Day two of the festival promised a wholly different experience than the rest of the festival as the lineup lacked the historic jamband presence of the other days and instead featured a slew of headliners drawn from all across the country. The music again began with a rootsy feel as Elephant Revival helped the festival goers greet the day with their sweet harmonies. They were followed by West Coast rockers ALO who delivered an excellent set that featured several tunes from their new album, including the infectious “Speed of Dreams” a sweet tune that immediately sticks with the listener. Their set also featured the debut of the festival’s “artist at large” Roosevelt Collier the master of the sacred steel who is probably best known for his work with the Lee Boys.
Next up on the mainstage (after a short second stage set of “stompin’ blues” by 4 on the Floor) were the Wood Brothers. Oliver and Chris’s brotherly harmonies, both vocal and instrumental, were supplemented by Jano Rix on drums and “shitar”. Highlighted by a beautiful new tune called “Heaven is a Honey Jar” and a Collier sit-in on “Atlas” this was the first really memorable set of the weekend.
And the memories kept coming as Matt Butler led his Everyone Orchestra onto the side stage. For those unfamiliar with this experience, Butler gymnastically conducts his ever-changing assemblage of festival musicians in a wholly improvised and at times interactive musical journey. For this journey the orchestra was comprised of ALO supplemented by the Bridget and Bonnie from Elephant Revival as well as the horns from Rubblebucket. The ensuing “Create the Legend” jam and the madness that followed when Butler instructed the group to “Follow Lebo” (ALO guitarist Dan Lebowitz) made most wish that the ensemble been allotted a much longer set.
SOJA’s ambitious attempt to invigorate and re-invent reggae with a hip-hop sensibility never caught fire and marked the weekend’s first letdown. But the “cave music” set from Moon Hooch was ample proof that festival promoter Tim Walther is always trying to find the next new band. Although they were showcased in a late afternoon set, this NYC based trio, featuring a pair of dueling saxophones (and occasionally a contrabassoon) backed with drum accompaniment, seem destined to become a staple of the late-late night festival dance party.
G Love and Special Sauce delivered their trademark energetic set of hip-hop flavored blues. Having seen the group two other times earlier in the month (as the opener for Umphrey’s McGee) this set was much more connected to and appreciated by the audience. It also featured the weekend’s most amusing moment when, during his “basketball” rap, G Love invoked the name of LeBron James to the raucous derision of the central Ohio crowd. Rubblebucket’s set of dancy jazz was fun but their sound, especially those processed vocals, might be better served by being heard in a smaller enclosed environment.
Festival stalwarts Yonder Mountain String Band demonstrated yet again that they are a band at the height of their musical prowess. With a nugget like the cover of the Talking Heads “Girlfriend is Better” (on which they were joined by Collier) tucked in the midst of bluegrass classics, Yonder supplied the crowd with the perfect soundtrack to greet the sunset. This set also provided the most poignant moment of the weekend as the band, after noting that first and foremost they were “a Colorado band,” humbly asked the crowd for their thoughts and prayers in the wake of the Aurora theater shooting.
The set from the Pimps of Joytime had the misfortune of coming both in the wake of Yonder’s stellar set and directly prior to one of the more anticipated sets of the weekend, that of The Flaming Lips, and, combined with the shortness of the set, the Brooklyn based ensemble was unfortunately relegated to filler status.
No band compels its audience’s attention as much as the rock and roll circus known as The Flaming Lips. With high powered confetti canons, a gaggle of dancing girls, a light show seemingly drawn from Close Encounters of the Third Kind and a human gerbil ball, this band engages its audience in a wholly unique sensory-overloading concert experience. With a tendency for the theatrics to overwhelm the music, those with a preference for substance over smoke and mirrors might be tempted to call these guys a novelty act, but any music fan who heard their double encore of King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man and their own Do You Realize? had to recognize that musicianship is the true heartbeat of this carnival.
Papadosio had the difficult position of following the Lips’ onslaught, but they deftly picked up the baton and delivered a highly energized set that maintained the musical momentum and built the perfect bridge to the night’s final set. Occupying the final slot of the evening were New Orleans funk masters Galactic, a band which after almost two decades together refuses to rest on their considerable laurels and continues to evolve in multiple directions. On some tunes it is the addition of the hip-hop sensibilities (and soulful trombone) of the Rebirth Brass Band’s Corey Harris. Or perhaps it is their attempt to bring vocal depth to their funk (coupled with a seeming desire to conquer the entire classic rock catalog) with the help of Living Colour vocalist Corey Glover (thankfully, sans the braids and spandex of his youth). Regardless of the reason, by the time the band finished their encore of the Rolling Stones classic “Sympathy for the Devil” their set had become a new legend in this central Ohio valley.