I promised – or threatened, depending upon your point of view – to wax philosophical about the event as a whole and the bigger view of the scene. So here goes.
Let’s talk about three C words (four, actually: I got called out on that on the radio the following Tuesday. See the Ajeva 12.30.14 review.). Community, cooperation, collaboration and cross-pollination. These are the glue that hold us together – tightly. I don’t know about you, but I now have more brothers and sisters than I ever imagined possible, and I love family. Think about Tony Tyler of Come Back Alice making sure he has taken the Facebook family portrait. Or Cody pausing the musical events at Hometeam New Year’s Rally on Sunday to take the marvelous Hometeam family photo (you can see me in the back, can’t you, teetering next to Captain Mark?).
I have brothers and sisters dancing, sitting, nodding off, playing on stage, running the sound and lights, organizing the events, taking photos, providing food and drink for the crew, flying drones, hugging, appreciating. I’m not ready to join a commune, but now I understand the appeal. Like-minded people congregating to share… life.
Thank you, one and all, from the bottom of my heart.
Hey, let’s talk about music!
Hometeam Sunday was representative of one of the things I love about festivals: discovering artists you have never seen before. In this case, I had never seen any of the musicians performing. Everything (well, almost) had been wonderful to this point, so there was no reason to believe that would change.
And it didn’t. First up was Jeremy Willis. If you see a guy with a Panama hat step on stage with an acoustic guitar, you figure he’s a folkie. And maybe he is. However, like most of the other musicians on our scene, that barely begins to describe his incredible range. I don’t know everything he played, especially original tunes, which were really nice, but when was the last time you heard a folkie cover “Big River,” “Hey, Hey, What Can I Do” (Zep), “I’m Waiting for My Man” (Velvets), “Mercedes Benz,” “Immigrant Song,” “Mother” (Danzig), and “House of the Rising Sun?”
And this was the kicker for me: he played “Down Home Girl” from my most favorite-est Stones’ album, The Rolling Stones Now. What made it more awesome – for me, since it’s all about me, you know – there was a musician at the drum circle Christmas night who also played “Down Home Girl.” I’ve had that album for 49 years, and I’ve never heard anybody play it, and then I hear it twice the same weekend. That’s how special this weekend was for me. Because, you know…
Jeremy has a great voice and accompanies himself well on guitar. It was a delightful way to kick off Sunday at Maddox ranch, in shorts and t-shirt, on December 28th! You won’t hear me complaining!
Next up, obviously, a bluegrass group. Violin, guitar, banjo, and mandolin. DUH! I am wrong so often it makes my head spin. This Chicago quartet was wonderful. Under the Willow had a trailer break down and die on the way to Florida. Fortunately, it is warmer here than in Chicago, and Florida has embraced this band. I am really looking forward to seeing them again.
They were superb musicians, but the vocals stood out. Erin Donovan, the “fiddler” (self-described), reminded me very much of the powerful soaring voice of Christie Lenee’. I mentioned that to Captain Mark Glenn, and he nodded agreement. Hayley Skreens added beautiful vocals, and together they lit up the afternoon. The playing was superb, even when they decided to switch instruments (Erin hung on to her fiddle). Skreens plays mandolin and doubles on banjo. Joe Lenza plays banjo and doubles on mandolin. And Pat Donovan’ guitar work is deluxe.
This was a set that featured Jackie Wilson’s “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher” and a superb original titled “The American Dream Has Been Sold.” Look for them in the area. They will be here at least through the end of January!
Currentz hails from Dunedin. They bill themselves as reggae, roots, dub and funk, but, as with most of the bands we like, that is much too narrow a view of their range and talents. This was a perfect afternoon set to follow the lighter acoustic fare during the previous two sets. Led by singer and guitarist Brandan Lewis, they jumped right into two killer tunes. Let the dancing commence! The third tune began as a ballad that yielded to ska overtones and a great up-tempo finish.
At some point, Johnny Nichol from Green Sunshine appeared on stage. He was in demand most of the weekend. He and Cody Moore (tenor and alto saxes) sounded great together. The closing reggae tune segued into the ever-popular “Stir It Up.”
That made it three for three for the afternoon – so far. How would Ajeva shut down the festivities? Because only the side stage was being used, set transitions took a little time, not to mention the family picture. The 4 PM set started promptly at 5:07, and technically that might have been a warm-up tune, “What You Gave Me,” a nice laid-back precursor to the main event.
We knew it was ON the moment Reed Skahill’s opening guitar chords laid the groundwork for a ska-ish song, and the band was in full throttle. After a couple of really nice tunes, the stage was invaded by Johnny Nichol and Clay Watson (trumpet and trombone) and Trey on harp, and the metamorphosis from Ajeva to Hometeam All-Stars was taking place before our eyes.
Skahill switched with Dean Arscott, who had been playing keyboards and percussion, and they launched into “Sex Machine,” James Brown-style. Tony Tyler (CBA) grabbed the guitar, and the Rev. D abandoned his soundboard post to man the keyboards. This was fun!
Then Andy Lytle, who was the king of the soundboard on the main stage for Friday and Saturday, brought his Happy Campers bass skills on stage, and Russ Kilgore knocked out some great guitar. It was a fabulous way to put the festival to bed.
There are way, way too many people to thank. Knowing for certain I will forget some (or didn’t peek far enough behind the curtain to see), I’ll try anyway:
THANK YOU Cody and Jenelle, Andy, Rev. D, Russ, Gov’nah, Mark, and all of those who built, took down, moved, sold, cooked or otherwise made life great for those of us attending.
Great to see Alan, the tie-dye t-shirt man, Robin and his mobiles, Free-Loving Foodery, all of the vendors, Nova, Winston, Captain Mark, and… and…
And special thanks to Sulana. We had a great time comparing notes and insights and observations. I’m glad your Phish run was all you hoped it would be!
On to Gov-Fest! Then AURA, and OBJ.
Life is good.
January 12, 2015 @ 5:25 am Megan P
Hi Scott! Just wanted to mention you might be hearing more of Down Home Girl because it was covered by the lovely musicians in Old Crow Medicine Show. At least that’s how I heard it for the first time. Keep those reviews coming! Good stuff!
January 29, 2015 @ 10:18 am scott
That is very cool to know! It seemed like SOMETHING was in the water!