It's hard to know what to expect from the inaugural year of a music festival. If the high-caliber line up wasn't enough of an indication, we knew this was going to be a serious event when we got our first glimpse of the grounds on Thursday afternoon. The main stage was set, large decorative shade canopies were going up, and volunteers and staff with radios and clipboards were hustling around to get the place in shape before the guests arrived the following day.
Our first set wasn't until the next day, but parts of our lighting rig were being enlisted at the Pink Garter to augment our show with Papadosio the next night, so Frank set out a plan of attack with their LD and we were off to make ourselves at home in the Teton Valley.
Learning our lessons from Wakarusa, we spent the next day in our hotel rooms, doing our best to stay out of the blazing Rocky Mountain sun. The load in at the Pink Garter is notoriously long and tiresome, requiring us and our crew of homies to drag our gear through a serpentine maze of hallways, stairwells and dumbwaiters to get to the second-floor theater. We didn't know what to expect for a crowd, since our set began at the exact same time The Polish Ambassador finished on the main stage.
At 10pm we were off to the races, playing our hottest hour of electro funk as folks streamed in from the main stage. We were thrilled to be entertaining a rowdy crowd of show goers by the middle of our set, and the energy kept building from there! Late Night Radio took over as we shuffled our gear off the stage, and Papadosio threw down a fire set to close the first night's festivities. Despite a little obligatory stress and chaos, I'd call night one a complete success.
The next day was an early one given the late night we had just experienced. Before Noon, Frank and I hustled down to the main stage to load in my drums for our boys, Sneaky Pete and the Secret Weapons to back line. It may go unnoticed to most festival goers, but change overs take up a bunch of time and energy for bands and stage crews, so whenever there's a possibility of sharing (back lining) equipment like drums and bass amps, it's much appreciated by all involved. Plus, it usually gets the next band going in much less time!
We were up next and my work was already mostly done, so I set out working on a set list, slamming water, and again, keeping my freckled ginger ass out of the heat. We played another strong hour, this time of much more laid back mid-afternoon summer timey tunes to suit the laid back atmosphere in the main festival grounds. It's interesting how much our approach to a set can change between two different settings. The way the sound compresses in a room versus booms off of a large outdoor stage impacts the way we feel our music, and the way the crowd reacts in turn. Adapting to these changes is one of the most entertainingly challenging parts of playing in diverse environments.
After the set, our work for the weekend was officially done, so we cracked into our cooler full of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and started the party! We were stoked to hear and meet The Congress from Denver for the first time after our set. They're a bunch of cool dudes with a killer sound and tight songs. We'll be working on getting them up to our neck of the woods soon.
Later that night we had the pleasure of splitting our attention between four amazing acts. Moon Taxi was blowing the roof off the main stage when we decided we had to bolt to catch Quixotic at the Jackson Performing Arts Center. Our good buddy Jason Meyers had recommended them highly, but we were still shocked to walk in on what I can only describe as a multimedia-infused performing arts spectacle of electronic dance music, accompanied by live drums, violin, dance, film, and acrobatics... all in a pristine experiential environment. It was a trip, and definitely not what any of us expected to see.
We left there wide-eyed and ready for the next treat of the night: a Steely Dan tribute performed by The Nth Power featuring the Orgone horn section. As huge Steely Dan nerds, it was everything we hoped for and more... They played a bunch of our favorite tunes, including Peg, Black Bow, Kid Charlemagne, The Fez, an obligatory Reelin' In The Years (meh), and a kick ass Aja (complete with Nikki Glaspie-meets Steve Gadd drum solo) to end the set. It was absolute fire! Orgone closed out the night with their high-powered, latin groove-driven LA funk. Day two: success.
The next day, about half the band took off for home. Right on the heels of Wakarusa, it was clear they had seen enough fun for one weekend. With home so close, I can't blame them for getting in a little extra home time. Myself, Frank, Jordan, Weston, and Steve stayed to experience the third and final day, and I'm damn sure glad we did.
Roosevelt Collier's Gospel Brunch kicked off our day, which got off to another late start after the previous night. Roosevelt is a master of the pedal steel guitar, and he serenaded our souls with some heartfelt gospel blues. Of course, he was backed by none other than The Nth Power's Nikki Glaspie on drums, Nate Edgar on Bass, and Courtney Smith on Hammond B3 organ. It was one of those sets that legitimately brought tears to my eyes, just like the West African music of Benyoro from Purple Hatter's Ball. Truly beautiful music that brought a continuous stream of tingles to my spine.
We returned to the main stage an hour or two later for The Nth Power's original set, which was equally as impressive as their tribute the previous night. Charles Bradley brought some serious funk and soul to the stage after that, and one of my favorite bands of all time, Thievery Corporation, closed the main stage down with a fiery two-hour set of dance music performed (mostly) by their extensive live band. Their array of six amazing vocalists brought each song to life just as they sound on the albums. It was by far the largest crowd of the weekend, and my favorite main stage set that appropriately drove the contour of intensity to its peak.
We boogied back down town to catch the final late night sets, featuring our Seattle friends, McTuff, and the new British funk of The New Mastersounds. If that wasn't the perfect way to end a great weekend, then a Monday-morning drive through Yellowstone Park was. The five of us who had stayed were clearly in that conflicted state of being where exhaustion meets the emotional recharge of a powerful weekend of music and great company.
We got home in high spirits, just in time to crash out and prepare for another weekend on the road. Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy? I can almost no longer tell. Thank you all for allowing us to continue to do what we love. We can't do it without you! Oh, and biiig props to our booking agent, Matt Donovan (Matty D) for mastering minding this festival into existence. It was an ambitious endeavor, and we were privileged to have been their to see the staff and volunteers pull it off in grand fashion. I can only hope we get invited back next year.
Up Next on #CureTour:
Thursday, June 18 - Alive After Five - Billings, MT
Friday, June 19 - The Sickhouse - Idaho Falls, ID
Saturday, June 20 - Snowbird Resort - Snowbird, UT