It's been seven years since my last visit to Marvins Mountaintop in wild and wonderful, West Virginia. This is where it all started for me, back in the glory days of All Goods past. My first festival was in 2005, right here at Marvin's Mountaintop. My whole world had been shattered and torn from the illusion that is reality; I became one with the music and everything changed from that moment on. Now, I was back there again.
The mountaintop had seemed to stay the same, although my perception of the venue itself had been somewhat skewed and warped with time. There were far less people at Deep Roots then I had expected and it remained small and friendly throughout the entire weekend. I honestly think I meet about 50% of all the attendees at Deep Roots and although the attendance was small, I think the participants made up for it with quality over quality and with personality and kindness.
Backstage in the media tent, I got to catch up with many of the performers and musicians that came through. I got to speak with Danny Mayer and Mary Corso both from The Eric Krasno Band and they told me how much fun they were having being on the road with Kraz and their recent adventures. I last saw them perform about a month ago and their performance was even better this time around, they are growing as performers and musicians. I also got to know many of the photographers and other media backstage. All I can say is that photographers are from another world and I enjoyed watching them get their jollies off shooting people.
I checked out "Qiet" the first act up on the main stage, who brought a unique blend of funky, creole, gypsy folk. I enjoyed their sound at points but I had never heard of them before and I'm still not quite sure what they were going for musically. I felt like it was a mix-match of various genres, with no real structure but they got into a groove sometimes.
I was really looking forward to Eric Krasno Band's set and I rode the rail with my new friends. I am continually impressed with Kraz and his guitar virtuoso skills; his improvisation and guitar technique are unmatchable in the jam-funk-rock scene today. He has become one of my favorite live guitarist and getting to meet him during his sit-in with Tauk solidifies what a great all-around person and player Eric Krasno is. He and his band performed an outstanding "Whipping Post" in honor of Gregg Allman and they rounded through many of the various songs from his album, Blood and Stone.
After torrential downpours for about an hour on Thursday evening, Lettuce took the stage to funk up the festival and it's few attendees with raw psychedelic, jammy funk but one could tell they were trying to leave, as soon as possible.
Aqueous was up late night, on top of a gigantic muddy hill, which looked like some sort of spaceship runway from a distance. I got to do a much anticipated, informal interview with Aqueous before the show and boy, do I have the scoop for you. Where to begin?
JBP: "So, what's up with the name?"
Mike Gantzer: "Well, we have been playing for 11 years now and we just..."
Dave Loss: "We chose the name along time ago."
No real answer was given but I'm sure that they get asked this question a lot. I looked up the definition later and it means "of, or containing water; typically as a solvent or medium; or like water." Fluid and always moving is a good way to describe their band.
JBP: "I really dug your set opener for Twiddle at the 9:30 club this year, what do you think about being one of the up-and-coming bands in the scene?"
Rob Houk- "Its great." (Rob didn't say much but he seemed enthusiastic... drummers)
Dave Loss- "It's truly fun and exciting."
Evan Mcphaden- (casually nods and laughs)
Mike: "Grateful for the fans. Getting fans one show at a time."
JBP: "Who are some of your favorite bands out there right now?"
(After a long pause and some questioned glances.)
Evan Mcphaden: "Twiddle, of course."
Dave: "Dopapod and Mungion."
Mike: "Definitely Mungion, those guys are awesome and if you haven't heard of them, check them out."
JBP: "Oh OK, so it's Mungion? That's how you pronounce it? I've always wondered. I have been following them for about two years now."
Dave: "Yes, it's Mungion like onion."
JBP: "I see the always tricky, silent G!"
We discussed the ins-and-outs and various uses of the silent G and the newest group in the jam scene, Mungion like onion.
JBP: "So, Mungion is one of these groups who made live videos on social media first before hitting the road and performing, how do you feel about that model of promotion vs. just getting out on the road and touring?"
Mike: "More power to them. To each their own. We have played so many shows together (after a long discussion between 900 to 1000 shows) Being on the road can be really hard."
JBP: "Speaking of that, any crazy road stories or interesting happenings on the road that you could share?"
The band laughs together.
JBP: "No, really. Anything goes, we all love the crazy details about rock 'n' roll and that lifestyle at Grateful Music."
