|Design by Ariane B. Davis|
1. Medeski, Martin & Wood
My (un)healthy obsession with the best funk-fusion trio ever put me in front of the Purple Hat Stage for my 52nd chance to catch the boys from New York City. Anticipation and a certain measure of angst coupled with giddy excitement. It had been a long stretch since my last time sharing time and space with John, Billy and Chris. This was partly on purpose due to my last show with them being the last music experience I shared with a good friend that was slain in the school shooting at my alma mater Virginia Tech. As if knowing exactly what transmissions my neurons might need, the set took the form of a retro throw back approach with my favored selections from my favorite of their albums. The mind bender mutated into ridiculous collaborations with power players like Will Bernard and Stanton Moore. It really does not get much better than that. Ok, yes it does, how about a ridiculously jammed out "Where's The Music" with Pee Wee Ellis.
2. Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood
How do you turn perfection into something better? Try adding in a guitar demi-god. How do you make perfection with a deity even better? Bring out one of the best lap steel guitar players in the business for an epic version of the eerie anthem "Hanuman." It helps that this is one of my favorite tracks ever put forth by the trio, but in the context of the infamous Big IV Amphitheater Stage, as the night enveloped the music park, the quintet truly hit some ethereal levels of bliss.
3. Trey Anastasio Band
My affinity for all things Phish place this set as a default must-see, but in the past I have not been entirely overwhelmed by Trey's solo efforts. The supporting members are extraordinary, that is for sure, but the material doesn't always hold up through the lens of comparisons to the Vermont jam legends. All of that went straight out the window from note one, and the full two hours and thirty minutes from Trey and the crew were nothing but a feel good dance party with more high lights than I could count. Above and beyond all other moments was a perfectly executed "Simple Twist Up Dave." My cohorts and I silently raged as a homage to our friend David that passed away days previous to that night. He was the ultimate Phish fan and the harmonious scents, sounds and setting at that particular moment was a much needed therapeutic outlet. One of the many reasons we all love Mr. Anastasio.
The talk of the town in the festival circuit sphere for those inclined to live electronic music, these guys have earned every bit of success coming their way. All summer they slayed the big events, even having a clutch spot at AllGood Music Festival, and the feedback was overwhelmingly good from that point on. I made the six hour drive up on Thursday solely to catch a late night P-dose set in the SOS Music Hall with my pals from Virginia. I then woke up early the next "morning" to catch their day set. In truth the approach seemed inverted with a more laid back, experimental take on the late night show, and then a all-out high energy face melter during the day. I posit that the 11.11.11 date was grounds for a statement set on Friday afternoon that didn't take into account anything other than playing one of the best shows I have heard from the Ohio kids.
5. Anders Osborne Trio
Beyond the obvious shredding capacity that Osborne has been proving over and over to me the past year, this festival performance seemed to have a much fuller feeling than before. It may be a case of set and setting, as is the reality with anything that happens at The Spirit of Suwannee Music Park, but even his staple tunes like "Cortez The Killer" seemed to go deeper and heavier into the void. The push over the edge was a sit in with George Porter of the Funky Meters that turned into an epic cover of "Sugaree" with Stanton Moore of Galactic (and a million other bands) on the drums. Jaw replacement surgery would have been necessary if only we could have found our faces.
I could go on and on and this is just the tip of the iceberg, but those that were there already know, and those that weren't should make sure they are there next year to find out.
Honorable Mentions: The New Mastersounds, Soulive, Dr. Klaw, Big Gigantic, Dopapod and Michael Menert.
A huge special thanks to Adam, Mark and Steve at Cheesehead Productions, and Taper Steve, for archiving this special moment in music history.