With an exceptionally deep lineup and my aversion to any stimulant stronger than caffeine, I knew that I had no choice but to sleep in and miss some early stuff (although I was able to enjoy parts of Roster McCabe, Funktion and the MacPodz from my cozy campsite as I napped). As a result, my day two began with a dose of Strange Arrangement. The Chicago based quartet, as always, delivered a tasty set full of bouncy jams that highlight the deft interplay of keyboardist Joe Hettinga and guitarist Jim Conry.
My first mainstage act of day two was Michigan bluegrassers, Greensky Bluegrass, an acoustic quintet of immense songwriting prowess and musical talent. While Mike Devol held down the bottom end on upright bass, Paul Hoffman (mandolin), Anders Beck (dobro), Mike Bont (banjo) and Dave Bruzza (guitar) cast a melodic spell over the audience with a set of songs full of catchy hooks and lush harmonies. Highlighted by exceptionally sweet versions of “Lose My Way” and “No Lies,” this set truly soared.
Next up on the side stage were New Haven, Connecticut based jazz/funksters Kung Fu, a band that I had heard good things about but had never seen. With a musical ethos deeply rooted in seventies funk, spiced with a bit of cutting edge electronica, this is a genre bending band in the best fusion tradition. I will definitely be on the lookout for the next time these New Englanders find their way to the Midwest.
As evening took hold, EOTO delivered the most visually beautiful set of the weekend. Tucked into a set shaped like a lotus flower, Hann and Travis began one of their totally improvised dance parties. As the duo raged with their trademark intensity the flower came to life with a myriad of projected visual delights. The complete melding of sound and light created a delightful musical/visual symbiotic experience that I will remember for a very long time. Having seen the Twin Cats five times this summer, I am beginning to run out of words to describe my affinity for this band. Suffice it to say that the Indianapolis based jazz/funk quintet delivered another one of those sets that have made them a “go to” band in my book.
The Werks’ night two set again featured sit-ins from other festival musicians. But unlike the previous night where the guests all sat in on the encore on this night they were spread over the whole set. Guitarist Tim Palmieri and sax player Robert Somervile, both from Kung Fu, sat in on “Music” another Werks tune that debuted at the festival and percussionist Aaron Armstrong sat in on “Hard to Find.” But it was toward the end of the set when the Werks unleashed a moment of whimsical genius. Rob Chafin turned over his drum kit to Jason Hann, and Kung Fu keyboardist Todd Stoops joined Norman at the keys, for a hard rock jam that eventually saw Chafin return to the stage, in an eighty’s hairband wig, to lead the ensemble in a version of the Swedish band Europe’s classic hit “The Final Countdown.”
Watching Matt Butler get ready for an Everyone Orchestra performance is almost as fun as the performance itself. It is part chaos (“there was a Kung Fu drummer around here a second ago”) and part meet and greet as Butler assembles his ever changing roster of festival musicians for a wholly improvised musical journey. The Werk Out cast started with the Werks (less Rob Chafin who was supplanted on the kit by Kung Fu’s Adrian Tramontano, but retook his seat halfway through the set) supplemented by Kung Fu, Danny Sauers on sax and Paul Hoffman and Anders Beck from Greensky Bluegrass. The resulting jam, especially the section inspired by Butler’s comical lyric “what kind of fish, what kind of fish (swim in Buckeye Lake)?” was another of the weekend’s highlights and made for a fitting conclusion to day two.