Monday, August 23, 2010

Review of Maine Vocals' Hempstock Aug 19-22

HEMPSTOCK in Harmony, ME! Hosted by Maine Vocals!

Hempstock is a celebration of marijuana culture that has been happening annually for more than a decade. Put on by Maine Vocals, Maine’s primary grassroots marijuana activist organization, you can’t miss what this festival is really all about. From Captain Joint, to the plants on stage, people everywhere at Hempstock are blatantly standing up for their rights. Marijuana prohibition is ridiculous, unjust, profoundly unconstitutional and this festival is one way Maine activists can join together and be proud of their values and make a stand against failing laws.

Hempstock has a proud history in Maine. That all being said, no one can escape it; attendance is seriously down at this festival. It is not obvious why this might be… it’s only recently still that Maine Vocals split from Harry Brown’s farm, so maybe it is due to the fame of the Starks location. Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe it’s the remote Harmony, ME location or the music selection? Whatever it is, it’s a damn travesty, because the people that put on Hempstock are fighting for a right many of us take for granted everyday… the right to smoke marijuana.

The location at Harmony may be remote, but if you haven’t yet, you should really see it. The field is big, flat (such nice camping compared to a steep slope!) and the secret that few actually realize… there is another field just as big and connected to the main festival area by a short dirt road. By short I mean a very short, enjoyable walk. The potential for this festival to grow and fill both fields is limitless… as I walked the road I could just picture the Shakedown Street that could form there; the vendors that could line that road, it would be incredible!

My main criticism of the festival was their music choices. The few bands that stood out were real gems, but the rest were pretty much just cover bands. It really felt endless after a while. I heard three or four covers of Bill Wither’s Use Me, and so many Grateful Dead covers (not even by the Grateful Dead cover band) that it really got old quick. For the people who go to festivals mainly for the music, it’s a real turn off. However, I do have to reiterate the few bands really worth seeing were excellent. Following is a short summary of a few of those great bands.

The first show that WLSB caught was Soul Robot. We knew we loved these guys from their show at The Dime last year… really talented musicians. The dueling guitars in many of the songs seemed to challenge the guitarists to greater heights, bringing out some seriously sick jams. They played quite a few covers like I Know You Rider and Fire on the Mountain by The Dead and Back on the Train and Down with Disease by Phish. Lots of Phish and Grateful Dead. I often find myself wishing for more originals, yet I cannot deny that these guys do what they do so ridiculously well that I think I really enjoy it just as much. My main complaint; this show was relatively similar to the one I saw at the Dime. These guys are great musicians, but I would like some more originals, and maybe for them to mix the covers up a little bit more.

That night (Friday) included Supernaut, a Black Sabbath Tribute band. The band was really solid, but the vocalist was pretty rough on quite a few of the songs. These guys were fun though, and I do have to say the singer can pulling off a flying leap with some serious style.

The next show was New York Funk Exchange. We were a little bit concerned at first about a female singer, but really felt she held her own and we really dug most of her songs. She had a great voice, and was good at belting it out when needed, and then letting the band really represent when it was time for that. These guys started off a bit slow, but they were a lot of fun and really represented the funk genre well at this festival. They did seem to take a while to warm up, starting off fairly structured and not doing a lot of jamming, but in the end they loosened up and each musician really got a chance to shine. Don’t kid yourself, these guys weren’t just good for the Northeast funky style, they were damn good.

Their second set on Saturday was even more playful. They were more jammy, with more spacey riffs and jazzy references. They really laid down on Stevie Wonder’s Keep On and Higher Ground. All the musicians proved on Saturday that they are seriously tight and talented, separately, and together. The bassist may have stuck out to me the most, just because it was quite apparent that he was having a great time ripping his bass apart! Other covers included Bill Withers and James Brown. Congrats NYFE, we were impressed.

Big Rhythm Wine has a rep at these festivals. These guys have been playing Hempstocks and Harvestfests for as long as I can remember. They are a “Grateful Dead Experience” band, but they really transcend the Dead sound into their own unique understanding. At this show they played a lot of older stuff, including some slower songs, so in my opinion it wasn’t the best late night show… but they really are great musicians and have a great way of invoking the old days. Especially when they play a marijuana activism festival like this… it becomes even more of a genuine GD experience. Unfortunately, their second set Saturday night was rained out… so we didn’t get another chance to really assess these guys.

Most of the day Saturday we recall hearing cover after cover… quite a few talented musicians really ripping it on stage, but after a while the cover thing does get old. However, festivals like this are a great place for local musicians to get on stage and get a chance to be appreciated for their music, and we do appreciate that role. Two of our favorite shows of the weekend were Saturday night though, and they really represented the true feeling, solidarity, and cohesion Hempstock in Harmony has the potential to be. The first was Prof. Louie and the Crowmatix. These guys were awesome. Buddy Cage, the slide steel guitarist of New Riders of the Purple Sage, came on stage and played a bunch of songs with these guys.

