Saturday, Sept 19:
Three hours after serendipitously stumbling into a wayward hammock, I wake feeling a new man, the anticipation of Saturday rousing me, perhaps prematurely, from my slumber. I’m just in time to catch Gold Rush playing to a mostly-seated afternoon crowd. An acoustic string trio, this upbeat, optimistic romanticism is exactly what a body needs on a Saturday afternoon following a night of such magnitude. A talented young burner spins a doused bow staff while Brooke Brio sits next to a sign advertising free body painting.
I gather my wits and head down to the pond for a dip with Justin Shear of Toxic Moxie. In his words, “There is you before you get in the pond, and then there is you after you get in the pond. It’s like you’re not even the same person.” Indeed, I emerge from the cleansing water with new life and vigor. Bats Dynamic String Band is on The Shangri-la stage (SLS) so I head up for a closer listen. They dance a line that crosses country and bluegrass and bring a little hard rock along for the ride. The three-piece is comprised of an iconic washtub bass, adorned with the rack of an 8-point buck, mandolin and acoustic guitar. The latter two are run through pedal boards that allow them to achieve screeching electric guitar effects while still looking like a Hazard County house band. When I arrive, they are leading the crowd in a fancy dance step that involves hopping on one foot while karate chopping and swinging a Nunchaku.
Dale and the ZDubs return for another SLS set while Shadow Girl Sound Collective prepares to cut deep experimental grooves into the Loco Pickle Stage (LPS). Imaginary Sons head over to the Shangri-La stage, where all who missed their LPS performance are now gathered to see if the rumors are true. The band is joined by Seth and Jess, who express their sincere appreciation and gratitude to everyone, from staff to individual campers, for making this such a great weekend.
They are followed by prominent performances from Telesma and Tweed. I head over the Old House Stage (OHS) to catch The Hornitz, who have just “What I nee-eed.” This Boston-based duo uses human beat-box, bass trombone, tenor saxophone, keyboards, and live looping to create a sound so big, you have to see it to believe it’s not a full ensemble.
Glam Disco-Punk rockers Toxic Moxie take the SLS for their second performance of the weekend, and the crowd is electrified. An endless shower of balloons hovers overhead like latex popcorn. This band has been ‘barfing’ (their words) EP’s all over Richmond and their hard work is clearly paying dividends. Lead guitarist Justin Shear shreds at a level newly attained, while bassist and synth player Mitch cranks out earworms you are sure to carry around for days, and the lot of them jump around like their heads are on fire and their asses are catchin’.
M.H. And His Orchestra. What can I say about this group that hasn’t already been said about John Travolta’s midriff? They’re hot, unpredictable, and not suitable for children. M.H. is how I imagine Paul Rudd’s Brian Fantana and Elvis’ love child. Vaudevillian is a term frequently, and aptly, applied to this talented group of performing artists.
A brief list of things you can expect to encounter at a show: steel guitar, accordion, synthesizers, piano; cigarettes; baritone, tenor, & alto saxophone; viola; didgeridoo; leisure suits; trumpet, flugel-horn, & euphonium; more cigarettes; violin; glockenspiel; ukulele; clarinet, singing saw, and other loud noises. More than a group of fantastic musicians, they are troupe of engrossing entertainers. Catch them while you can – If there is any justice left in this world, this kind of talent won’t go undiscovered for long.
Veteran bass heads Plaeground keep the party going with their primal EDM sound that is at the same time Earthbound and extra-terrestrial, or in their own words, Electrodelic Tribal Futurebass.
RVA Grungers Venus Guytrap rock us into the dawn with a blaze of sequins and a powerful wave of post-Grunge sound. A bleary-eyed on-looker describes it as “Radiohead mixed with Nirvana,” and I’m obliged to agree.
I have to admit they are the last act I will remember from Saturday/Sunday morning. To be fair, I have made it through to almost noon everyday so far, but my body is beginning to revolt. The constant summits to various stages, undertaken with almost zealous enthusiasm, has left my weary body teetering aloft wet spaghetti noodles. I won’t remember going to bed when I wake up and will, in fact, be surprised to find myself in camp, the product of a journey the details of which remain a mystery.