Mike and Dave begin to tell a story which I will paraphrase:
After a show in Toronto two ladies of the night solicited Aqueous for some after show fun. Being the polite and courteous young men they are, they declined but after further rebuke, the women began to flash their private areas, making lewd gestures whilst yelling, "Pew" "Pew" "Pew" as if laser beams were shooting at the band. Needless to say, Aqueous will forever be scarred by these ladies of the night and their laser beam vaginas.
Another crazy after show experience included the band getting out of hand and throwing garbage cans in the middle of someone's yard and after that they were only permitted to sleep in the chicken coop outback. Aqueous have even tried to use the old, acoustic duo trick to stay in hotels on the cheap, they are into you guys. Time for that acoustic tour now!
JBP: "Where do you find influences for your newest music?"
Mike: "We are working on leaving more space and grooving, taking influence from hip hop lately but through our lense as a rock and roll band. We just like anything soulful and in the pocket."
Thanks to Aqueous for taking the time to meet with me and share some of their stories. I look forward to their rise in the jam scene and cannot wait to check them out with members of moe. at this years Brooklyn Comes Alive. You can check out Aqueous on nugs.net and they will be releasing their newest album, which I hope to review soon.
I headed up to Aqueous's sound check early, to see how the band interacted together on stage. This group of young guys are musically talented to epic proportion's. Their onstage chemistry is undeniable and their sound is extremely reminiscent of one of my favorite bands, moe. and that's what we need right now in this scene. They ended their late-night set with a 20 minute rendition of "Strange Times" I even got a "pew" on stage during soundcheck. I have listened back to this show many times on nugs.net and it is top notch.
I started my day out Friday at the Art exhibit tent, where I watched an amateur paint session and got to meet all kinds of freaks! There were plenty of activities and vendors at Deep Roots and Sam Bush was the first act I saw on Friday after checking it all out. Sam Bush really played to the crowd with ferocious and fierce, ball busting bluegrass. Great covers of Leon Russell, Jerry Lee Lewis "Great Balls Of Fire" and the classic "Uncle Pen." I hung with the band The Dead 27s backstage and they seemed like down-to-earth genuine fellas. They even gave me a copy of their recent album and I can't wait to take a listen.
Moon Taxi was up next on the main stage and I wasn't that impressed to be honest. The crowd seemed to get into it but I believe it was a bit too pop oriented for my taste. Kraz did sit-in for another version of "Whipping Post." I did like the lead singer's hat but I wish he would have worn it the whole time. Stay cool my Amish friend. I caught just a bit of Cabinet, enough to see the dog come onstage for a sit-in performance
I was truly impressed with Tauk and Eric Krasno just makes everything better. I had seen Tauk previously and had enjoyed the music thoroughly but I had commented that they needed some vocals or possibly even needed to add lyrics to their songs and this time they did just that. The drummer sang "Come Together" very well and with passion. Why not utilize this talent? Eric Krasno again shows he is the master of improvisation while sitting in with Tauk for one of their original songs, learning on the fly in the key of E. No quarter, no lyrics. I am excited to see more of Tauk in the future and I hope that they continue to grow and expand their repertoire. They have a very funky, Jam sound and I could see more layers and details added to this equation.
The only band I saw on Saturday was Billy Strings and it was well worth waiting around for. Billy Strings may be young but he is the next voice of Bluegrass. His vocal stylings harken back to Appalachian war calls and High vocal singers like Bill Monroe and even Del McCoury. Billy uses electric pedals to put his acoustic guitar playing on the edge of heavy metal and rock, while still adhering to the traditional bluegrass standards, playing songs like "Throw The Wood Pile Down" and even mixing in some Grateful Dead "Samson and Delilah." Well done transitions and changes from this young man and I really look forward to seeing what he will do next.
The weather on Saturday did not relent and storm after storm seemed to cover Marvins Mountaintop. Soaked and pruned from the rain, I decided to head back home before Yonder Mountain and Dr. Dog. I heard that they did ended up playing for a little while. What a mess that must have been and I applaud everyone who made it all the way through!The weather at this years Deep Roots may have been dreary but the attitude and vibes of this festival cannot be matched: everyone seemed to come together and help each other out. This is much different than the larger festivals out there today. Deep Roots was truly a revival of Marvin's Mountaintop and reminds me of the musical magic that can happen at these smaller festivals. Next year, Deep Roots should be learning from this years experiences and I hope they are even more successful next year. I would love to see the Mountaintop filled with tens of thousands of people again. Until next time.
Jam Band Purist
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.