of the hardest working, well-intentioned people behind the scenes putting it on is another treasure for me. All of this combined helps fuel my passion for this festival.
What is the general booking principle for All Good?
The festival founder Tim Walther has a conscious energy he is playing out with the artist lineup on a daily basis. And I am going to quote the man here and use his words: “ The goal when booking the lineup is that each band fazes into the next band with a good, strong transition where it all makes sense. The fans are great, they’re open-minded, they’re excited about new bands, and they give every band a shot.”
There is a focus to present a growing energy with the lineup and order of the bands, peaking out with the headliners and then kept on boil with the late night acts. Every day there are bands people are familiar with and a few they may not have heard before. But at this point, I think the fanbase has so much confidence in what we’re presenting on the stage that they’re always pretty open to a variety of genres and elements being the soundtrack to their weekend. A lot of really deep planning goes into it to ultimately offer the most enjoyment. It’s like Tim is playing Wizard of Oz with the music and at the same time creating a unique experience every year.
What prompted the move to Ohio from West Virginia?
The organizers had been looking for a place to evolve the festival into for a few years actually. The challenges of terrain and doing a show of this magnitude on a mountainside location and the road infrastructure for the crowds we were getting were catalysts to make the consideration to relocate. To add insult to injury, the county passed what can be summarized as an extremely steep tax; a mass ordinance permitting process that essentially levied huge fines for throwing an event. It was clear that after years of our cooperation, another community would suit the All Good Festival better.
Why is this new festival grounds a better place for All Good?
Legend Valley offers some amazing benefits to experience the festival at. The ‘better or worse’ concept makes it seem like an equation. Like there is some law of physics with festivals; and after 15 years doing them, I know there is no such thing. Events evolve. This event has evolved from the bosom of Marvin’s Mountaintop; it’s matured into an event that can actually effectively handle the rapid influx of cars off of an interstate. The entrance to the grounds are under 1/3 of a mile off of Interstate 70. Folks were waiting on winding, one-lane roads in West Virginia for many hours. We certainly treasure the times at Marvin’s, it was our home. Now, we are making Legend Valley our home and adapting to create the same groove – and enhancing the experience along the way.
What separates All Good from other jam-centric summer festivals?
We really pride ourselves in Tim Walther’s ability to craft an event where people are not going to get ‘festival anxiety’. With no two bands playing at the same time at this event, a fan who comes to the All Good Festival can actually see every one of the performers listed on the lineup. Many events turn your handbill sideways and there are tough choices to compete for the same time slot, and tons of walking. The two All Good Festival stages are side by side, separated by about 100’ or so. The main stage ends, the side stage lights up and there are no overlapping sets. This has been Tim’s mantra since the beginning and I am one person who also likes it. I love festivals, but it actually does give me pain to need to choose between two of my favorite acts performing at the same time.
What artists are you particularly excited to see?
To me, the most exciting part of this scene’s universe is the element of improvisation. It is the glue in the galaxy of the jamband world. And I think getting to see the patriarchs of improvisational music with Bob Weir and Phil Lesh take the stage is always a thrill. There’s a respect I have for what they’ve done on a stage going back nearly 50 years; and to me, the creative improvisations by the Grateful Dead were always my favorite part. I think Phil’s band is very apt to handle the jams and lengthy instrumental interplay – which I love. Then there’s Weir with the songs and unmistaken vocal delivery.
And while they offer a great launching pad, to me, I am most excited to see The Everyone Orchestra. Every EO show is 100% improvised. You cannot get more daring on a stage than that. But he does. Not only is it all improvisation, the sounds being made are played my musicians who are in different bands, and in many cases have never played with each other. Matt Butler takes the role of conductor and all goes haywire from there. The organization and dedication to just live in the moment (not to mention on stage in front of 10,000 people) and create fantastic music, from mellow groove sections to large crescendo builds, is absolutely my favorite part of the year and of the festival. Everyone Orchestra is a show not to miss.
Other ‘particularly excited’ include the soft spot in my heart for acoustic music. I think the Corey Harris set should be amazing and completely different from any band on the lineup. Trampled by Turtles is going to be the most insane kick off in my festival memory. Lotus is probably my favorite late night option as their potent fire will melt any face willing to go there and dance with them. I really look forward to seeing Rubblebucket and their frenetic rock offering at the festival. I’m enjoying hearing Greensky Bluegrass take that music to the next level at their shows. Love waking up to Larry Keel & Natural Bridge on Saturday morning. Oh, and I guess it will be pretty okay-jeez-fine-if-you-make-me-take-me to see the Allman Brothers. I’ve been a fans for 20 years and will probably bow in honor of their epic rockness.
The Allman Brothers Band
Phil Lesh & Friends – The Flaming Lips
Bob Weir & Bruce Hornsby featuring special guest Branford Marsalis
Michael Franti & Spearhead – Yonder Mountain String Band – Lotus
Dark Star Orchestra – G. Love & Special Sauce – Big Gigantic – Galactic – Shpongle presents The Masquerade
SOJA – Mickey Hart Band – Trampled by Turtles – Railroad Earth – Papadosio – The Werks – Tea Leaf Green
Conspirator – Greensky Bluegrass – The Wood Brothers – Lettuce – ALO – The Bridge
Larry Keel & Natural Bridge – Jerry Joseph & the Jackmormons – Passafire – Devil Makes Three
Corey Harris & The Rasta Blues Experience – Rubblebucket – Elephant Revival – The Lumineers
The Pimps of Joytime – Red Wanting Blue – Everyone Orchestra – The Macpodz – Dirtfoot
Moon Hooch – Yellow Dubmarine – Rumpke Mountain Boys – Cris Jacobs Band – The 4onthefloor
The Rex Jam – DJ Who – My Best Friends Party