Thursday, Sept. 15:
Upon waking I decide to try to catch up with everyone I couldn’t find in the dark the previous night, and get a general lay of the land. As I crawl out of my sac I realize I don’t even have to leave camp to do this. From where I stand I can see all three stages, Shakedown Street, and even base camp all the way at the bottom of the hill. On closer inspection, I spot Carter Anderson hiking up from the bottom. Carter is a close friend and fellow Richmonder here to participate in the festivities, but also a core member of the Loco Pickle Production Team. Although he has become quite familiar with lights and sound, Carter is the guy you want on your team when things aren’t going according to plan. He comes equipped with a box of various tools, cordage, tarps, and random materials you don’t think you’ll ever need, but would never have made off the mountian without. Before being asked to write this review, I was invited by owner and Head Sound Engineer Eric Perkins to be a member of the Loco team for the weekend–another offer I was happy to oblige. After about 30 minutes of swinging in a hammock between the main support beams of the Loco Pickle Stage (LPS), and generally catching up on the poop, Carter and I get to work weather-proofing the newly constructed stage. We drape a huge tarp over the 18-foot high, five-pillar stage, which was completed only that morning. We use Carter’s magic box of whatever to fashion a brimmed awning, which provided additional shade and rain protection for the lead edge of the stage. As it happens, we stayed fairly dry the whole weekend save the massive amounts of moisture that collect out of the dense mountain air.
Eric wakes up somewhere around the time we are completing this project, and I leak a tidbit of information I picked up on my wanderings the previous night. At present, the Loco Pickle stage is sharing a generator with the Old House Stage (OHS). Due to the amount of sound and light equipment at the lower stage, and the foresightedness of the Center Stage Audio team’s contract, the generator will have to be moved another 50 feet or more down the hill from LPS. This causes some concern as there is limited cordage to reach the new location, and the distance covered by the power cables will likely cause a power loss once the current reaches its destination.
No sooner do I get this out than Céire Neylan, Jess’ right hand woman, bounces up the hill in her cart to let us know that the first band is here and ready to load in. They will be starting at 1 pm; two hours away and much sooner than anticipated. So ends our causal morning conversation. With great intensity and unrestricted balance of speed and control, we three, joined momentarily by Tipton (the 4th member of the Loco team), dive headlong into the task of readying our stage for action. We finish the setup with about 15 min to spare, but it seems the first band has been pushed back and will not hit until 3pm on the OHS. Rule #1: Be Flexible.
I head back to camp and ready myself for the day. When I arrive I find several of my teammates doing the same. A large part of their mission as members of the Radio Rubber Room and Jet Trails Media teams will be collecting video footage of every set via cameras mounted on the lead edge of the sound tents of each stage. With four days of 24-hour music and no overlapping sets, we know that once the show starts it’s going to be a marathon to the end, with precious few opportunities to resupply.
I make my way back down the hill to see friend and fellow Richmonder, Billy Wallace. Billy is operating lights at OHS where EDM/Bongo pair, The Stegall Coleman Duo, is playing the first set of Pink Moon 7. It’s mid-afternoon on Thursday and gates have been open for only a few hours, so attendance at the set is obviously low, but there are plenty of staff members and early-bird campers jamming along as they busy about with the tasks at hand.
Next up is CBDB; LPS’s first band. The Alabama joy-time funk band combine progressive rock, funk, folk, and jam fusion to create an entirely unique sound. The guitars fluctuate between heavy power metal chords and lightening fast, super clean, Santana-esque runs. The lead vocalist’s high range gives him a Michael Jackson quality at times, while achieving a lyrical tone that is somewhere close to Rage Against the Machine. A small group is gathered at the end of their set but cheers waft up from the grounds below in confirmation of a lot-wide audibility.
Back down the hill, The Cutting Agency is taking the OHS. They are a jazz fusion/ dance funk quartet out of D.C. that incorporates sax and EWI (sort of an electric Slute Synth) and enough tongue-in-cheek attitude to pull off songs like, “I Would Quit Smoking for You.”
As 5 o’clock rolls around, word gets up the hill that there’s food at base camp. I walk down to find a heap of cheeseburgers smoking away on the grill along with fruit and veggies. A good indication of what was to come as staff, volunteers, and bands were well fed all weekend.
After a quick bite, I hoof it back up in time to catch Nevele at the LPS. Crowds at the stages begin to fill out now as the first wave of attendees finish making camp and filter up to the music. Live artists set up stage-side and begin working on canvases, which will be completed over the course of the weekend, inspired by the music of countless local and regional performers. As Nevele closes their set, the radio call goes down hill where the next band is sound checked and ready to rock. Now that the show has begun, we are looking at about 84 scheduled hours of consecutive music.