The accordion player, Prof. Louie, was excellent and at one point he and Cage and the guitarist of the Crowmatix got into a crazy guitar vs. slide guitar vs. accordion battle that was outstanding… I have never heard an accordion used in such a way! All three instruments so elevated and wonderful sounding…. I didn’t know an accordion could wail like that. They played covers of The Band, Dead, Dylan, and some great originals too. Our only criticism; their original Century of the Blues was good, but the sound effect on the keys was a little cheesy, we think they could have chosen something with a little more soul and a little less electronic. All in all though these guys were awesome and were definitely one of the high points of the festival for us.

The highest point of the festival was Gent Treadly with guest Buddy Cage. These guys are wild. One of my favorite aspects, after their ridiculously incredible sound, was how the bassist of Gent spoke about Hempstock. I think the importance and real point of the festival was sort of over my head the whole festival. But when Gent spoke about how long he has been coming to Hempstock, about how fucked our marijuana laws are, and how much Maine Vocals has done to work to change the current state of marijuana laws, it was then that I really felt some solidarity with the whole mission. In between acts Jon Pothead of Maine Vocals did a lot of serious and intelligent speaking about changing laws and activism, but Gent’s emotionality and connection with the festival really got me. Calling the laws “obtuse” and “fucked up” and just praising Don and all of Maine Vocals for all their hard work, I think he really got the attention of a lot of festival-goers. Of course, that could also be due to the fact that seconds before this speech he had completely rocked your face off with his nasty bass riffs… but either way, he had our attention.

The band as a whole was so powerful and playful; the bassist and guitarist did a lot of intensive back and forth playing while the drummer really held down some intricate, tight rhythms. Also, the guitarist’s voice was awesome. Prof. Louie came out and rocked the accordion with them and Cage’s unendingly ambient and otherworldly slide completed the deal. These guys were amazing. I have never heard a bassist play so many different styles all in a single song; slap, funk, slide, and pickin it… in every single tune. The man is so in tune with his bass it literally looks as natural as an arm or leg on him. They were all shredding one second, breaking it down into an ambient, encompassing jam the next, and then totally whippin’ out the funk and getting you dancing again. And again, they were all so in tune with what the festival was all about… they were really easy to identify with. People really came out of the woodwork for these guys and I’m glad… if you have never heard Gent Treadly before…. Check these guys out. Covers included Superfly, Zappa, and Dead.

To wrap it all up
… start going to Hempstock guys. It’s all about solidarity, freedom, and marijuana activism. Music was touch and go, but as I said the few gems that were there were more than worth the money. As is the freedom to be peaceful and smoke. As for those of you who are hardcore Harry Brown Farm fans… me too. Just, make sure you fit in one festival at both locations; each has something different to offer and it’s really worth supporting a good cause, good tunes, and good times.

Visit to check out more upcoming festivals in Harmony, or for information regarding medical marijuana in maine, petitions, etc!

For more pictures from the festival (and to 'Like' us! :)), visit our facebook page- The Way Live Should Be

Pictures taken by Kim Morrison and Tyler&Heather Omand
Written by Heather Omand
Edited by Kim Morrison

Monday, August 16, 2010

Festival Review: Be Here Now! at Harry's Hill in Starks, ME

BE HERE NOW! At Harry Brown's Farm

Be Here Now festival at Harry Brown’s Farm (also know as The Hill) was certainly one to remember. Both Heather and Kim attended the festival this year, with a few guest Way Live Should Be members. Here are some of our thoughts on the festival, as well as some words about some of the musicians that we were able to see!

Zach Deputy was the first act of the weekend for us. What an excellent way to start the festival off! He is like church music for the churchless soul. His voice is often reminiscent of gospel and soulful blues and many of his songs can have an almost triumphantly spiritual sound. His slower songs were filled with a sense of true emotionality, and even though they have a bit of a softer sound, they always seemed to still have a punch to them, whether in his voice or his beats, or both. Zach Deputy has the ability to get down-right funky with some faster paced songs as well, keepin' everyone on the hill groovin'. Seeing him at the hill was great, it was like our own personal Zach Deputy show! He seriously laid it down, and his talents were never in question. We are grateful that well-known artists are still willing to go out of their way to play smaller shows! After chatting a bit with him after the show, we were able to schedule an interview. Keep your eye out, it'll be out this week!

For many, The Hill is already a well-known good time festival spot, and it proved true over all. This seemed to us to be a festival where people were coming more for the atmosphere and experience just as much as the music.

Those working for The Hill did a great job at providing an active, entertaining atmosphere. During much of the music there were fire dancers, puppet shows, and various other things to engage the crowd. It is important for their to be activities for the children as well, and they did a great job creating a fun environment for everyone.

There was also an 'art zone' open to anyone and everyone. They provided all of the supplies and you could simply walk in and create anything you please. Creativity is a great thing to encourage in people of all ages!

