As festival seasons come and go, there is little you are left with but an ever-lasting memory and retrospective view of the festival. I have been trying to tap into this post-festival euphoria to better understand the lasting impression a show or fest has on me. A music festival can boast an impressive line-up, be nestled in a beautiful place, and have plenty of visual artist and workshops, but there is much more needed to create a beautiful festival. The 2013 Frendly Gathering showed me that the most important aspect to any musical experience, is the people who experience it with you. The festival stayed true to its name and stressed and placed importance on the idea of friendship. The Frends Crew said they aimed to create a “community of people who believe in cultivating lasting frendships in an effort to foster collaborative success and rid future generations of exclusivity.”
Although The Frendly Gathering was considered a two-day festival,Thursday night was open for an early admission fee. For a measly $15.00 you were granted access to early camping priorities as well as a handful of bands to set the stage for the festival. With thunderstorms predicted for the weekend, it was well worth the early camping to find the higher ground. To start the weekend off, Twiddle played for a small crowd of ambitious festival folk, preparing them for their two more sets that weekend.
While Grateful Dead cover bands may be a dime a dozen, Cats Under the Stars delivered decadent and nostalgic dead tunes that seemed to satisfy all ages of Grateful Dead fans. Just when my jaw muscles became cramped from smiling, the band called Mihali from Twiddle to come onstage to close out the set with a 20+ minute Scarlet > Fire jam. It was hard to tell who was having more fun during the show, the crowd or the band.
In proper Vermont fashion, Thursday night concluded with a fast-paced bluegrass set delivered by the band Goldtown in the frail framework of an iconic old barn. The fast pace of the banjo, archaic old-oak beams of the barn, and the crowds best attempt at a square-dance left the Thursday night attendees heading back to base camp with a smile stretched across their face.
Behind every incredible festival, lies an equally incredible and hardworking crew putting in a lot of hours to make it all possible. In this case The Frends Crew not only worked their asses off to provide us with an incredible festival environment, but they were happy to rage along side us the entire weekend. There’s nothing like waking up on Magic Mountain in the green hills of Vermont and heading to a Luvstep Yoga class next so some of your favorite east-coast snowboarders. Many of you may be foreign to Luvstep and even a little skittish to the idea itself but, after this weekend, I am a firm believer. Luvstep Yoga is an intricate blend of yoga and aerobics to some rocking 80’s and 90’s electronic tunes.
Waking up in the green mountains of Vermont was the first awesome thing to start off an awesome Friday. With only 20 acts on the line-up, I feel many attendees were able to take the smaller acts seriously rather than having them lost in a packed line-up. Vermont Locals, Jatoba, started off my Friday with a unique “groove-grass” sound encompassing everything Vermont. The peculiar sound made itself known several times throughout weekend. It holds the typical fast strumming banjo and acoustic guitar lines but brings out the groove with a funky walking-bass line.
The two acts following Jatoba were some Sparkleberry favorites, Toubab Krewe and Tea Leaf Green. Not only have these guys periodically appeared on my iPod for the last five or so years, but I had yet to see either band live. Needless to say, I was excited. Some music creates such a unique sound that it cannot be easily categorized into a genre. Toubab Krewe is definitely one of those bands, literally categorized as “Genre- Unknown” on iTunes. This band blends a modern rock sound with traditional African music, complete with a down-home folk feel to tie it together. After briefly talking to guitarist Drew Heller, he told me about a summer sojourn to Western Africa with the soul intention of adopting musical methodology. Toubab Krewe appeared to hold nothing back during their day set even though they were booked for a late night set the following day.
Although intense weather encompassed the weekend, the Tea Leaf Green set really called upon the skies to open up. While this may have affected the size of the audience, it seemed to have little effect on the band.
One of my personal favorites, Assembly of Dust, preceded the Tea Leaf Green set, followed by none other than Keller Williams. Starting the set off in a light drizzle, Keller dropped into Freaker by the Speaker a few songs in to reveal the almost anticipated double-rainbow directly over main stage. After a quick shout out to the Frends Crew, Keller proceeded into “Floating on the Freshies”, a song about, you guessed it, snowboarding; one of many songs about snowboarding to emerge during the weekend.
The next two bands to play were previous tour companions, Lynx and Beats Antique. Beats Antique has never failed to put on a breathtaking show and while it seems impossible, Zoe Jakes seems to only be getting more graceful day after day. Beats even pulled Lynx back out on stage to play their collaborated song Crooked Muse.
