Friday, Sept. 18:
The chill of Thursday evening is long forgotten and the noonday sun beats down on a Pink-cheeked crowd cheering Spoon Fight at the Loco Pickle Stage (LPS). WV’s own Lawless Brown brings soul, funk and Rock-Reggae to the SLS. Little Bird soars over the OHS and Threesound brings the LPS crowd to their feet and keeps them there with soulful jams that blend sophisticated Jazz riffs with catchy Pop-Rock grooves. Meanwhile, Step Into The Flow yoga class, which convened for a sunrise session pond-side, picks up shop and ‘steps into the’ OHS. After a relaxing yet challenging session, campers make the short hike over to the SLS where Brokedown Hustlers are getting ready to take the stage. Traditional though unconventional, the Bluegrass/Country storytellers bring to life authentic, original tunes complete with upright bass, banjo, mandolin, and mouth harp.
Sol shines on the OHS with an illuminating two-hour set as the sun fades below the horizon and the sky ignites like a perforated back-lit canopy. With almost no ambient light, save the small carnival of chasers, spinners, and floods pouring off of each stage, the sky becomes a flurry of undisturbed stardust. Looking up into the night sky is to look into the past, as looking down at the Pink Moon Family is to look into the future.
Toxic Moxie plays a warm-up set on the LPS, pumping the early evening crowd into a frenzy with psychedelic post-Punk jams like “Fire.” The Richmond-based rockers set the tone for what’s to come at their main stage, prime-time set Saturday night.
As the evening cools, The Shack Band keeps the crowd hot with a blistering two-hour set at the SLS. Up at the LPS, the mountain feeds on Kings of Belmont. When playing such remote locations, getting the whole band on stage is half the battle won. Unfortunately for KoB, they knew the pain of this statement all too well, as they played a modified set while waiting on the arrival of their lead vocalist. The 4-piece Charlottesville rock outfit held their own as a 3-piece, but if this was your introduction to the Kings of Belmont, you’ll definitely want to reserve judgment until you see what happens when the foursome comes together (tongue firmly in cheek).
Down on the SLS Mateo Monk is a one-man message-machine, touching a genre list as long as the list of instruments he uses to do so. His soulful and harmonious jams start off modest and, with the use of a few well-timed loops, grow into full bodied reggae, Bossa Nova, jazz, funk, and even bluegrass, fleshed out with guitar, keys, synth, and flute, to name a few. Aliver Hall keeps the OHS moving with their signature combo of groovy dance beats and gritty Rock.
Friday night is in full swing and illumination with Dale and the ZDubs dishing out a helping of rock-reggae to a high spirited Shangri-La crowd. The Maryland based quintet is known for getting the audience on their feet and groovin’ no matter what time of day. Meanwhile, anticipation is high for Richmond-based, story-driven rock trio Imaginary Sons, who are set to play LPS after Galaxy Dynamite.
After a quick stop by camp to re-supply and feed the monkeys, I follow a mass exodus up the steep slope yet again. When I arrive at LPS, Galaxy is finishing another well-received set in front of a respectable 5 a.m. crowd. I notice it’s much colder and much more damp than it was even just down the hill at the OHS. It’s too dark to tell, but we are probably smack in the middle of one of the low hanging clouds that frequently congregate all around us. In past years I’ve joked that the topography of Pinky’s Farm made Pink Moon a Black Diamond Festival, but Flint Rock Hollow Farm is a geographical challenge all its own with a whole new atmosphere of ever-changing meteorological conditions. The next hour will set a precedent for what bands and production teams can, and sometimes must, endure in the name of rock.
Problems start to show during sound check. There are some crackly cables and intermittent power issues… but everything seems to be under control and the boys are ready to start– when a mic begins to feed back and delivers an unholy squelch that almost sends the crowd running for cover. Carter scrambles to drop the levels and the band looks a bit stunned when out of nowhere Tommy starts counting. Four-quarter notes later the boys are off to the races, but the set, and the setbacks, have just begun. Halfway through their first song, they experience complete power failure during the opening measures of Willy Wonka’s “Pure Imagination.” Through the pitch black comes a lone voice “We’ll begin with a spin, traveling in the world of my creation, what we’ll see will defy explanation,” and it did. Moments later, as if on cue, the power flicks back on with the sound of a screaming rock guitar and the full band in perfect time. This happens several more times throughout the set and the Sons don’t miss another beat. When the smoke clears, the three stand soaked in sweat, broken strings hanging like war medals, and the crowd explodes. This is one of those validating moments and we all felt it. We still aren’t sure exactly what caused the power surges, perhaps it was the moisture, but legend whispers of a hot plate and a lone grilled cheese… I guess we’ll never really know.
The Sons clear out and The Fat Cats are scratchin’ at the back door of dawn with righteous company. After a brilliant sunrise the LPS clears out. I decide to walk back to camp, but when I get to the valley I hear a new band go on across the lot. I stop next to Dale and The ZDubs’ camp and find them grinding on the set too. I listened in place for a while before convincing myself to abandon my quest for camp and double back for another steep hike.
When I arrive, I find Faceship rippin’ it up with their own brand of outer-space folk. The fact that I didn’t recognize the RVA rockers, my own hometown heroes, sooner is a testament to my current state. It’s been an amazing day but as 11 a.m. rolls around, the Sandman overtakes me and I slump into a nearby hammock of unknown ownership and origin. Moments after embracing the arms of the silky stranger, I am lulled to sleep by the sounds of merrymaking and non-stop music that only a 24-hour fest can provide.
Photos: Lauren Kent