Hot Day at the Zoo played a great show at Be Here Now on Saturday afternoon. WLSB has reviewed these guys a few times before, but we always seem to be able to say more about them, and remain one of our favorite blue grass bands. The style of "zoograss" these guys play never fails to transform the vibes and energy in any room or hill! HDATZ seemed to instill a very playful vibe on the hill, almost refueling their fans with energy for the evening that lies ahead. Heather was able to chat a bit with the guys after their set, talking a little about traditional bluegrass and newer stuff, like Yonder Mountain String Band. We are all hoping Hot Day will get to open for Yonder at Port City on October 24th!

All of the Animals were a great Boston based band kind enough to travel up to a Maine festival. These guys were very light hearted and up beat. Their sound was a bit reggae influenced with an ‘island music’ feel to it. They had a lot of fun on stage and this transferred well to the audience. They did a Led Zeppelin cover that was a lot of fun (everyone loves to let the Led out!), but we must say, the vocals were a little rough (big shoes to fill). Talking to these guys after wards was great, they're fun guys with a wide range of influences.

Hot Damn Scandal performed on Friday evening, however there were some technical difficulties with sound, and it took a very long time for them to get started. It was a bit of an awkward time; us staring at them, wondering what the hell they're all about. On stage you see various fascinating outfits, and the band consisted of trombone, saxophone, musical saw, banjo, stand up bass, and acoustic guitar. Their first few musical introductions were very Zappa in some ways… especially in the female saw players vocals. Then, as their music progressed they were a little bit slower paced than I expected, but phenomenal all the same. The lead vocalist (the guitar player) has a voice impeccably similar to that of Tom Waits and their jazzy sound often became wild… seeming like structural mass craziness on stage. The use of the banjo was especially intriguing… all in all this band was a great show with a lot of passion and power.

Hot Damn Scandal was scheduled to play again Saturday, but again due to not following the schedule and technical issues, they were bumped to Sunday. (Picture above from Sunday, missing some band mates)

This festival is definitely lacking some organization. This was frustrating at times, for both the musicians and the festival goers, but if you look a little closer, there are many positive things that come along with this. This factor is almost key to the roots and history at Harry Brown's Farm, forming a very free atmosphere revolving around marijuana activism, individuality, peace, unity and freedom of expression. If festivals on the farm were more corporately organized, you wouldn’t see as much personal freedom or individual marijuana activism and these are very important factors to many people. The one severe criticism we must make is that of the delay in all of the music during weekend. Because it is a small festival, the sound setup is primitive and sound checks were often anywhere from a half hour to an hour and a half long, often pushing bands back and/or cutting them short. We hope this is something they will work on and prepare more for.
There is another key aspect of festivals on The Hill that would go wayside if they attempted higher levels of organization; the ability to interact with artists and musicians on a very personal level. This was one of our favorite parts of the festival! It was very easy for us to go up and chat casually with the bands after their set. Although many feel they might benefit from more organization, we would be quite sad to see the personal side of this festival go away.

Bearquarium was another great group that was cut short due to technical difficulties. This was one of our favorite acts of the weekend (we've got it Bad for the funk), even though they were only able to play 5 songs. They were full of crazy, tight, get-down funkiness, which is almost crucial for a festival. These guys were quite hospitable and allowed us to enter the aquarium of bears itself (a sick redesigned bus in which their seats are not assigned) to chat a bit. Hailing from Burlington, VT Bearquarium laughed when we asked about their name. Apparently there is an old elevator shaft in an apartment building where they used to live that, through party banter, was named the Bear Aquarium and eventually this became the name of the band as well. Sounds silly, but I love a good band naming story! (we may have also spaced on some important details to this story) Check em out online, they seem to be rockin' New England quite a bit!

Incus is a wonderfully mesmerizing band that played late night on Saturday. We would describe Incus as some wild blend of The Dresden Dolls, The Talking Heads, and Radiohead, with their own unique twist. They would describe themselves as: "Drawing on influences from Middle Eastern, Native American, African and Eastern European musical traditions, Incus is redefining the American Tribal music movement. The combination of keyboards, accordion, violin, and cello with male and female vocals creates a beautifully haunting soundscape, replete with mesmerizing rhythms capable of inducing trance-like states." (Quote and picture from their website Instruments played at the festival included accordion, keys, bass, drums, and bongos. They have the ability to musically manipulate you, carefully building quite emotional crescendos. The music created by Incus is obviously specially crafted, and we think many could benefit from seeing them live.

While all of these previous bands were playing on the "Maine Stage", there was also a late night stage, which is always fun, and seems to keep the late night freekers in line. There were two projections set up, some bands earlier in the day and evening, and then typically DJ's until the wee hours of the morning!

Check out more upcoming events at Harry Brown's Farm here:
"Harry Brown's Farm is known through out New England as a counter-culture gathering site. Since 1991, thousands have come to the land for concerts, political assembly in support of marijuana law reform, and a unique Maine organic farm experience."

For more pictures from the festival (and to 'Like' us! :)), visit our facebook page- The Way Live Should Be

Pictures taken by Hope Duncanson, Cindi Brown, and Kim Morrison
Collaborative write up by Heather Omand and Kim Morrison.