[Words & Photos by Charles Izenstark]
When it comes to legendary outdoor concert venues places like Red Rocks, Alpine Valley, Deer Creek and Shoreline instantly come to mind. But if you surveyed a bunch of old school Deadheads, especially those from the Midwest, stories of another legendary venue emerge: those of a central Ohio venue named Buckeye Lake. Aptly renamed Legend Valley, the venue that once hosted Grateful Dead (and AC/DC among many others), and more recently has been the home to numerous Hookavilles, became the new home for the 16th annual All Good Music Festival. With a lineup boasting three of the remaining members of the Dead and a headlining set from the legendary Allman Brothers supplemented by a stable of festival veterans and a sprinkling of emerging acts the festival promised to add new legends to the pantheon of concert lore.
Often a festival’s “Thursday pre-party” lineup is populated with regional bands that are on the cusp of emerging as headliners. But the All Good approach was to book an evening’s worth of music that made early attendance a mandatory requirement. Kicking off the proceedings were Minnesota based bluegrassers Trampled By Turtles whose ultrahigh-octane approach to traditional bluegrass immediately sent the crowd into a dancing frenzy. The festival’s side by side dual stage set-up catered both those who crave immediate gratification and those who might want to maintain their main stage position but still be able to enjoy the second stage, as the Lumineers launched into their short energetic set within mere seconds of TBT’s last note (and it should also be noted that the stage crews did an absolutely amazing job all weekend of turning over the stages so that the music never stopped).
With dusk falling, it was time for the weekend’s first special treat, the one-off collaboration of Bob Weir, Bruce Hornsby and Branford Marsalis. The trio started with a long jazzy “Birdsong” that was somewhat uneven due, no doubt, to the fact that as familiar the tune was to all of them, it is unlikely that any of them had ever played it as part of such a small ensemble. But this unevenness was remedied by the gradual and subtle introduction of several of Bruce’s Noisemakers to round out the sound and allow the stars, especially Marsalis, the opportunity to shine. With a few Hornsby tunes interspersed into a string of Dead classics, including the use of Rainbow’s Cadillac as the introduction to Franklin’s Tower, the augmented trio ultimately delivered a very satisfying set.
Next up were The Werks an emerging band from nearby Columbus. The band took full advantage of their prime positioning, for which they humbly proclaimed their gratitude, to showcase their trippier take on the danceable beat while the main stage was being switched over. Their too-short set left many wanting more but also provided an exceptionally potent preview of their own Werk Out Music Festival which is also moving to this venue this September.
To round out the evening’s musical festivities (at least for me, as I left the Shpongle experience to those who like to be shpongled), Phil Lesh took the stage with his latest assortment of Friends. This group included Lesh’s sons Brian and Graheme, but the workhorses of the ensemble were Jackie Greene on keys, Larry Campbell on guitar and the amazing Joe Russo on drums, and ultimately it was the contribution of vocalist Teresa Williams, especially on the gospel nugget “Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning,” which allowed the band to truly take off.