Deep Roots Mountain Revival
September 15-18, 2016, Marvin’s Mountaintop, WV
Written by Matthew Bowers
Photos by Tom Wickstrom
Marvin’s Mountaintop. When those two words are mentioned around any person who had the pleasure of attending any of the legendary All Good festivals there, eyes will light up and any number of amazing stories and memories will come pouring out of them. The place has a magic about it that can’t really be explained unless you experienced it first hand. So when I got the news there would be music returning to the mountain, I couldn’t have been more excited to go back and make some more musical memories in that magical place that so many of us loved for so many years.
The grounds of a festival are obviously one of the most important pieces of the patron’s experience, and so the promoters already had a huge leg up when they booked Marvin’s to hold Deep Roots. The place simply put, is built for a large festival. Everything was still in place; the gravel roads in and out, the school bus water filling station, the VIP terrace deck, hell even the trash cans all seemed like they were in the exact same places they were when the last All Good was held there in 2011. It was honestly pretty surreal given how many times I personally had been there. From the stage area I could pick out places on the hill where I had some very memorable experiences and conversations, and where I met some of my best friends to date. It certainly didn’t feel like it had been 5 years since the last time I set foot on that mountain. The festival being at Marvin’s was certainly a selling point for a lot of people, but the promoters made sure that wasn’t the only selling point as they rolled out a fantastic lineup of top notch talent to make sure to bring the vibes back to the mountain. It was a “Mountain Revival” after all.
From red hot bands Greensky Bluegrass and Cabinet, to festival favorites Leftover Salmon and bluegrass legends David Grisman and Ricky Skaggs, the lineup was stacked top to bottom. Rounded out by bands like Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, Big Something, and JGB with Melvin Seals, there really was something for everyone lucky enough to attend. None of the bands would disappoint either.
Ranging from top notch bluegrass, to classic blues/soul rock, to psychedelic funky jams, everyone was on top of their game all weekend. Friday night would see fantastic headlining spots from Cabinet and Greensky Bluegrass, which got the crowd amped up and ready for a Pigeons Playing Ping Pong late night set that had everyone dancing and wide eyed until sunrise. My surprise set of the day goes to Zach Nugent’s Dead Set, which ended up featuring Melvin Seals throughout the duration. If you see these guys on a lineup anywhere and you enjoy Dead tunes, definitely make it a priority to go see them. Saturday was the big bluegrass throw down with a schedule that featured Ricky Skaggs, David Grisman, Larry Keel, and Leftover Salmon all on the same day. Big Something would close the main stage area for a change of pace, and they took full advantage of the spot they were given. Leftover’s headlining set would feature appearances by Larry Keel and Cris Jacobs to add fuel to the cajun jamgrass fire that only Leftover Salmon can produce. My surprise set from Saturday came from the young Marcus King and his band, aptly named The Marcus King Band. The 20 year old from South Carolina plays like a man who’s been on tour for many years. I would describe him as a cross between Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks, a stellar guitar player oozing with soul. The kid can play and he’s got a lot of success coming to him in the future.
This festival was a great experience from front to back. The music was obviously at the forefront of the experience but the people and the environment really made it something special. Everyone was smiling and dancing, and the little bit of rain we got on Saturday didn’t dampen a single spirit on the mountain. There was a lot of room for more people up there, and I really hope that the promoters don’t get discouraged as a first time fest will always have a few growing pains. I have no doubt that word will spread about how much fun the weekend was, and next year’s numbers will probably double what they were this time around. I really think there’s a lot of potential for this event to be a great success in the future, we’ve seen the kind of magic that mountain can produce. It was great to be a part of the revival, and I’m looking forward to returning to Marvin’s Mountaintop many more times.