Just when I thought I had little room in my life for yet another jam band, I was introduced to local Vermont favorites, Twiddle. The amount of hype they received from their devoted following of fans created a lot of excitement around their first late night set. Twiddle encompassed everything I love about a jam band. They seemed to be playing for the people, teased and covered unanticipated yet popular songs, and gave each member an equally important role in each jam. After sporadic rain showers throughout the day, they opened with the appropriately timed crowd favorite “When it rain it pours.” Not long after that, they asked Keller to join ‘em on stage to play his original tune “Best Feeling,” followed by a personal favorite Grateful Dead tune “Eyes of the World”. Dancing ankle deep in mud to a late night Twiddle set was something I never knew I needed to cross off my bucket list until that night. The crowd in attendance was also treated to an Alien Ant Farm-esque cover of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal.
Waking up for the final day of a festival can always be bittersweet. However, Saturday morning at the Frendly Gathering had already left me with enough camaraderie and eclectic musical memories to justify the inexpensive ticket and short drive.
However, there was one stone left unturned, I had not yet summited Magic Mountain to take it all in. Although something so introspective would generally be a solo mission, the Frends Crew offered a Guide Hike Meditation prior to the music on Saturday. The hike had been designed to have two stops along the way for guided-meditation, each stop focusing on a different chakra. The meditation was planned to end just prior to the Twiddle set at the top of the mountain where they were originally destined to play. I can’t imagine a better way to end a realignment of the body and mind then with a mountaintop set from my new favorite band.
Since their set had been moved next to the pond at the bottom of the hill, and, according to my far-from-accurate biological clock was going to start any second, I headed down the mountain. Off i go, recently realigned and barefoot; no longer feeling human, but merely an ethnophysical juxtaposition screaming sideways down the mountain; “too weird to live, too rare to die”. Talk about RELEASE. One moment you’re so introspectively overwhelmed you’ve forgotten about muscles or motor skills in their entirety. The very next moment, you come running down Magic Mountain in a wailing whirlwind of extremities blabbering nonsensically about Twiddle until….you’re intimately immersed in the fractal blue water of Ye Old Pond. Release.
Straight from the band themselves, this sunny pond-side show was one of the best shows they’ve ever played. With half the crowd standing on the outskirts of the pond and the other half wading weightless in the water, the concert environment fed the fire of both the band and attendees alike.
One band whose music was foreign to my ears was the band Aqueous. Not only did they surpass my expectation ten fold, but the crowd also seemed equally as pleased with the show. While the band started things off slow, I remember watching the energy of their increase simultaneously with the crowd. As the music picked up and night fell, it seemed as though people where literally walking from the woods and their campgrounds to find the source of the mellifluous melodies.
The energy was continued into the night by the festival taking a turn straight into a Conspirator show. Conspirator incorporates Brownie’s brain bumpin’ bass lines and Aaron Magner’s tantalizing trickle of a keyboard rift over some serious yet sensible dub step. Right when it seemed the crowd was at its peak energy, Conspirator dropped into a cover of “Another Brick in the Wall” in proper fashion.
The night concluded with the final Toubab set straight into Paper Diamond. While the Paper Diamond set may have been a little chaotic to some, it seemed to satisfy the biological bass need of many people in attendance.
If there was one thing I know for certain after my weekend on Magic Mountain, it was the fact that as long as I am in the northeast, I will go out of my way to make it to The Frendly Gathering. While festival tickets and travel expenses may cost money, it is hard to put a price on the love and community created at The Frendly Gathering. The music, scenery, and camaraderie created that weekend were, for lack of a better word, priceless. I left the 2013 Frendly Gathering with something I intend to bring to every show from here on out; a sense of openness and understanding. This small town festival showed me that there is a positive light residing within all of us that desires to be seen. In order to create a healthy and happy festival environment we need to not only recognize our own positive energy, but also recognize and respect the light in others. Thanks again to the Frends Crew and all the folks at The 2013 Frendly Gathering for creating such an inspirational environment. Remember, “there ain’t no I in Frends”. Spread the Sparkle ya’ll!
This review was written by Britton Beal. If you’re interested in contributing to our blog please contact us at Sparkleberrylane@gmail.com.
Thank you Regina Bell for the photos.
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