I take a short shuffle back down to the OHS for the third performers of the day, Buddagraph Spaceship. Buddagraph has an electric-jive sound that defies you not to get down. As a rare treat and result of the fact that they will have a subsequent SLS performance, the group decides to dial it back and play an acoustic set, much to the pleasure and approval of the post-dinner evening crowd.
As the sun drops in the sky, so the temperature drops on the hill. Buddagraph finishes their set and everyone scurries back to camp to ditch their shorts and sweaty tanks in favor of hoodies and sweat pants. Returning with freshly laden back packs full of good times and frosty beverages, the conversation shifts to a single topic. With much anticipation, campers everywhere are talking about the upcoming Belles set. The Southern Belles, already popular in their own right, have gained fresh ground, momentum and notoriety this summer as the winners of the annual Rock’n to Lock’n contest. This placed the boys Center Stage on Sunday at the East Coast’s fastest growing music festival in front of thousands of screaming fans. 8:30pm on Thursday evening they begin their sound check and the first truly dense crowd of the festival assembles. The first blankets are spread and glow sticks broken in preparation for the commencement of the inaugural night of Pink Moon 7 in her new home. Although the boys won’t hit until around nine, the show has already started. The crowd cheers and giggles at the chemistry and comradery of the road-hardened touring quartet. Turning my back to the stage for a moment, I see the lot lit up for the first time. It’s as though a swarm of fireflies has suddenly and silently descended upon the valley below. As the Belles embark on the two-hour set, the crowd continues to grow. Loyal fans sing along to their favorite tunes and a throng of newcomers experience the Southern rock jam band for the first time. From this set comes my favorite Pink Floyd cover of the weekend (of which there were many), “Have a Cigar.”
After an electrifying set the fellas say their farewells and direct us back up the hill where Mister F is waiting to take the torch. Formed from members of Timbre Coup and Capital Zen, the Albany, NY natives create a super funky vibe with double-time lyrics and dreamy synth effects, complete with a Vocaloid (which allows the singer to control his vocals with the keyboard).
While hiking back down the hill to the OHS, I notice the campsites are empty. It seems everyone on lot is attending psych-rock three-peice Deaf Scene. The stroke of Midnight marks guitarist Dave Fullerton’s birthday, and he couldn’t have wished for a better reception. Burners light their fires for the first time and a voice that seems to belong to a 1950’s instructional video of some kind booms the words “Imagine Being Weightless.” Eric lets loose a litany of bowel-shaking notes from his 6-string electric bass and the crowd, myself included, absolutely looses it.
Back up the hill, the stage is, literally, set for DJ/Drummer duo, Supersylum. A large, white obelisk resembling the Washington Monument with a green laser eye, capable of incredible feats of light, divides the stage in half down the center. On one side sits Tyler Carnahan with Keys/Synth & Guitar, and on the other Graham Pender mans his acoustic drum set. I like this set up. I’ve seen David Deitch and Derek Smith do it well, minus the electric guitar. Tyler combines dope House mixes with heavy guitar interludes, while Graham blisters away at his double bass and Tiger tight snare.
After a stroll around the property, I return to LPS to find Richmond’s own Dalton Dash loading in for their 3 a.m. set. Someone has the, ahem, ‘bright’ idea to radio down and ask Billy to send a spot light to guide campers up to the show. The call goes over the net and moments later all four of Billy’s brand new, brightest-bulb-on-the-market floods click on, all but blinding the band. Mics feed back, all goes quiet and you can hear Billy shout up the hill, “Hows that?!” He keeps the heat on for the first two songs and the plan seems to work. Dalton Dash covers Neal Young to a waxed, but no less enthusiastic crowd. Campers sit cross legged and starry eyed for a time, but by the mid way point in the set everyone is back on the balls of their feet and tired legs find new life to dance another day. Tonight is a reunion of kindred souls and a celebration of the times yet to come.
The Rock and revelry roll deep into the night to find story-driven desert prog-rock 4-piece Suneater standing tall at sun rise at the top of the hill, taunting the eternal fireball from its slumber. Campers are making a decision that will play heavily on the rest of their weekend; sleep or power through. As if by divine intuition the line up transitions to the Buddagraph Pond Stage farthest from the camp sites, and the tone transitions to acoustic solo and ensemble sets, making rest possible for the weary. Beautiful blues guitar and the powerful vocal stylings of Nicole Wade flitter lightly up the hill and through the camp, playfully pursued by traditional Folk tunes from Keith Yetter. The first full day of Pink Moon 7 has officially begun and somewhere around noon it occurs to me, if my recollections are to do anyone any good, I’m going to have to sleep at some point.
Thursday, Sept. 15: